I updated “Created Serendipity: Chance Favors the Connected Mind” with selections from “Rabbit holes: Why being smart hurts your productivity : Sridatta Thatipamala”.

Richard Hamming puts it yet another way in his essay You and Your Research:

I notice that if you have the door to your office closed, you get more work done today and tomorrow, and you are more productive than most. But 10 years later somehow you don’t know quite know what problems are worth working on … He who works with the door open gets all kinds of interruptions, but he also occasionally gets clues as to what the world is and what might be important. … [T]here is a pretty good correlation between those who work with the doors open and those who ultimately do important things, although people who work with doors closed often work harder.

What both of them are saying is that producing brilliant work is heavily reliant on serendipity. Putting your nose to the grindstone will certainly get things done, but when you are working on cutting-edge problems with no predetermined path to success you derive inspiration through chance discoveries.

Both these men were probably relied on conversations with their brilliant colleagues to deliver them random insights. But they also had the advantage of working at the top of their games at Caltech [1] and Bell Labs, respectively. The common geek today relies on the Internet, especially community watering holes like HackerNews and Reddit, to keep abreast of “what the world is and what might be important”.

Source: Rabbit holes: Why being smart hurts your productivity : Sridatta Thatipamala

This also fits in with my use of “caves, campfires and watering holes” and “Cavendish space” in “Classroom UX: Designing for Pluralism”.

First, and make no mistake here, all three sacred learning spaces will have analogs in cyberspace. If they don’t, then cyberspace will cease to exist as a domain of interaction among humans. Those using the new media will create their own analogs for these learning places, even if they are not designed into the system.

Source: Campfires in Cyberspace: Primordial Metaphors for Learning in the 21st Century 

This was written in the late 90s when the web was young. It presages the three speeds of collaboration of distributed work.


In creating such a system, today’s educators go back to the best of our roots in the earliest teachers who understood that learning occurs in many spaces, from caves to campfires to watering holes. The tools we use and the curriculum we learn shift across time.

However, to accomplish learning in today’s world teachers and their learners must use a continuum of old and new technology tools to design, build, create, make, and engineer learning. ​Neuroscience research is clear that engagement of the mind does not happen when forced to sit in rows, facing a dominant teaching wall, and rooted in space and time by the “cells and bells” model of the twentieth century. Today we know that this compliance‐driven teaching favored some, left some behind, and drove many out of our schools, regardless of compulsory education. The history is clear. Schools of the twentieth century were designed to fail students. The current need is apparent. Schools of the twenty‐first century must be designed so that all succeed.

Source: Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools (Kindle Locations 741-750). Wiley. Kindle Edition.