How did the concept come about?
Wok + Wine was the prototype that took off. I’d been interested in the connection between food and networking, and had tried other types of events prior. For this one, that we only served one type of food and one type of wine came from necessity, but we learned that was our strength. We removed the element of choice, and it gave people the chance to have an uncluttered mind. I call this avoiding ‘The Curse of the Canape’.”
What did you learn from creating Wok + Wine?
That was an example of understanding what the ultimate desired outcome you are designing for, and using everything you can to help achieve that outcome. In this case, it was to create a memorable and well-designed networking event. Attendees found the lack of food choices to be refreshing and liberating, as was having to physically crack open the shrimp with your hands. When everyone is on the same boat it increases connections for having done something together. The closer you can get people to the edge of their comfort zones, the bigger that bond becomes.
What attracted you to this concept?
Serendipity on a whole is quite a challenging topic, but a necessary one. I am inspired from evolutionary biology to Robert Dunbar, who caps the sustainable number of intimate connections to 150. From there, we go into loads of other social network theories. A component of building the Wok + Wine experience was to increase the likelihood of serendipitous connections being made. This was also helped by bringing together people you thought you were looking for, and from all kinds of backgrounds.
So, you were able to design for serendipity?
Absolutely. A shared experience is something that brings us closer together, and those are the conditions for serendipitous occasions. When you design the surrounding environments for that opportunity to arise, you create greater chances for it to happen. In the tech world, we can design for these encounters where all software is based on code – unless you introduce some degree of randomness, as soon as you start designing for a specific moment of serendipity, you lose it.
Serendipity is tricky. The closer you get to trying to describe and define it in a formulaic and forced way, the less likely it is to be magical.