Collaboration may happen by luck : how to provide valuable information without purpose

You must have already heard about serendipity, the effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate, especially while looking for something else entirely. This is the best way to gout out of the common path instead of recycling the same ideas again and again, which often leads to the same overused solutions. But in  order to find something by luck, someone should have made it available without knowing if it would be useful for anybody, and in which purpose, if not we stay in a classic system where people keep information for themselves or only give it to those they think need it. With two consequences : people we don’t know they woudl find the information useful are not informed and people we wrongly think they need it are flooded by unsolicited infomation.

This must make us remember that, when talking about information sharing, we must not have any a priori about addressees, knowing that what’s gold for someone may be mud for someone else and vice versa.

Let me explain this by the example, trough a situation I experienced myself last week.

For those who didn’t notice these few days of slow blogging I’m currently on vacation. My steps took be to Boston, which is by the way a very nice city. I decided to go off the coast to see whales. 4 hours later I was back at the hotel and published my pictures on Flickr.

Nothing special till then. I take pictures and put them onlines in order people who want to see them may see them (which also protects me from the traditonnal “hey ! show me your pictures” sessions when back home”).

You may now there are people who are trying to track whales, in order to know more about their lives, their behaviors…

Less than an our after having uploaded the pictures, I received a comment asking me to post them in a group dedicated to whales. I complied and then, people who have passion for whales start adding notes and tags to the photo, because they recognized and identified one of the whales I saw.  It had some value for them to know were the whale was and when. It helped them to track whales although my only purpose was to share my vacation pictures. I didn’t know those people and didn’t knom my pictures would have been of any use for anybody.

A last point : how did they found the pictures? Simply by tracking some relevant tags, which allow the to get relevant information without having to search for it. People who, like me, are allergic to email and undesired pushed information and would like a system that woudl allow relevant information to find them would appreciate.

In brief, by publishing an information that was supposed to interest no one but me, I helped people accomplishing their task. Without effort nor organization. For the only reason that the right tools were used by people who developped good (best ?) practices. And by letting others add notes and tags to my photos, I learned lot of things about this whale.

To be meditated if you have the impression that lack of information sharing and the fact it has to follow convoluted channels harms your organization’s performance.

For you information, this whale’s name is “Percussion”.

Whales off Boston (Percussion).

Tags: flickr , Information / Connaissances , mots clé , partage , serendipité

Head of Employee and Client Experience @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of Employee and Client Experience @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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