At a time when everything seems predictable through algorithms and data, coincidence is becoming less and less important. But despite everything, he is the best friend of the mastermind in search of innovations and new ideas.

Innovation management and futurology are all about methodology – at least that’s what it seems. There is a myriad of techniques for predicting current and future trends, creating scenarios or learning from history. With brainwriting, design thinking or other methods, companies and coaches come up with new ideas. Through business analytics and data science, the mysteries of the data are decoded, interpreted and turned into recommendations for action. But despite all the methodology, there is one factor that still plays a central role in innovation today – chance.


Coincidence as the basis for great innovation

If you define chance, it is a pattern, a scenario with a very low probability. Coincidences are events that are rather unlikely to occur. But if you look at chance from the innovator’s perspective, it is also an event that opens up a new possibility.

20% of innovations are the result of chance. Our lives, both business and private, are determined by contexts. The cause-effect principle is of great importance in innovation.

Even the old alchemists knew that they could only make progress through experiments in their experiments. Research and science are also based on hypotheses in which new possibilities are revealed through the right “random” interplay of factors.

The fear of the “What if?” has therefore no place in innovation management. In my workshops and keynotes I therefore always ask the participants to think completely detached. When searching for new ideas, future visions or strategies, there is no right or wrong, at least in the first phase. There are only a multitude of possibilities.

The reader who now thinks that chance can by no means lead to great innovations and always needs a plan, a methodology, only has to think of a few products that are firmly anchored in our everyday lives today.

For example, Teflon was developed while people were looking for a fire retardant coolant. Porcelain was created while Johann Friedrich Böttger was searching for gold and the favourite leisure activity of young and old, bubble wrap, was actually supposed to become a modern plastic wallpaper in space optics.

All these coincidences led to products that would otherwise never have been imaginable.


But does that mean that they should do wild research and experiment until the next disruption comes by chance? No, of course not. But you can’t exclude him either. All considerations during the digital transformation, all disruptions, idea hubs and co. should of course continue to be directed and controlled by method, but there must be enough free space for chance to have a chance. So in principle it is about finding chance with method.


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