Get Lucky to Innovate
In earlier posts, I talked about luck, and how luck plays a huge role in success. While many people talk about persistence and hard work as the key to success, there are plenty of hard working persistent people who never succeed. Almost every super successful person, from Elon Musk to Mark Cuban, to Bill Gates, in addition to being persistent and hardworking, were catapulted to success by being in the right place at the right time with the right product. In short, luck played a huge role.
As it turns out, there have been several studies on luck, and there are documented ways which one can use to improve one’s luck. How do you become more “lucky?” Well, outside of the pure mathematics of “luck”, like winning the lottery, as that is pure chance, there are many ways to improve your luck.
For one, these studies showed that being an extrovert, or at least acting in an extroverted way, increased your luck. Making those personal connections, talking to people, shaking a lot of hands, and smiling a lot, knowing other people, and making sure other people know you, can trigger more situations where something lucky can happen. Contrast that with an introvert who rarely talks to anyone but the people they know. They don’t make new connections which could lead to more lucky encounters. Much of luck can come from passionately expressing your expertise to others. The more who know you and how good you are at something, the more likely someone will help you.
Secondly, lucky people were more observant, or some may say, mindful, based on what life throws at you in the present moment, can also help you be luckier. In one study, students were told to rush across campus to give a talk on the parable of the Good Samaritan. On the way to the talk on the other side of campus, they had planted a person who looked in need, lying on the sidewalk. What percentage of people stopped to help the person in need? Only a small minority. Some even stepped over him in their single-minded pursuit. Those focused on their mission to give the talk completely ignored the spirit of the parable. Another study threw money on the ground: those focused on getting to their next destination completely ignored the cash just sitting there. If you are too focused on a goal, you may not see a reward which may be right in front of you.
Thirdly, being more flexible, based on their observations, allowed lucky people to jump on opportunities as they came along, or change their plans completely if something better started working. The lucky people could seize opportunities which they observed because they were willing to see that the new path night be better than the path that they are on. If this doesn’t jibe with the “never surrender, never give up” mentality, that super passionate tunnel vision that some people may feel that they need to complete their “mission in life”, that’s exactly right. While passion and tunnel vision are great for some things, focusing on that to the exclusion of all else, when indications start to surface that you may be headed for failure – or that a much better path is available – shouldn’t bar you from seeing other, better opportunities.
For an example of this, think about the number of billion dollar businesses which pivoted: Flickr, Nintendo, Nokia, Pixar, Twitter, Slack. There are literally hundreds of dead startups which decided to continue with their initial vision, even when it was clear that they needed to take another path to succeed. They may have seen the path to success but denied themselves it because it didn’t mesh with their original vision.
Fourth, lucky people spend more time listening to their gut instinct. Following their heart instead of their head. Like coming at things with beginner’s mind, which I’ve talked about in a previous post, they are more tuned into their own feelings when events occur around them. They felt more than they thought, allowing their subconscious mind to step in and give them an intuitive thumbs up or thumbs down on something. If it feels wrong, it likely is, and the converse may be true.
Fifth, lucky people look at life optimistically. They don’t assume the worst – they assume the best is going to happen, and when it doesn’t, they only see it as a small bump on the way to success, not the end of the world.
Finally, they realize that there is power in collaboration. Connecting and leveraging the multitude of brains in the room, instead of just their own, they understand that when it comes to luck and success, much of it comes from the actions of others. They understand that “no man is an island”, and we all stand on the shoulders of others.
As luck would have it, at least in my view, these are all similar traits to being more innovative. Luck and innovation, apparently, are intertwined. These “lucky” traits are very like the kinds of capabilities that you need to be a great innovator. For example:
- Extroverted innovators make human connections, lead to serendipitous encounters, which lead to new innovations.
- Observant innovators can better identify new innovative ideas when they come across them, especially if they are not already on their path
- Exploration-minded innovators who are willing take those paths are more likely to find those rare billion dollar ideas we all crave
- Intuitive innovators can simply tell. When it’s a great idea, they can feel it in their gut.
- Optimistic innovators feel positive about the future and are determined to solve challenges positively in order to make improvements
- Collaborative innovators, seeking a diversity of opinions and backgrounds, can be many times greater than one’s generated individually
Are innovators luckier than most people? Or do luckier people tend to innovate more?
Either way, it’s interesting that both innovators and the luckier ones among us share similar traits.
How can you cultivate a luckier culture within your organization?
Chris is a prolific inventor (60+ patents), exceptional innovator (headed internal banking, retail and technology innovation programs), experienced technologist, serial entrepreneur and futurist.