Posted by: nuleadership | March 5, 2012

Guest Blogger – Serendipity

 

 

 

Horace Walpole coined the word serendipity in 1754 after reading the Three Princes of Serendip. The princes “were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.” Today, we have tools at our disposal that allow us to manage serendipity or, at least, place ourselves strategically so that serendipity is possible.

 

What is serendipity? The traditionally accepted definition of serendipity is “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” Well then, if events are by chance, how is it possible to place ourselves in a position in which serendipity is likely?

 

In their book, The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion, Hagel, Brown, and Davison relate the value of social networking. They specifically mention Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter as points of connection to friends and friends of friends. Through these connections we discover others’ have and can share tacit knowledge that we may benefit from.

Through the same connection, others can grow from connecting with us gaining our tacit knowledge. It not a contest to see how many friends we have in our network, rather it is about how we manage our network of friends.

 

Imagine a chance reading of friends’ Facebook wall posts that result in an opportunity to connect with another with whom we share an interest. In this situation, we’ve experienced a “chance event in a happy and beneficial way.” What is the likelihood of this event happening had we not had a Facebook profile, not been linked to our friend, and not been able to read that wall post?

 

Serendipity allows chance meetings for planting seeds of learning and growing if we manage opportunities for chance meetings. Wisdom of the East tells the story of a man, “I have nothing to teach and so much to learn.” In reply, “Oh dear! Haven’t we all something to teach and something to learn?”

 

We are not Princes of Serendip making discoveries by accident. We can create opportunities for serendipitous events to evolve. Do not wait for opportunities to come, seek them, manage them, and benefit from them. Grow in learning; grow in teaching.

Please share your comments on this topic.  

ABOUT THE BLOGGER

 

Dr. Paul Hoffman holds a Doctor of Strategic Leadership from Regent University, a Master of Arts in Leadership and Bachelor of Science in Organizational Communication from Bellevue University. Doctor Hoffman is an adjunct professor at Bellevue University and Metropolitan Community College in Communications Arts, English, and Communication and Humanities.

Before his teaching role, Dr. Hoffman was a graduate enrollment counselor at Bellevue University and enrollment representative to the University’s Quality Council. Dr. Hoffman came to the academic arena after ten years in retail management. During this period he managed in speciality mall stores, and multimillion dollar warehouse style stores. Dr. Hoffman owned a small business and was an insurance agent for a fraternal insurance provider.

 

Dr. Hoffman was a U.S. Air Force active duty noncommissioned officer retiring in 1990 as a Master Sergeant. During over 21 years of active duty, Dr. Hoffman was a Security Police sentry assigned to guard aircraft, missiles, and nuclear weapons on alert and in storage. For three years he held the speciality of Military Training Instructor while supervising an installation correctional custody facility. In the concluding seven-plus years, Dr. Hoffman worked as an installation human relations and equal opportunity treatment NCO and finally as Superintendent of Social Actions overseeing both human relations and substance abuse prevention activities for an installation.

 

Military assignments saw Dr. Hoffman stationed at major Air Force Bases of the Strategic Air Command, U.S. Air Force Europe, and Pacific Air Force. During the Vietnam era, Dr. Hoffman had one assignment in support of major air operations over Vietnam. Dr. Hoffman is married to Su Yun and they have two adult children. Son, Leslie Donald, is the oldest formerly a Captain in the U.S. Marine Corps. Les has two combat tours in Iraq. Daughter, Theresa Ann, was a member of the U.S. Peace Corps serving on the island of Carricaou, the Grenades; her Peace Corps specialty was Community Health focusing on AIDS awareness and prevention and presently studying to become a physical therapy assistant.

 


Responses

  1. Education is defined as developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life (Dictionary.com, 2012). To me, this is the root of all serendipity. Being from east Tennessee I am around a large majority of people who do not have an advance education. It is my belief that these people want to be educated but just do not have the knowledge of how to accomplish getting an education. My hopes for this region is that someday I can bring that knowledge of education and use it to empower the people of east Tennessee and potentially advance serendipity in this region and produce positive results for the U.S.

    Reference:
    Dictionary.com. (2012). Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/education

  2. Chris, your comment appears to forego one element of serendipity that can’t – or shouldn’t be ignored. I speak to the element of chance.

    The three princes made discoveries by accident and sagacty, chance learning experiences that are equally important as reasoning and judgement.

    Recall the Eastern Wisdom passage in the articel of the student who told his teacher that he had so much to learn and nothing to teach. As you continue in your learning, think that you, too, have much to teach.

