11/24/2014 12:42 EST | Updated 01/24/2015 05:59 EST

What I Learned This Week: Make Accidents Happen



"Oh I just don't know where to begin..." sang Elvis Costello in his 1979 (somewhat) hit song Accidents Will Happen.

But I DO know where to begin, and that's on the wall between the door and the massive window of my new office installation at Just For Laughs.

To put this into context, I recently moved into a bigger workspace meant to accommodate a young team developing a new project I am investing in. In doing so, I had to shift more than 50 pieces of art from my old quarters to this one.

It's upon the aforementioned strip of wall space I decided to hang a triptych of unique paintings based on the word ego. Working with the building manager, we painstakingly measured the wall, then the paintings, the amount of space we wanted within each one, and positioned them perfectly equidistant from each other; parallel, perfectly level and dead centre between floor to ceiling and doorframe to window frame.

Upon leaving my office that first night, I overestimated the weight of my new office door and kinda slammed it. Since I heard no sounds of destruction from the other side, I went on my merry way.


The next morning, I realized that the door slam wasn't as harmless as I thought it was, as each of the paintings slid off its centre point, and ended up supporting one another as they tilted almost 45 degrees.

The end result, shown in the photo above, is WAY more interesting than the original positioning...but one I would've NEVER come up with on my own. It now catches eyes and instigates commentary from whoever walks into my office.

Getting back to the Costello tune from his Armed Forces album, accidents will INDEED happen. What's more, accidents are the impetus for so much creativity, for so many discoveries, that they should not merely be welcomed...they should be sought out.

So the learning of the week twists the title of this post's soundtrack tune.

Nevermind "Accidents Will Happen."

To increase your breakthroughs, Will Accidents TO Happen.

SO many of the world's great innovations and inventions were the result of accidents. From the discoveries of America (Columbus was off course, looking for a quicker passage to India) and of penicillin, to the less earth-shattering but equally fascinating origins of Teflon, Silly Putty and Post-It Notes, accidents have played a crucial role in driving mankind's progress.

It's easy to wait for them to happen, but that's not the lesson of this post. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, you have to generate your own accidents to build a more exciting, innovative and sustainable future.

How to do it? There's no 1000 per cent set answer, but these tactics work for me:

  • Change your route. Whether you walk, drive or take public transport, change the direction to get to your destination. If you can't, then change the time you leave.
  • Talk to strangers. I wrote a whole post about the benefits of this a while back.
  • Ask a beginner to help you do something you've done a thousand times. Or attempt once to do something you've never done, whether it's zip-lining or putting together IKEA furniture. Be completely out of your league.
  • Read, watch or listen to something you never have.
  • Eat at a new restaurant in an obscure neighborhood.
  • Wear something completely out of character. Or don't wear something you are renowned for.
  • Wear virgin contact lenses, i.e. see common things as if this is the first time you've laid eyes on them.

I could go on, but it would defeat the purpose, namely giving you a plan to take advantage of the unplanned.

Suffice to say that the best way to find your way here is to get lost.

And if all else fails, you could always retreat to your office, put on Elvis Costello's Armed Forces album...

And slam the door!