What the Heck is “The Serendipity Economy,” and Why Should We Care?

Serendipity

August 19, 2013; Harvard Business Review Blog Network

 

NPQ has often taken on the confused conversation around innovation and performance evaluation. Our position has been that innovation and proof of value are not necessarily linked. Now, in this  blog post on the HBR website, Daniel W. Rasmus talks about logic, rationality, the drive to eliminate waste and seek efficiency, and the use of tools and processes to standardize all of that. This is the perspective through which most managers perceive their operations—a lens which can be associated with the industrial economy.

But Rasmus says that there has also always been a Serendipity Economy flowing from seemingly random and unanticipated interactions that runs in parallel, a place where innovation occurs. One might expect such a space to be speeded up in a highly networked economy. Here are some of the principles and implications of the space, as Rasmus records them for IT professionals:

  • The process of creation is distinct from value realization.
  • Value realization is displaced in time from the act that initiated the value.
  • The measure of value requires external validation.
  • Value is not fixed, and cannot be forecasted.
  • You can’t anticipate the network’s potential for value or any actual value it may produce.
  • Serendipity may enter at any point in the value web, and it may change the configuration of the value web at any time.

He also places great emphasis on the need for courage and patience. “Leaders…need to acquire the patience to monitor serendipitous activity, and the courage to protect technologies and ideas that may take time to mature, or changes in circumstance to reveal their true value—and the willingness to empower people to embrace, explore and follow serendipitous activity wherever it may lead. That means not just finding serendipity in the business, but examining your own shop for new value that can’t be found in lines of code per day or the speed of a call center response.”—Ruth McCambridge