Mining innovation

November 20, 2006

When I’m prospecting for innovations in learning, I look outside the discipline rather than within. My colleagues have already mined most of the nuggets in the field of learning. The odds are slim that I’ll unearth a major new concept in a field so well picked over.

I’m more likely to discover powerful insights in other fields, for example psychology or political science. Looking wider is more productive than looking deeper. Rather than start at the center of the learning field, I search for new ideas at the extremes, the boundaries where learning rubs up against other disciplines.

By my definition, informal learning encompasses such things as stress reduction, visualization, mirror neurons, and the flow of conversation, not the usual fare at your local ASTD meeting.

Serendipity is the happy accident of discovering something when you were looking for something else. The “looking for something else” is important because that’s what keeps you alert for the unexpected. Serendiptidy led me to think about unconferences, mindfulness, and the impact of interruptions on memory as opportunities for informal learning.

This morning’s email contained an invitation to visit Buzzfeed.

We automatically detect new buzz by crawling 50,000 of the very best web sites, blogs, and news sources. Then our technology crunches the raw data from these sites to identify new buzz that’s just starting to spread. We developed the technology to find new things just when they start accelerating in popularity and provoking interesting conversations.

In other words, Buzzfeed offers new ground to explore. Stumble! performs a similar function, coming up with web stuff suggested by others who like what you like. (Remember when collective filtering was all the rage? This is it.)

Where do you find innovation? Outside of your comfort zone.

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aggregator blinders

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