December 30, 2020 Is it Luck or Is It Intentional Serendipity? An Uprisor Innovation Conversation with Mark Searle

Our Uprisor podcast series offers engaging Future of Work conversations with enterprise leaders and doers. Clinton Bonner, VP at Topcoder, recently spoke with Mark Searle, a lecturer and industry fellow at UC Berkeley College of Engineering’s Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship. Mark is also the managing director of the Innovation Acceleration Group.

Clinton and Mark discuss Mark’s concept of “intentional serendipity”, the importance of business model innovation, and what a future of flexible work looks like. Listen to their conversation, and check out some of the highlights below.

Intentional Serendipity

Clinton mentions that he was inspired by a term Mark coined: “intentional serendipity”. Mark explains that innovative concepts and inventions can seem like lucky accidents, striking out of the blue, but in reality they happen when people and enterprises are prepared, when they are open to change and have the culture and systems in place to take advantage when inspiration strikes. He emphasizes that enterprises have to plan for innovation, rather than setting it aside as a sideshow to their primary work.

Business Model Innovation

One of Mark’s main areas of focus is business model innovation. He explains that many engineers think that if they just come up with the perfect invention, it will automatically bring value to the world. Mark wants them to understand that they need business model innovation along with their product innovation to actually deliver that value. And he points out that this kind of work is just as much a science as the more technical aspects of engineering—it involves hypotheses, testing, and data. As he puts it, “an experiment doesn’t have to have test tubes and molecules, it can have conversations.”

Looking to the Future

Clinton asks what disruptions brought about by the pandemic will stick going forward. Mark describes the companies that will survive this crisis (and others): the ones that are prepared for the world to change, and that have nimbleness and flexibility. And the workforce will remain flexible, too, as Mark believes that more people will turn to the gig economy, holding more than one job rather than being tied to a single company. While that’s been seen in the past as insecure or unstable, he hopes “that we’re going to build the security into a life where we all work for more than one place, thing, or group”.

Thanks to Mark for sharing his unique perspective with us. For more technology conversations centered on the Future of Work, check out the Uprisor podcast.

“Embracing my definition of innovation requires a kind of humility, frankly.” – Mark Searle

Annika Nagy


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