    I conclude my reply by reinforcing the intended message above. Without Dr. Green offering me an opportunity to provide an article, we would not have had this chance meeting. You have had an opportunity to manage serendipity.

  3. The quote ” In reality, serendipity accounts for 1% of the blessings we receive in life, work, and love. The other 99% is due to our efforts” by Peter McWilliams really sums up our individual realities. (Brainyquote, 2012).

    For example, I personally have worked hard to achieve my many educational goals, however, 1% of the outcome was due to my chance of chosing the best career field for me. My serendipty has been the many blessings of taking the right classes, meeting great classmates, and being able to depend on outstanding teachers. I have learned much, but feel I have so much more to teach, therefore I became a high school teacher. Serendipity has played a role in my life many times, and I am greatful for the blessings.

    Reference:

    Brainyquote. 2012 retrieved from http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/serendipity.html#ixzz1ofnLc3cb

  4. Angela, you present an interesting twist suggesting an epiphany or “a moment of sudden revelation or insight” (Oxford Dictionary or the English Language). Epiphany differs from serendipity, lets examine.

    The Magi in Matthew 2:1-12 saw a star at its rising and knew a momentous event had taken place. The Magi were star gazers, some say they were soothsayers; whatever they were, they gained sudden insight from a new star appearing rather than having a chance discovery of something different in the night sky.

    Blessings, like serendipity, are manageable when experiencing chance encounters – unexpected or are unintended – into moments of happy and beneficial discovery.

    Blessed encounters and moments of serendipity become part of us, linger in our minds, and provide moments of reflection. Like the teacher and student in the blog, you teach your high school students, share your blessings (knowledge, skills, experience). Perhaps, because of you, your students may have their moments of epiphany and their moments of serendipity. How do you and they manage those moments?

  5. Technology has completely changed not only the business environment, but other arenas as well. Marketing, specifically, has been able to experience beneficial changes. For example, President Barack Obama capitalized on the use of social networking and technology in his marketing campaign for the presidential election in 2008. According to Philip Kotler and Kevin Keller’s Marketing Management, he was able to accomplish two goals: expand the electorate via broader messages while targeting very specific audiences. Multimedia tactics combined offline and online media, as well as free and paid media. This use of technology was in a way serendipitous. Voters felt they could both communicate and identify with Obama and his campaign issues. He was able to reach a base that could have not previously been included, had these types of technology not been available.

    Reference:

    Kotler, P., & Keller, K. L. (2012). Marketing management. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

  6. Yes I agree with the statement in this blog that you must put yourself into the position to take advantage of the opportunity to have a serendipitous event occur. An example that comes to mind is Sildenafil a.k.a. Viagra. It was originally developed by British scientists and then brought to the market by the pharmaceutical company known as Pfizer. British researchers tested this product initially for blood pressure hoping to make an astounding discovery from its effect on pulmonary hypertension. They had no idea that they were going to stark upon one of the most widely used products known in response to erectile dysfunction. They discovered this “miracle” drug by sagacity and by a happy accident. Had they not put themselves in the position for this by-chance discovery in their investigation of blood pressure, then there would be many unhappy men in this world not being able to satisfy their desires or their significant others. With this discovery, Pfizer added billions of dollars to their revenues and this was a significant serendipitous event for Pfizer owners and investors.

    Another side of serendipity is that you get most of your happy accidents when you least expect them. When you have minimum expectations, then even a small happiness can add to your serendipity. An old wise saying that comes to mind is that your happiness comes from not having a lot but having minimum expectations.

  7. It is strange that this is our blog topic of the week, because last week I had such a serendipitous moment on a social networking site. Steve Wooduff said this in his blog “Yet one of the most wonderful things about blogging, Twittering, Facebooking, or (fill in the blank)-ing is that unpredictable and unanticipated connections happen. Strategy meets serendipity” (Woodruff, 2009). It is true, we want to stay connected with people, that is our strategy but with that we create our own serendipitous moments when we meet new people or reconnect with someone from the past. Just in the past week it has become clear how amazing social networking really is. A documentary posted online on Monday had created an entire media storm by Wednesday. You could not go on Facebook or Twitter without reading about KONY 2012. These young guys that started it saw an opportunity in Facebook and Twitter to crate awareness of a problem. There is no telling where social media will take us in the future but I am a strong believer that social serendipity will lead me to a great job or an amazing opportunity one day.

