harnessing serendipity

  • 12 Feb

    How to elevate your platform thinking – the role of Devil’s Advocates in harnessing serendipity

    Platform thinking is gaining momentum and for a good reason. It has disrupted many industries already and it will re-shape our business ecosystem thinking in the very near future. The consequences of this evolution process will be huge and therefore it’s fundamental for us to adapt as early as possible to these changes.

    The first conceptual definition of platforms, which I have noticed was by John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison in their brilliant book “The Power of Pull” (2010). They introduced the notion ‘pull platforms’. The authors defined the new phenomenon as following:[1]

     “Pull platform is used metaphorically to describe frameworks for orchestrating a set of resources that can be configured quickly and easily to serve a broad range of needs”.

    With a wide set of case examples the authors were able to explain in beforehand, already few years ago, the vital benefits of platform thinking. They also predicted with amazing accuracy the vast implications, which platform thinking will bring to out business environment.

    The fundamental changes that accompany every shift in the industries, which are getting transformed by the platform thinking are[2]:

    1) new networked markets get created

    2) new sources of supply start to emerge

    3) new consumption patterns will be developed.

    4) new and unique combinations of competences will be created.[3]

    The first three (by Sangeet Paul Choudary) are certainly valid when talking about traditional platforms, but I added also the fourth dimension, which is available by the use of competence platforms.

    John Hagel et al have analyzed ‘pull’ driven platform thinking and they conclude that to exploit the opportunities created by uncertainty, pull platforms help people to come together and innovate in response to unanticipated events, drawing upon a growing array of highly specialized and distributed resources. With this feature a pull platform becomes a real asset for ecosystem builders and in orchestration of distributed freelancer organizations.

    In the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambigous (VUCA) conditions the developments and the encounters often are unexpected and hence unpredictable. Pull platforms and the concrete implementation of them called competence platform will help to prepare for the unexpected and act accordingly. The self-organizing characteristics, the agility and open access are the fundamental features of competence platform and vital for survival in out contemporary business environment, and unfortunately not offered by the traditional communication tools.

    How do the Devil’s Advocates fit into this thinking, why do we need them? That is a question, which has recently obsessed my mind. And the answer is finally found from Gary Klein’s wonderful book ”Seeing What Others Don’t – The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights”. According to Gary Klein insight, which is the key outcome of serendipity process, will be triggered by (the picture below)[4]:

    –      Connections                                                             Klein

    –       Coincidence

    –       Curiosity

    –       Contradiction

    –       Creative Desperation

    Actually a contradiction is a very strong catalyst for unexpectedness. And there are many wonderful stories in the history of serendipity about cases where especially contradiction has ignited the final insight for a great discovery. Let’s figure out how we can benefit from this approach.

    Creating contradiction by purpose is easy, just make sure that there will be enough diversity in your platform and if needed ask some people to play the Devil’s Advocate role. For harnessing serendipity purposes this will certainly be a great alternative. Putting people in front of unexpected contradictions will sparkle their creativity and lead to insightful results.  The role of Devil’s Advocate might be a real catalyst in many communities and companies, as long as it’s understood the right way. Contradictory opinions can stimulate the serendipity process in various ways. Often innovation communities are way too homogenous without any contradictions; the ability to tolerate uncertainty and different kind of thinking is the key to fruitful discussions and hence disruptive solutions in any business ecosystem.

    The critical success factor in introducing Devil’s Advocate principle to a competence platform is to design the matching algorithm in a way that also people with totally different values and competences are invited to certain swarms, partups or whatever they are called in various services. The alarming trend with just mixing people with similar interests and values is not encoruraging contradictory behavior – vice versa. So, as a platform operator you will be more successful and have better results with great impact, if you encourage the Devil’s Advocates to do their job properly.

    (During the canonization process employed by the Roman Catholic Church, the Promoter of the Faith (Latin: promotor fidei), popularly known as the Devil’s advocate (Latin: advocatus diaboli), was a canon lawyer appointed by Church authorities to argue against the canonization of a candidate.[2] It was this person’s job to take a skeptical view of the candidate’s character, to look for holes in the evidence, to argue that any miracles attributed to the candidate were fraudulent, and so on.)


    [1] John Hagel III, John Seely Brown & Lang Davison: ”The Power of Pull – How Small Moves, Smartly Made. Can Set Things in Motion”, Basic Books, New York, USA (2010), page 76

    [2] http://platformed.info/platform-stack/, Sangeet Paul Choudary.

    [3] Ilkka Kakko, Mika Lavikainen, Tatiana Glotova: ”netWork Oasis: New Practises for Emergent Collaborative Working Environments” p. 338 in a book by Luis Camarinha Matos, Hamidesh Afsarmanesh, Martin Ollus (eds) ”Network Centric Collaboration and Supportive Frameworks”, Springer, NY, USA (2006)

    [4] Gary Klein (2013): ”Seeing What Others Don’t – The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights”, Public Affairs, New York


  • 20 Oct

    Karostech is consulting a new collaboration concept in Lahti.

    Karostech’s Ilkka Kakko has been since June 2014 active in the facilitation and creation of a new collaboration concept. The initiative itself has not yet been published, but Ilkka has together with the investors, co-facilitators and potential key users and customers organized five half-day workshops, in which the concept has been further elaborated. Some of the features are currently tested in the pilot environment, CoMalski, and the concept development issues are actively discussed in the community platform.

