celebrate anomalies



No matter how carefully planned and well-thought-of your actions are, something can always go “wrong” or merely surprise you. In many cases, such surprises don’t promote an immediate, predefined goal, but that does not mean they are not useful.

Any such anomaly, even the ones that appear to be failures, is an Experience. It is a detour from the main route to your destination. And just like side roads often reveal more beauty and surprising discoveries than the main roads, such anomalies can be the source of valuable raw material for future creative insights. When you celebrate these anomalies and see the beauty in them, your mind will register them as useful experiences and be more prepared to Observe, Wonder, Imagine, and Fuse.

Don’t expect every such detours to immediately trigger a creative idea (although they might). Acknowledging the potential of such “failures” is what turns them into Experiences. Seeing the unique traits in these events — what makes them different — is much more impactful than seeing them as merely undesired events or results.

actionable steps

When something happens not according to plan, take a break to celebrate and mindfully explore it. Record it in your Insight Journal.

Consider what led to it happened but also what makes it positively different.

Try to think of applications and positive implications of what you have just experienced, but don’t dismiss the Experience even if you can’t come up with any at the moment.

Share your discovery with people in different circles and contexts.


Example 1

The invention of the Post-It® notes was the result of a failed search for a super-strong glue. The super-weak (yet reusable) glue that Dr. Spencer Silver accidentally came up with was clearly an anomaly — an undesired result of his experiments. Dr. Silver didn’t come immediately up with the innovative application for it. It took him six years and numerous discussions with colleagues to come up with the idea for the Post-It notes (in collaboration with Arthur Fry). This journey was enabled by treating this obvious anomaly as an Experience and celebrating it instead of dismissing it as a failure.

further exploration

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