Serendipity can be a wonderful, powerful and mysterious phenomenon. New ideas can be inspired by anything, anytime, anywhere: A billboard, a TV commercial, a snippet of conversation overheard in a restaurant or something you read in a magazine, for example. As a person who wants to make a difference in your world, you need to have your “idea antennae” up at all times, always on the lookout for bits and pieces of inspiration that you can use in your work.
But did you know you can cultivate serendipitous moments? The infographic above explains how it works (click on the image to view a larger version).
STEP 1: First, read up on everything related to the current problem or challenge you wish to solve. Google it, and learn what you can from the websites you visit. Talk to people who may have useful information. Cram your brain full of information related to your current challenge. In effect, this is “raw material” for the creative process.
STEP 2: This step of the creative process is commonly known as incubation. After filling your brain with information about your challenge, you walk away from it for a day or two. You “sleep on it,” so to speak. But while it may be out of your conscious mind, your subconscious mind is continuing to work on it. It’s processing what you’ve learned, combining and recombining bits of information and knowledge into potential ideas, which it serves up ideas as hunches or flashes of insight.
STEP 3: This is where serendipity happens. Louis Pasteur once said, “Chance favors the prepared mind,” and he’s absolutely right. When a piece of creative stimuli shows up, it usually doesn’t arrive in the form of a finished, glimmering diamond, but rather as a rough piece of stone. In much the same way that an experienced diamond cutter knows just what to do to expose the facets of the diamond that lies inside of the rock, it takes someone with creative insight and a mind full of raw material to recognize the potential of this new input. Because your mind is already fertile and and open to new ideas, you recognize the serendipitous stimulus as something you can put to work as part of your current challenge.
When you see or hear something that captures your interest the key is to ask yourself, “How can I use this?” That will get both parts of your mind thinking about how you may incorporate it into the challenge you’ve been incubating in your mind.
STEP 4: A new idea emerges from your mind, made up of elements of the information your consumed and the new creative stimulus. You see, there are very few totally “new to the world” ideas. Most are creative combinations of existing elements. Think of the iPhone, which combines a mobile phone, music player and computer into a single device.
That’s the power of serendipity. Why not prepare yourself for it by following this simple process? You may be surprised at the results. In the process, you will be positioning yourself to add greater value to your employer, your clients or customers, and any other stakeholders whom it is your privilege to serve.