Perhaps I was 8 years old. My mother was toting me along and stopped by a store on Merriman Avenue with the whimsical name, Serendipity. I hadn’t heard the word before, and I recall how I felt saying it, the words just dancing off my tongue. Then I asked its meaning, and I was forever enchanted.
Serendipity: lucky happenstance – kind of joyful, isn’t it? Say the word to someone, and their eyes light up. Say it again out loud and notice that it forces you to end with a literal smile on your face. I read that the original meaning also included an element of wisdom. So, you need a degree of wisdom to discern this fortuitous happening.
I spent a month backpacking in China. At my hostel in Xian, home of the tremendous, ancient terra cotta soldiers, I befriended a group of five Dutch students. We happened to be taking the same overnight train to the South. Turns out the sleeping compartments all had 6 bunks, and the Dutch group needed an extra person. Not only did I join them on the train ride, we spent the rest of our time in China together, and I later went to stay with them in Holland – serendipity defined.
In truth, I never thought of serendipity as anything more than a personal experience, more whimsical than serious (although important events might spin out of this lucky coincidence). However, it is making inroads in the world of business. Companies and researchers are calling serendipity the key to innovation. The Wall St. Journal’s article “The Science of Serendipity in the Workplace” highlights how varied organizations are emphasizing this experience that I always thought of as outside the realm of companies. Then I thought about it, and it makes sense. Serendipity is about recognizing fortuitous happenstance – why not create an environment welcoming the unexpected and recognizing the moment?
So both in your personal and professional environment, take off your blinders and welcome the world of serendipity.