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Author encourages HR to embrace moments of serendipity
SAN DIEGO—“When you look at success, it has far more to do with serendipity and the unexpected than we give it credit for,” said author and business strategist Frans Johansson, speaking at the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) 2013 Strategy Conference on Oct. 2.
“If you are unable to embrace that serendipity, it’s going to work against you,” continued Johansson, the first black male speaker to deliver a keynote at the SHRM Strategy Conference and the author of
The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World (Portfolio Hardcover, 2012).
He said it is these “click moments,” or serendipitous events, that spark change, and he encouraged his audience to embrace them as they come along.
“If we scrape beneath the surface,” we will find “the click moments.”
He revealed that Starbucks originally was in business to sell coffee beans and that it wasn’t until its CEO, Howard Schultz, happened upon a coffee shop in Milan and decided—for the first time ever—to try an espresso that things changed.
“But when he does, he starts shivering,” Johansson said. He realizes Starbucks’ business approach has been all wrong and that the company should be in the business of enhancing the communal experience of drinking coffee.
Today, according to its website, Starbucks has 5,500 coffee shops in more than 50 countries.
Microsoft, he pointed out, became the largest company in the world when it created Windows 3.0. From there, it began selling PowerPoint, Word and Excel software packages—“and then they keep upgrading them.”
But the Microsoft operating system had a fatal memory flaw that programmers were unable to fix. That necessitated the creation with OS/2.
But it wasn’t until two men met at a party and put their heads together that they were able to go to Bill Gates and tell him they had solved the problem.
“Without that meeting at that party, it would have shut down. This [chance meeting] is how successful strategies unfold.”
And consider YouTube.
“YouTube started out as a dating site,” he said. People voted on whether you were datable. Today, billions of people upload homemade videos to the site. Justin Bieber became a star because of YouTube, as did actor-comedian Kevin Hart.
“If success is so unexpected, how can you direct your efforts to be successful?” Johansson asked. “Is strategy and analysis completely useless?”
The truth, he said, is that “human beings need purpose in our lives. We need a rationale for our actions. That is what drives us.” He encouraged executives to remember that the purpose of strategy is to persuade yourself to act, to recognize those click moments and seize the day.
Aliah D. Wright, author of the best-selling
A Necessary Evil: Managing Employee Activity on Facebook, LinkedIn…and the Hundreds of Other Social Media Sites, (SHRM, 2013), manages the business leadership and technology pages for SHRM Online.
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