Knowledge Institute Podcasts
Dr. Christian Busch on Creating Serendipity3 Jun 2020
Dr. Christian Busch, author of The Serendipity Mindset, the Art and Science of Creating Good Luck, discusses how we can intentionally create luck in our lives. He explains how this mindset applies to personal life as well as product innovation and corporate management.
Hosted by Jeff Kavanaugh, VP and Head of the Infosys Knowledge Institute.
“Once you start believing that you can create your own luck, you start creating your own luck.”
- Dr. Christian Busch
Your book The Serendipity Mindset states that good luck isn't just chance, that it can be learned and leveraged. What is one example that's especially relevant for you?
Jeff Kavanaugh introduces Dr. Busch and shares his background
What inspired you to research the topic of serendipity and eventually write this book?
It seems like the topic could be a little bit warm and fuzzy, especially several years ago, which branch of academia did you choose for this and why?
What is it about serendipity in your research and findings that an executive can apply, or at least how does it relate to the uncertainties and opportunities in a business environment?
Do you think you're uncovering something people already do, or is this a new thing that more can adopt and it's possible something can raise business performance?
Dr. Busch discusses how seeking, and finding luck really is a positive mindset
How could serendipity possibly help us in a time of pandemic?
Can you link serendipity and innovation, the innovation process, if you want to call it that?
Dr. Busch explores the meaning and implications of the phrase “connect the dots.”
What's the difference in approach to serendipity if there is one between Europe and the US?
What are three things that someone can do professionally maybe even personally to bring serendipity into their lives and maybe have a little more joy?
Dr. Busch shares his online contact information
Jeff Kavanaugh: Christian Busch, your book The Serendipity Mindset states that good luck isn't just chance, that it can be learned and leveraged. What is one example that's especially relevant for you?
Christian Busch: What I found exciting about looking into the role of serendipity in our lives is that it happens all the time for some people and for others it doesn't at all and the same for companies. There's a company called Haier, and Haier produces washing machines and refrigerators and other things and they got a lot of calls from farmers and those farmers said, "Hey, look, our washing machines are breaking down, we're trying to wash our potatoes here but somehow it doesn't work." And so what would a company usually do? They will try to "educate" the farmers to not wash their potatoes in the washing machine. Haier did the opposite, they said, "Well, okay, this is unexpected that they wash their potatoes in the washing machine but do you know what, why don't we build in the filter that allows us to filter out the dirt and call it a potato washing machine and sell it to farmers?"
Christian Busch: And so that's exactly what they did. Yes, it was a lucky kind of coincidence that they came across that. And when you look at it now, it kind of got them interesting kind of a new product and that happens to individuals as well. But the point is, most of us are missing those kind of unexpected things all the time, because we have a certain idea of the world.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Creating serendipity is what we'll be exploring in today's conversation. Welcome to the Knowledge Institute Podcast where we talk with thought leaders on business trends, deconstruct main ideas and share their insights. I'm Jeff Kavanaugh head of the Infosys Knowledge Institute and today we're here with Christian Busch. Dr. Busch directs the Global Economy Program at New York University and teaches on purpose driven business, entrepreneurship, social innovation, and cultivating serendipity at NYU and at the London School of Economics.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Christian has consulted for multi-national companies, is part of the World Economic Forum’s, Expert Forum has guest lectured at Stanford Business School, and also other leading universities. And his work has been published by leading outlets and received numerous awards. He holds a PhD and Masters in science and management from London School of Economics, Bachelor of Arts from Hagen University in sociology, as well as studies from Furtwangen & Moscow Business School.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Christian is the author of the upcoming book, The Serendipity Mindset, Christian, thanks so much for joining us.
Christian Busch: Thanks so much for having me Jeff.
Jeff Kavanaugh: With that wide and varied background, just dive in. What inspired you to research the topic of serendipity and eventually write this book?
Christian Busch: It's interesting because when I grew up in Heidelberg which is a romantic city in Germany, I was this kind of rebellious teenager who was living in the day. And then when I turned 18, I got a car, I started driving the car as recklessly as I live a lifestyle, then at some point I had a car crash that almost killed me. And that kind of made me think about a lot of the kind of things in life that I might have not experienced had I had faith played out differently.
