Serendipity and the World Wide Web

Serendipity. There’s not much more to it than allowing ideas room to run around and collide by chance. Take a shower and let your mind wander, or find a way to interact with new people professionally.

In addition to these things, Johnson makes an interesting point about the web. As he puts it, the web is both amazing and terrible for serendipity. Here’s how.

Amazing. The web is amazing for serendipity. Nowhere else in the history of the world have there been so many ideas available to you. You can literally “bump into” nearly any idea from your couch. What a mind-blowing invention.

Terrible. In one word: filters. There is so much noise online that we mainly have to interact with the web using targeted search and filters. More often than not, we’re seeking information on a targeted subject, or we’re browsing a site we typically like to browse. The web can actually make people more entrenched in their ideas rather than more open-minded, because there is always someone out there who will confirm your pre-conceived notions (see confirmation bias).

What’s the bottom-line of all of this and what does it have to do with product development? I don’t have a great answer for that. The main point of this post is to share Johnson’s point that the web can be both good and bad for serendipity. It’s interesting shit. I guess hopefully you now understand serendipity a little better and can apply it in your world more effectively.

But before we move to the next chapter, one last post on serendipity…