When you innovate at the Intersection, you will be exploring many unusual and unexpected idea combinations and connecting with other people who bring different perspectives, experiences and insights to the table. Once you are 'in' the intersection, don’t be surprised if you start seeing ideas and possibilities everywhere. You have only so many resources at your disposal, so how do you decide which ideas to pursue?
Pay attention to surprise. If an idea, insight or outcome surprises you, it usually means you’ve hit upon something that would not be considered obvious if analyzed more rationally. This suggests that you may have discovered something new, something that can set you apart. An unusual idea combination, an unexpected outcome, or an unplanned moment is all it takes for the proverbial lightning to strike.
The nature of a ‘surprise’ is that it is unpredictable. So how can you or your team possibly take advantage of this trend? First, create conditions to allow for more intersections. Here are a few ways you can clear the path for surprise to happen.
If your team has different people and different ideas percolating in different ways, try re-examining opportunities or challenges from multiple angles. There will be people who will tend to jump to negative conclusions. Motivate those who refuse to look beyond boundaries and possibilities.
THE NATURE OF A ‘SURPRISE’ IS THAT IT IS UNPREDICTABLE. SO HOW CAN YOU OR YOUR TEAM POSSIBLY TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS TREND?
Also allow for plans to go awry. This one is extremely hard for anyone who has devised plans and managed projects and deadlines. But an inflexible, stay-the-course mentality can mean losing out on unexpected opportunities.
To find surprises, organizations must be prepared to let go of assumptions, appreciate anomalies, and recognize their susceptibilities-the very things that happen when they talk to customers, explore new markets, take on ambiguous assignments, or anything else that entails challenging the traditional cornerstones of business. When surprise comes, don’t ignore it-explore it.
It was a surprising find for chemistry graduate student Jamie Link at the University of California, San Diego, when a silicon chip she was examining shattered into fragments that continued to send signals, functioning as minute sensors. Link and her professor termed these tiny, self-assembling particles ‘smart dust’, designed to work as swarms. These tiny microelectromechanical sensors are powerful enough to detect anything from light to vibrations. Now, a team from the University of Michigan has built a functioning computer, called the Michigan Micro Mote, or M3, that is less than a cubic millimeter in size with features such as data storage, and wireless communication that can monitor water purity, detect damaging chemicals in air, and detect and terminate tumor cells within the body.
While Slack founder Stewart Butterfield was developing a new computer game, he created a simple messaging system to enable better communications across his team. The game was in development for years and wasn't going anywhere, so Butterfield eventually broke out the communication feature into a new app, which was better than anything else available in the market. With over 1.7M daily active users, Slack has now raised $540M in venture capital funding to date.