Manufacturing Serendipity

Manufacturing Serendipity

March 12, 2017 | Author: Roopa Unnikrishnan, "The Career Catapult"

We live in an evolving economic environment, one in which job security and career certainty are distant memories. At any moment, life can throw you a jolt–whether it’s an opportunity or an obstacle–that causes a shift in thinking.

career catapult

The Career Catapult details a five-discipline plan for personal success, guiding readers to disrupt the status-quo and make the leap toward true satisfaction in business and life:

  • Dig Deep to Soar: Examine your skills and resources to accurately assess your marketplace value as well as your attitude toward what constitutes success and how growth is measured.
  • Stalk Innovations and Trends: Explore the context in which you can offer your value by tracking market innovations and emerging trends, and deciphering how they apply to you in the workforce.
  • Jolt Your Network: Use your assets, including networks that can drive significant value, to test and build upon what you’ve discovered as looked both inward and outward.
  • Prototype Possibilities: Start by challenging everything you’ve learned from digging deep and stalking trends and focus only on what has the potential to lead to success and fulfillment. Free yourself to imagine. Visualize the full array of possibilities and test-drive them. Find ways to don the mantle of the new role—volunteer, experiment with a start-up, join a professional group—and see how this new space might work out for you.
  • Go Extreme: Is your desired future achievable? Yes! Take that confident leap into your future.

In the book I offer up simple exercises that can help build the habits that will open you up for your own catapult. Here’s one:

When I first moved to New York City 16 years ago, I only knew my colleagues at the consulting firm I was recruited into. They were a fun crew, and weekday evenings were pretty well taken care of with late evenings at work and team dinners. The weekends were a little more of a challenge. Of course, New York has no dearth of activities and programs. It’s really more about making the choice of what to do among the myriad opportunities.

That’s when I came up with a strategy that I continue to this day when I am in an unfamiliar city or find myself at a loose end. It’s a way of capturing serendipity. I’d take the subway to a neighborhood I’d wanted to explore. Getting out of the subway station, I’d walk to the nearest traffic lights and then let the algorithm of the lights guide me. I’d take whichever green light came up, turning to make sure I wasn’t waiting at any point. Inevitably, I’d find a museum, art gallery, park, show, place to eat, or some hidden gem that would eat up the rest of my day. In a couple of weeks, I felt like I knew Manhattan: Harlem, Soho, the Upper East Side, Central Park, the Upper West Side, and Brooklyn.

I’ve done this in Paris, Istanbul, and London and never regretted it!

It often reminded me of the meandering route I take with the Sunday newspapers. Rather than finishing a section, I find myself following the “Turn to page . . .” approach to guide my reading. Once I move to a new section and finish the story, I move to the next article in that section. It’s lots of fun and works online too, I’m sure.

Take Action: Manufacture Serendipity

Whether it’s walking around a city or navigating life in general, try something new because it’s presented to you serendipitously. This can be a fun way to mix up your routine and open yourself up to new ways of thinking and being. Here are a few exercises to try, perhaps one a week or one a month (preferably on the first of each month). I recommend starting with a planned approach, because it’s a good way to get yourself into a rhythm. As you get into the habit, you won’t need a calendar.

  • If you find yourself with a couple of hours on a weekend, flip through the newspapers or online to the first show in town and see if you can get out to see it, even if you normally wouldn’t go.
  • Get onto local Websites or those like Eventbrite and see if there’s a conference in town that you can walk through to get the flavor of a new industry.
  • If you’re on online platforms like Twitter, look out for Twitter Chats and join in the conversation around a new space. Or select Twitter’s “Moments” section and see if there are stories you know nothing about to learn more.
  • Do you live in a university town or anywhere near a university? Check if there are lectures you can sit in on; there are often visiting speakers that have open sessions to the public.
  • Do a simple walkabout in the city. Walk through galleries, find hackathons in motion, or find hidden museums.

Small steps to get a pulse of the population – to get a sense of what else is out there – manufacture insights. It’s about stretching gently and keeping fresh.

Once you’re ready, the next step is to actively start stalking trends and mining your network for seismic shifts.

Bon chance!

The Career Catapult hits stands March 20th (audiobooks as well). You can pre-order by clicking below:


Barnes & Noble

Roopa Unnikrishnan is author of The Career Catapult.  She is a strategist and change consultant who is now head of Global Strategy at Harman International.

Profile PHOTO Credit: Preston Merchant