31 August 2015 | Taking advantage of unsought/unexpected inputs (i.e., serendipity) works under certain conditions. First, the user needs to have a desire to make a difference. The ‘owner’ of serendipity typically has a decision or problem that is festering and, when the unexpected information arises, is able to see its value and use it to make a positive difference for an organisation, such as finding new business opportunities. Then, evaluation is similar to the filtration approach described above.
The ‘permanent bank’ of experience and understanding of a market situation and management theories, in conjunction with entrepreneurial alertness and risk tolerance, helps entrepreneurs evaluate how their readiness to move from the ‘observed’ insights to a valuable innovation in the marketplace, or in our view the distance from his personal evaluation and the ‘perceived’ opportunity.
Second, a manager who wishes to tap serendipity needs to be willing and able to reach out of own discipline. For many people, if the ‘distance’ between disciplines is large, then the manager may forget (or not understand) the information. The serendipity-based innovator, instead, sees value in the information and a potential opportunity; then may gather additional helpful inputs through discussions with friends or experts, or simply by surfing the internet on something else, always storing unexpected initial information somewhere in mind.
Third, the person attuned to serendipity is able to connect (odd) dots. Systematic collection of external information provides the serendipity maker with a number of separate dots of inputs and information, which, if connected could become a solution or new level of understanding. Then the left dashed circle (Figure) becomes larger and larger. In parallel, the ‘internal’ information, in the right hand circle, consists of knowledge, capital, business relations, production capacity, and even willingness and imagination is improved as results of education and learning by doing. The two sets of information (external and internal) are correlated. The more external dots the serendipity maker spots, the better he could become at evaluating opportunity. The more efficiently he connects the dots, the better he is at detecting missing points. For example, when public media reports an increasing number of securities-investment success stories, business people start paying more attention to securities market, enriching their set of internal information by reading news, watching market movements, or enrolling evening classes on securities businesses.
Last is the routine or discipline a person needs to employ methods of boosting creativity. The disciplined process of spotting and connecting the dots creates the shaded area where two sets of information intersect. This is when the serendipity maker can use the insights to make decisions. Even so, the two sets must not always overlap for a decision to emerge. This is where the role of entrepreneurial spirit helps decide to move or not.
* An excerpt from Vuong & Napier (2014).