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Challenging the myth of serendipity

From: Business Innovation Fundamentals

Video: Challenging the myth of serendipity

In 1891 a physical education teacher named James Naismith invented the game of basketball when he nailed two ordinary peach baskets to the wall of a gymnasium. His students loved the game. But there was a problem. Every time a player shot the ball into the basket, somebody had to get up on a ladder and take it out. That wasted a lot of time and it ruined the flow of the game. But then something happened. After many games, the bottoms of the peach baskets became so weak that they eventually broke off, allowing the ball to fall straight through.

Challenging the myth of serendipity

In 1891 a physical education teacher named James Naismith invented the game of basketball when he nailed two ordinary peach baskets to the wall of a gymnasium. His students loved the game. But there was a problem. Every time a player shot the ball into the basket, somebody had to get up on a ladder and take it out. That wasted a lot of time and it ruined the flow of the game. But then something happened. After many games, the bottoms of the peach baskets became so weak that they eventually broke off, allowing the ball to fall straight through.

This simple, serendipitous invention allowed the game to be played continuously without interruption and it gave rise to a global billion dollar industry we know today as professional basketball. The game of basketball isn't the only invention created through pure chance. Many successful products you see around you today are the result of serendipity. The Post-it note, Velcro, penicillin, x-rays, even chocolate chip cookies were created by chance.

With so many successful products created through serendipity, it makes you wonder whether companies can rely on it to create breakthrough products. The answer:no. Serendipity as a method of innovation has a very poor track record. The number of serendipitous products is a tiny percentage of the total of all products. It just doesn't yield nearly the amount of blockbuster products as you would think. So why does it seem there are so many of them? That's because serendipitous products are more memorable than others.

We hear about them in the news more often. Because of that, we recall more examples of serendipitous products than other inventions. So we're fooled into thinking they must be occurring at a much higher rate. It just isn't true. Instead of having to rely on chance, you're about to learn a method that you can use proactively to create new products and services. Let's look back at our basketball example. What if James Naismith had used a thinking tool that guided him to remove the bottoms of the peach baskets right from the start? Had he done so, he would have seen the benefit immediately.

We'll never know for sure, but what would you rather rely on? Pure chance or would you prefer to have a method that leads you to these same inventions in a systematic way? If you're serious about innovation, I advise you to go with the odds. While serendipitous products are fun to read about, don't let them distract you from using a systematic approach that will increase your creative output.

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This video is part of

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Business Innovation Fundamentals

58 video lessons · 2530 viewers

Drew Boyd
Author

 
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  1. 1m 41s
    1. Welcome
      1m 22s
    2. Using the exercise files
      19s
  2. 21m 37s
    1. What is innovation? Introducing Systematic Inventive Thinking
      3m 21s
    2. The principle of function follows form
      4m 8s
    3. The closed-world principle
      4m 16s
    4. Characteristics of innovative products and services
      3m 51s
    5. Challenging the myth of thinking outside the box
      3m 11s
    6. Challenging the myth of serendipity
      2m 50s
  3. 11m 55s
    1. Functional fixedeness
      2m 26s
    2. The subtraction technique
      2m 59s
    3. Subtraction in action
      4m 8s
    4. Addressing common challenges
      2m 22s
  4. 10m 35s
    1. Structural fixedness
      2m 32s
    2. The division technique
      2m 43s
    3. Division in action
      3m 3s
    4. Addressing common challenges
      2m 17s
  5. 16m 25s
    1. The multiplication technique
      4m 24s
    2. Multiplication in action
      4m 39s
    3. Zooming in and zooming out
      4m 51s
    4. Addressing common challenges
      2m 31s
  6. 15m 45s
    1. The task-unification technique
      4m 19s
    2. Task unification in action
      4m 14s
    3. Using task unification for business issues
      4m 27s
    4. Addressing common challenges
      2m 45s
  7. 17m 49s
    1. The attribute dependency technique
      3m 32s
    2. Creating an attribute dependency matrix
      3m 37s
    3. Types of dependencies
      4m 12s
    4. Attribute dependency in action
      4m 31s
    5. Addressing common challenges
      1m 57s
  8. 27m 7s
    1. Running ideation workshops
      4m 13s
    2. Which technique to use
      3m 26s
    3. Creating new services and processes
      3m 17s
    4. Creating digital innovations
      5m 12s
    5. Involving customers
      5m 49s
    6. Evaluating ideas
      5m 10s
  9. 14m 48s
    1. Mastering innovative thinking
      3m 42s
    2. Building a pilot program
      3m 56s
    3. Addressing organizational challenges with innovation
      4m 3s
    4. Next steps
      3m 7s
  10. 52m 41s
    1. About Drew
      2m 9s
    2. What is innovation?
      51s
    3. What got Drew started in innovation?
      2m 15s
    4. On innovation as a skill
      1m 53s
    5. On innovation as part of your business
      1m 58s
    6. On resistance to innovation
      3m 31s
    7. On innovation's tainted image
      2m 34s
    8. Where do you apply innovation strategies?
      2m 31s
    9. Who should lead an innovation effort?
      3m 6s
    10. On favorite innovation experiences
      3m 51s
    11. On innovation vs. strategy
      3m 36s
    12. On working with innovation consultants
      3m 20s
    13. On trends in innovation
      3m 26s
    14. On innovation as competition
      2m 32s
    15. On innovative companies
      2m 43s
    16. On generating vs. executing ideas
      3m 2s
    17. Can you overdo innovation?
      2m 1s
    18. How do you start innovating?
      3m 44s
    19. On the most innovative products
      3m 38s

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