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John Adair's 100 Greatest Ideas for Amazing Creativity by John Adair

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Fourteen Greatest Ideas for Thinking Outside the Box

Idea 34: Practise serendipity

One sometimes finds what one is not looking for.

Sir Alexander Fleming, discoverer of the medical uses of penicillin

Serendipity is a happy word. Horace Walpole coined it to denote the faculty of making unexpected and delightful discoveries by accident. In a letter to a friend (28 January 1754) he says that he formed it from the title of a fairy story, The Three Princes of Serendip (an ancient name for Sri Lanka), for the princes ‘were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of’.

If serendipity suggests chance, finding things of value when we are not actually looking for them, the finder must at least be able to see ...

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