Christian Busch: And so it put me on this intense search for meaning in terms of trying to figure out what is life about, what can we learn about life, and what do I enjoy? And I realized what I really enjoy is connecting people, connecting ideas. And so I started going on a journey, well, first setting up a couple of communities and organizations that were around bringing together young people and help them make their ideas happen. I've been over time, kind of my reflective sight took over and I went a bit more into academia working on questions, such as how do we scale social impact? How do we understand the success of businesses, how do we understand why some individuals are more successful than others?
Christian Busch: And what I found fascinating over the last 15 years, what popped up everywhere in my private life, in my personal life, in my professional life was that a lot of the people seemed to somehow the more serendipitous than others by having a couple of type of practices that they use intuitively, implicitly they were not really aware of it but somehow they did it. And so I've just been extremely curious about what was it that they did, that was different from those people who might live a life where they feel, "Oh, luck is what happens to other people."
Christian Busch: And so I started studying that a bit more and really trying to understand what are the patterns behind that.
Jeff Kavanaugh: It seems like the topic could be a little bit warm and fuzzy, especially several years ago, which branch of academia did you choose for this and why?
Christian Busch: That's a great question because when I started out essentially, I started out with a very practical interest in serendipity as a community builder, as a company builder, it was something we did intuitively, we tried to build that into value space practices, in our communities and so on. But it wasn't something that somehow seemed to be and academic projects that could be done, but then when I started doing research around scaling social impact and research around success and failure of companies it popped up everywhere.
Christian Busch: And so it allowed me to relate it to what makes some companies more successful than others? And so essentially by bringing it into, for example, different research around the question of how can companies plan versus what emerges unexpectedly. There's a big debate and management research around how much of strategy is bottom up and emergent and how much of this is kind of top down.
Christian Busch: And so the kind of management research actually was fitting really well because that is a question, how do you cope with uncertainty? How do you cope with something that you cannot plan out? And so that whole idea of cultivating serendipity and we've published a couple of things around this now, and I think it's kind of getting more and more embedded in that literature. But also more broadly in the natural sciences you see in chemistry, for example, do you see experiments that have shown that you can accelerate serendipity?
Christian Busch: So you see pockets in different literatures that have been working on it but I think what that books tries to do is to say, "Hey, let's bring this all together, and that show that there is a science based framework for how we can cultivate serendipity that we can anchor in those different disciplines."
Jeff Kavanaugh: If we put a business hat on because that's a lot of what we cover, how we can apply this to business topics. What is it about serendipity in your research and findings that an executive can apply, or at least how does it relate to the uncertainties and opportunities in a business environment?
Christian Busch: It's interesting because so we recently actually did a report where we interviewed 31 of the top CEOs in the world. So we did one to two hour interviews with them, the kind of CEOs of companies like MasterCard and others. We're deep diving into questions such as what is it that makes them really a bit more successful than others.
Christian Busch: And what was fascinating is how many of them intuitively within their companies created practices that allowed them to have more serendipity happen. So for example, in one company, what they have is something called “project funerals” where say you have something like a technology. The idea was, "Hey, here's a window frame and it doesn't reflect the light and great let's sell this." And they realize, "Okay, there's no market for this."
Christian Busch: And so what usually you will do in the company is you would say, "Okay, this project didn't work out, let's put it away, let's hide it that it didn't work. That's it." What this company did was to say, "No, we want to bring out, we want to learn from those kind of things and we want to see what we can do with it." So what they developed is essentially saying, whenever something doesn't work out, the project manager goes in front of other project managers talks about why they think it didn't work, it's not about celebrating failure, it's about celebrating what we can learn from that.
Christian Busch: And then essentially that project manager would be talking about, "Hey, look, we underestimated, there's no market for this." Then a person in the audience would be like, "Hey, but have you considered what this means for solar? Have you considered, if you have this amazing technology that absorbs all this lights, what we could do with this in the solar area?" And that's how most of the solar division emerged and that is extremely serendipitous, right? That was very unexpected, it was a positive coincidence that that person was in the audience.
Christian Busch: But actually by cultivating a culture and practices that allowed for people to, in a way share and put something out there, it also allows people to connect the dots across these different areas it A) kind of makes them more innovative. And we saw that across a lot of different companies, that essentially those kind of practices allow for innovation, they allow for people developing more trust with each other, but also you'll see how these CEOs are really good at saying, "On one hand, we want to develop a certain idea of where we're going like a sense of direction." But also we are very aware that the unexpected happens all the time.
