Friday, August 31, 2007

The increasing incidence of coincidence: Is serendipity becoming the norm?

I had a great day meeting brilliant minds in London yesterday - pretty much back-to-back.

Just to keep the coincidence theme going, I found myself free (after emap meetings) at 4pm so looked up Jonathan Macdonald - a mover and shaker at Blyk. He was free so we met.

Turned out he'd come from a meeting with three emap people. One I had seen earlier the same day, too. Another, I'm seeing on Monday. I'd met neither of them before yesterday. Nor had Jonathan.

And, after the previous day's facebook puppicide coincidence, I was thinking things were getting just a little strange.

I went on from my meet with Jonathan (who I'm glad to say has agreed to speak with emap colleagues at a mobile seminar I'm organising next month) to have curry with social apps genius Stowe Boyd.

And our wide-ranging and fun chat included some time spent on Reed's Law.
As a result I started wondering if the whole notion of being surprised by it being a 'small world' is gradually going to wash away.

If networks allow groups of shared interest to self-form (and assuming - as I'll discuss in a white paper I'm close to completing - that these are collaborative groups of purpose) then it becomes increasingly likely that the people you 'stumble upon' will also be stumbling upon the same people you are.

If I'm interested in the same things you are, the people you are interested in may well be the same people I am interested in.

We help each other expand this network of interest (our community of shared purpose, if you will).

The group itself may grow exponentially - but the view from our node may not reveal this.
In other words the likelihood of coincidence grows without us noticing it is happening.

LinkedIn reveals something of the truth of this. I have 72 contacts, 8000+ friends of friends and 865,000+ friends of their friends.

I'm guessing if I am in contact with one of my 72 first-degree contacts it's likely that coincidental same-day meetings of the kind described above will come from the 8000+ friends of friends, or at the outside, from the third-degree circle.

Sure enough, a quick check, without naming names, reveals this to be the case in the coincidence of the people Jonathan had met, referred to above.

People don't have to be on Linkedin for this to work, of course, it's just that Linkedin does offer a very graphic illustration.

Serendipity could be fast becoming the norm. As more people touch the network - the more it'll happen for more of us.

Add on Stowe's own 'Boyds Law which (forgive me if I twist this round my neck Stowe...) is about the willingness of groups to contribute their time to respond with their efforts in real time (ie drop what they're doing and help you) and in groups where all those factors are in play doesn't it become the natural state of affairs that coincidence happens?

You'll be helping each other out today - so the incidence of coincidence has to rise.

When you access the power of the network in self-forming groups of purpose - and where the group members are willing to contribute real time - it really is a small world. You are part of a global niche of shared interest.

We're taking the tools technology is giving us and restoring the cooperative and collaborative power humankind always had.

Thanks to the exponential growth Reed's Law predicts - where once you could only access the power of the small group you lived among, now you can activate this on a global scale.

The potential is truly limitless.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?