The word “serendipity” (happy accidents) was coined in 1754 in a letter from Horace Walpole to a friend in which he describes unexpected discoveries by reference to a fairy tail called, “The Three Princes of Serendip.” In business, serendipity describes unexpected windfalls after a transaction. In science, serendipity plays a role in many new discoveries (e.g. penicillin, tamoxifen, the background radiation of the cosmos). Innovation in technology often results from serendipity. A Creative Collision is a special kind of serendipity which results when two or more people meet by chance and something good comes of it. Like you need Motive, Means and Opportunity to prove murder in court, I posit that you need the right Circumstances, Openness and Awareness for serendipty to occur and for you to benefit from it. Circumstances – putting 70,000 creative people in close proximity, SXSW creates a pretty unique set of circumstances for creative collisions to occur. The probability of serendipity just went way up. Awareness – if your face is stuck in your smartphone or tablet, there’s a good chance you’ll miss the creative collision that was about to happen. SXSW is like a one million ring circus – there’s so much going on everywhere, it is simply not possible to stay absorbed in the everyday. Openness – if you judge everything (“this’s cool, that’s bogus”) there’s no room for surprises. Holding an open mental stance means at least delaying judgement long enough to observe what’s really happening. SXSW has a very open, non-judgmental vibe that is contagious.
Here are some of
the creative collisions I’ve had in just two days. I shared a ride with Lisa Sita Chouinard of Fetosoap, pictured on the right in this GIF created by PHHOTO, an iPad animated social photobooth application showcasing at this year’s SXSW. Lisa and I were “geeking out about color,” me from a filmmaking perspective and she from a soap-making perspective. In another GIF collision, I ran into Graham McFarland, CEO of Austin startup CineGIF. Over breakfast, we hatched a partnership, prospected a new investment and signed Graham up to mentor for StartFast and SeedSumo accelerators.
On the convention center outdoor balcony, StartFast mentor Drew Austin and I compared notes while inside James McQuivey read from Digital Disruption: Unleashing the Next Wave of Innovation. Later I shared a few minutes with serial entrepreneur Zack Dugow who wasn’t planning to be here a week ago. He said, “People kept telling me, ‘Why don’t we just meet at South-by?’ so what could I do? I had to come.” That’s kind of how I feel too. I have to come. It’s very unlikely I would have met Lisa, or Graham or filmmaker / entrepreneur Rob Jamieson, each of whom taught me something, presented new opportunities and made me think.