Planned Serendipity and Culture

Whenever I travel through Europe I enjoy the opportunity to read news from different points of view. Of particular interest to me is how outsiders view U.S. business culture. North America has been seen as the future of marketing and social media for a number of years.

Both disciplines have had an impact on how people work, both inside and outside organizations, and how we buy.

Two stories in the Wall Street Journal European edition got my attention this past week. They were both filed under management in the Personal Journal. The first one was about shared work spaces and how some established companies in the U.S. hope interaction with others will spark collaboration.

The main idea is to provide an environment that will spark creativity by giving chance a hand — happy accidents as potential innovation triggers. Taking the start-up culture to bigger firms are organizations like and born to do the match making and help utilize unused space:

Some 9% of U.S. co-working users in 2011 came from companies with more than 100 people, according to an analysis of some 1,200 co-workers from Emergent Research and co-working site

Encouraging culture by osmosis is not a new concept. I've been involved in organizations that grew through acquisitions.

The difference in this new iteration of the concept is that mingling is favored across companies — just enough interaction to get the creative juices going, without the (potentially) political issues of who owns the idea and gets the kudos inside the same organization.

Plantronics co-working at NextSpace seeks serendipity with a bit of testing environment and potential customers providing feedback on products use.


Feedback to businesses is the topic of the second story. A new study finds that angry job applicants can hurt a company's sales.

Our identity is made up of several things:

  • heritage — where we were born, where we live, our age, educational background, etc.
  • environment — transient external factors such as the economy
  • needs — they include both what we truly need and what we think we need and actually just want
  • interactions — we also define ourselves in relationship with others

One of more of which come into play to varying degree of awareness depending upon the roles we play at any one time. Your employees are stakeholders, they can be shareholders, and customers all at the same time.

Talent Board recently found that job applicants who felt they were treated without respect for their work experience and largely ignored concluded:

'you're good enough to be a customer but you're not good enough to work here'

This negative sentiment in an age of hyper connectivity has an impact on the bottom line. If employees are often laughing at HR, OD and other supporting functions, candidates are often inclined to walk away entirely from an organization that is not treating them with respect.

It's the age of the networked person, where creativity and innovation are critical skills, and many organizations still automate the hiring process. 

Why is serendipity not valued here? Will we ever see a time when hiring practices will contribute to closing the gap between promises made and promises kept for brands? Does your organization walk the talk?


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