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The Art and Science of Creating Good Luck

by Christian Busch

Pub Date: June 9th, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-593-08602-5
Publisher: Riverhead

An exploration of how “we are all prone to coincidental encounters”—and how we can use them to our advantage.

A horrific car accident as an 18-year-old set Busch to thinking about good luck—or, as he calls it, serendipity, “the hidden force in the world, and it is present all around us, from the smallest day-to-day events to life-changing, and sometimes world-changing, breakthroughs.” Surely, surviving a wreck counts as good luck, and being open to good luck probably leads to more rather than less of it—as Louis Pasteur said, “chance favors only the prepared mind.” Busch delivers a narrative that is partly common-sensical but that too often veers off into pseudo-science, speculation, and New Age–y platitudes: “Things such as synchronicity—these meaningful coincidences in time—tend to happen when we put energy into the universe.” Those practical elements are squarely in the business/self-help tradition, and while there’s not much surprising about them, it’s useful to be reminded: Reframe a problem as an opportunity, and you’re likely to come up with something interesting. Surround yourself with interesting people, diverse but not so diverse as to be diffuse. Build networks and be active in doing good things for their members; “nobody appreciates being in your address book just because of what they can do for you.” The author is adept at analyzing specific events and institutions to help drive home his points. For example, he studies the physical layout of Burning Man to deduce that its closely spaced public places foster meetings while filling their centers with art provides an opportunity for people admiring the same piece to interact. After all, plenty of things happen as a result of chance encounters. Even so, readers interested in luck and accident would do just as well to read Arthur Koestler’s 1972 book The Roots of Coincidence.

A mixed bag, but it contains solid contributions to the literature of creativity and organizational change.