The Role Of Luck In Life And Projects


In a previous post on profiles of exceptionally successful entrepreneurs I mentioned the possible role that luck might have played in their careers and whether this aspect could be better understood.

There are many views and preconceptions on luck and it’s impact eg you often hear, that project succeeded mainly through luck!

We also know from our personal lives that some people are passive and reactive – ‘if it happens it happens’ – whilst others are proactive and try to make their own luck, even sometimes going for long periods without any stunning or inspirational success.

Prof Richard Wiseman has made a study of luck and some headline conclusions are on his ‘luck’ website and there are further details in his book ‘The Luck Factor’ which came out over 5 years ago.

The main claim is that you can actually create a luckier life by following his ‘Luck Principles’!

The first two principles are (with my own comments):

A. Maximise your chance opportunities
This is helped considerably by having a relaxed and open approach to life. One possible approach to this is to say ‘yes’ to most opportunities and then use your gut instinct rather than your logical mind to judge whether it is worth keeping the opportunity going.

B. Listen to your lucky hunches
My biggest successes in academic research were always based on hunches that I followed even though they were niche activities at the time. That was the good part.

However, looking back, a mistake I made was not giving them up when their potential had been more-or-less realised. I should have been more open to competing opportunities! So following your hunches should be never-ending even if things seem to be going really well in any one area.

These two principles are usually easy to convince people of.

The second two principles are not so obvious:

C. Expect good fortune
This is an attitude of mind so not so easy to just adopt!

D. Turn your bad luck to good
Basically this means seeing the positive in any situation and learning constructively from events. This is linked to the whole topic of ‘lessons learnt’ which is a key theme of this blog. This is also, at least to an extent, an attitude of mind.

It’s interesting to speculate on whether this analysis of luck for individuals might apply to project teams as well. Clearly the individual luck of team members is potentially inherited by the project but you also have to get the commitment of the team as a whole to optimally progress any lucky opportunity that arises.

Revisiting these principles in a project context:

1. Be More Aware Of Project Opportunities
In projects there is usually great emphasis on identifying and managing risks and probably to a much lesser extent opportunities. Either way, the team should be proactive and open-minded to chance opportunities and even expect them!

2. Make Space For Hunches
Projects have a lot of logic hardwired into them – plans, schedules, milestones, deliverables and so on. There’s not always a lot of room for benefiting from intuitive hunches so a special place needs to be made in the project framework for this.

3. Expect Project Good Fortune
Acknowledge that you should expect good things to come your way no matter what the starting conditions and resources available and you need to be able to capitalise on this. Having an unduly negative attitude will make this very hard to achieve.

4. Quickly Learn Lessons
Often lessons are not even adequately captured let alone learnt (during or) at the end of projects. This is a major wasted opportunity and should be viewed as such.

In fact it could be helpful to discuss the role of luck and how it can be better changed in project reviews to put a lively and creative flavour on a topic that can sometimes become a little stagnant.

I know this might come over as quite fanciful and airy-fairy, especially when read in conjunction with the recent daunting ‘lessons learnt’ posts here and here but then again maybe not!

What do you think?

Picture credit here.


2 Responses to The Role Of Luck In Life And Projects

  1. […] in the light of my previous luck and attitude/approach posts, it’s interesting to revisit the well-known stories: Gates’ […]

  2. aisha says:

    i like this article, actually i have a presentation for a “public relation ” course and i chose luck as a subject !!

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