Christian Busch: So we want to empower our employees to say, when we see something unexpected, let's say there's a marketing plan and we planned this all out but then we see there's customers who react differently. Like in the example, I mentioned about the potato washing machine at Haier, like when you have something like this where you're unexpectedly encounter information that is the opposite of what you expect, a lot of times we still try to push through our plant, right? Because we assume we know what this is about, but the idea of those CEOs and more broadly of successful leaders that I've been working with is to say, "You know what, we built that in that we want to turn this unexpected into something and we are placing bets on this."
Christian Busch: And so you see companies, for example, developing structures where they have investment committees that directly invest into unexpected ideas, or you have practices where people directly have a sounding board where they can test those ideas with and so on. So there's a lot of these kind of practices that you can build in that allow you to be more innovative and to eventually have more impact.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Do you think you're uncovering something people already do, or is this a new thing that more can adopt and it's possible something can raise business performance?
Christian Busch: You know, it's interesting because first and foremost it's a mindset, right? Once you start believing that you can create your own luck, you start creating your own luck. Let me give you an example, there's an amazing psychologist in the UK called Richard Weisman and we did a couple of experiments, and one of the experiments was around saying, let's essentially say we take someone who self identifies as extremely lucky. So someone who says luck happens to me all the time, and you have someone who self identifies as extremely unlucky.
Christian Busch: And so essentially what they told them is, "Look, what I want you to do is walk down the street, sit in a coffee shop, order a coffee, that's it." What I didn't tell them is that there will be hidden cameras across the street, and in the coffee shop there would be a five pound note in front of the door placed in front of the entrance and there would only be four tables in the coffee shop, three of which would have actors, and then the fourth one like this super successful businessman who can make the biggest ideas happen.
Christian Busch: And so essentially, the lucky person walks down the street, sees the five pound note, picks it up, goes into the coffee shop, or just the coffee has a nice conversation with the barista sits next down to the businessman because the businessmen sits on the table closest to the counter, has the conversation with them, that's it.
Christian Busch: The unlucky person walks down the street, steps over the five pound note, goes into the shop, orders the coffee, also sits next to the businessmen that's the table that's closest, the other person's gone by then, ignores the businessmen, and that's it. Now at the end of the day, they asked both like, "How was your day? How did it go?" And the lucky person says, "Well, it was an amazing day, I found money in the streets, I made two new friends," and we don't know if there's an opportunity that came out of it, but might well be right? That a lot of times opportunities come out of these conversations.
Christian Busch: They asked the unlucky person, "How was your day?" Well, nothing really happened. And I've seen that a lot also in the corporate context that you will see that some people will have those kinds of things happen all the time because they alert to it. So first and foremost, it's about getting people alert and open-minded to it. But also then again, there's a couple of things we can do in the day to day simple things like setting “hooks,” for example, right?
Christian Busch: That a lot of us, when you go into, let's say a new setting conference setting or something else, we tend to ask the same questions, we tend to ask questions like, what do you do? X, Y, Z. And we tend to always give the same answers, we have a certain autopilot. So we say, "Oh yeah, I am working at Infosys, I'm running X, Y, Z." I mean, I'm sure you have a greater answer and you have something that that's much more entertaining, but that's what we generally do, we have a certain autopilot that we get into.
Christian Busch: But once we are alert of or once we are aware of the power of serendipity, what we do is to say, "Okay, you know what serendipity is all about connecting the dots. Serendipity is all about seeing something in the other person or in this situation that it could somehow connect something with." And so essentially then if you ask me, "What do you do?" I would say something like, "Well, you know, I'm currently really interested in serendipity but I've also been working on exploring philosophical tension of this and I've also just finished this book."
Christian Busch: So I try to build an answer that is as long as your answer but that gives three or four hooks. So there's these simple practices that I'm very excited about that we can do that open us up to those kind of things that seem like a coincidence, but again you can train yourself for it once you start seeing it. But then also again, you can build a corporate culture that allows you to have that all the time, everything from how you structure meetings and ask people for what they found most surprising last week, there's a lot of different tactics you can use but the point is we can build that into everything, every system in our minds in itself.
