Does your organisation allow room for serendipity?

by Bee Heller
April 3, 2017

If you were single, 30, working full time and living a busy social life in London, would you see internet dating as your best route to finding a relationship?

I had this conversation with a friend of mine over lunch recently. We both fit the description above and we also both agreed that we didn’t much like dating apps. Perhaps we’ve had one too many bad dates with someone who seemed great ‘on paper’ but had the conversation skills of a baboon! Or worse, that person who’s spent so much time creating the perfect image of themselves online they’ve forgotten that forming a relationship involves at least some attempt at taking an interest in someone else.

We recognised that dating apps provide a great platform for meeting new people. And I know plenty of people who’ve met their partner online and are in happy relationships. However, we also discussed that dating apps make the process of meeting people very clinical and deliberate. If we only engage with the idea of meeting someone when we’ve got our noses pressed to our phones, how many chance encounters or opportunities for meeting someone offline are we missing?

In life I think we need to allow a little room for serendipity.

Using my dating app story as an analogy, I wonder how many organisations allow space for serendipity…

I’ve recently been reaching out to businesses we admire for their culture and people management practices. I’m keen to interview them to continue our series of blogs on companies with innovative people management practices, as well as to learn from them.

Some organisations make it very easy to get in touch as an outsider – contact email addresses are easy to find and people get back to you quickly (even if it’s a polite “thanks but no thanks”). The starting point for these organisations is transparency and curiosity.

Other organisations don’t seem to encourage people to reach out to them quite as readily. These organisations still have great internal cultures and fantastic people management practices but they tend to be more private and like to be in control of who they meet, when and how. They don’t advertise who works at the company or how you might be able to get in touch and they impress on their people not to give out contact names and details to outsiders.

I understand there are legitimate reasons for this level of privacy. These companies don’t want their great people being poached or their people’s time being taken up by outsiders trying to sell to them. But does this approach destroy opportunities for chance meetings and a little serendipity? What about that great person looking for a job who would be perfect for your organisation? Or a new idea that only materialises because of a conversation between an external consultant and an internal expert?

In my view you can achieve a balance between the two approaches. If your organisation falls into the camp of controlling it’s interactions with the outside world like a single person seeing a dating app as their only method for finding a partner, then I think it’s worth considering how you can create space for a little more serendipity. Who knows what happy accidents may occur and how unexpected benefits may develop?!

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