Skip main navigation

Introduction: Opportunities

How do you make or find opportunities, and what do you do with them once you have? This video is about luck: can luck be developed?
In the first week of the course we set out the historic picture of how innovation has happened: how individuals have unleashed their ideas on the world. In the second week we provided you with a range of tools and processes for understanding and tackling problems of all shapes and sizes. But one of the lessons of innovation is that it is rarely a linear process straight from identifying a problem to finding an impactful and feasible solution. Chance, luck and accidents also play a role. There is a case for suggesting breakthrough inventions like Penicillin, Velcro and the X-ray were all accidents and chance events. Take for example Percy Spencer, an engineer at Raytheon after serving during World War I in the Navy.
In 1945, Spencer was experimenting with the microwave-emitting magnetron, an element of radar arrays, when he felt a strange melting sensation in his trousers. Spencer paused and found that a chocolate bar in his pocket had started to melt. Figuring that the particular radiation of the magnetron was to blame, Spencer immediately set out to realise the potential of what would become the microwave oven. However, there is also a pattern to this accidental innovation. There are ways to engineer luck so that you can increase the odds that you spot the breakthrough ideas.
These include connecting up slow hunches, increasing your networks to find the spare parts that transform your half idea into a whole innovation and learning how, counter-intuitively maybe, failure is critical to success. This week we’ll talk about how to create or participate in environments that radically accelerate innovation. We’ll also share some habits for enhancing serendipity. Not all innovation is about new products and services. Some of it is about finding new ways to access existing products. I mean, Amazon didn’t invent most of the things it sells, it just provides access to them. Likewise, some of the most impactful inventions are about bringing existing technologies to new audiences.
For example, mobile phone technology in the developing world has allowed financial processes to sidestep many of the methods of delivering financial systems and infrastructure that have developed over decades in the developed world. We’ll look at different forms and approaches to innovation and a method for finding new possibilities within everyday objects; new opportunities for innovation. We’ll also look to base emerging trends and emerging technologies as inspiration for what life in the future might look like. What will future problems and opportunities offer us as provocation to innovate? You’ll get to add to your personal museum of curiosity with some ideas about the future that inspire you. Then we’ll look at what you do next.
How do you start to filter down all these divergent ideas into a set that might actually be feasible or viable? How do you converge, back down from these possibilities into something you can test and act on?

So far we have been thinking about more structured approaches to innovation. But, although you can plan and structure innovative processes, sometimes the process of innovation can look more haphazard.

How do you make or find opportunities, and what do you do with them once you have?

This week, we’ll think about luck:

  • Can luck be developed?
  • What do you do when an initial idea appears?

Innovation can occur both when you have a specific problem to act on, ‘deliberate innovation’, and through the exploration of multiple ideas that might lead to a ‘lucky’ find or idea, ‘serendipitous innovation’.

This week, we’ll think about how you can increase your chances of creating successful serendipitous innovation through looking into the future and assessing your own ideas.

This article is from the free online

Unleash Your Potential: Innovation and Enterprise

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education