Christian Busch: But in a way it's essentially not a clear cut answer to what you asked, but I think it's a mixture between yes, it's something a lot of people do intuitively and now it's about saying, what can we learn from them so that we can transfer this to everyone? But also if I'm already doing it intuitively, what else can I do to make even more of this happen.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Once again you’re listening to the Knowledge Institute where we talk with experts on business trends, deconstruct main ideas, and share their insights. We are here with Dr. Christian Busch, NYU professor and author of the upcoming book, The Serendipity Mindset. Christian, you mentioned this idea of a mindset and hooks and things you can set. It sounds similar in some respects to maybe approaching with a different mindset than the average person who lets things happened to them. What about this stoic mindset that you hear a lot, especially in Silicon Valley but also other folks.
Jeff Kavanaugh: I know Ryan Holiday, who's done a fair amount of writing on it. And how would you compare serendipity with taking a stoic approach?
Christian Busch: What do you say stoic approach, which aspect? The suffering aspect or the …
Jeff Kavanaugh: Not the suffering so much, but just seeing things as they are, making the best of it, having a fairly positive mindset about it and not basically getting negative about it.
Christian Busch: It's interesting because if you think about things such as a growth mindset as well, right? Like something where you say, "Yes, we're looking at the world and we essentially try to make the best out of what comes our way, we assume everything is somehow malevolence." I think what the interesting thing here is to say, yes, that is true and that is part of it but actually the kind of underlying philosophy here is to say, "You know what? We assume that we can plan things out. We assume that there's a certain degree of control we have in our life and then we run with it."
Christian Busch: The beauty of like when you develop The Serendipity Mindset is to say, "You know what, let's get away from the illusion of control, let's get away from the illusion that we can map everything out." Let's get to the point where we can say, "All right, as a company or as an individual, I can set a certain North Star, I can set a certain idea of where approximately I want to go." If I'm MasterCard or so, I'm saying, "You know what, I want to lift 400 million people into the financial system and I want to do this within the next five years but I might not know yet how to do it."
Christian Busch: And so now I have an open mind to what happens and if I'm Ajay, the CEO of MasterCard, I might run into someone in South Africa who tells me about something and I would be like, "Oh my God, such a coincidence. You know what, I will relate this to this bigger plan here that we have, but I'm really open to it." The core point here is that I feel the core notion that I'm really excited about and that you will see a lot in management and a lot of the organizations I work with, I think it's this idea that we think strong leadership is about knowing a lot of things, it's about planning a lot of things, it's about having the best strategy, all these kind of things.
Christian Busch:: But actually at the end of the day, it's a lot about building that muscle for the unexpected to happen and not seeing it as a loss of control, but actually seeing it as a way to really turn the best ideas into something. And so I think it's about kind of mostly the mindset also saying, "At the end of the day, let's redefine what we mean with strong leadership." I love the CEOs, for example, in that report, but also more broadly in our research over the last decade.
Christian Busch: A lot of them are "practical philosophers" themselves, they ask why all the time they question everything. But again, they also have a very strong sense of direction and a very strong sense of where they want to go. And so I think that interplay, I find really fascinating. So yes, there are elements of growth mindsets in there but it's a much broader theme around saying, "This is like a life philosophy that you can create your own luck and you can do it in a way that is not about losing control, but it’s actually about gaining control."
Jeff Kavanaugh: Let’s put it to the test. As you and I speak, we're not doing this in person in New York City as we had planned, how could serendipity possibly help us in a time of pandemic?
Christian Busch: It's a great question especially in a time where you're confined to your home and there's a lot of the incidences like running into someone in the coffee shop might not be as available as they usually are. What I think is really interesting about the pandemic at the moment is that, in a way it's an opportunity to show what you're really about. In a way, crisis is a way of showing or bringing out either the worst of the best in ourselves.
Christian Busch: And you will see at the moment, a lot of companies that will do things that they might regret in a couple of years, and you will see other companies that will gain a lot of legitimacy over the next years because they react to the unexpected in a way that is seen as responsible that is seen as something that turned it into innovation.
Christian Busch: If you think about past crisis, take something like hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where Best Buy said, "Look, our values are on family and related themes where we want to take care of the people we work with." So the first thing they said was, "When this unexpected event happens, all right, we will send private planes to help our employees to get all this, we will work with the local community just to help them out and so on."
