Serendipity? What’s that…???

May 14, 2018 TechoCon 2018

by Petr Remeš

We have already been producing this blog for some time so we thought we would challenge you a bit today. The theme is serendipity. Do you know exactly what this word means?

Serendipity signifies a “lucky chance” or “pleasant surprise” and is not some make-believe planet from a computer game. The word was coined by Horace Walpole in 1754, when in a letter to a friend he explained an unexpected discovery he had made. Walpole referred to the Persian story of The Three Princes of Serendip who were “always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of”.

How is this connected with TechoCon and our blog? More than you might think!

The term serendipity is often associated in history with scientific innovations, such as the chance discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928; maybe you also know about the invention of the microwave oven by Percy Spencer in 1945 or Post-it Notes by Spencer Silver in 1968.

The innovations given as examples of serendipity all have one thing in common. They were discovered by people who are able to see bridges where other just see gaps, and are able to make interconnections in a creative way.

“The chance is an event, serendipity a capacity,” said Nobel laureate Paul Flory. He believed that significant inventions are not mere accidents. Good managers are able to identify the quality of serendipitous innovations; this is one of the reasons for the success of Japanese high-tech firms. An important role is also played by the unarticulated and often very subjective thoughts, intuitions and hunches of individual employees and then have the opportunity to test the insights gained in a way that the results can be used by the company.

Do you know that… the word “serendipity” was chosen by a British translation company as one of the ten English words hardest to translate? However, due to its sociological use, the word has since been exported into many other languages.