Article: Happy accidents: How to build a serendipitous workplace

Life @ Work

Happy accidents: How to build a serendipitous workplace

Serendipity is the effect by which one accidentally stumbles upon something fortunate, especially while looking for something entirely unrelated. Is there scope where serendipity can be one of the sure arcades into clients heart? The answer is YES.
Happy accidents: How to build a serendipitous workplace

Organizations can seek to understand and create a serendipitous-climate, at least in the customer-facing layer, if not on the whole.  Happy accidents, successful error, from side-effect to main-effect, spin-off, inversion, disturbance or interference, and scarcity are few avatars of serendipity outcomes. Some accidents are game-changers being blessings in disguise by design. Serendipity does not restrict to a specific domain(s) therefore any individual or organization can internalize. Wearing a cap of passionate explorer, a serendipitous customer-facing employee can stumble upon undiscovered gaps and exhilarating solutions to fill those gaps. However, note that her organization sponsors the said cap.

We stumble upon something by observing.  We observe when we search. We search when we perceive what to search. What do we search when we do not listen and identify a chasm?

An organization cannot afford to have opportunity losses due to increased customer interfacing weak-links, depleting list of loyal customers, the rise in demanding customers who ask more for a buck and customer’s expectation of gaining differentiation. Serendipity can repair broken bridges to impel rewarding customer service. In pursuit of discovering India, Columbus landed in America. In their quest to invent the great glue, 3M was gifted popular Post-it as an outcome of a successful error. We can find an inevitable common thread in these examples; the sponsors were risk-takers and promoted incessant experimenting in the climate where chance discoverers felt safeguarded against punitive actions for failures. For customer’s sake, there is a need for organizations to be more like those sponsors.

Intuitively, we can ensure two things to achieve serendipity in customer servicing arena. First, conduct a serendipity-readiness survey to gauge where your organization stands. Collate rating by soliciting responses to whether your organization: 

  • Inspires to exceeding customer expectations

  • Advocates providing top-quality customer service

  • Bolsters continuous improvements

  • Recognizes and rewards innovative ideas

  • Ensures leadership support for training and continuous learning

  • Acknowledges learning interventions as invaluable for employees and organization

Second, invest in efforts and initiate organization-wide actions to build behavioral wires to strengthen serendipity-circuit among individuals. While scripting this article, a typo of bandwagon erupted a new word, bad-wagon

The key traits listed below, raise the serendipity-bar among individuals and of a company:


  • Passionate about customers’ successes:  Great deal of energy, enthusiasm coupled with devotion to make customer successes sets a strong foundation. Studying customer’s customers is an invaluable demeanor of right thinking.  Moreover, awareness about customer’s business domain and trends helps in speaking in customer’s dialect. 

  • Empathetic Listening: “Listening looks easy, but it’s not simple. Every head is a world”, says a Cuban proverb. Serendipitous employees are empathetic and engaged listeners to people in general and to customers. We stumble upon something by observing.  We observe when we search. We search when we perceive what to search. What do we search when we do not listen and identify a chasm?

  • Acumen for Observation: Serendipity is about how one spontaneously grasps unexpected outcomes. To be prepared-minds, one needs to grapple expressed and implied customer pains through meetings, customer interactions, their customer cribs, news-links, hearsays and organizational announcements. Navigating through serendipity engines like social media and portals upsurge chance encounters.
    “Serendipity is looking in a haystack for a needle and discovering a farmer's daughter,” said Julius H. Comroe, Jr.
  • Ability to question: Open organizations encourage customer-facing executives to question the status quo in the interest of improving customer’s way of doing things.  Growth mindset propels learning by questioning augment understanding new patterns, right patterns, and pattern matches.

  • Noble Networker: Think of serendipity payoffs like Social Radio and Social Clock. Aspirational organizations do not take a chance by risking serendipity-innocence.  They make people to be highly gregarious. Networking augments cross-skilling, random creative clashes of minds, collaborated ideation and sparkling solutions. People develop sagacity. Networking with customers sensitizes us to be client-domain-empathetic yielding more fulfilling interactions. Tête-à-tête among heterogeneous people with different skills evolve ideas leading to (state-of-the-art) solutions to customer pains or aspirations.

  • High on Resilience and Great at Grit: Gritty demonstrate passion, goal orientation, self-motivation, tenacity, endurance and learning agility. The never-give-up attitude keeps one on the right track and sharpens sight. Resilience is an ability to bounce back from a situation that pulls one down, say due to failures and booing-environs. Efforts of grit and resilience, as key visible stimulators, can influence a disruption in customer relationship.

  • Design Thinking: It is a mindset to be passionate about looking at things from end-user experience perspective with a deep-empathy towards the client. It is an ability to simulate a resolution in the context of customer and his customers’ conflicts. It is about focusing on a solution to balance the confluence of three factors viz., Technical Feasibility, Business Outcome and People Needs. Further, thinking what nobody else has thought in the landscape where you see what everybody sees.

  • Fascination to be a Facilitator: Skilled facilitator makes an action or process easy or easier. Facilitation skill in customer-facing employees compels them to be neutral, empathetic listeners, collective solution-driven, and jargon-free communicator. They foster ideas and solutions by supporting scenarios, contexts and customer experience.  

Serendipitous employees can bestow glorious surprises upon customers. Customers honor our visible efforts and further, solemnize whether it is a committed outcome or an accidental discovery, i.e., the Happy Accidents. Serendipity can dwindle customer nitpicking and increase customer satisfaction-daybreaks. It is worth tripping over such lucky breaks! Isn’t it?

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are mine, and my employer does not subscribe to the substance or veracity of my views.

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Topics: Life @ Work, Culture

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