However, only few of us—including many of the people you will meet in this book—have deciphered this code and developed the mindset needed to turn the unexpected into a success and a force for good.
Once we realize that serendipity is not just about a coincidence that happens to us but is actually a process of spotting and connecting the dots do we start to see bridges where others see gaps. Only then does serendipity start happening all the time in our lives.
Then, the unexpected changes from being a threat to a constant source of joy, of wonder, of meaning—and of sustained success. In a world that has been running on a fight-or-flight lizard brain, in which fear-mongering, populism, and uncertainty have taken over, the mindsets and contexts that we are used to are simply not working anymore. Developing a serendipity mindset and shaping the related conditions becomes the essential life skill and capability for ourselves, our children, and our organizations.
Imagine a world driven by curiosity, opportunity, and a sense of connection, rather than by fear, scarcity, and jealousy. What would it look like? A world in which enormous challenges like climate change and social inequalities are being tackled by solutions that are bold and up to the task.
In a fast-changing world in which many of the emerging problems are complex and where much of our future will be driven by the unexpected, developing a serendipity mindset becomes an evolutionary necessity as well as an opportunity to identify what is most important to us so that we can develop a true enthusiasm for life.
Serendipity is a popular subject—but we know surprisingly little about what specific, science-based methods we can adopt to create conditions for serendipity in our lives. And we know little about how this plays out in different contexts.
The Serendipity Mindset fills this gap. It stands on the shoulders of giants, on science that explains how serendipity can unfold and on anecdotal accounts of how we can nurture serendipity for ourselves and others. Building on those stories and on research in the natural and social sciences, as well as highlighting inspiring examples from around the globe, this book offers a framework and exercises to help you make fortunate surprises more likely to happen in life—and with better outcomes.
This active perspective on serendipity—"smart luck," if you will—is thus different from the "luck of the draw," the "plain" or "blind" luck that just happens to us without effort.
If you aim to shape your own future and the future of people around you—even if that future is impossible to predict—then this book is for you. It gives a holistic, science-based insight into how lucky (and unlucky) coincidences can be facilitated, leveraged, and sustained—but never really emulated. It is the first comprehensive science-based methodology and framework on how to develop a serendipity mindset and the related conditions.
A serendipity mindset is both a philosophy of life that many of the world's most successful and joyful people have turned to in order to create meaningful lives and a capability that each of us can develop.
Along with conversations with individuals I call "serendipitors," this book draws on my decade-long experience as a researcher, business consultant, university lecturer, codirector at the London School of Economics Innovation Lab and at New York University's Global Economy Program, and my fifteen years of cultivating serendipity in my own life. This is an interest I have pursued as the cofounder of both the Sandbox Network, a community of inspiring young people that is active in over twenty countries, and Leaders on Purpose, a global organization that brings together high-impact executives and policy makers. My advisory work with a broad range of organizations and individuals—from one of China's largest companies to small community organizations around the world—has given me access to a diverse range of people, and the opportunity to witness serendipity in a wide range of situations and settings. Living in a variety of places, from Moscow to Mexico City, has imbued in me a deep appreciation for contextual nuances, which this book will explore.
The Serendipity Mindset combines my own research with colleagues at the London School of Economics, Harvard University, the World Economic Forum, Strathmore Business School, and The World Bank with the latest studies in neuroscience, psychology, management, the arts, physics, and chemistry. Based on hundreds of academic papers and over two hundred interviews and conversations with a diverse range of people from all corners of the world, it offers inspiring firsthand stories and experiences from individuals in all walks of life—from former-drug-addicts-turned-teachers in the impoverished Cape Flats in Cape Town to the filmmaker in New York to the entrepreneur in Kenya to the waiter in London to the student in Houston to over a dozen of the world's most successful CEOs. While each of these stories of embracing and leveraging the unexpected is very different, as we will witness, their patterns are very similar.