Wonder practice #3: Look for surprise

Few people go looking for surprise, but when you do, it produces surprising and relevant results. When Procter & Gamble took a fresh look at a long-time product, Pampers, they found an unappreciated contribution: babies slept more quickly and more soundly in Pampers than in cloth diapers. That surprise led to a whole new reason to buy an already-developed product, and sales soared. What surprises lie hidden around you? Try these kinds of surprise research to find out.
A network of relationship: Who wins when we win?

Find a few people in your organization who are interested in revealing surprising, underappreciated relationships. Think of a big, recent success relative to your work–one you would love to clone. Then do the following activity:

  • On a large space (e.g., whiteboard) write the names of clients and colleagues who were core to the effort.
  • For twenty minutes, ask and answer, “Who benefited from our success?”
  • Write the new names on the board and draw lines to show how they are connected to others on the board. Who could benefit from our success but hasn’t yet?
  • What surprises you? What are the implications? What actions are you eager to take?
A surprise survey: What surprised you recently?

Host a week-long research project. Get ready to capture surprises in whatever way is easiest for you (e.g., tablet, journal, smartphone, recording app, etc.).

Every day, ask five different people, “What surprised you recently?”

  • Note their answers.
  • Note any moments when you are surprised by their answers.
  • Note any other surprises you experience that week.
  • At the end of the week, review your journal of surprise. What did you learn? What insights were there? New possibilities? Do you have any actions to take?