Building connections for serendipity

The whole notion of serendipity is just marvelous. You cannot, by definition, plan for serendipity. We believe it’s possible to foster and embrace serendipity. This is core to our work. Also, we always ask ourselves how we can add value.

The whole notion of serendipity is just marvelous. You cannot, by definition, plan for serendipity. Yet, we believe it’s possible to foster and embrace serendipity. This is core to our work.

When asked what we offer to clients, that’s almost a loaded question as it asks primarily: What can we book you for? Which really means, What can you invoice us for? There’s another aspect to that question, though, that I think should be asked more often. How can you add value to what we do? There’s a world of difference between the two.

One aims at booking a certain skill for a certain task, with a clear expectation of what should be done and how. The other is much more open-ended, explorative. It operates on the assumption that if you put the right people in a room, something good will happen for everybody. We believe in that approach. It is centered around serendipity.

So when we get asked what services we offer, we say something along the lines of our about page:

We develop strategies and ideas for the digital world and are part think tank, part agency and part business consultancy. Our expertise comprises the fields of strategy development, innovation consulting, marketing & public relations and social media & social business.

This is true, and helps our potential clients fit us into a certain professional grid/model/raster.

What I believe is the answer to that second question, the open-ended, serendipity-embracing one, is this:

At the core of our our work is a holistic understanding and serendipitous thinking. This allows us to draw on expertise in various fields and apply it in many, often unexpected ways and contexts.

This is why sometimes we curate conferences, publish reports or forecasts, or work with startups to improve their products.

As you notice, this doesn’t really describe what we do, but how we do things. It’s our mental model, that we believe is solid and highly productive. The output, however, can take many different shapes or forms, depending on context and needs: It could be one of the professional services mentioned in the first answer. Or, and that’s what I’m aiming at here, it could be that we find a completely different way of adding value. Maybe we can help give your product a “social” overhaul, maybe we run a workshop or do some research for you, maybe we can provide you with some interesting sources or connect you with the right talent. To paraphrase Clinton’s classic election campaign slogan: It’s the context, stupid!

Instead of going very narrow and deep, a strong vertical, we look through a wide-angle lense and look at three things. Connections: Who and what should be involved? Implications: What will this mean for all players involved? And patterns: Is this part of some bigger trend?

It works for us. Maybe it works for you, too. Be that as it may – the next time you hire someone or are hired by someone, try it out. Just ask that other question. Ask how they, or you, can add value to whatever is going on right there. You won’t be disappointed.

So, in summary, here are three rules of thumb we try to follow in what we do:

  • Think in connections, patterns and implications!
  • Allow and seek a wide range of influences and inputs!
  • Foster and embrace serendipity!

What we read this week (23 Sep)

It was a week of light reading for us: Robot clocks, meaningful metrics and leadership by serendipity. You know, just the usual. Enjoy your reading.

It was a week of light reading for us. Here’s what we got for you.

  • BERG London: Product sketch: Clocks for Robots
    BERG in London has been thinking quite a bit about how to make the world robot-readable. Here are some thoughts (and sketches) on how time & place change, and can be made more easy to navigate, for robots. Meet the robot clock.
  • Love Metrics – Only Dead Fish
    Neil Perkin shares his thoughts on meaningful (as opposed to vanity) metrics.
  • Joi Ito: Thoughts on leadership
    “The cost of planning, predicting and managing rapidly changing, complex systems often exceeds the cost of actually doing whatever is being planned and managed.” Joi Ito on leadership in an age of decentralization, disruption and networked innovation. Embrace serendipity!

You can see all our reading recommendations (including the archives) at “What we read this week“.