    The ambitious goal for the design team is to create and implement a collaborative workspace with some new and fresh elements – like a low-entry community platform based on the latest developments and technologies on that field.  It will be also become one of the few workspaces where harnessing serendipity perspective has strongly been a vital principle from the very beginning of conceptual planning. The publication of the investment and the launch of the initiative will happen in the beginning of next year.

  • 07 Jun
    “Harnessing serendipity” event in Helsinki on 18th of June, Sebastian Olma & Ilkka Kakko

    “Harnessing serendipity” event in Helsinki on 18th of June, Sebastian Olma & Ilkka Kakko

    Kontoret, Karostech and Serendipity Lab will organize the first ever “Harnessing Serendipity” workshop in Finland. Join us on 18th of June and find out how to successfully harness serendipity on individual and institutional levels!


    Serendipity has recently been recognized as key source of organizational vitality. Successful global players like Google and LinkedIn are introducing strategies to increase serendipity among their employees. These companies know how important unexpected encounters and knowledge exchange are for innovation. The ability to connect to surrounding communities and to tap into the talent pools is vital also for smaller institutions and serendipity management principles are essential elements for the generation of new combinations of competences


    Sebastian Olma, PhD, economist, philosopher and organization hacker, Creative Director at Serendipity Lab and author of “The Serendipity Machine”

    Ilkka Kakko, @Serendipitor, long term enthusiast and researcher of serendipity, Founder and Facilitator of the globally recognized “www.respectserendipity.com”-forum

    Time: Tuesday 18th June, 15:00-17:30.

    Place: Kontoret, Erottajankatu 19, Helsinki

    Registration: by email to: ilkka.kakko@karostech.fi   (registration binding and DL 13.6.)

    Price: 100 € (incl. vat)

    For more information, please contact; Ilkka Kakko, + 358505362941 or Ray Lindberg, +358407491526

    Limited amount of seats – Be quick!



    This workshop will give you the heads up on what “serendipity” might mean for yourself and your organization. We’ll introduce you to the principles of serendipity management and the importance of social capital. After the brief introduction we work in small groups in order to find practical solutions from individual and institutional perspectives. Finally, the findings of the work groups will be concluded to a number of possible solutions.


    The workshop will support the participants to understand serendipity and the ability to further harness serendipity in their organizations. The serendipity potential could be increased in various ways, like by creating new workplace design, by introducing new virtual collaboration platforms, by finding new ways of communication, by being better connected to surrounding communities, etc. The pragmatic approach together with the well acknowledged expertise of our facilitators Sebastian Olma and Ilkka Kakko will guarantee that the latest knowledge will be available. Yet, the concrete solutions will emerge as a result of the facilitated teamwork.

    Who should attend?

    The workshop is designed to help practitioners from both academia and business. For the best results we aim for a healthy balance between representatives from both sides. This workshop should be attended especially by people who are responsible for the development of the innovation platforms and in charge of the community building and the facilitation of the development teams.

    (image by Yulia Kryazheva / Serendipity Lab)






  • 12 Apr

    Karostech invited to contribute to ISPIM conference on June


    The XXIV ISPIM Conference – Innovating in Global Markets: Challenges for Sustainable Growth – will be held in Helsinki, Finland on 16-19 June 2013. Organised by ISPIM and hosted by Aalto University School of Business in partnership with Lappeenranta University of Technology, this conference will bring together around 500 innovation experts from 50 countries.

    As one of the leading innovation conferences in the world ISPIM wants to follow the latest trends and identify also the emergent innovation paradigms and Karostech’s partner Ilkka Kakko, a respected  global expert in serendipity management, was asked to contribute by organizing two serendipity related sessions in the conference.

    On Monday 17th of June Ilkka Kakko is holding a Hot Topic Roundtable session: Harnessing serendipity – where are your challenges?  together with Sebastian Olma , who is Creative Director at Serendipity Lab and the Author of the book “The Serendipity Machine”

    On Wednesday 19th of June Ilkka and Sebastian will organize a workshop: Serendipity – understanding the key to organizational innovativeness

    The conference program in details in this link


  • 12 Mar

    Karostech in Saint Petersburg on 15th of March, serendipity, coworking and open innovation discussed

    Welcome to an interesting morning workshop at Zona Space in Saint Petersburg on Friday 15th of March.  ”OpenINNO” ENPI- project and Zona Space will sponsor an event where the hot topics of innovation frontier are presented. Co-working, serendipity and open innovation are introduced and discussed. This event is free of charge.

    Friday 15th of March

    10:00 – 10:45

    Erik Raita, Karostech Ltd.

    “Co-working: how it works” (in Russian)


    Ilkka Kakko, Karostech Ltd.

    “Understanding serendipity – your competitive edge” (in English)


    Prof. Marko Torkkeli, Lappeenranta University of Technology

    “Open Innovation – new paradigm for business”  (in English)


     The address is:  Zona Space premises, Ligovsky av. 74, Saint Petersburg

  • 12 Nov

    Serendipity an important topic in Coworking Conference Paris, Karostech organized a workshop and participated actively

    Karostech’s Founder and Partner Ilkka Kakko was invited to Coworking Europe 2012 Conference as speaker and round table panelists. The conference gathered 280 participants from over 30 countries. Serendipity was overall one of the leading themes at the conference and it was especially elaborated in ”Harnessing serendipity” workshop organized and facilitated by Ilkka Kakko.

    Ilkka also contributed to the round table discussion devoted to the building supportive ecosystems around free-lancer communities. The topic belongs to the core competence areas of Karostech.

    Ilkka’s more detailed blog about the event can be found here.