Waiting for serendipity? As JSK Fellows, we look for it

Being a JSK Fellow at Stanford is no ordinary experience. Your brain and physical boundaries are stretched to their maximum. 

Serendipity is an often-used word here. We are encouraged to take our inquiries and our passions out into the open. Finding serendipity is our aim, not just the unexpected prize of new discoveries. 

And I have fallen for it. 

In a pop-up workshop at Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, we explored how to make people move when you move? At “In the Heart of Social Movement,” diverse minds worked together to find some answers: What lies within the heart of a social movement? How can we become a social movement? How are we moved? How do we move others? What does it mean to be socially moving? Our challenge: How to stimulate social movement through a dance performance. 

Ten weeks of drawing classes with an artist-professor pushed me on issues of collaboration and multiple perspectives. More than just providing training in the techniques of art, the classes added to my possibilities for risk-taking: drafting bold ideas, tossing them, making them better, embracing mistakes, rethinking the concept, and starting again from scratch. 

Then there was the launch of an experimental class in the Anthropology Department, in which I participated. The Empathy Lab, where the leading professor has called upon many collaborators to develop new knowledge, was looking for new methodologies for social science research. For ways to get close to what looks different. To really see, smell, listen and touch the world around us. 

Another day, while attending a talk by Paula Moya, associate professor in the Department of English, I understood that all these experiences were also teaching me something else — I have been learning to look beyond. 

Moya showed us this video, in which you’re asked to follow the instructions. Did you notice the gorilla? I didn’t. What else might have we missed all these years? 

While learning about design thinking, art and anthropology, serendipity lead me to an unexpected new approach: to look at things differently. To search for collaboration with unimaginable partners. To think otherwise, write and read otherwise, bike otherwise, draw otherwise, work otherwise, talk to otherwise people. And it is marvelously unsettling. Are you ready?