    Woodruff, S. (2009, January 06). The Strategic Serendipity of Social Media. Retrieved March 10, 2012, from http://www.mpdailyfix.com/: http://www.mpdailyfix.com/the-strategic-serendipity-of-social-media/

  8. It is great to be talking about this subject this week, I myself had such a serendipitous moment on a social networking site just the other day. Steve Woodruff talks about these coincidences in his blog, “Yet one of the most wonderful things about blogging, Twittering, Facebooking, or (fill in the blank)-ing is that unpredictable and unanticipated connections happen. Strategy meets serendipity” (Woodruff, 2009). It is true, we go on social media websites to keep in touch with people, and then by coincidence get to know other people, or find events we would like to attend. Social media has become such a powerful tool in the last 10 years. just last week we have seen what it cane do. A documentary was posted online on Monday and by Wednesday it had created a media storm. You could not log on to Facebook or twitter without reading about KONY 2012. A couple of young people saw a chance to spread the word about this war criminal trough social media and it became a great success. I believe and hope that trough social media and my own created serendipity I will one day see a chance like that and use it.

    Woodruff, S. (2009, January 06). The Strategic Serendipity of Social Media. Retrieved March 10, 2012, from http://www.mpdailyfix.com/: http://www.mpdailyfix.com/the-strategic-serendipity-of-social-media/

  9. When I first started college at The Ohio State University, I chose to major in Finance. I had enjoyed the few business classes that I had taken in high school and was eager to learn more. Over the next three years I learned quite a bit and did very well in all of my classes; however, the more business classes I took, the more I yearned for something else. I met with a number of guidance counselors, who all recommended I finish my finance degree and that if I had other interest, I should take a few different classes or so. The problem was that I did not really know what else I wanted to take. This is where serendipity made itself appear. The summer before my senior year, I had a chance to catch up with a friend from freshman year. He was a biology major and was currently working in a genetic research lab on campus. The more I listened to him talk about his field, the more excited I got. My mom use to teach high school biology and chemistry and she had done a great job in instilling some scientific curiosity within me. The serendipitous event was not the meeting itself, but rather that in the coming weeks, my friend was able arrange a summer job for me in his lab attending to general lab duties. He had gone out of his way to get me hired, a person with no real lab experience. I owe that summer job everything as I would not be where I am today without it. I instantly fell in love with the field of molecular genetics and knew that this was something I really wanted to do. I chose to double major in finance and genetics and ultimately chose to pursue a career in medicine; I start medical school in July of this year. I often think back to the opportunity that my friend had made available to me to and how thankful I am for it. Life is an amazing journey, one that is far too complex to plan every step. Rawn Shah of Forbes writes that, “serendipity relies on the flow of information.” (Forbes, 2010) With the advent of various social networking tools, I feel individuals can partake in the flow of information like never before in human history. I owe a lot to serendipity thus far and I dream of all the chances yet to come.

    Reference: Shah, Rawn. (11/30/2010). Serendipity Lies At The Heart Of Business Relationships. Retrieved 3/10/12 from http://www.forbes.com/sites/rawnshah/2010/11/30/serendipity-lies-at-the-heart-of-business-relationships/

    • Ricky,

      Thanks for the personal story! It should be an inspiration to all people, searching for a meaningful life.

      Professor Green

  10. As a graphic designer, serendipity is a welcome part of my creative process. One way that I have found to utilize in my work is to access an online toolbar called Stumble-Upon. It has allowed me to tap into websites and other online resources, tutorials, and sources of inspiration that inform my thought process. Offline, taking a random drive during the day and stopping somewhere new affords one an opportunity to try a new food, retail experience, or other physical stimulant. One of the most serendipitous online experiences today is social networking. When people log-on daily to twitter, facebook, or any other of the assortment of social networks available, they never know exactly what a friend may post that may cause them to respond, react, reject, or reflect upon. In turn, the action that a person may take in response, may trigger a new serendipitous act.

    Reference: WhatIs.com. Retreived 3/10/12 from
    http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/0,,sid9_gci214543,00.html

  11. Serendipity can be said to be the discovery of something pleasant (Dictionary.com, 2012). If you think about that definition then one must consider education one of the most important serendipity issues today. Education is what makes humans yearn for more knowledge, drive to make a difference, and create more serendipity. My degree is almost complete but I do not want to stop learning. Instead, I want to teach people to invest in themselves and go out and create their own serendipity. My journey through my education was completely by chance because of the military showing me the way to accomplish my dreams. Without serendipity I would not be about to graduate and complete my MBA. My hope is to help people find the serendipity they have been looking for through education.