Christian Busch: So they leveraged the unexpected, they turned it into something positive. The productivity afterwards went up through the roof of the employees because they were loyal, they were grateful, that when it mattered the most in the unexpected moment where a lot of other companies just shut down, they essentially showed their true colors to their employees and proved their values to them in a way that led in the end to a lot of different types of positive outcomes.
Christian Busch: I think we see something very similar at the moment where you see companies reacting very differently to the unexpected, some of them turn it into positive outcomes. Similar to, you know, there's a car company, for example, what they did was to say, "Look, we cannot employ all these people at the moment but we will continue paying them, and then we will count that as overtime whenever we get out of this."
Christian Busch: And so we find these kind of innovative solutions that in a way, a lot of times now employees feel empowered, they come up with genuine ideas and they had a couple of really interesting ideas now that they developed at home and brought it to the company because they care. Because now essentially people say, "I really find that, that is a company that made sense to me."
Christian Busch: You also see like small scale innovations, you see whole industries that redefined themselves, you see how breweries become hand sanitizing companies, how virtual conferences emerge, all these different types of things. Again in crisis, usually the most interesting serendipitous innovative ideas and solutions are emerging. And it's always interesting then of course to see how sustainable they are. But usually these kinds of moments are a great opportunity for leadership, in German, we have this saying, is there an American sign for this? Like you cut the good ones from the bad ones you see who's really…
Jeff Kavanaugh: … wheat from the chaff, wheat from the chaff.
Christian Busch: Yeah, exactly, exactly.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Can you link serendipity and innovation, the innovation process, if you want to call it that.
Christian Busch: Yeah, absolutely. I think the interesting thing is that there's studies that like up to 50 to 70% of a lot of innovation is actually serendipitous, right? So of course depends on what we understand is innovation, but if we understand that, innovation is kind of like some kind of improvements that somehow happened and helps us to do something better afterwards. Think about everything from Sildenafil, for example, where it was a kind of product innovation where you would have researchers who were trying to figure out a way to cure angina. And so to do that by injecting people and they saw there was a certain movement in man's trousers, and what would most people do, they will try to either ignore it or they would say, "Okay, I see it, but I want to find a better way now to cure angina, so I want to ignore what's happening there."
Christian Busch: What they did was the opposite. They said, "You know what, we linked this unexpected encounter of seeing something in men's trousers happening to the idea that a lot of people might have that problem in the world that there's not much happening in that department." And that is how Viagra came about, that is how product innovation came about unexpectedly but they were able to see something unexpected, connect the dots and then do something like this.
Christian Busch: You see a lot of this also, when you think about things such as you know, I mentioned earlier, the example of the solar division that came unexpectedly out of something that is kind of a completely new way of where that company is headed. You will see at companies like Ikea, they have a lot of kind of unexpected areas that they've been exploring now because their CEOs or other people were open to the unexpected. Think about companies like Phillips, for example, right? Companies like Phillips are interesting because they were traditionally structured based on the solution they provide.
Christian Busch: So let's say they provide tomography, and so then they have a department that focuses on tomography. The problem here of course, is that if you put me into the box of tomography, I will only innovate within the space of, let's do a better within tomography. So like a better apparatus that helps us to do tomography.
Christian Busch: Now, if I step back and say, "Let's open this space of what we can do here and think about what is the problem," the problem is around precision diagnosis, we want to find a better way of diagnosing if someone has a problem. So now if I renamed that department and that is the process that a couple of those kind of companies at the moment, if I tried to rename and restructure those departments into those problem areas that are now around things like precision diagnostics and so on so. And again, that is a very political process and it takes a long time.
Christian Busch: But once they do it, then of course now when I'm an employee, I think very differently about how can I come up with better ideas because I'm not constrained to things like tomography. Now, I'm thinking about maybe it could be a completely different way to do that. And that's I think in general how companies like Haier and others accelerate their innovation processes by saying, "We don't define ourselves by having a particular product or something," but we're saying if we see something unexpected in the data, if we see again, the example that people wash their potatoes in the washing machine, then we have to react to this and maybe, you know what, maybe we don't even need to be a washing machine producer, maybe we move into data X, Y, Z at some point.
