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August 18, 2011

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Anastasia Ashman

Asking for the special at the unknown restaurant -- that's part serendipity and part narrowcasting, I'd say. Who chooses the special, and isn't it what they steer all diners to choose?

I think there's a happy medium in there. Recently I spent an evening in Chinatown and the Lower East Side hopping from restaurant to bar to other night spot solely by FourSquare leads. Had a great time, went to a ton of places I'd never been and didn't do any other research about. Was that serendipity, or narrowcasting?

David Meerman Scott

Anastasia - cool. Heading to bars and restaurants on the whim of Foursquare is awesome serendipity.

MarkAEvertz

David,

Always pleased with your take on things. This topic hit close to home and work. I've been following the TED talks and tomes of people like Clay Shirkey, Eli Pariser and Jonathan Spira for a bit and this filter-or-not-to-filter or personalization-at your-peril subject is really keeping me engaged of late.

I like your very specific ask re: breaking out of routine by seeing bands and places you haven't seen before or reading everything instead of the stuff to get you to nod in the affirmative.

I'm watching the "lab rats" here at my work tackle this issue in the context of the recommendations model you note at Amazon for business-relevant content. The driving force behind this current work is to give people a peek outside their blinders or, as Pariser puts it, their "filter bubble."

As a result, if all goes well, you'll have the opportunity to write and talk about fewer happy accidents and more relevant insights to create a greater understanding of a given subject.

Keep doing what you do. It's important and helpful.
Cheers,
Mark Evertz

P.S. Here's a link to a white paper I worked on this spring re: the topic of Reducing Information Overload that touches on this and other key approaches to this universal problem. http://bit.ly/jlyPIQ ^M.E.

William Reichard

StumbleUpon is a great one.

Just being conscious of the problem is half the game, IMO. Thanks for putting this out there.

Chase Sherman

Serendipity shows up for me when I've reached out to different niche bloggers by commenting on their posts. Making impressions on people in unrelated markets has given us the opportunity to drive new readers to our site who'd otherwise never know about us.

Like you say, reading the content of people you're unfamiliar with can help you break out of a mundane approach.

But it's definitely something you have to reinforce, otherwise the "one-and-done" approach won't get you very far. Consistency in breaking your normal patterns is what helps you see new opportunities and embrace change.

Dakotahjwalker

Great point! I realize I may be over-generalizing both thoughts here, but I find this aligned with a TED Talks video in which Eli Pariser warns internet users to be cautious of narrowcasting when conducting searches on the web, or as he calls them, "online filter bubbles."

I would like to think that exposure to content and ideas that both support and conflict one's pre-determined beliefs allow the opportunity to be challenged and lead way to more mature thoughts and opinions on a given subject. If one reaches a certain level of comfort with regards to either a constant mental or physical environment, where is the need to progress and improve upon the current status?

Our minds need to be challenged through exercise, just as our bodies do and I agree that one way to promote mental exercise is to eliminate narrowcasting and allow the opportunity for serendipity to occur. Plus, isn't repetition boring? Why not mix it up a bit?!

Anne Sorensen

Hi David! Love this post. It's a great reminder to experience life widely (which we can then apply in our businesses).

I recently had a very 'happy accident' - when I picked up a terrific (very meaty, nice and chunky) marketing project from someone I got chatting to in the line to purchase an ipad2! I'd been deliberating that day as to whether or not I should invest in one - but thought 'what the heck.' In addition to the original project, there are now another two, also sizable projects, coming up! Very exciting. And not on the marketing plan! :)

Thanks! Have a great weekend.

David Meerman Scott

Wow -- these comments are awesome. What fun to learn more about the idea of serendipity.

Mark -- It sounds like you are doing excellent work. Keep me posted. I particularly like the concept of "give people a peek outside their blinders or their filter bubble."

William - exactly. So many people think that with personalization they've got everything.

Chase - I need to do more of that myself (comment on blogs outside my field). Thanks for the suggestion.

Dakotahjwalker - As I was reading your comment, it stuck me that TED talks themselves are a form of serendipity. You could watch a dozen at random and learn a great deal. I love your quote: "Our minds need to be challenged through exercise, just as our bodies do"

Anne - You are so social. What a great way to find happy accidents -- chat up people while you're waiting in line or sitting next to them on a plane. I guess you can tell my personality vs yours in that you said it and I didn't.

John Hagel

Excellent post! For some additional perspective, you might be interested to check out The Power of Pull, a book that I wrote with a chapter on the choices involved in "shaping serendipity"

Bill Gluth, Creative Thinker for Business

Great ideas, David, we all need to broaden our horizons, that's for sure. I find that checking out the conversations people that I don't know are having on Google+ to be a good way to get into things that could lead to serendipitous experiences.

David Meerman Scott

John - I have a copy of your book and will take a look at that chapter.

Bill - I agree, G+ has been helpful for me too.

Anne Sorensen

David - friendliness is in our Aussie genes! :) :) (...and everyone has an interesting story which is always fun to uncover!) Have a great week. May it feature many 'happy accidents'. :)

RajSetty

Loved the article David. My teacher always used to say that one should be in a mood of wonder to brush against serendipity. The more "open" one is, the more possibilities of serendipity.

My quick take on the topic below:
http://www.openforum.com/articles/why-you-should-prepare-for-serendipity

Best,
Raj

David Meerman Scott

I liked the examples of serendipity in your article, Raj.

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