From Chance to Serendipity: Knowledge Workers' Experiences of Serendipitous Social Encounters
Olshannikova, Ekaterina; Olsson, Thomas; Huhtamäki, Jukka; Paasovaara, Susanna; Kärkkäinen, Hannu (2020)
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Serendipity refers to uncontrolled circumstances that lead to unexpected yet fortunate discoveries. The phenomenon has been studied extensively in relation to information retrieval. However, serendipity in the context of social encounters has been the subject of few empirical studies. In professional life, social serendipity might result in benefits such as fruitful collaboration, successful recruitment, discovery of novel information, and acquisition of crucial new perspectives from peers. Despite the potential significance of serendipity, particularly for knowledge work, there is a lack of empirical understanding of related subjective experiences and the role of technology within the process of encountering unsought findings. This qualitative study investigates knowledge workers' detailed narratives of serendipitous social encounters and the related factors through an analysis of 37 responses to an international online survey. We provide a detailed account of the experiential characteristics and contextual qualities of the reported instances of social serendipity. Finally, we discuss the seemingly minor role of technology in social serendipity and research avenues to computationally enhance social serendipity.
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