Sunday, February 26, 2012

5 Ways to Create Your Own Serendipity

Serendipity, if you are open to it, leads to innovation, progress, and lots of other great things.

Inspired by a compelling article in the Harvard Business Review, here are 5 ways to build a brighter future by creating (and harnessing) your own serendipity.
  1. Be Creative: On the path to success, creativity usually comes just before serendipity. Like the creative gentleman in Argentina who built a house out of bottles, and is now famous (read the full story here). 
  2. Remember Where You Came From: History matters, a lot. "Innovation is as much about looking at the past as it is about anticipating the future".
  3. Be Social: The more people you meet and talk to, the better luck you have to create serendipitous moments. Like Sir Isaac Newton said "If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants".
  4. Experience Diversity: According to John Stuart Mill "It is hardly possible to overrate the value...of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar...Such communication has always been, and is peculiarly in the present age, one of the primary sources of progress".
  5. Tinker and Experiment: Edison would not be famous if he never tried. He failed much more than he succeeded, and learned more from failures then successes. In fact, the more you try and fail, the more you learn. Here are some more tips to fail better so that you can succeed faster.
Want to read more? There is another great article on Serendipity in Forbes titled "Serendipitous Innovation"

At the end of the day, you are responsible for your future. And if there is serendipity along the way, it will only be because you created it.

How did you create your most serendipitous moments?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Rise to the Occasion

Cerro Torre in Argentina
Last night I attended a riveting talk from 21 year old Hayden Kennedy, a professional climber from Aspen. He shared pictures and stories from climbing K6, a notorious 7,000 meter peak in Pakistan, as well as his ascent of Cerro Torre in Argentina. More newsworthy than his ascent of Cerro Torre, was that he and his partner did it without following the disputed mechanically fixed route that has been in place since the 1970's, a route that consists of over 400 metal pins injected into the wall to make it easily scalable.

The pin-installing compressor still on Cerro Torre
In the climbing community, installing metal pins is often considered "rape and desecration", as it figuratively brings down the majestic mountains to our mortal levels, and strips nature it of its dignity. In addition, the compressor used to install the pins still litters the mountain (picture on the left). But the story takes an interesting twist when Hayden and his partner started removing these pins on the way down. When finished, they had removed over 120 pins, making the route only accessible by climbers willing to climb the actual mountain, not man-made holds. You can read the full story in this great article from The Guardian.

The parting message from Hayden was this:

Rise to the occasion, don't bring it down to you... otherwise, you'll never truly know what you're capable of achieving.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

5 Tips to Make Things Happen

Charlie Kindel recently wrote a great blog about using The 5 P's to Achieve Focus.

Framed as a series of 5 questions, the 5 P's are an incredibly useful team building exercise to get everyone on the same page. So get your team together, grab some blank pieces of paper, answer each question, and then share your responses to improve your ability to make things happen.
Purpose: Why are you committed to making it happen?
Principles: What are our guiding rules, ethics, and morals that inspire and guide us?
Priorities: If we can only make one thing happen, what is it?
Plan: What does success look like, how are we going to get there, and in what time frame?
People: Who is responsible for what, by when?
Like this topic? You should read this other post on how to inspire action.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Power Of Real Things

As I wrote about last week, I am participating in an incredible program at the Aspen Institute called the Great Decision Series.

This week, we discussed the ethics and values behind cybersecurity. Not just domestically, but also abroad.

What is our role in protecing individual's privacy on the internet?

What is our role in opening up information on the internet to countries that severely restrict - and sometimes shut-down - access?


Who is responsible or policing the internet - people, private enterprises, governments, or a new global body?

Regardless of your view on things, one thing about the internet remains true - it's value has nothing to do with the amazing infrastructure that keeps it open, instead the value lies with the real things the internet gives you access to. Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube allowed the rest of the word to see and hear about the reality of the Egyptian uprising directly from the people. Actual information is used to fuel progress in the most poverty-stricken nations. Real money is able to seamlessly flow and empower emerging, socially responsible entrepreneurs and provide education.

Sure, more and more time is spent on computers and mobile devices, but maybe this isn't as alarming as it seems. After all, virtual as it might be, it is connecting to us to real things on the other end - if we let it.




Saturday, February 11, 2012

Recognize the Value of Divergent Thought

By definition, opinions are never wrong, but they're not always welcome.

I'm participating in the Aspen Institute Great Decision Series on Global Leadership. It's a phenomenal program that fosters values based discussions and ethical debates. More often than not, participants share divergent thoughts that are tough to stomach.

As hard as they can be listen to, something magical happens when you can listen to and even try and understand the most offensive of opinions. Even if you disagree wholeheartedly with others, if you take the time to try and understand their viewpoint and see the world through their eyes, 3 things happen:
  1. Empathic bonds are created across political, social, cultural, and economic boundaries
  2. Horizons are broadened and expanded
  3. Innovation is spurred and accelerated
I'm actually quite confident that much more happens when you put yourself in others shoes. But in order to realize even the first benefit, you must first place yourself in situations where you force yourself to recognize it. Where can you find these situations?
  • Volunteer and find ways to use your skills to meet more people from all walks of life using VolunteerMatch or MovingWorlds 
  • Find different groups in your community that focus on pretty much anything using Meetup
  • Learn new things and teach new things using Skillshare
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