Why would you leave finding opportunity to a transactional (often dull) networking event on a Tuesday night, when you could engineer serendipity everyday?
The conversation coaches at Trigger Conversations, our Hammersmith Residents, share three tips on how you can increase your network by engineering more serendipity today.
Now the concept of ‘engineering serendipity’ could seem both sterile and contradictory to you, but it might actually be the mindset you’re missing.
That’s because everywhere is filled with opportunity to connect. The person standing next to you at the coffee machine in your co-working space, the lady you do pilates with or even the man you sat next to at a talk – they’re all connections waiting to be made.
But before I tell you how you can engineer more serendipity into your networking, let’s just get clear on what exactly it is.
Interestingly, the word ‘serendipity’ was a literary creation by the writer Horace Walpole in 1754, which he derived from one of the earliest detective stories called ‘The Three Princes of Serendip’.
The tale tells of how three princes track down a missing camel through luck and good fortune and led Walpole to define the word as the ‘faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident’.
Taking this definition, ‘engineered serendipity’ is therefore the ‘ability to observe and act on happy and unexpected opportunities’. It’s a state of mind that allows you to notice meaningful coincidences, often where others might not.
So how can you capitalise on these abundant opportunities?
Through the power of conversation.
A friend of mine once sat next to a man on the tube and commented that his tie had golf clubs on it. A random comment perhaps, but 10 minutes later they were still talking and had soon discovered that they worked on similar projects so swapped contact details. Six months later, and they’re still in contact!
The truth is, the best connections you make are often the least expected.
Often though we tell ourselves that people are too busy or that they won’t be interested in what we have to say – but perhaps we wouldn’t be if we skipped the small talk?
See conversation is not just an exchange of information and thought, but an opportunity to open doors.
That’s because when you engage another in conversation, you create a space to experiment with thoughts, to discover new possibilities and get access to different perspectives. Or, as Theodore Zeldin rightly suggests, conversation doesn’t “just reshuffle the cards, it creates new cards.”
So how can you navigate small talk to something richer and engineer more serendipity into your life?
Here are three tips…
In conversation coaching this means making a substantial statement that invites the other person to respond with interest, and not have to dig into a book of conversation starters.
For example, say someone by the coffee machine asked me how my day was going, I could respond in two ways: one with the expected “fine thanks, you?” or I could say “feeling excited to go to a talk on X tonight.”
Now, if I didn’t care about engineering serendipity then perhaps the latter would suffice. But if I did want to increase the people in my network then the second response would get me there much faster.
This is because I have given the other person an ‘offer’, something that reveals my interests or musings, which they can then ask me more about and further increase our chance of discovering how we can help one another.
Key to engineering serendipity is learning to ask great questions – ones that enable you to understand another person’s interests, values or problems, which in turn allows you to discover opportunity for connection.
But asking great questions doesn’t require a stroke of genius insight; all it requires is a little curiosity*.
Curiosity is a two-step process that requires you first to notice and then to wonder. When you adopt a curious mind-set, you can see that the world is full of things to wonder about. It’s these wonderings that can then lead to great questions.
So say for example I was at an industry talk and someone sits next to me, I’m instantly presented with a number of things to wonder about: what their motivation for coming was, were they hoping the talk would resolve a problem or even what lead them to work in our industry.
When asked with genuine curiosity, questions like these can navigate you through any small talk and enable you both to discover something more meaningful, and possibly opportunity filled.
Creating stickiness means sharing what makes you unique in order to make you memorable.
This tip is great for engineering serendipity because when you’re memorable you stick in people’s minds, making it more likely that they will come to you when they need your skills.
I have a friend (the same friend from earlier coincidentally) who constantly creates stickiness by saying the unexpected. When someone asks her how she is, her response is usually along the lines of “caffeine-deprived” or “7.5 out of 10!”. People’s first response to this is often surprise, but that doesn’t matter when she’s made herself memorable.
To make yourself sticky, think of all the skills or random facts that make you unique, which you would be comfortable sharing the next time you meet someone. Then when you’re next in conversation with a potential connection, try and find places to drop these sticking points in. In return, try and discover what the other persons sticking point is.
And remember, don’t stop rolling the dice.
So there you have it, three ways to navigate small talk and engineer more serendipity into your networking.
But remember engineering serendipity is a numbers game – the more you roll the dice, the more you will find opportunity. Good luck!
Trigger Conversations is a London-based human connection organisation using the power of conversation to create cultures that put the human back into our relationships and workplaces. As life coaches and question curators, Trigger designs label-less spaces and teaches emotionally-intelligent tools to awaken curiosity, inspire aliveness and remind people to be real.
To date, Trigger had engineered 5,000 stimulating and meaningful conversations with over 1,300 humans at events and trainings, generating connections, collaborations and growth.
Curious? Their 4-Week Transformational Conversations Programme starts again in March 2019.