Success means embracing randomness

Book Review: 'The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World'

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Book Review: 'The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World'

Tara-Nicholle Nelson
Inman News®

Book Review
Title: "The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World"
Author: Frans Johansson
Publisher: Portfolio, 2012; 256 pages; $26.95

Frans Johansson, author of "The Medici Effect," starts his latest book with a simple, yet undisputable, proposition: Life is uncertain.

In "The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World," Johansson constructs a very persuasive argument that uncertainty plays a crucial role not only in failure, but success.

Despite our best attempts to map out a path to success, the best avenue is often to simply seize a window of opportunity that seems to have opened by serendipity.

Providing success case studies from sports, business, music, fashion and politics, Johansson shows that the 10,000 hours of deliberate practice we've all grown to accept are prerequisite for mastery of a subject are less relevant to success than the ability to create, recognize and tap into randomness and luck -- at least if you live, work or do business in a field that is unstructured and without many rules.

For example, the tennis champ sisters Venus and Serena Williams can chalk their success up in large part to obsessive focus and practice during their childhoods.

Nike, on the other hand, springboarded to success off founder Bill Bowerman's serendipitous pouring of latex into his wife's waffle iron after having an a-ha moment at the breakfast table.

Starbucks? Howard Schultz's epiphany that America needed espresso bars like those he saw, packed to the gills, on every street corner of Milan.

The fact is, most of us are not seeking to become masters of chess, tennis or other highly rule-driven endeavors where the path to mastery through deliberate practice is clear. Although daunting, the Williams' six hours of practice six days a week for the four years they were in a tennis academy got them only 7,500 of the 10,000 hours.

Most of us are seeking to build successful careers, lives and businesses in a very unpredictable marketplace, which Johansson argues allows us to harness and leverage the seemingly unharnessable and unleverageable tools of randomness, serendipity and luck to create the success we seek.

Here are a few of Johansson's prescriptions for creating what he deems "click moments":

1. "Take your eye off the ball." "When you focus on one thing exclusively," Johansson writes, "you miss everything else that's going on around you." And being able to catch opportunities and holes in the market when they happen around you is essential to being able to take them, converting them into so-called "luck."

Johansson urges that we ask ourselves whether it's even possible for something unscripted to nose its way into our vacuum-packed schedules. If not, we should take care to create some flexibility in the calendar and schedule the time to do something "unscripted and unplanned."

2. "Use intersectional thinking." By exploring fields and cultures that are extremely different from your own, Johansson argues, you spike the probability that you'll be exposed to a random idea. He points, for example, to Beto Perez, the Colombian aerobics teacher who forgot his normal class music one night and ended up teaching a class to his own personal tape of salsa and merengue songs, creating Zumba in the process.

In the same vein, exposing yourself to diverse groups of people and diverse ideas online and even at conferences outside your normal domain can boost your chances of drawing novel connections and having a moment of insight and serendipity -- a "click moment."

3. "Follow your curiosity." "Curiosity," according to Johansson, "is the way your intuition tells you something interesting is happening." Curiosity lives at the intersections of the unknown and possibility, yet we are inclined to follow our curiosity less and less as we get older, probably because we get busy. Following the path of what makes us curious is a key action step for creating moments of luck and serendipity, in Johansson's book.

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