Q & A with Thor Muller and Lane Becker, authors of Get Lucky Why should we not dismiss luck as a mere superstition?
|"The 8 Skills of Planned Serendipity" (click on image to enlarge) |
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 Zappos.com, 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.
“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.”
“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, Zappos.com, 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