Apparently (HBR) “Serendipity” has been voted one of the most popular words in the English language and it is also one of the hardest to translate.
How to make sense out of the fact that it had been more than ten years ago that I heard “Serendipity” for the first time, heard it again now and then, looked it up several times, but it never stuck with me?
“Knowledge = Information + Context”, the quality of a model is not its complexity, but it sense-making power. The word and its translation were only information, and as I was never able to create my context, I was also never able to transform it into knowledge.
Until I recently came across a wonderful and beautiful presentation and I finally could create context for my “Serendipity” (here you find the whole chocolate box with the presentation and a link collection to serendipity by @AnaDataGirl Ana Silva).
|Ana Silva presentation|
In order to share my knowledge with you, I need to start with reloading some of the Work Patterns model. The idea was to distinguish between three different work patterns: Working on own agenda; stay on top of things / learn; help / support others / share. In earlier post the emphasis was to motivate the shift from “working on own agenda” towards “help / support others / share”. In between a bit vague, a bit overlooked and underestimated was the “stay on top of things / learn / see the big picture” part. In the original model this part was not directly contributing to productivity, although I felt it was necessary somehow.
At that time I hadn’t chewed so hard on the why we have failed with activity-based KM KPIs, I very much thought, knolwedge is knowledge is knowledge, once it is created. However my knowledge might be only information for you – without context. We have failed with activity-based KM KPIs not because everyone cheated the system (say “buh” to the black sheep!), but I hadn’t fully seen through the fact that my knowledge is only knolwedge for others, if they can create / build / follow / understand the context. Thus we have often flooded the systems with our knowledge that in fact for others was only information. I cannot share knowledge, if I dug my head deep in the sand. I cannot share knowledge, if I don’t connect, if I don’t stay on top / learn / see the big picture. That is what I now see much clearer. I cannot share knowledge, if I don’t “contextualize” – if I don’t connect my context to the contexts of others. This is where serendipity is incredible instrumental. With serendipity my knowledge becomes knowledge for others. Seldom is our life so simple that you check the database and a copy-paste re-use solves your problem, but serendipity makes you see penicilin, where others see mould.
How do we facilitate serendipity? Open office concepts support socializing in the same way as Social Media support the mental open office. This is what Social Media means for the Corporate: Facilitated Serendipity.
Can I do without Social Media? – Sure you can. You can hang out the whole day around the coffee corner and die young from heart desease. It’s your choice.
ps: credits also to Luis Suarez @elsua (here, here) and Ross Dawson @rossdawson (here) for their work on Serendipity