Back to the F**kture: Dr. Christian Busch

sector - media & technology
sector - youth
type - podcast
In the fifth episode of season two of our Back to the F**kture podcast, Martin Raymond speaks with innovation-seeker and author of The Serendipity Mindset, Dr. Christian Busch, about the importance of embracing an open and curious outlook


We’ve all probably considered it – that question about who would come to our funeral if we were to die. But few of us have founded a career on it, or for that matter, written a book about it, as Dr. Christian Busch has done.

But for him, the question, or rather questions, that arise from such ponderings are really about those bigger, more profound ones that relate to purpose, focus, intention and legacy – that big L that everybody from CEOs to politicians to billionaire entrepreneurs are currently and increasingly ruminating on.

In my podcast, and his books – Connect the Dots; The Serendipity Mindset: The Art and Science of Creating Good Luck – he comes up with some equally profound answers, all of which hinge on how we define luck, or serendipity as he prefers to see it, and more relevantly, how we proactively harness this commodity that some of us supposedly have in abundance, while others seem to lack, evade or resignedly announce never happens to them.

As Busch explains, however, luck happens to everybody; it’s just that some of us are more adept at harnessing it than others. The trick is to be prepared for it, and to ensure that you cultivate an open, curious and flexible mindset that is always willing to look at the unexpected in terms of opportunities rather than challenges. ‘This makes the unexpected more likely to be harvested – not necessarily because it happens more often but because we start seeing serendipity once we start expecting to see it.’

Here he cites the innovation team at Chinese white goods brand Haier as an example of how listening to the unexpected in a non-judgemental way has paid dividends. Their team, he says, kept getting calls from customers about how bad their washing machines were. Many of the people complaining were located in the countryside, and when Haier investigated this further, they all turned out to be farmers, all of whom were using their washing machines to clean dirt from freshly picked potatoes. But rather than flag the fact that they were mis-using the machines, he says, ‘the Haier team adapted a new range with dirt filters and sold them on to now very happy farmers as vegetable washing and drying machines’.

Published by:

13 October 2022

Author: Martin Raymond and Dr. Christian Busch



Some 30–50% of major scientific breakthroughs, says Busch, who also teaches innovation and leadership at New York University where he is the director of the CGA Global Economy Program, ‘emerge as a result of such accidents, or co-incidences; one chemical spills into another, cells combine in dirty petri dishes, or there is a chance encounter between experts whose incidental conversations spark new insights. The greatest opportunities, for individuals and organisations alike, are often a matter of serendipity.’

But opportunity, or serendipity as he sees it, doesn’t knock – you must knock on it. And because this knocking – physical, societal, cultural or situational – is a probabilities and numbers game, the more open we are and the more knocking we do, the more we place ourselves in the pathway of those accidents, coincidences and unexpected happenings that contain within them these hidden opportunities. It is, as he says, all about connecting the dots (as I also explain in my Strategic Networking Masterclass Series). But we still have to learn and cultivate those skills that allow us to connect the said dots in the first place: skills that teach us to be more actively open and aware; thought processes that show us how to reframe challenges as opportunities; and life skills that show us how and why we should take a less structured, more chance-friendly approach to making decisions or creating those five-year plans about tomorrow. ‘Recent research in management, library science, neuroscience and psychology has shown that overly structured goals limit serendipity while aspirational goals make serendipity more likely.’

Removing chance, he says, can also remove our ability to think laterally or more creatively about a problem. ‘For example, a focus on ‘food shortage’ or ‘food scarcity’ can lead development efforts to over-focus on one-sided design on food, while it should actually be focusing more broadly on nutrition.’

Finally, as he puts it, it’s important to see serendipity not as randomness but as a quality or a process in which we can be actively involved. ‘It’s the kind of thing that happens all the time. We might not recognise it as serendipity, but it has all the key characteristics: a chance event appears in our lives, we notice it, pay attention to it and link it to an unrelated fact that we’re also aware of. We connect the two and then follow through with a bit of determination, leading to a solution to a problem that often we didn’t know we had.’

You can listen to Christian and my Back to the F**kture podcast below, or find out more about Christian and his work here.

Tune in to the podcast on Audioboom, Spotify, Apple.