What is serendipitous learning and how might it this type of learning be stimulated through the use of social media? Definition from wikipedia: Serendipity is finding something unexpected and useful while searching for something else. The word was introduced in English by Horace Walpole in the 18th century, in a letter talking about a story he read: the three princes of Serendip. In that context serendipity is associated with the capability to draw conclusions from apparent coincidences. In other words: smart, prepared people are better capable of making discoveries based on coincidental circumstances. The discovery of both penicilline and the post-it notes are known examples of discoveries by serendipity.
Post-its are an example of serendipity (accidental discoveries): the glue from the post-its was already discovered by researcher Dr. Spence Silver, small sticky bullets. Because there is only a small proportion of the bullets in contact with the surface, this provides a layer which sticks but is easy to remove too. The intention of Dr. Silver, however, was to make a very strong glue. Hence the practical application of this glue was not immediately apparent. The real invention was by Art Fry. The story goes that Fry was frustrated about the bookmarks that kept falling from his book. In a moment of Eureka he thought of using Silver's glue to make a solid bookmark which is easy to remove. Source: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-itA good illustration of the fact that serendipity is not about finding weird and unexpected information but is about making the connections, finding applications without the context of your own work. Social media is excellent for stimulating serendipity, not only at the level of new inventions, but also at the leven of finding creative solutions for problems in your own work. Jane Hart has written extensively about these possibilities and calls these workers using social media: 'the smart worker'. Click on the following links if you want to know more:
In addition to working smarter I would also like to emphasize the creativity aspect. Social media offers many new connections, but the art is making the connection to your own situation and coming up with new solutions to old problems. For instance, you can stimulate serendipity by looking across various disciplines. Social media can play a large role is this. Here's an example of spaziale, space where Naomi den Besten is blogging about the connections between process and spatial design . Below you find an interesting TedTalk from Joris Luyendijk (thanks Josien!) talking about 'share your learning curve'. Share your learning proces (for instance via a blog), start from zero and be curious. By sharing it, you create new avenues for unexpected connections.
Would you like to work with the concepts of the smart worker or serendipitous learning in your organisation? Then you should definitely read Jane Hart's blogpost: 10 steps for working smarter with social media, helping you with steps to take in an organisation.
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