The Power of Context

Amy Gahran writes about the power of context – How Arranging Ideas Spawns New Ideas – to stimulate new thoughts around a subject:

No idea exists in a vacuum. It is connected to related ideas, and to the real world, and to other people’s perspectives. Those connecting threads of context are where the vast creative potential of the human mind lies. cite=””

The idea that the mind works associatively is pretty well established – amongst many other things it’s the key behind mind mapping. Making public some of my own associations I can see a connection between Amy’s thoughts, Tony Goodson’s Butterfly moments and bricolage (worth noting that Tony is a fervent advocate of mind mapping) and the ideas I tried to capture here, in particular:

The benefits of any specific piece of knowledge are not always forseeable until the right combination of circumstances and other people arises – in other words unpredictable emergent behaviour;

Another possible connection is to The Social Origins of Good Ideas

Where Amy particularly extends our thinking is the way she then derives some very specific ideas for enhancements to knowledge management tools that would take advantage of associative thinking:

  • Random elements […]

  • Visual juxtaposition […]

  • Embedded brainstorming tools

  • Sticky notes (that capture context for the thought) […]

There’s an interesting challenge for developers here but not an insurmountable one I think… Just needs someone with the skill to hang together a few existing tools perhaps?

In a sense a blog entry like this is a form of the fourth item (“Sticky notes”) because it captures an idea and via a combination of hyperlinks and the use of trackbacks captures a a lot of the context as well – but it’s not exactly fast – how many ideas slip by before you can grab the idea and it’s context? I think we need a system that treats “ideas” as some kind of atom and deals with the messy business of collecting and managing URIs in the background.

For embedded brainstorming tools could someone integrate Freemind with a bliki?

Are there any open source developers out there who feel inspired by this?

Proactive application of technology to business

My interests include technology, personal knowledge management, social change