Supporting Serendipity

“Be there when the spark happens and catch it before it burns out. Try to help with getting people the time and space they need to explore, connect, and reflect. Figure out ways to reward it: we don’t always show that we value the divergent. We can’t create or plan for serendipity. We can’t schedule accidents. But we can work to help create an environment in which opportunities can serendipitously occur.”                                                                                -Jane Bozarth

Have you ever embarked on one learning path just to end up somewhere entirely different?  Where formal learning is usually planned, informal learning depends on people sharing ideas and collaborating with each other, whether on or off the job and it is through these actions that the actual learning occurs.

The majority of how we do our jobs comes from informal learning.  Formal training only accounts for a small portion of how we learn our jobs.  Workshops and trainings can demonstrate the base knowledge needed to perform certain job tasks, but not until you are in the thick of things–making mistakes, observing others–can you figure out how things really work on the job.

Author, eLearning coordinator, and proponent of Social Media for learning, Jane Bozarth writes a monthly column, Nuts and Bolts for Learning Solutions Magazine and often talks about the unplanned, impromptu, and flat out serendipitous way we learn when we are not actually in a classroom.  In this monthly article, Causing Serendipity,  she discusses how many individuals struggle with this concept of serendipitous learning because our minds are programmed to think in terms of formal learning and acquiring knowledge through planned efforts in workshops or trainings, not the spontaneous discovery that can happen by simply observing or talking with a colleague.

While we cannot plan serendipitous learning, Jane maintains we can give people the “time and space they need to explore, reflect, and connect”.

Can you think of a time when you ended up discovering something important by accident? Can you give an example of serendipitous learning you may have experienced?

Have a good afternoon,

Diana Good

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