Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Podcast: The Myth of Serendipity

Thomas EdisonKevin Ashton, who wrote How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery, said:
The more you work, the more likely you are to succeed.
That is not the message that you would expect to hear in a podcast about serendipity, but then perhaps serendipity is not what we think it is.

RN Future Tense did a 30-minute program on serendipity entitled "Designing for Serendipity." (See links below) In it there is also information on the myth of serendipity, hence the name of this blog post.  We think serendipity just happens, but there is work behind serendipity. Serendipity is based on doing the work, never giving up, spotting opportunities, and engaging in opportunities.

Hearing the podcast reminded me of two "events":
  • When I was a graduate library science student, many of the reference questions required me to go to the library and look for/through books. The subject area might contains dozens of books and I needed to find the one that contained the answer. I used to say that I found the correct book right before I passed out from exhaustion! It seemed like the mythical serendipity, but in reality I was doing the work and never giving up.
  • Job offers can seem like the mythical serendipity.  You hear people talk about an opportunity coming from "out of the blue". In reality that person has done something to make himself known and to demonstrate competence. It might mean that the person spotted opportunities that helped him demonstrate competence. The person definitely didn't just sit at home and wait. The person took action. (Yes, I had a job offer that fits into this category.)
At the New York Library Association Annual Conference last week, I enjoyed watching people take risks, seize opportunities, do the work and never give up...and I heard some talk about the fruits of that labor.  One out of work librarian (perhaps a recent graduate) took a huge risk during a fun event, which attracted the attention of potential employers. I don't know if it has led to a job offer and that may depend on whether the person has put in the effort in terms of education and previous work. Still it may all feel like the mythical serendipity.

I am still working on a large project. On this project, things don't just "happen", rather there is a lot of work that is going into every part of the project. Still some pieces might feel a little "serendipitous", yet when I look at those pieces I see that they were created by opportunities pursued and work completed.

Yes, doing the work creates opportunities. Sounds simple.

Designing for Serendipity notes and transcript: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/futuretense/designing-for-serendipity-segment/6847728

Designing for Serendipity Audio: http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/2015/10/fte_20151018_1030.mp3

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