“Focus diminishes serendipity”

I watched Joi Ito’s Keynote address to the OER meeting a few days ago

I made many notes on things that resonated with me.  One thing Ito said that I found especially profound was, “focus diminishes serendipity.”  I’m partial to this philosophy, because I feel like I can now justify the fact that I’m easily distracted with “Well, if the director of the MIT Media Lab lacks focus then it’s just fine for me to investigate this new shiny thing over here.”

An acquaintance of mine once described herself as “mildly interested” in just about everything.  That’s very much my problem.  I think there are common threads in being mildly interested in everything, the philosophy behind the power of pull, and the nature of librarianship.  I’m going to think more on that though.

I’d like to say that my distractability just keeps the doors open for the adjacent possible.  I think that’s partly the case.  But on the other hand, being easily distracted makes it very hard to get things accomplished or dive deep into something.  I’ve had an Arduino kit on my desk for about 6 months now.  Have I opened the box?  Nope.

Maybe the difference between being the director of the MIT Media Lab and me is that Ito doesn’t have to actually do a project.  He really just needs to put the right people together.  Connect the right resources for the person or people with the questions.

Or maybe he doesn’t have a three-year-old who happens to be more fun and cooler than Arduino.

I like to imagine what I could get done with three of four (or more) hours of silence and solitude.  I’m pretty sure that the stillness would lend itself to some unprecedented concentration and productivity on my part.




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