Planning for Serendipity – Taking Flight

From the ideas from strange places department:

So, if Wilber and Orville had decided to open a different kind of shop to pay the bills, let’s say a bakery for example, would they have flown today in 1903? (That would be December 17th, 1903)

“While most engineers assumed that a successful aircraft would need to be inherently stable, as bicycle builders the Wrights made their living building vehicles that were inherently unstable.” NOVA Wright Brother’s Flying Machine (Currently on

The bike shop turned out to the the perfect training ground for the first successful aeronautic engineers.

The leap concerning stability –

…led to a focus on control –

…onto a critical insight about wing warping which came when Wilber reached for a cardboard box containing an inexpensive tire tube.

From giving a box a helical twist to steering a biplane.


But as with all serendipitous moments (and most instances of luck for that matter) the inventors had to put themselves in the right frame for inspiration to strike.

Which brings me back to the power of Need, Structure and Serendipity when it comes to personal creativity.

The Wright Brothers were pursuing flight. They knew the research of the day, figured out where others were going wrong through a progressive series of experiments, and ingeniously transfered skills learned from the bicycle trade.

Their bike shop paved the way for their flight shop.

So with the new year approaching I think it could be fun to think about ways to enhance our chances for big serendipitous moments – Personally, professionally and businesslly. (I know, I know, businesslly is not a word. But if you know what I mean maybe it is now. We’ll see.)

Any pointers you’d like to add to the discussion?

Photo: First flight December 17, 1903 from Wikimedia Commons

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15 Responses to Planning for Serendipity – Taking Flight

  1. LaVonn says:

    Serendipity has long been a muse of mine. I truly believe it is about pursuing those things about which you are passionate. Devouring ideas and information — capturing those nuggets that cause you pause in your journey. Filling your soul with the fodder of your learning so that one day, when the time is right, and you step into the moment — the inspirational “aha” is waiting for you!

    Great post! You are one of my sources of fodder and inspiration!

  2. Andrew says:


    I don’t really have a hard and fast answer for this one – I guess some great nugget of wisdom will probably prop up when I am in the middle of something else.

    I guess one of the keys is to try out new things on a fairly regular basis. I don’t know, but I highly doubt that many serendipitous moments happen when people are doing the same old thing over and over again. Rather, I would think that they occur more often when we step outside of our comfort zone and try something entirely new.

    So, to increase your chances of ‘luck’ in this regard – step out and try something new.
    .-= Andrew´s last blog ..Niger Delta Crisis – Big Oil’s Big Lesson =-.

  3. Andrew says:

    Oh, and by the way, I love your title – planning for serendipity – seems like a contradiction in terms until you think about it a little.
    .-= Andrew´s last blog ..Niger Delta Crisis – Big Oil’s Big Lesson =-.

  4. Brad Shorr says:

    Hi Fred, Great post, and think Andrew’s comments are spot on. All I can add is – keep networking, keep meeting new people. Most of my serendipitous moments have come from personal interactions, but I’m always fighting the temptation to stay in my cave. Which reminds me – we still need to get together!

    PS – businessally? businessly? I think your on to something there, but the spelling needs a tweak. 🙂
    .-= Brad Shorr´s last blog ..My Pledge to Clients =-.

  5. “…capturing those nuggets that cause you to pause in your journey” I like that.

  6. Absolutely. I’ve read research that indicates those who have lucky things happen to them are more aware of their surroundings, always casting a watchful eye for opportunity. Not sitting and waiting for the luck to come to them.

  7. Hi Brad, The nice thing about interacting with others is you are guaranteed an alternative viewpoint to whatever you are doing.

    And the word simply doesn’t seem to look right any way we spell it does it. Although I think I like the one L better. Trying to think of a better word makes my brain hurt a bit though. 🙂

  8. Paul Cornies says:

    One of the pivotal inventions of the twentieth century started out in a bike shop. What a great post. I think part of getting the most out of every day is being open to this serendipity as you describe so well. It’s part of creativity too. Being openly spontaneous and adaptable.
    .-= Paul Cornies´s last blog ..What Matters Most 2010: Heart/Mind/Vision/Connection =-.

  9. J.D. Meier says:

    I’m a fan of opening doors for possibilities. The best way I’ve found to open doors is to follow the growth, be forward looking, take action, grow my network, and play with possibilities.

    Just like luck, I think serendipity favors the prepared mind.
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..8 Ways to Be Heroic =-.

  10. Hi Paul, It’s actually quite interesting how many of the 20th century’s great advances started in humble digs. Sounds like a top ten list idea to me.

  11. Hi J.D., Luck and serendipity are blood brothers when it comes to a prepared mind…

  12. kay plantes says:

    I think serendipity is all around us, the issue is that it remains unconscious. If we quiet our internal chatter and singular focus on to-dos we can see/hear/feel more of it. It also helps to have a vision, as a vision changes your lens on what is happening around you. Thanks for your great posts this year Fred.
    .-= kay plantes´s last blog ..Business Model Lens into 2010 =-.

  13. Hi Kay, Couldn’t have said it better myself. Thank you for your thoughtful comments and support this year. There’s been many a time when something you’ve said here or at your site has spurred my thinking in slightly unusual ways!

  14. Pingback: Flying With A Good Idea | Frog Blog

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