Jargon Watch: Serendipity

Serendipity/Promo image

It's not just for John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale any more; It's for everyone. Greg Lindsay writes in the New York Times about the new design jargon:

When Yahoo banned its employees from working from home in February, the reasons it gave had less to do with productivity than serendipity. “Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings.”

Lindsay chalks it up to Serendipity.

Silicon Valley is obsessed with serendipity, the reigning buzzword at last month’s South by Southwest Interactive Festival. The term, coined by the British aristocrat Horace Walpole in a 1754 letter, long referred to a fortunate accidental discovery. Today serendipity is regarded as close kin to creativity — the mysterious means by which new ideas enter the world. But are hallway collisions really the best way to stoke innovation?

Sure, Lindsay says. Research proves it.

Almost 40 years ago, Thomas J. Allen, a professor of management and engineering at M.I.T., found that colleagues who are out of sight are frequently out of mind — we are four times as likely to communicate regularly with someone sitting six feet away from us as we are with someone 60 feet away, and almost never with colleagues in separate buildings or floors.

No mention that 40 years ago, all we had was the telephone and the Telex machine other than our feet if we wanted to communicate. More in the New York Times

Tags: Work

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