Christian Busch: And so I think the more the world is changing very fast, the more we are reliant on unexpected information to also understand what is the next area we can move into, which by definition is about innovation.
Jeff Kavanaugh: I'd like to follow up on something you said earlier, you said, you mentioned the phrase, connect the dots, a few times, we always use that, that's a frequent praise. What's behind that phrase? And is it an opportunity to go into what’s supporting it with analysis systems thinking, there's probably some broader implications of that as well.
Christian Busch: Yeah, it's interesting because when you look at a fast changing world which has lot of kind of complex problems out there and a lot of kind of issues that are so multilayered that we cannot just solve them from one perspective or based on one kind of idea. It obviously depends on connecting different types of ideas, connecting different types of people and being able to make sense out of it.
Christian Busch: And so what I love about the idea of connecting the dots, I mean, with the Viagra example, a lot of times it's mostly about saying if I observe something, how do I make sense out of that observation in relation to something else? And a lot of times that is about being able to do that in teams or being able to do that around kind of areas where we might have expertise in one, but then we need someone else for that.
Christian Busch: And so I think the exciting thing here from a company perspective is, how do we enable people to connect the dots? How do we enable people to both be in teams that allow for those kinds of things to happen but also how do we, for example, set up physical spaces for it? I always loved that kind of old Pixar example that time when they needed a new headquarters, and the architects first said, "Well, let's build, like, different buildings, one for the software developers, one for the management, one for the kind of traders," and Jobs would say, "Look, this is a terrible idea because you separate the people who should connect the dots with each other but actually you're them away from each other." So he said, "Let's build one building, let's put the atrium in the middle, let's put the physical mailboxes in the middle so that these people have to run into each other all the time physically and they will see that they are not so different from each other and they will start connecting the dots into other areas as well."
Christian Busch: And so I'm actually quite curious about exactly that idea of how do we incentivize people in very kind of nudge type ways. So in very subtle ways to learn how to connect to those because our education system, for example, it's not set up for connecting the dots. Our education system is set up for having one dot that we fixate, I don't want to overuse the analogy, but to overgrow that dot.
Christian Busch: And to really say, "Okay, I'm really getting good at this, I'm building expertise in this." But then essentially what's so important obviously with all these problems out there is to be able to link that to something else. And so that is where I think all these kinds of systemic questions also come in, in terms of, again, I think it all comes back to the mindset in terms of being able to do that but then also from a company perspective, how do I build teams around this? How do I build rituals around this that allow people to do that.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Put you on the spot here, you spent the first part of your life in Europe, also studied in London and you spent a lot of time now in New York. What's the difference in approach to serendipity if there is one between Europe and the US?
Christian Busch: So that's an interesting question because, so when I think about, especially when I started getting deeper into serendipity and doing it outside the circles that I'm used to, because in the circles I'm in and the kind of innovation space and the incubator space and the space of entrepreneurs, it's very intuitive that people connect the dots, it's very intuitive that people have... like they feel serendipity happens all the time. But then when I lived in London, I realized that there is a huge part actually of people who might say, "Yeah, but maybe we don't even need that because our life is actually fine," or maybe, "Can you really do this? Isn't this something that you can control and so on."
Christian Busch: And so I feel in the British environment, it was fascinating because I felt there was a large part of the population that was a little bit hesitant, but also then those people who seem to be most resistant. So for example, one of my dear colleagues at the LSE, the first thing he said at the beginning was, "Look Christian, I really liked those ideas, but you know what, I'm happy in my life, why would I need this?"
Christian Busch: And so then we kind of worked through some of the exercises and then two weeks later he came back and he's like, "Christian, I didn't know that life can feel so joyful and I didn't know that life can exist like this." And so my point there was that I think in that context, I'd feel that it took me a bit longer maybe to iterate with the idea with some people, but actually then also those were the people who had the strongest buy-in once it really changed their lives because it was new because it was something that might not be the accepted idea of how life works.
Christian Busch: Versus, I think, in New York, for example, I think a lot of people operate based on serendipity, it's always about getting out there and creating your own luck and that's very related to the American Dream and related themes and so on. And so I find that fascinating in terms of how, in a way, I think the idea of creating your own luck is probably very different in different contexts. But also, I initially assumed that it's more important to get those people excited, to believe in serendipity, but I realized more and more that it's actually much more impactful to turn someone who might not believe in serendipity yet into having serendipity because it brings out so much meaning and joy that really transforms their lives, then.
