In the 2001 American romantic comedy film Serendipity, two strangers are brought together by fate in New York City. Jonathan Trager and Sara Thomas’ story starts at Bloomingdale as they end up buying the same pair of black cashmere gloves. Though both parties are in individual relationships, the feeling of mutual attraction leads them to a restaurant called Serendipity 3. And as the two go their separate ways, fate guides them back together. The two then decides to test where it would lead them, years later.
The very idea of a greater force stringing together unplanned, independent circumstances and situations to bring something great sounds a lot like fairytale to most of us. On certain days, when the traffic is a little less awful or when you got the last stock of the pretty shirt you saw at the mall – serendipity happens to us at least once. Just like luck, its context is vague yet we all believe in its power every now and then.
Serendipity, A Fortunate Happenstance
New York Times contributor Pagan Kennedy wrote an opinion piece called “How to Cultivate the Art of Serendipity” asking for further research on the subject. She firmly believed that it’s more of a talent of finding what we’re not looking for. She further discusses her concept by saying that the original meaning of the word is very far from what we only assume as pure ‘dumb luck’. In its inception, it’s a talent of making discoveries by accident and several scientist have already conducted tests on the originator’s theory.
Kennedy says that by expanding the existing available literature on serendipity, we may be able to create unexpected discoveries in the chemistry lab, the newsroom and even in business. She suggests that by observing and documenting these encounters, we might have a systematic understanding on how it all works and how we can measure it.
By studying its nature, businesses around the world would see that serendipity can be responsible for several innovation, breakthrough discoveries and other enticing outcomes.
A New Business Model
Serendipity seemed to play an important role in today’s business industry and the recent years allowed us to witness a handful of attempts in institutionalizing this delicate phenomenon. Those who are one step ahead have articulated how it took place and have created environments that can help cultivate it.
In a Deskmag article, coworking leader Angel Kwiatkowski discussed a book entitled ‘The Serendipity Machine: A Disruptive Business Model for Society 3.0.’ written by Avans University professor for autonomy in art and design, Sebastian Olma. According to her, in the book, Olma discusses how companies can reinvent their culture to become serendipity machines – redesigning their workspaces to become places that are prone to these valuable encounters.
Kwiatkowski says that in essence, the author is encouraging businesses to become more like coworking spaces. She says that upon joining, you instantly become part of a community. By simply taking a seat, your very first interaction begins; people ask your name and what you do. Some even invite you to lunch and when the community manager says that someone is in need of the expertise you happen to offer, you end up with a new gig.
These scenarios aren’t just imaginary instances, it’s a common phenomenon in coworking spaces everywhere. These are the kind of accidents that lead to abundance, emotionally, professionally and often, financially.
And though Olma claims that fixed spaces are flawed, he claims that the level of potential serendipity is limited to the number of members, however, Kwiatkowski says otherwise. Coworking communities are a mere one organism in a large ecosystem, constantly improving for the good of everyone. They don’t isolate themselves from the rest of the world but rather encourages individuals to collaborate with one another.
By the end of the movie, Jonathan and Sara ends up in Central Park ice rink where they went during the evening that they first met with the pair of cashmere gloves. For the first time, in a long time, they formally introduced themselves to one another.