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Get Lucky: How to Put Planned Serendipity to Work for You and Your Business Hardcover – April 17, 2012

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Editorial Reviews Review

"The 8 Skills of Planned Serendipity" (click on image to enlarge)
Q & A with Thor Muller and Lane Becker, authors of Get Lucky

Why should we not dismiss luck as a mere superstition?
Luck is a fundamental part of how the world works!

Open any history book and you'll find stories of curious people looking for one thing and finding another. Whether it's Columbus running into the New World or Tim Berners-Lee setting out to create a document sharing system for physicists and inadvertently inventing the World Wide Web, the world we live in was built on top of serendipitous occurrences.

Accidents happen--there's nothing mystical about them. But it's our practical ability to cultivate and take advantage of the best accidents that transforms these from forgettable moments into incredible opportunities. This is the essence of planned serendipity, the kind of luck you make for yourself.

What is "planned serendipity"? Why is it important to learn these skills now?
"Planned serendipity" is the best way to succeed in our fast-changing world, where so much of what we need is out of our control.

Most planning focuses on fostering predictability and reducing risk, but this kind of planning often leads us to focus so intently on what we already know and can predict that we're likely to miss out on all the chance opportunities that appear along the way. Moreover, our ability to make definitive plans is largely an illusion. Too much is unknown at the beginning, and only becomes clear as part of the process.

Admitting that this is the case isn't admitting failure--it's simply acknowledging a fundamental truth about the large, complex, information-saturated world we now live in. It doesn't mean we can't plan successfully; it means we need a new set of tools to help us plan for the seemingly unplannable. "Planned Serendipity" is just this: eight skills that help us open ourselves to all the opportunities that appear along the way.

Who can use your planned serendipity approach? What's an example of a company that is successfully using "planned serendipity"?
Here's a little secret: Every successful person on this planet already employs the skills of planned serendipity. No one succeeds without an assist from the unexpected. Even Sergey Brin, one of the cofounders of Google, when asked about the secret of Google's meteoric rise, replied, "The number one factor that contributed to our success was luck."

Brin didn't give this response in order to dismiss his (significant!) accomplishments. Instead, he was sharing a crucial insight: For something to succeed with the scale and speed that Google did, it required more than any one person can fully take credit for--even someone as clearly talented as Sergey Brin.

What Brin can take credit for is being open to serendipity and being willing to use it to his advantage. He combined a passion for his work, a commitment to his organization's purpose, and a willingness to do whatever it took to find the best way to put them to work in the world--all part of the skills of planned serendipity.

How can I introduce serendipity into my business and life? What is the first step someone should take if they want to start harnessing luck?
Break out of your routine. Routine is the enemy of serendipity. Doing the same thing day in and day out almost guarantees that you won't run into anything new. In order to take advantage of unexpected surprises you have to put yourself in a position to actually encounter the unexpected in the first place.

We call this the skill of "motion"--putting yourself in unfamiliar situations, but within familiar environments, in order to engage with previously unfamiliar people and ideas that are connected to your job, your projects, or your interests.

Visiting with a different department inside your organization, attending a conference in an area related to your job, or even picking a different place to sit for lunch in the cafeteria each day: these are all examples of motion in the workplace. By looking for relevant experiences that are outside of your normal activities you're giving new people, opportunities, and information the chance to find you.

How did you come to write on this topic?
In 2007, we founded Get Satisfaction, a community platform that lets companies participate in an ongoing online conversation with their customers. At Get Satisfaction, we were in the remarkable position of witnessing the practices that power the most innovative companies in the world, including Procter & Gamble, Facebook, and Wal-Mart.

Over the years we began to see unmistakable patterns in the companies that were the most successful. Those companies that were willing to speak openly and honestly with their customers--embracing both the good and the bad that resulted--were also the most nimble, the most effective, and the most likely to gain the huge benefits that arose on a daily basis through chance interactions with their customers.

Working with these companies taught us that "getting lucky" wasn't something that just happened to these businesses--instead, it was the result of a particular mindset, a set of specific behaviors, and a willingness to do the hard work of turning unexpected insight into meaningful action. Several years, some hard work, and a few serendipitous occurrences later, we found ourselves on the path to writing this book!

Guest Review by Tony Hsieh

Tony Hsieh is the New York Times best-selling author of Delivering Happiness and CEO of, Inc.

Serendipity has been part of our not-so-secret sauce at Zappos from the very beginning. We've seen first-hand how breakthroughs are so often due to the spontaneous collisions between people and ideas. The things that end up mattering most are often the things that we can least predict.

Get Lucky explains, through entertaining stories and usable practices, the specific ways that we can create the conditions for serendipity to thrive.

Thor and Lane's central idea, that there are eight learnable skills of "planned serendipity,” is as empowering as it is actionable. Get Lucky provides a framework for understanding how serendipity works, and shows how it can be used as a practice in life and business.


