Serendipitous Conversations

Last week I was waiting at the station for a train to make a trip to a nearby town. For a change I decided not to take the car. Whilst waiting, a gregarious Glaswegian starting chatting to a man and a woman standing nearby. They ended up talking enthusiastically about the music scene in Glasgow in the 80s. He used to play in a band and so knew lots of musicians and she, by chance, was a journalist who also had lots of music connections. As I’d lived in Glasgow for three years I decided to join in the discussion too. A very friendly, relaxed and enjoyable conversation then took place revealing lots of unexpected connections (illustrating in part the famous six degrees of separation).

I shared part of my journey with the journalist and her father and found she worked for the Los Angeles Times and was visiting the UK. In turn he was Irish and I’d lived in Dublin for three years so there was an enjoyable chat about that too. There were lots of other links. Emails were exchanged and will presumably be followed up.

All this was pure serendipity and it made me wonder why more of this doesn’t go on, particularly as it’s obvious there are connections everywhere (they normally just remain hidden). Thinking about this one specific occasion, the conversation ingredients were:

  • Speaking up, participating or initiating
  • Finding an exciting and perhaps unusual topic to generate interest
  • Letting conversations go anywhere (there will be rabbit holes of course, you can always double back)
  • Keeping the atmosphere light and friendly, with no one trying to impress or dominate
  • Allowing people to open up in the ways they like best
  • Developing an atmosphere of ‘play’

What about the physical circumstances?

A small group of people all waiting, near to each other and with nothing much else to do, open to relieve (perhaps) some boredom.

None of this seems special.

It’s a perennial topic of how you can stimulate similar sparky conversations in the (more formal) workplace to encourage innovation and creativity. We can all do it easily out of the workplace. So maybe we need to create sub-environments in the workplace as a sort of halfway house? I mean more than the standard internal coffee bars or similar which can sometimes seem a little forced.

Any thoughts or details of attempts in this direction?

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s