    Reference:
    Dictionary.com. (2012). Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/education

  12. I would like to talk about some serendipity that has taken place in my life. Serendipity can also be defined as a discovery of something fortunate (Dictionary.com, 2012). This is exactly right. In 2009 I was fortunate enough to play in a softball tournament in San Jose, California. If you know where that is you know that it is about 45 minutes from San Francisco. If you are a baseball fan you will also know that Barry Bonds was chasing the all time homerun record that season. On a Tuesday night in August I drove up to San Francisco and purchased a ticket for $15. On a 3-2 pitch, Barry Bonds broke the all time homerun record held by Hank Arron. Only 30,000 people in the world can say they were in the stadium at that moment. That was a huge moment in my life where serendipity allowed me to see something fortunate.

    Reference:
    Dictionary.com. (2012). Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/education

  13. Katie, Hammad, Ricky, and Christopher:

    Four different responses to serendipity and four different experiences of it.

    Technology is not serendipitous, yet the surprise uses of it are. I think about Samuel Morse and his chance encounter with Pony Express riders. He noticed that riders came into rely stations on tired horses, leapt off them, and onto fresh ones. Morse thought how great it would be “IF” there were electronic relays in telegraph lines making it possible for a telegraph signal to carry a greater distance. Is it too great a leap to think that our technological society exists because of moveable type printing developed by Gutenberg? Technology applies to discoveries of various drugs and alternative uses neither expected nor anticipated.

    The chance encounter of an old friend leading to entrance into medical school helps explain how links those encounters may change our lives and change our direction. Of course, don’t forget the parent who initiated curiosity. And to designing, the creative eye sees possibilities that others miss. An example of the creative eye exists in Omaha along Interstate 80. An old grain elevator that most consider an eye sore, became an artists mural depicting how agriculture helped shape Omaha. The eye sore is a work of art seen by thousands of I-80 travelers daily.

  14. I am sorry for the late post but the blog would not let me post this from my laptop. It is great to be talking about this subject this week, I myself had such a serendipitous moment on a social networking site just the other day. Steve Woodruff talks about these coincidences in his blog, “Yet one of the most wonderful things about blogging, Twittering, Facebooking, or (fill in the blank)-ing is that unpredictable and unanticipated connections happen. Strategy meets serendipity” (Woodruff, 2009). It is true, we go on social media websites to keep in touch with people, and then by coincidence get to know other people, or find events we would like to attend. Social media has become such a powerful tool in the last 10 years. just last week we have seen what it cane do. A documentary was posted online on Monday and by Wednesday it had created a media storm. You could not log on to Facebook or twitter without reading about KONY 2012. A couple of young people saw a chance to spread the word about this war criminal trough social media and it became a great success. I believe and hope that trough social media and my own created serendipity I will one day see a chance like that and use it.

    Woodruff, S. (2009, January 06). The Strategic Serendipity of Social Media. Retrieved March 10, 2012, from http://www.mpdailyfix.com/: http://www.mpdailyfix.com/the-strategic-serendipity-of-social-media/

  15. Ann-Spohie,
    I echo your experience. As you, just yesterday I read a former professors EI post and read a link he provided. This chance encounter and short read opened a brief dialogus with him. Moreover, it allowed me to bring new material about EI to my own students.

    If we polled social media users, I presume we would find similar events pervasive across network platforms.

  16. All:
    I want to thank your professor, Dr. Green, for allowing me this opportunity to participate in your academic endeavours. I want to thank each of you for your comments letting me have a chance encounter with you.

    I wish each of you well as you go forward. Keep your eyes on the horizon; see your future and seek it.

    Dr. Paul

  17. I’d like to thank you for the efforts you have put in penning this blog. I’m hoping to see the same high-grade blog posts by you later on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my very own blog now ;)

  18. You actually make it seem really easy along with your presentation however I to find this matter to be really one thing that I think I’d by no means understand. It seems too complex and very huge for me. I’m looking forward to your next publish, I will try to get the hold of it!

  19. I’m really enjoying the theme/design of your blog. Do you ever
    run into any browser compatibility problems?
    A number of my blog visitors have complained about my website not operating
    correctly in Explorer but looks great in Safari. Do you
    have any recommendations to help fix this issue?

    • Glenn,

      Thanks for visiting our blog! Sorry to say, I can’t help you with your technical issues. However, I’m using WordPress. If you are using the same, you can usually find a cost effective expert on Elance.com.

      Take care,
      Dr. Daryl D. Green


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