“You’ve heard the old saw, ‘Chance favors prepared minds.’ Well, Get Lucky is the mind-preparer. This entertaining and practical book makes it clear that luck isn’t just for the lucky anymore.”
—Dan Heath, co-author, Switch and Made to Stick

“Louis Pasteur and Thomas Jefferson would have endorsed this book. It's a profound explication of an idea they each shared, that luck isn't random, and that you can create the conditions where it flourishes. It's a refreshing reminder that the spark of human creativity leaps into flame when we establish the right conditions.”
—Tim O'Reilly, CEO of O'Reilly Media

“We live in a world that is more and more volatile and unpredictable, where ‘luck’ plays an increasingly central role. By the end of this book, you will never again view planning luck as a contradiction, but rather as an imperative that cannot be ignored. Whether in your personal life or professional life, open yourself up to the profound possibilities of serendipity.”
—John Hagel, co-chairman, Center for the Edge; and co-author, The Power of Pull

“Serendipity has been part of our not-so-secret sauce at Zappos from the very beginning. We've seen first-hand how breakthroughs are so often due to the spontaneous collisions between people and ideas. Get Lucky provides a framework for understanding how serendipity works, and shows how it can be used as a practice in life and business.”
—Tony Hsieh, CEO,, Inc.; bestselling author, Delivering Happiness

“In a fast-moving world, seemingly random customer comments on sites like Facebook can make your year or sink your ship. Get Lucky prepares you and your organization well to recognize and act on these serendipitous moments. Don't leave your success to chance!”
—Charlene Li, Founder of Altimeter Group; author Groundswell and Open Leadership

“In business, we plan to avert disaster, launch products, and forecast financials, but rarely do we plan to ‘get lucky.’ Thor and Lane’s method of planned serendipity should be part of every innovator’s toolkit.”
—Beth Comstock, chief marketing officer, GE

“Customers already run your company-and are moving farther out of your control every day. Fortunately, Thor and Lane are here to explain why this is the best possible thing that can happen, and how to make the most of it.”
—Doc Searls, co-author, The Cluetrain Manifesto and The Intention Economy

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (April 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1118249755
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118249758
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,043,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By BudwickOnBooks on April 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I have mixed feelings about the book. The authors: Thor Muller and Lane Becker in Get Lucky take the interesting topic of luck and attempt to explain its scientific principles. To get luck or find serendipitous events you should posses eight skills: Motivation, Preparation, Divergence, Commitment, Activation, Connection, Permeability, and Attraction. Each of these topics is broken down ad nauseum. Each given a chapter of their own.

Chapter two was difficult to get through. I put the book down a couple of times wondering if I would return to it. I am glad I did. Chapter three starts off much clearer and does not seem to beat every point so deeply that it gets confusing to read. After two the chapters work a little better. The writing style of the book certainly points out that there was more than one author doing the writing. Some chapters seem to get in to too much detail where others are clean and present great stories fill with sound advice.

Muller and Becker present the case the luck comes to those that are aware it exists, prepare so that it will appear, and then notice it and act on it when it arrives. Luck they say presents itself as moments of serendipity. A time when preparation meets opportunity. The book describes luck not so much as luck, but as an event that can be acted upon if it is noticed. It is in the eight skills listed above that will help you make the most of serendipity.

Overall I liked the book. It gives some good points to be aware of to make the most of good opportunities when they arrive. The book could have been cut short and, at times, seems to be full of a lot of filler. If you can separate out the valuable content you'll get some great ideas to help you grow your business or expand your personal growth and brand.

Good reading.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Alan F. Sewell on April 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been "lucky" in many aspects of life, one of the most rewarding of which has been to work for, as an employee or independent consultant, some wonderfully creative and successful businesses. I've worked for startup companies that have grown from one-person shops to become renowned global enterprises with hundreds of employees. I've worked for self-made business owners who did not let their upbringings in humble circumstances prevent them becoming multimillionaires.

I've seen firsthand many characteristics of successful business people including extraordinary intelligence, mental flexibility that rapidly adapts to changing business conditions, highly specialized knowledge of a particular industrial or commercial niche, a love of their field of endeavor, absolute confidence in themselves and the products and services they provide, a spirit of fairness, positive expectations, a passion for excellence, and the ability to instill these qualities in a team of employees through inspired leadership.

If you break it down to the "nth degree" there are thousands of traits that work together to create a successful business. Maybe that's why there are thousands of business books that explain them. But there's one more aspect of business that doesn't get talked about a lot, and that's "serendipity." Authors Thor Muller and Lane Becker define "serendipity" as:

The best kind of luck--that creative force known as serendipity--is the luck that we attract to ourselves. To explain how planned serendipity works, we need to start with our own simple definition of serendipity, which we'll use from this point forward: serendipity is chance interacting with creativity.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Yelenart on April 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover
One of the most relevant books I've read in a long time! Personally looking to get out of a work slump, I found GET LUCKY to do an amazing job of inspiring me, as well as giving me the knowledge and specific examples to motivate me. The book itself is an insightful and entertaining read, full of many treasures along the way. Although written by tech founders, the book is relatable to any line of work or type of individual.

The way our world functions is changing. Keeping within the stifling systems of corporate structure is a recipe for being left behind while those who are beginning to realize that working in a way that makes room for "luck" is how innovation happens. Thor and Lane, the authors of the book, break the book down by different factors that contribute to this way of working. They give detailed stories of various companies and individuals that have taken this route, as well as their own personal journey with the company they founded, "Get Satisfaction." It was interesting to read how easily we have been swept up in a stifling system. Thor and Lane's approach is intuitive, but was sadly lost throughout the past decades. I truly hope that this is the future and more companies begin creating the practices mentioned in the book.

Beyond creating space for innovation, Thor and Lane do a great job at giving examples of what to do once luck is found. This is the part I found to be motivational. Their stories range in scope from a door making company creating a new successful side business from their wood scraps to Pixar creating a workspace that creates more chance encounters.

The lessons here are many, most of which I plan to carry with me as long as my free thinking mind will let me. Definitely a must read for all generations.
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