Business Strategy | Leadership / Management | Organizational Development | Training & CPE

Serendipitous insight and the caveman

"More than half of the world's greatest discoveries have been made through serendipity." -- Melvin Saunders

Everyday I read about the decline in conferences and other in-person events due to the increasing use of virtual learning events. We have seen this trend play out here at the MACPA, with many of our live events experiencing some decline.

And then I saw theoretical physicist, futurist and author Dr. Michio Kaku speak at one of my favorite conferences, the DigitalNow Conference in Orlando, a few weeks ago.

He says not to worry because of the "caveman principle."

The "caveman principle?"

Joe Rominiecki explains in his post, How the future of associations rests on the "caveman principle."

Kaku said we humans haven’t changed much in 100,000 years. We want to bond socially with other people. We are hunters and gatherers. We like “proof of the kill.” As Kaku explained, the caveman principle says that predictions like the paperless office or that urban populations would disperse with the advent of telework haven’t materialized because, despite technological advances, humans are still naturally programmed to like face-to-face interactions and tangible value. ... Think of 100,000 years ago when we were hunter-gatherers. After the hunt we would joke around, dance, play, flirt at the campfire. That’s the basic model of who we are. We like "proof of the kill."

The campfire was how our earliest ancestors shared stories and learned how to deal with the very tough environment they lived in.

Dr. Kaku would ask, "Has that really changed?"

As much as I like the virtual world (yes, even Second Life), nothing can replace the amount of learning that happens when I am at live conferences and events. 

Then my MACPA colleague, Jackie Brown, sent an article on the latest brain research about innovation by Janet Crawford that talked about "serendipitous insight" and how our brains learn and innovate. She describes "serendipitous insight" as follows:

"In order to create new intersections, it’s crucial that we cross-pollinate by engaging with diverse people, activities and experience to provide the raw materials for serendipitous insight. Just like in venture capital, most of these intersections will go nowhere. The more diversity in the system, however, the more 'weeds' will flourish and the greater the likelihood that some of them will be useful!"

This explains why much of our learning happens in the halls and corridors around these events as well as in the sessions. It is the new connections with people and ideas that create new thought patterns and pathways in our brains that often lead to innovation insights.

In my career, much of my success and learning has come directly from these "serendipitous insights" and unexpected connections from attending events. The new and diverse connections to people and ideas lead to new neural pathways and patterns that spark new insights. These insights lead to innovation. 

And in today's topsy-turvy economy, we need innovation more than ever.

We have lots of opportunities coming up this spring and summer for you to make new connections and overcome those ingrained habits by seeking out diverse people and ideas.

Here are a few to think about:

Get your caveman/woman on and come out and join us around the MACPA campfires this spring. We guarantee you some fresh insights and help turning them in to action!