Creative Spaces: Where Process & Serendipity Meet

This past winter, when I was preparing for my presentation on the New England tavern’s similarities to social media (see Social Media 18th Century and Today), I found Steven Johnson’s excellent TED talk, on open innovation systems.

The author of Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson explores the recurring patterns that make environments more creative and innovative.

Fluid Networks and Creativity

Just as an idea represents a series of new connections between neurons in our respective brains, so too, Johnson suggests, are some environments more likely to stimulate these new configurations.

He describes the architecture of the creative space as a fluid network, where people from different backgrounds and interests can get together, allowing their ideas to mingle. He goes on to say that good ideas have long incubation periods, known as the slow hunch, which may take years to evolve. A good example, Johnson elsewhere cites, is the Worldwide Web, which reportedly Tim Berners-Lee worked on at the back of his mind, for at least ten years.

According to Johnson, innovation and deep thinking take place in environments, similar to the seventeenth or eighteenth-century coffeehouse or tavern. With the increased connectivity, we’re more likely to borrow from others’ hunches, combine them with our own, and over time, form something new.

Intentional Serendipity

Johnson’s talk made me recall one job setting, where as part of my interview, the product manager proudly gave me a tour of the company’s newly designed office. The office provided a large open space and every detail of the physical layout was designed to reinforce the Agile methodology.

In that open space, the various members on the product development team, with reps from each discipline (including technical writers) met daily, for their SCRUM status.

The thing that struck me the most about that setting was the intentionality of the office design…The entire environment was architected from the start to invite the kinds of unpredictable collisions that lead to innovation.

It represents to me process and serendipity working together, and is probably what Johnson meant when he concluded: “Chance favors the connected mind.”

Fostering Open Innovation Systems

So, what environments have most inspired your own creativity? Do you agree with Johnson that innovation is rarely a single moment of inspiration, but rather the collision of smaller hunches over time, within fluid networks? How can we foster open spaces and other hunch-cultivating mechanisms, within our own organizations?

Finally, is it possible to connect and protect ideas at the same time? What are, (if any), the acceptable tradeoffs? (In the O’Reilley Webcast on Information Security and Social Networks, Ben Rothke provides excellent tips on finding this balance.)

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Contacting the Author: Content for a Convergent World – Peg Mulligan’s Blog

Choosing a Blogging Service

As a beginner blogger, I was trying a few months ago to decide which blogging service to choose. I asked for guidance from the Twitter community, and the “tweeps” who responded there recommended that I should use WordPress. I’m grateful that I followed the advice, as subsequent, informal research confirms that WordPress is a good choice, and so far, I’ve been very happy with the free blogging service provided at

I later found more specific advice from HubSpot, a provider of inbound marketing software, on why it’s better to choose WordPress, over for example, Google’s Blogger, at least in the case of business blogs. According to HubSpot, if you ever decide to migrate to another site, Google does not let you redirect your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) value.

If you currently have a blog that is something like and you build a ton of inbound links to the site, Google [via Blogger] does not let you redirect that SEO value to a new site (like your company website).

Basically, Google has seemingly made it intentionally difficult to migrate off of their platform. If you’re looking to build a successful business blog that will help you find more clients and grow your business, you should find a professional blogging platform that is designed for your needs.  HubSpot has one such offering (it’s a piece of what we do).  But, if all you need is a blogging tool, we’d recommend WordPress.

In his recorded webinar, Tom Johnson from the Society of Technical Communication, also recommends WordPress, because of the flexibility WordPress offers through its widely available themes (both for free or at a reasonable cost, through Premium themes), as well as its over 4,000 plug-ins.

Once I chose WordPress, I had to decide whether to use the freely-hosted service at, or self-hosted service, at

I’ll discuss the differences between these WordPress services more fully in my next post, Understanding the Difference between and

Your Experiences with Blogging Services?

If you are currently using a free, hosted service other than my WordPress recommendation, such as Blogger, or if you have any additional thoughts about the freely hosted WordPress service, I’d be happy to hear about your experiences, in the comments. (TypePad is another hosted service, though it does require a monthly fee.)

How about those of you who are using self-hosted blogging services, like Movable Type, “Serendipity,” and How do you rate your experiences with those services?

Your feedback is especially helpful, both to me and any other readers here, who are sorting through the choices. In one article, I learned that with Blogger you can add Google AdSense ads to your  posts to generate revenue, which seems like a potential benefit to that free service.

What are your thoughts and experiences?

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Contacting the Author: Content for a Convergent World – Peg Mulligan’s Blog