After Greg’s post on curiosity and communication the other day I thought it was worth digging a little deeper into Barista, our internal communication tool, which Greg introduced at the end of his post.

Like Greg, for a long time I’ve been fascinated by serendipity as a business driver. It started when I used to work for an agency called Naked Communications that was well-known for sitting around one big table. It struck me that this table allowed us to move quickly because we were all in a constant state of ambient awareness. Of course overhearing others’ conversations can sometimes be distracting, it also frequently leads to solutions you didn’t know were possible. What I realized at that point was that while most people identify communication as the major challenge as company’s scale, it’s actually serendipity.

Since starting Percolate I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we do this. Greg pointed out some of the ways (process, documentation, small office, all-hands meetings), but I also felt like there was an opportunity to build tools to help us solve for more serendipity as we continue to grow (in December of 2010 we were 0, December of 2012 we were 7 and December of 2013 we were 30). That’s where Barista came from.

The idea is simple: Anyone can ask a question and direct it for answering to anyone else in the company. You can also subscribe to a question to get new answers as they emerge.

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In addition questions can be “verified” by the admins, which means it’s an official company answer.

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Where the power (and serendipity) comes in is from the “magic search” which looks for unique words as you search and shows you additional questions asked about that.

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Like everything else here, this is a work in progress and we have lots more plans for where it will go in the future. But we’re excited about Barista and it fits into our belief that a product company needs to think about how to build products everywhere. It also speaks to our desire to try to keep building new things that are tangentially related to the product but drive value inside the company. To do these things we often bring in outside developers so as not to take focus off the core product and it’s led to a bunch of important tools we now use on a daily basis.

We’ll be talking more about Barista in the future, but wanted to show off our new toy.