More precisely, I have a Global Grundfos Community dream. I share this vision with the team I work with on a daily basis. But, I’m not sure how many percent of my colleagues share this dream overall – even less management! Maybe only 10 %. Perhaps 50% are ambivalent because they don’t know what we mean when we say it. Perhaps 40% disagree completely.
Quite frankly, I have no idea because we have not assessed it yet. But we will. And we will also start mapping our lead cases and communicate them as part of a deeper communication of the strategy and basic beliefs behind the design and approach.
The business pitch is quite straight forward: We want to improve our internal productivity and increase serendipity!
When we communicate throw out that vision we experience mixed feedback. Most people believe they know what productivity is (even though many confuse the terms efficiency, effectiveness and productivity). That does not really matter! Any of the mentioned will be happily accepted. The productivity term is the easiest one to explain and document. Right now 90% of all activity on all our collaboration and community platforms happens in closed groups or spaces driven by a specific task, project or subject matter.
However, many still do not relate clearly to the concept of serendipity. Neither in theoretical nor practical terms. Interestingly enough, according to Wikipedia, serendipity was voted to be one of the top ten most difficult words to translate by an English translation company in 2004.
So we need to decide whether to eliminate this word from our communication, or perhaps take the opposite strategy, and use the power of the story behind the term as a means to explain what exactly it is we are trying to infuse into the organizational structure and culture.
The etymology and the story behind the word fascinate me. It is linked to the fairy-tale like story called The Three Princes of Serendip. Basically, it is a tale of three princes who travelled the world, “making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of…”using a quote from the article by David R. Colman.
Here are a couple of definitions:
‘the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for; also : an instance of this. (Miriam Webster)
“happy accident” or “pleasant surprise”; a fortunate mistake. Specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful while not specifically searching for it. (Wikipedia)
From a theoretical perspective, the beneath described process can be analysed on an organizational level too, because teams or groups can experience the same serendipitous events as an individual.
So here’s the interesting question. Does it make sense to claim that you want to design for serendipity? The answer is: Yes, absolutely.
I so believe that Grundfos contains more knowledge and a willingness to help, share, and succeed as one global organization than we dream of. The problem is that we have grown large but not yet introduced systems, methods, and culture that enable the organization to activate these hidden resources.
In practice, designed serendipity may have 4 forms:
The likelihood of the above scenarios to happen is proportional to the number of people in the pool. That’s why we will push a strategy of increased critical mass on at least one of the active community platforms which Grundfos is already using.
If we mine what is happening on our running platforms, we already now see a lot of the above use-cases happen on a daily basis. And we have not yet done anything to push or communicate a group strategy nor activated a C-suite endorsement yet.
So the question immediately rises: should Grundfos aim to eliminate the rest of the platforms and ecosystems? As I see it we can actually build a case of both Yes and No! At least for now, I would argue that it is hard to drill down the facts in a way that the answer is a clear. But perhaps we will be wiser 9 months from now.
Right now we need to figure out how to drive skill building and culture in order for as many Grundfos employees as possible – or at least the right ones – learn how to act in order to increase the likelihood of group serendipity for the benefit of our innovation and growth.
To our readers, are you designing for serendipity, and if so, what does it look like?”