Serendipity means a “fortunate happenstance” or “pleasant surprise”. (Source Wikipedia). Building a business based on serendipity, where surprises and fortune rules, does not seem to be a logical choice. But it turns out to be that serendipity (when incorporated in your business design) can actually be a driver of growth.

Change in Business Model

Seats2Meet started nearly 10 years ago in a declining market. Renting rooms for training and conferences meant investing a lot in sales and marketing. But why did Seats2Meet after closely analysing its old business model decided to get rid of sales and marketing? Why did they start to give away workspaces for free? They decided to apply the serendipity principle. And is works.

The underlying design principle of this change in the business model was mounted on the firm believe that Seats2Meet (S2M) was not in the business of renting rooms. S2M’s mission was to provide an environment, an online and offline platform for people to generate and share ideas. So the founding partners of S2M, Ronald van den Hoff  and Marielle Sijgers decided that they had to increase the number of visitors and enable people to connect and build meaningful relations.

Share knowledge

In order to reach this S2M gave away free working space for individual knowledge workers. Everybody could visit S2M, plug in their computer, enjoy good (fair-trade) coffee, high quality lunch and use the digital S2M environment. By offering this inspiring environment new encounters happened every single day that created value for both the knowledge workers and in the end S2M.

By doing this the buzz about this place came about. Most change makers, authors and thought leaders in the Netherlands met each other and started to build businesses, wrote books, follow training and met each other at S2M.This is serendipity at is best.

Beforehand S2M did not know who would meet who, and what the effect would be. But by applying the serendipity principle a lot of new ideas, companies and the need to meet in an inspiring place was created. Since S2M has grown from a privately owned two-location organisation into a worldwide fanchise (note the difference with franchise) organisation with over 70 locations and still growing.

The Serendipity Machine

And Seats2Meet continues to apply this principle. They even build an online tool, called The Serendipity Machine. Or as they say: “Every single day we meet people who have had serendipitous encounters that lead to new ideas, organizations or amazing experiences”. Get inspired and read the free e-book.

When companies take a step back from the old way of doing business as usual, when companies start thinking about what really helps their customers, no matter if you directly benefit from that, you can truly build a sustainable business. If you really help your customers to become better in what they do it will benefit you.

Create ambassadors

Serendipity works in practise. I have experienced it and many more as you can see in this video. Take a look at this video of one of the Dutch Seats2meet locations.

Most people that have worked at Seats2Meet are long life ambassadors. I am one of them. So think what you can do to really help your customers and create an environment where serendipity prospers? Tell me and I will become your ambassador.

This article was first posted on www.generositypays.org. Please visit this site and share your ideas about crafting a world that is more generous by design.