How to tap into the power of serendipity in the digital age
We’ve all experienced serendipity over the journey.
Those ‘happy accidents’ that see us meet someone who introduces us to someone via LinkedIn who goes on to have a profound effect on our life.
Or you run into an old uni friend in a quiet corner of the Twitterverse, only to reacquaint yourselves in protein form after all these years. You rekindle your relationship and your friend ends up tipping you into their mate’s tech startup, where you proceed to work your way up the ladder as the business grows.
Perhaps you’re surfing the web and end up going down numerous virtual rabbit holes. One hole leads to another, that leads to another, that leads to a website featuring a TEDx talk in Vancouver that proceeds to blow your mind and change the way you think about a particular subject dear to your professional heart.
A business example might go like this:
You are in charge of the company blog; someone that you don’t know posts a comment on an article written by your CEO. It’s a savvy comment that catches your attention. You check out the bona fides of the person who wrote it and discover they’re an accomplished writer who also produces an influential podcast. You reach out to the person to thank them and they proceed to ask if they can interview your CEO for their podcast. The CEO agrees, and the resultant interview leads to a cover story in an industry trade journal. Happy days!
You can see where this is heading.
Some might file this under ‘pure luck’, and that’s a fair call. But like the saying goes:
The harder I work, the luckier I get.
I think that in today’s hyper-connected digital-first world, the social web has become pumped so full of serendipity steroids that every day presents huge and exciting possibilities for any of us.
BUT ONLY IF YOU’RE AWAKE TO THEM.
ONLY IF YOU’RE OPEN, ENGAGED, AUTHENTIC AND CONNECTED.
Yes, serendipity can strike anyone at any time.
But if you’re active on the social web — if you’re open to connecting with people (who in all likelihood you wouldn’t get to meet in real-life) — if you’re the type of person who gives of themselves online without the expectation of getting anything in return — then you are going to be better positioned to stoke the serendipity fire than someone whose social media accounts are based on a pseudonym, who don’t reveal much of themselves, nor do they share interesting content with others. Basically, anyone who is essentially closed off to authentic interaction with others.
Pop quiz folks … On LinkedIn, do you (judiciously) accept invitations to connect from people you don’t know, or do you hit ‘ignore’?
While doing this online is important — especially from the perspective of social proof — don’t neglect old school face-to-face.
Here is a perfect example of serendipity that led to a fantastic business partnership
A business acquaintance of mine, Sarah-Jane, once suggested I meet a friend of hers named Dionne Lew, who was the Director of Communications at VicRoads. She felt we shared a similar philosophy around PR and communications and we’d probably benefit from knowing each other.
I agreed as I always do when someone makes a suggestion like that.
Coffee ensued. A quick chat turned into two hours as we pondered the question: How come we haven’t come across each other despite having some 80+ LinkedIn connections in common?
We enjoyed our catch-up and left it, as you do, with: “Let’s stay in touch.”
The thing is, we did stay in touch. We had more coffees, swapped podcasts and articles of interest, railed against a business world that was slow in adopting social media, and spent many hours reviewing each other’s writing. Eventually — when the time was right — we collaborated on a select few projects.
Dionne Lew and I first caught up in 2012.
Fast forward to today and Dionne and I have just launched a new business together, a content-driven public communications firm called Zoetic Agency.
Think about it.
Serendipity manifested itself in a chance meeting between Dionne and I, instigated by a mutual acquaintance, Sarah-Jane.
Had I knocked back the chance to meet Dionne, in all likelihood we would not have met, let alone developed a mutually respectful relationship that ultimately led to us going into business together.
Sure, we may have bumped into each other socially seeing we run in similar professional circles, but that’s not a given by any means. Remember, we had 80+ LinkedIn connections in common but hadn’t at that point back in 2012 ever met each other.
Pop quiz folks … When was the last time someone said to you: “You should meet so-and-so, I think you’d really get along”. But you passed. Too busy. Too much on. Who has time to have coffee with strangers anyway?
Oh, just the sound of a potential career-changing opportunity passing you by.