Get out from behind your desk

SCIENCE-OF-SERENDIPITYI’ve just finished reading The Science of Serendipity by Matt Kingdon one of the partners behind The Innovation Company ?Whatif!

The majority of us love a diagram to explain a process, theory or concept. Something that takes us from A to B – acting as a reference point so that we can understand where we are, and how well we are doing against our objectives.

One of the points that Matt makes in The Science of Serendipity is that true innovation isn’t a linear process that can be followed from beginning to end, but rather an ability to make connections and respond to opportunities in order to achieve our overall vision or mission.

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while… they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesise new things”  Steve Jobs in an interview with Wolf (1996)

This can make innovation and creativity hard to implement in an organisation because it relies on us getting out from behind desk to make those connections, which is against the ‘normal’ convention of work. (you go to work to sit at a desk – right?)

Innovation provides unlimited possibilities for you and your organisation to change the world. The unknown opportunities that are yours for the taking are what make innovation and creativity exciting. Your job is to get out from behind your desk to make those new connections and ideas happen.

Here are 4 tips to help you get out from behind your desk and put more serendipity (and innovation) into your day-to-day working life.

1. Spend time with your customers; executives at a UK bread and baker supplier had breakfasts with their target audiences. It was uncomfortable, but observing how their products were used provided much more insight than asking families to answer questions in a focus group and resulted in better products and happy customers.

2. Take time to understand why people are not buying your product; like the scientists at a major global pharmaceutical company developing a drug for depression that had excellent results but was not selling. They went to meet people with depression to understand why they were not buying their drug. They discovered that the side effects of the drug, which could include weight gain and sleep loss was overriding its benefits. They made modifications resulting in marginally lower performance but much less intrusive side effects. The new drug sold.

3. Better understand your colleagues; how many of us could make more of a difference for our customers if we worked together rather than in silos? The airline Easyjet bought teams together that work on the ground. Together they took time to understand the problems that they unknowingly caused each other and came up with a range of solutions. These solutions reduced plane turnaround time from 40 to 25 minutes.

4. Focus on your day-to-day environment; set up your day-to-day work for more serendipity, share your work with colleagues, make your projects visible and fun – give people something to talk about, ask for colleagues opinions, create communal spaces; places for people to hang out.  When Steve Jobs was at Pixar he put the mailboxes, meeting rooms, cafeteria and bathrooms at the centre of the offices to increase the opportunities for water cooler moments where people had conversations and made connections.

The 4 tips above use examples are from the corporate sector, taken from The Science of Serendipity. Successful corporates don’t encourage serendipity and innovation just to be nice or quirky or make their brand look good. They encourage it because it helps them delight their customers, sell more stuff and make more money.

So fundraisers think about how you can use the 4 tips above to put more serendipity (and innovation) into your day-to-day work in order to delight your supporters, engage more donors, raise more money and ultimately change the world.

For more tips I recommend you read The Science of Serendipity. 



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