How intentional serendipity can shape creativity and artistic vision

The importance of serendipitous moments, the way they spark ideas and how to invite more of them into your life.

readymag blog_How intentional serendipity can shape creativity and artistic vision

Rarely do our best ideas find us when we want them to: when we’re sitting in front of a screen willing them into existence. Instead, moments of inspiration tend to hit when we least expect them: in the shower, when we’re out for a walk or during a chance conversation with a stranger.

Equally, our best work rarely comes from a single source of inspiration. While an ‘I’ve got it’ moment may feel like a sudden realization, it’s actually the product of many tiny thoughts and ideas coming together—all shaped by our experiences, the people we’ve met and the conversations we’ve had.

It’s these moments of serendipity, finding interesting or valuable things by complete chance, that have led to groundbreaking innovation. Yet for some reason, as modern creatives, we spend a lot of time sitting in front of our computers, and seldom give ourselves time for those moments of serendipity to occur. Modern life is often so busy, organized, efficient, and planned. But could modern life be costing us our creativity?

Author: Katherine Heath from the communications team at The Breakfast app, a global community of creative professionals, leaders, makers, and other open-minded individuals to meet and talk over breakfast.

Digital connection and the age of average

Our working environment has changed considerably since the invention of modern technology, and even more so since the pandemic—in 2020, 58% of customer interactions were digital. Working from home, coupled with the fact that we can do everything from ordering groceries to dating on our phones, has made it easy to get stuck in our routines, and indeed, our echo chambers. These echo chambers have led to what some call The Age of Average, a term coined by Alex Murrell, and a concept that’s become a lot more noticeable in recent years.

Technology has made connecting with others and finding inspiration easier than ever before, which has its advantages, but with the rise of technology such as social media has come an epidemic of average. This has led to a lot of frustration for creatives—frustration with our work and the apparent lack of original ideas.

Social media is brimming with inspirational content, yet a lot of the time we forget that we’re only seeing the end result. We catch a glimpse into the lives of other creatives, but we mostly see their achievements, not their struggles, frustrations, or the work it took them to get there.

The benefits of inviting serendipity into our lives

For creatives, comparison and striving for perfection are dangerous habits—we’re all well aware of this, but that doesn’t make these habits any easier to avoid. Scarily accurate algorithms only add to the turmoil, curating what we see so acutely that our chances of discovering new concepts and perspectives become almost nonexistent. Sadly, it becomes nearly impossible to connect with those who see the world differently, those we have little in common with but could learn a lot from. Digital connection can narrow our perspective, limiting our creativity.

Indulging in our echo chambers and spending time with those who reflect our own values and beliefs is comfortable, but doesn’t push us creatively. We need to spend more time doing things that expand our thinking, more time with those who challenge us and conversing with those who can spark ideas in unlikely ways.

Creativity doesn’t come from looking at the same thing over and over again; it comes from an openness to experiencing new things. Steve Jobs famously attended typography classes, which he cited as being instrumental to his design work at Apple.

How to intentionally invite more serendipity into your life

There’s no need to make yourself really uncomfortable or do things that are way beyond your limits (unless you’re feeling up to it). Taking a few simple steps can make a huge difference. Here are a few things you can try.

Explore unlikely interests. Joining a new sports group or volunteering for a local charity are both great ways to meet new people who are different from those you hang out with regularly. You could even try learning a language through evening classes or carving stones (why not?).

Venture further afield. Explore different places, whether it's a new neighborhood, city or even country. You can do this on your own or with someone else, but make sure you’re inviting moments of newness in rather than sticking to what you know, no matter where you are.

Say yes to things you’re unsure about. That event a colleague suggested might be fun, or the last-minute trip to Berlin a friend invited you to—if you can, say yes to things you might not normally consider.

Seek novelty. Read books, watch documentaries, or explore areas that are outside your usual interests. Choose new channels or ask for recommendations from someone you wouldn’t normally ask.

Engage in more real-life conversations with strangers. This is a big one. Real-life conversations with others, especially those who aren’t necessarily like us, give us new perspectives on life and the world around us. If we’re constantly hearing the same ideas, we end up unaware of the opposing narrative, which might hold the answer to one of our many unsolved problems. 

But meeting people randomly can be hard these days, when everything has an agenda and we’re either dating or networking instead of just talking for the sake of talking. One way to do this is by downloading The Breakfast app.

What The Breakfast app is

It became clear to founders Eteri and Lisa that if, as creatives, they want to thrive, not just survive, they had to start nurturing real human connection and meeting new people on a regular basis, without an agenda. So they started The Breakfast, the app that allows you to meet new people over breakfast. Not dating. Not networking. Just breakfast. This is what we call intentional serendipity. It means leaving space for the unexpected to occur, putting ourselves in situations where unlikely conversations can lead to a change of heart—or our next big idea.

Every introduction on the app is called a “chance”—a chance for a genuine in-person interaction. It’s these chance conversations that can move the world forward, igniting wonderful ideas that may never have occurred had we not intentionally put ourselves out there.

image: the breakfast app
image: join the breakfast with the readymag invite promo code

Join The Breakfast using this special invite code for the Readymag community—RDMG—and get 20% off a membership for your first month or year. The Breakfast app has  launched in 13 cities: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Kyiv, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Lviv, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Tbilisi, and Warsaw. New locations are being added regularly, so keep an eye on their Instagram for new launches.

Creativity is all about connecting the dots, but first you have to collect the dots. And collecting the dots is a lifelong practice—you never know what will spark your imagination and inspire you to create something great, so collect it all.