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What does serendipity mean – its importance for creativity and innovation


Noisli Blog - what does serendipity mean

Serendipity means to make an unexpected discovery or stumble upon a fortunate chance.

In easy terms, serendipity means that an event happens or develops by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

A very easy example of serendipity is when you accidentally find something that you haven’t been looking for: you randomly find a coin on the pavement, you stumble upon an old friend in the street, you discover a new restaurant by pure chance, etc.

It refers to events that occur unexpectedly and without intention, which cannot be fully controlled.

The importance of serendipity for creativity and innovation

Serendipity played a big role in history, the innovation of new products and scientific discoveries.

Some of the most famous events that have serendipitous roots and that happened by pure chance are:

The discovery of America

Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer. In 1492 he wanted to go to Asia, but he ended up in a place called the Caribbean islands and thus found a new place called the Americas by mistake.

The Post-it Note

The Post-it Note was created accidentally when a scientist at 3M failed to create a strong adhesive. Instead, he developed a weak adhesive that was later repurposed by another employee as a repositionable marker, resulting in the creation of the Post-it Note.


Alexander Fleming accidentally discovered penicillin in 1928 when he noticed mold contaminating a petri dish in his laboratory and observed that the mold’s secretion killed a bacteria culture, leading to the identification of penicillin’s antibacterial properties.


Coca-Cola was intentionally created by John Pemberton in 1886, but its popularity grew unexpectedly when carbonated water was accidentally used in its preparation, resulting in the fizzy version we know today.

The microwave oven

Percy Spencer, an engineer at Raytheon, discovered the concept of the microwave oven while working with magnetrons. He noticed that the microwaves emitted by the magnetron caused a chocolate bar in his pocket to melt, leading him to develop the idea of using microwaves for cooking food.

The benefits of serendipity

The benefits of serendipity seem clear. Serendipity is important for creativity and innovation.

Especially when conducting experiments, we often begin with a hypothesis and aim to prove its positive or negative outcome. This rarely results in random or unplanned events.

Only if we leave time and room for serendipity to happen can we increase our chances for random and unexpected events.

So how can we increase our chances to encounter serendipity more often?

How to increase serendipity

It’s important to keep an open mind and be receptive to unexpected opportunities whenever they arise.

Even if can’t really control serendipity, there are still a lot of things you can do to increase the likelihood of experiencing serendipity.

Here are 10 simple things to try to increase the chances of serendipity:

1. Stay curious

Curiosity is linked to increased chances of stumbling upon unexpected opportunities or insights. So, keep your curiosity alive and explore new interests.

2. Diversify your network

Diverse social networks can enhance the occurrence of serendipitous encounters. Engage with people from different backgrounds and fields to expose yourself to a variety of perspectives.

3. Embrace flexibility

Being open to change and flexible in your plans can create situations where serendipity can flourish.

4. Engage in hobbies

Pursuing hobbies not only enriches your life but can also lead to unexpected discoveries. Engaging in a creative hobby can stimulate cognitive flexibility.

5. Read widely

Exploring various subjects through reading widens your mental horizons. Broader knowledge can increase the likelihood of making serendipitous connections between seemingly unrelated ideas.

6. Visit new places

Traveling or exploring new places exposes you to novel experiences and interactions that could lead to unexpected opportunities.

7. Embrace randomness

Allow room for randomness in your routines. Don’t plan and structure your life in all its details. Randomness can lead to enhanced creativity and serendipity.

8. Seek out interdisciplinary settings

Interdisciplinary collaborations can create environments where serendipity is more likely to occur due to the cross-pollination of ideas.

9. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness can increase your awareness of the present moment and help you notice subtle connections that might lead to serendipitous discoveries.

10. Engage in Problem-Solving

Sometimes, engaging in solving a problem unrelated to your current work or interests can lead to serendipitous insights. It broadens your mind and trains your muscles to make unrelated connections, thus creating innovative solutions.

Serendipity encourages the exploration of unique paths and the discovery of surprising connections. If you are intrigued by this concept, you may be interested in exploring divergent thinking.

Avatar photo Written by Sabine Staggl

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