Serendipity and Machine might seem, at first glance, to be contradictory – if serendipity means chance, luck, good fortune, how do you mechanise that?
The book describes a business, whose model was to provide managed serviced offices and places where you can book a table in order to meet. This part of the business is called seats2meet and followed the normal business model that you would expect – you book a table for the number of guests you were meeting and paid by the hour. The normal refreshments were also available to buy.
They then took the very normal, profitable business model they had, and deliberately disrupted it. They did this by making it free AND they even provided coffee and lunch for free. At seats2meet there really is a free lunch!
Why on earth did they do that? Why would you give away something that everyone expects to pay for?
The starting point was a brilliantly simple insight, which was that the ‘experience’ – the ‘magic’ if you like happens not when you arrange to meet someone, but when you meet someone by accident – serendipitously. If you think about when you go to a conference, quite often the most interesting people are people you meet at the coffee queue, or the person you sit next to when you are trying to eat lunch. So while you can’t create serendipity (the guy next to you in the queue might be an idiot) you can create the opportunity for those serendipitous meetings, and by making coffee and lunch free, that’s the opportunity.
You can read this book in an hour or two, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. You can buy it from this link, http://theserendipitymachine.com/ but in the true spirit of serendipity, if you promise to share it if you like it (which is precisely what I am doing now), you can have it for free!