Jeff Kavanaugh: What are three things that someone can do professionally maybe even personally to bring serendipity into their lives and maybe have a little more joy?
Christian Busch: That's a great question because I feel at the end of the day, some of the ones that I find most exciting is A) the question of first starting with what are our biases that we have that we want to overcome? A maybe we might underestimate the unexpected and we might kind of I want to get into the idea that the unexpected happens all the time related to what I mentioned earlier.
Christian Busch: Once we start seeing things and are alert to things, we have more of it, but also then how do we remove barriers such as constant meetings or routines that might restrict us? So for example, if you have control over your time, why are there ways to merge meetings? I mean, one of the things, for example, that a colleague of mine does really well is he has 10, 15 people a day who wants to meet him for a quick coffee. And he usually meets everyone at once in a bar or in a coffee shop and says, "Great, let's quickly discuss about this."
Christian Busch: And actually by doing this, he has all these people also who don't know each other who then make all these meaningful connections with each other as well. So that's kind of a way to remove barriers but also allow for serendipity fathers to emerge. Another one that I've found extremely interesting for myself also is it's really kind of separating what Adam Grant talks a lot about the kind of Manager from the Maker Schedule.
Christian Busch: In terms of really thinking about when is the time where I want to go deep and really think about deeper ideas and really allow myself to do that in my case, for example, in the mornings. And when is it about meetings going out there and putting stuff in?
Christian Busch: Because the interesting thing about serendipity is that a lot of times it needs an incubation time, it needs reflection, we might see something but we might need some time to really kind of drive that idea home and to make sense out of it. Another practice that I really liked is setting serendipity bombs, especially at the moment where people are home, a lot of people have more time than usual, especially when they're kind of high leverage people.
Christian Busch: And so why not send three emails to the people that you admire the most that inspire you the most and where you can get on the internet with all these platforms, you can find their email addresses or via LinkedIn or whatever, and sending them an email and just say, "Hey, look like I've been inspired by your work. I find it really interesting, I've been working on this, I would love to catch up at some point, whatever it is." And if you do that with three to 10 people, there's always a couple of people who say, "Oh my God, hey, this is great timing because I just looked into this. I just wanted to start this, yala, yala, yala."
Christian Busch: So I think this kind of idea of setting serendipity bombs, which again is very similar also to the idea of setting hooks and really going out there and really in a way, putting more potential dots out there that can be connected is definitely something that can help. Of all these tactics and there's sort of exercises you can do in terms of how you can frame your mind and reframe your mind, that kind of ability to believe, but you can create your own luck and then kind of train yourself into it by asking questions differently away from what do you do to what's the state of mind or what are you most interested in at the moment, whatever it is.
Christian Busch: But just something that allows you to open up the opportunity space, I think that's what I enjoy most.
Jeff Kavanaugh: How could people find you online?
Christian Busch: There is a homepage which is serendipitymindset.com and then on LinkedIn, it's Christian Busch, and on Twitter it's @ChrisSerendip.
Jeff Kavanaugh: And everyone, you can find details on our show notes and transcripts at infosys.com/iki in our podcast section. Christian, thank you for your time and a highly interesting and serendipitous discussion. You've been listening to the Knowledge Institute where we talk with experts on business trends, deconstruct main ideas and share their insights. Thanks to our producer, Catherine Burdette, Dode Bigley, and the entire Knowledge Institute team. Until next time, keep learning and keep sharing.
About Dr. Christian Busch
Dr. Christian Busch is a professor at New York University (NYU), where he directs the CGA Global Economy Program. He is a Visiting Fellow at the Marshall Institute, London School of Economics. Previously, he co-directed the LSE’s Innovation and Co-Creation Lab and served as a course leader. He is a co-founder of Sandbox Network, a leading community of young innovators active in over 20 countries, as well as Leaders on Purpose, an organization convening high-impact leaders. He is a member of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Expert Forum and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
- Learn more about Christian’s book The Serendipity Mindset
- Connect with Christian Busch on: Twitter
- Follow on LinkedIn
Selected links from the episode