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Where is my Serendipity Engine?
Working from home, we lose serendipity. The happy accidents arriving from meeting people you don’t really choose to meet is hard to…
Working from home, we lose serendipity. The happy accidents arriving from meeting people you don’t really choose to meet is hard to recreate working through the digital interfaces that pandemic practices have referred us to. At best, distance-work is focused and task oriented. You interact when you have information to transmit or want someone to act. In organisations new to distance work, the random stuff is diminished. The silly. The jokes. The unexpected encounters and introductions. In the long run, this will hurt innovation and hurt our souls, profoundly.
Machine learning has provided us with recommendation algorithms, some of which (think Amazon, Netflix) are making billions in revenue for their owners. But recommendations as we know them are not enough for us to think new thoughts and experience epiphany.
Why is it that I don’t know there to be an application to plug into an organisation to make more serendipity happen? It is not hard to see that machine learning could be applied to surface random recommendations of people in my network organisation that I should have a casual video coffee with? Or, tell me about a book I should read. Or a community to join. Optimised towards inspirations and innovative thinking for me and my colleagues, not towards some social media platform’s dubious goals.
For leaders, there are many things to do to mitigate the serendipity deficit during the Covid-19 outbreak. Create chat channels for silly jokes. Make time slots available for agenda free video hang outs. The task oriented dream may well be an innovation hell as the pandemic goes on.
Leadership aside, this serendipity hard problem ought to be attacked with scientific and engineering rigour, using the state of the art in machine learning to create technology to integrate with Slack, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams so that we can plug in some serendipity to our pandemicly affected organisations.
Where is my serendipity engine? If it exists, let me know, I’ll buy a license. If you want to create it, reach out and I’ll share my research on the taxonomy of serendipity from Robert Merton’s pivotal work onwards. I’ll even invest.