(Note: This is a piece is part of a larger exploration I’m working on around serendipity. You can find all the articles here.)
It occurs to me that it’s really hard for serendipity to strike when you’re tackling small or easy problems. In fact, serendipity seems to show up when people struggle with really large, almost unsolvable problems; challenges so big that you start to look in new and novel places for new inspiration.
In thew spirit of solving really big problems and inviting serendipity, Google has created Google X. It a lab where they create programs known as “moonshots”, (I think in reference to Kennedy’s decision to go to the moon.) These moonshots tackle problems that are so difficult they will take years to accomplish. This is how a search company can manage to launch a self-driving car, or consumer heads-up displays. They’re putting some of the brightest minds in the world on these problems, but they’re also slaving away for long periods. It’s the duration that’s interesting to me….the longer slog seems to invite more moments of serendipity
I think to really engage the creative, pattern-spotting portions of our brains we have to solve problems that are big enough to invite some struggle. Framing a problem where you’ll probably fail, where you have enough passion to start again, and where there is no correct answer from the outset, these are the challenges that invite serendipity.