~ Archive for Randomised Coffee Trials ~

Can Serendipity Truly Be Strategy?


Since 2012, I have been involved in the seemingly contradictory practice of “Designing Serendipity.”  For many, serendipity is simply an inexplicable lucky accident.  Such a view is neither useful nor historically accurate.  Horace Walpole coined the term in 1754 to describe the ‘faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident.’  It is in this sense that Pedro Medina speaks of Serendipity as a Style of Life and Greg Lindsay of Engineering Serendipity.  This line of thinking is succinctly conveyed by Roman Philosopher Seneca in the saying, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

Take for example the old saying that finding a penny on the ground is good luck.  While the “lucky accident” view of serendipity might see this as foreshadowing good things to come, I would suggest a better interpretation would envision serendipity as strategy.  Someone who is aware of their surroundings is more likely to see the penny as well as other good fortune coming their way than someone that does not keep an eye out for opportunities around them. (more…)

Go Fika Yourself: A Proven Way to Work Better


Co-authored with Jennifer Gore.

Job-related stress is causing companies hundreds of billions of dollars each year. According to one study, 78 percent of workers put their stress levels at medium to very high, and some of them have missed a day of work (31 percent) or even quit their jobs (40 percent) because of it.

But not in Sweden. And the reason why may be as simple as a cup of coffee.

Swedish culture has a marvelous tradition known as “fika.” While it roughly translates to drinking coffee, it is much more than that. Fika is a scheduled opportunity to slow down to connect and bond with others. As Carl Honoré has said in his TED talk, In Praise of Slowness, “by slowing down at the right moments, people find that they do everything better.” To many in the US this may all sound like a waste of time, but a recent BBC article highlights how this workplace tradition may in part, according to OECD data, contribute to Sweden’s higher productivity than countries known for their long work hours such as the US, Japan and Korea.
Continue Reading via The Huffington Post

A Simple Tool to Help M&A Integration – Randomised Coffee Trials


By Darko Lovric & Michael Soto, originally published on LinkedIn.

M&A activity is one of the most consequential bets a leader can make in shaping the future of mature organizations. The required commitment of time, resources and reputation for such an undertaking invite careful deliberation and analysis, usually leading to a strong internal and external rationale. And yet, most M&A activity falls far short of its intent (with most surveys claiming between 70% and 90% failure rate), often with serious consequences for both the organization and its leadership.

While biases and short-term interests can create various types of overconfidence, it would be surprising if that were the whole story. Most likely, many M&A decisions that are strategically sound falter at the point of execution. (more…)

The Art & Science of Network Weaving


In September 2012, Jon Kingsbury and I sent out an all-staff email to our Nesta colleagues inviting them to participate in an initiative we called Randomised Coffee Trials (RCTs) to encourage staff to speak and connect with co-workers outside their daily routines.

We never expected RCTs to be anything more than a pet project internal to Nesta, otherwise we might have chosen a more intuitive name. To our surprise, over the past three years it has been highlighted in Harvard Business Review[1] and led to initiatives at the National Health Service[2], the United Nations Development Program[3] and the International Federation for the Red Cross and Red Crescent[4] among many other organisations[5].

Continue reading via Nesta, the UK innovation foundation.

To Happy Coincidences and Unexpected Surprises


There has been an overwhelming response to my last blog about Nesta’s Randomised Coffee Trials, with responses received from various countries, UK government bodies, multilateral organisations, academics, NGOs, small companies and multinational companies.

In this post, I try to pull together some of the highlights from those conversations as well as flesh out some of the characteristics that made RCT successful.

Continue reading via Nesta, the UK innovation foundation

Institutionalising Serendipity via Productive Coffee Breaks


Inspired by Pedro Medina’s discussion of serendipity*, Nesta’s Randomised Coffee Trials (RCT) initiative responds to Pedro’s dual challenge of appreciating the benefits of serendipity and the need to ‘build new fishing systems**.

Nesta staff that have opted-in are sent a weekly randomised match with another Nesta staff member and the two are invited to grab a coffee together. There are no requirements or obligations regarding the topics discussed, some RCTs are spent entirely on work-related matters, others are entirely personal in nature.

Continue reading via Nesta, the UK innovation foundation

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