Second-hand serendipity?

Doing research on serendipity enables me to reflect more than I would have done otherwise on experiences that I’d class as serendipity. Preparing for a recent workshop, I realised that it was a serendipitous encounter that led to all our work on serendipity, and transformed the careers of at least two members of my research team…

DSVIS 2004 was held at Tremsbuttel Castle in Germany. People from Lexis Nexis UK participated (i.e. the company paid for them to get out of the office and attend an academic conference that was frankly quite tangential to their core business).

Over a beer, I mentioned that one of my post-docs had done his PhD on journalists’ information seeking, and that Nexis had been an important product for them. The findings about how journalists used information (and particularly Nexis) was interesting to them, so they commissioned us to run a workshop for their staff on journalists’ information seeking. This was followed by further consultancy projects on lawyers’ information seeking, and collaboration on a research project on “making sense of information” (MaSI).

These projects led to new Lexis Nexis products that are still going from strength to strength. All because Lexis Nexis supported their staff to go to a workshop in Germany in 2004 and we met there.

That same meeting enabled me to develop information interaction and sensemaking work that was foundational to the SerenA project studying serendipity. It also provided lots of opportunities for at least two members of my research team to study legal information seeking.

So that one meeting, all starting with a beer (!), has been of immense value, to both us and Lexis Nexis. I suspect that my team have never realised quite how much all of our careers owe to that one serendipitous connection that they weren’t even a direct part of!

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