metacool Word of the week


definition (from Wikipedia):

The experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data… defined it as the "unmotivated seeing of connections" accompanied
by a "specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness".

… originally described this phenomenon in relation to the distortion of reality present in psychosis,
but it has become more widely used to describe this tendency in healthy
individuals without necessarily implying the presence of neurological or mental illness.

If we can downplay the association with psychotic behavior, and also make it more about dealing with meaningful data, then apophenia is a pretty cool word to describe what I consider a critical aspect of design thinking.  Making connections between seemingly disparate things or ideas is a key step toward creating breakthough innovations.  And, as we discussed earlier on metacool, it’s how the brain works (if we let it).

From the point of view of creating innovative organizations, one really needs to consider how the identification, care, and feeding of apopheniacs will be carried out.  Who are these people?  What makes them click?  What makes them thrive?  What keeps them from apopheniacking?

Thanks to Bob Giampietro, a truly innovative thinker and doer, for introducing me to this term. 

4 thoughts on “metacool Word of the week

  1. Diego….I like your wordsmithing here on this point. Harnessing the abstract and undefined are the new creative world currencies.
    Something I find myself doing with my new Skype relationships is what I call “cool casting” Trying to find out what is cool or relevant in cities around the world. in doing so, I have learned that the idea of a “convertable” low rise jeans would sell “like cakes” in Tokyo due to young women who want to look sexy, but be able to hide thier sexiness (butt crack) when they travel on the subway to avoid pervs.

  2. That’ll be a difficult stretch, giving a positive spin to a word that refers to an essentially unreliable and even dangerous human trait. Because we are pattern-seeking creatures and abhor randomness, we invent meaning where there is none, and assign causality where none exists.
    The consequences of apophenia are tracked by one of my favorite groups, The Skeptics Society (, whose free email newsletter is worth getting.

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