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Can You Engineer Serendipity?

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An interesting piece of research caught my eye this week - Dr Stephann Makri from the University College London is investigating the nature of serendipity in his project SerenA - chance encounters in the space of ideas. His plan is to collect people's stories of serendipity so his team can develop an app to help users prepare to recognise these chance moments and act on them.

Dr Makri is quoted in an article on this as explaining, "We analysed the patterns of people's serendipitous moments and found that three things need to happen. Firstly, there has to be unexpected circumstances, secondly an 'ah-ha' moment of realisation and finally, there needs to be a valuable outcome for you."

I like the idea that luck can be partially pre-engineered. The point that being more 'present' and observant of your environment so your chances of noticing and acting on serendipitous moments makes sense to me - many of the people I talk to who have made a life-changing (or even not so life-changing) career choice have done so after meeting a new contact or reading a chance article. On a rather more mundane level, with walking as my favoured London 'public' transport I make a conscious habit of taking different and new routes between places because I know it seems to get my brain working in a positive way.

In the day to day grind, it's all too easy to become blinkered to new opportunities or to different ways of living or working. Though his research doesn't yet seem to validate my urban wandering, Dr Makri suggests mixing up our daily routines to help 'create our own luck' by attending new networking events or talks to broaden our career horizons. This struck a chord with me as I've been working with some expert speakers in setting up a series of free talks offering ideas and inspiration about life and work for busy lawyers - Life With Law. The events are designed to help lawyers unlock new ideas to help them manage their own lives or help their team manage theirs, so we have Nick Southgate delving into 'The surprising science of better decision making' while author of Brand You John Purkiss tackles 'Discovering the life that you want'.

Maybe these kind of talks could lead to some serendipitous moments for those who attend, or maybe the saying that 'you make your own luck' rings true for most of us. Either way, though I still need convincing that an app will provide my route to being 'present and mindful' I'm looking forward to stumbling across further news of the progression of Dr Makri's project.