Serendipity is not a new concept, because Horace Walpole committed the word serendipity to paper for the first time about 250 years ago. Horace Walpone said he formed the concept from the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip. In the book, three successful princes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of”. Today serendipity is widely accepted concept with 5 670 000 hits in a 0,20 second in the Google (evaluated 11.6.2012).
Serendipity means a “happy accident” or “pleasant surprise”. Serendipity is an accident of finding something good or useful without looking for it. It is not easy to see when serendipity is really happening, because it is not easy to define when human behavior unintentional and things happen like an accident. Thus serendipity is the faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident. The concept of serendipity is connected to innovation theory. In innovation research, authors have found that sometimes also innovations are discoveries by accident. If people are very active, sometimes happy accidents really happen.
Only one sure thing in serendipity is that activity of people matter. And proactivity matters even more. If people are active there will more possibilities, more accidental discoveries and more pleasant surprises. Various thinkers discuss the role that good luck can play in science. Good examples are Colombus’ discovery of America, Nobel’s discovery of dynamite and Fleming’s discovery of penicillin. The serendipitous quality of innovation is highly recognized by many professionals of innovation research. It is also linked to the success of corporations and companies to their ability to create knowledge not by processing information but rather by tapping the tacit and often highly subjective intuitions and insights.
The higher the probability of an event is, the more certain we are that the special event will occur. Thus, probability in an applied sense is a measure of the confidence a person has that a random event will occur. Serendipity as a concept is closely connected to the concept of probability. A probable action or opinion was one such as sensible people would undertake or hold, in the special circumstances. Typically happy accidents have a low probability level. If an event has a high probability level, it is not a happy accident, it is an expected event. If there are some intentions behind an event, it is not a serendipity issue.
So intentionality is typically a elementary part of strategic and visionary thinking. Serendipity is relevant in such a business environment where agents do not have special intentions – they just act without intentions. They just act somehow and try to survive. From this perspective the concept of serendipity is an evolutionary concept.
An interesting question is whether a corporate or small company can do serendipity management and also have some strategies and vision, which are intentional ones. My personal answer is: Why not? If some things cannot be planned properly, why try to do these things with stress and lose much scarce resources? It is not worth of try too much. It is good to work like an ameba. Better way to success is to be relaxed and give serendipity a free room in organizations, whether they are small companies or large corporations. This kind of free and flexible organization can be called an ameba organization.
In the future many organizations will find this kind of flexible ameba organization a good solution when they operate in the multiverse. The term “multiverse” was coined in 1895 by the American philosopher and psychologist William James. The multiverse or meta-universe is the hypothetical set of multiple possible universes that together comprise everything that exists and can exist: the entirety of space, time, matter, and energy as well as the physical laws and constants that describe them.
New technology will make multiverse a very relevant concept. In the future technological development with ubiquitous technology, nanotechnology, robotics and material technology change our relation to time, space and matter. This process will lead us to different realms of multiverse. There will be 8 realms of multiverse: Reality as such, augmented reality, physical virtuality, mirrored virtuality, warped reality, alternative reality, augmented virtuality and virtuality.
Multiverse will create for us infinite possibility for serendipity and ameba organizations. Business gurus B. Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore have noted in their updated book “the Experience Economy”, that work will be theatre and every business is a stage. This is a working principle of serendipity management.
Serendipity: How the Vogue word became Vague
Pine II, B.J. & Korn, K.C. (2011) Infinitive Possibility. Creating Customer Value on the Digital Frontier. San Francisco: CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Pine II, B.J. & Gilmore, J.H. (2011) The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre & Every Business a Stage. Updated Edition. Boston (MA): Harvard University Press.