Coincident Isn`t The
Coincidence You Thought It Was

Coincidence has different meaning depending on the context of its usage. To tell a mathematician that two points on a plane coincide is a simple matter of fact – both points represent the same place on the plane. No big deal. Should you and I meet at a coffee shop and through conversation discover we were both born on the same day (the same point in time), our eyes might light up and one of us would likely say, “What a coincidence we were both born on July 26!”

In that regard, coincidence is often used to note the perceived unlikeliness of a relationship. From the root word coincide (co meaning “together” and incidere meaning “to fall upon”), two very different meanings derive in practice, the use of coincidence being somewhat idiomatic:
     Coincident: the fact of sameness.
     Coincidence: the chance of sameness.

Coincidences – that is, where things coincide – are often outliers, where opportunity often lies. To be successful in the stock market is to determine causal factors and act on them: maybe the desirability of a certain product in the market place coinciding with a superlative company product offering, or a macroeconomic shift having an undesirable impact on a certain industry. What is coincident to one person may be coincidence to another.

Let’s take a closer look at the area of overlap. In the diagram below, coincident relationships are shown toward the center of the overlapping dimensions. In other words, those are the obvious relationships as their overlap is deep and evident. Coincidence is toward the outer boundary of overlap, where correlation is less obvious. To this point I’ve noted that we often use coincidence in the vernacular of chance. In this diagram, I don’t mean to say that all correlations have causal relationship, but rather as we move away from the center there are less evident yet invaluable relationships between dimensions.

A second form of coincidence lies in a new relationship which was not originally thought to be related. In this case someone discovers a new contributing factor influencing an outcome or behavior. Whereas in the first case of seeing coincidence in the periphery of relationship, discovering new relationships requires out-of-the-box thinking and observation.
In both of these cases, coincidence is often described in the realm of “sixth sense” – we can’t easily put it in words, but our senses, memory and thinking processes make connections which we perceive. While I wouldn’t suggest acting on every intuition, being in tune with these feelings and pursuing them is worthwhile. The current master of coincidence certainly must be Malcolm Gladwell. In his recent book, Outliers, he tells us of an Italian community of Roseto in Pennsylvania which defied classic medical and scientific expectations. Heart disease was non-existent in the community. In spite of research in diet, work stress and other medical factors, nothing seem out of the ordinary. I won’t provide the reason (in case you’ve not read the book), but Gladwell provides story after story of coincidence.

In the workplace, the ability to see coincident relationships has a profound impact on one’s ability to communicate and act effectively. This blog is about the coincidences I observe, act on and articulate when working with others. Mind you, not in the vernacular of chance but rather in the deeper principle relationships that can be all too easy to overlook. Many of these are a sixth sense for me. In writing them here over time, I hope to mute the voices a bit and hopefully provide some insights which may prove valuable to you.

Oh and for the questions set out at the onset, we’ll get to those in the coming entries.

He deals the cards to find the answer
The sacred geometry of chance
The hidden law of probable outcome
The numbers lead a dance

Sting – Shape of My Heart, “Ten Summoner’s Tales”

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