Create Environments That Promote Serendipity.

First, if you don’t think it’s a good thing for ideas to bump into other ideas, you’re pretty much missing the point of this book. This notion was discussed at length in the chapters on reefs and cities, as well as liquid networks and the slow hunch.

Suffice to say, Johnson believes that networks produce ideas and it doesn’t matter if your ideas are bumping into other ideas by design or by chance (serendipity).

So, how do you promote serendipitous encounters between the ideas in your head?

Here’s a list of things Johnson recommends:

Take a shower.

Go for a walk.

Distract yourself.

Read a book.

Do like Bill Gates does and take a ‘reading vacation’ where you just go somewhere and read all day. Bill Gates – does this guy know how to party or what?!

The point is you need to give your ideas chances to spread around in that melon of yours.

Second, it helps to have your ideas bump into other ideas that live outside your head. Meet people. Talk to them. If you’re alone in a cube at work, find ways to interact more with your team. Interact with people you don’t normally interact with. You can understand why many progressive companies are experimenting with architectural designs which promote serendipitous encounters among coworkers.

I suppose you could boil serendipity-promoting environments down into being environments which are 1. Full of ideas and 2. Provide opportunity for chance encounters. If that sounds simple, I guess that’s because it is. But simple is not the same as easy.