Opinion: The Importance of Serendipity

The joy of serendipity or “happy accidents” is an underrated experience in the fields of science and technology.  For every “eureka” or “a-ha!” that we stumble upon, thousands of hours as spent in observation or tinkering in the lab. I believe serendipity, which covers both these a-ha moments along with our ability to arrive at breakthrough ideas by combining independent phenomenon or facts, can be fostered when we actively scan literature or use diverse search techniques.

We have the opportunity to stumble on new ideas when perusing newspapers, magazines like Wired or IEEE Spectrum, or results from a multidisciplinary databases.  By limiting ourselves to seeing only what we seek or utilizing only one search strategy, we may fall victim to the relevance paradox. Opening our sights beyond the day-to-day problems we’re trying to solve, we can develop life-saving techniques like Eduoard Benedictus, or new technologies like Philo T. Farnsworth. Inspiration and imagination can strike at anytime, so open yourself up to the possibilities of serendipity.

About Benjamin Toon

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