The Power of Serendipity

I've spent the last three weeks on the West Coast, first at Downtown Project, then HATCHfest, then Summit Series weekend and wanted to give a real update on me (given my delayed blogging this month).

First, I spent a week at Tony Hsieh's new Downtown Project initiative. I had come out here in July for Catalyst Week (here's my video from the event) and decided to come back to work on exploring the Connectional intelligence of this community –boy I did. 

First of all, if you don't know yet, the Downtown Project is trying to change downtown Las Vegas to the most community focused city in the world. The most interesting thing I learned is that every time a city grows, it becomes more productive and effective. Every time a company grows, it becomes less productive. As a result, Zappos is learning how to be more like a city as it scales while growing a city next to it with the Downtown Project. It is an amazing 350M dollar social experiment and one that time will tell will be discovered more.

My week included the following:

–Attended Zappos's all hands quarterly meeting, which included circus performers, Deal or No Deal and Price is Right games, TED talker Yo Yo performer, National Geographic's Jason Silva, and open employees Q&A with executives. I hadn't seen this level of "company fun" ever before.

–Zappos is unleashing a powerful new social technology called Holacracy, which is a governance structure with no employees (only partners), no managers (just distributed authority, and no owners controlling it (just investors along for the ride). No organization at this growth stage has every tried it. Medium is one example of a group that uses Holacracy. Like many things Holocracy models the pioneering nature of Zappos and an aspiration to build a bottom up decision governance structure and open corporate culture as it scales.

–I was most touched by the open, quirky culture of Zappos–the idea that everyone is weird and to let your own uniqueness shine. The People team were incredibly passionate and forward thinking about how to use the concept of "collisions" to grow a diverse, connected comapny.

My next journey was at HATCH, an amazing collaborative community of 100 of the world's creative thinkers in Bozeman, Montana. I had never been to Montana, so this was really fun and new.   I found myself next to everyone from Tim Gruber, the inventor of Siri to now a dear friend Mike North, founder of Reallocate and Prototype This on the Discovery Channel. Most importantly, everyone was thinking about how to push the edge in the most creative ways possible. An experiment we went through was asking: what keeps you up at night? What challenge are you trying to overcome? Then we worked in carefully matchmaked diverse group to work towards actually solving the challenge. Then we connected people with 2 mentors with similar types of challenges to help each other solve it. It was one of the best raw and real events I've ever been to.

Last but not least was Summit Series weekend a week later. Summit Series has been a well-known tribe and known to be a fascinating view of "Connectional intelligence", having just bought an entire mountain, a 40MM investment and getting together in a powerful way to create their own new version of an Aspen Institute. It truly felt like an interesting meeting of the minds and time will tell how this community grows.

Here's what I'm learning from my trip about Connectional Intelligence: Our greatest sources of help are where we least expect it. I learn the most not from the "big speaker" but from the new person sitting next to me, the person that is brainstorming a new way of solving a problem or might have had an interesting resource on questions to ask ourselves. They helped me think the most critically about my book on Connectional Intelligence and why we need diverse crowds to shift the edge. 

So, now to you, how are you going to surround yourself in new "crowds" to help push your thinking and prepare for serendipity to create your next breakthrough? How do you open up your own curiosity to learn? You never know where it could come from, so you just need to dive in!

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