Had any “casual collisions” recently? I was fortunate enough to have experienced one not long ago. By “casual collision,” I don’t mean a parking-lot fender bender that you would hope to steer clear of. I’m rather referring to the kind of serendipitous encounter made famous by a couple of employees at Google headquarters who became casually acquainted while eating pizza during a break and ended up devising a way to communicate internally that ultimately became gmail. As a result, the company has gone out of its way to actively encourage such ‘coincidental’ collaborations, even making free food available for employee get-togethers.
When I read about this development, it really resonated with me – so much so, in fact, that when one of the individuals to whom I was being introduced at a rather large meeting in New York City asked me what I do, I offered the spontaneous reply that I seek to string casual collisions into a business model that works for good. My answer was greeted by a chuckle and some rather perplexed looks, prompting me to explain what a casual collision is – which in turn caused a colleague of mine to quip “with a lot of collateral damage,” evoking laughter from people there who knew me. But such levity aside, it occurred to me that this is exactly what enlightened entrepreneurs and business builders do – that is, seek to arrange such casual collisions to bring together eclectic working groups that can look at legacy industries from different, and often original perspectives.
In the past, I have used different phrases, such as “chance meetings,” to describe life-altering events of this sort, but the principle was always the same, whether such an initial encounter takes place at a coffee shop, company cafeteria or around the proverbial water cooler. I sometimes think there’s a kind of strange attractor involved – a subliminal affinity that enables us to recognize the person possessing the secret sauce or expertise we need to build a business, even if the way we first meet them is by starting up a conversation in line at the supermarket. To borrow a quote from Oprah Winfrey’s web site, Oprah.com, “Call it coincidence, destiny, fate, kismet – in one moment, lives can collide and change forever. Yet chance encounters aren’t necessarily accidental; in fact, you can make your own luck by opening yourself to the world.” Or as I noted some years ago in my book, The Detachment Paradox,”All people matter – and you never know which ones might matter most.”
So today, I’d suggest you try to have at least one casual collision. — without any collateral damage.