Think back for a moment to a time when something unexpected created a pleasant unintended outcome in your life. Take, for example the birth of the SLINKY, one of America’s favorite toys. In 1943, naval engineer Richard James was working with tension springs to create a meter for the horsepower of naval vessels. When he accidentally knocked one of these springs over, he observed it kept moving after hitting the ground. Soon a new toy was born – the SLINKY.
Serendipity is defined as a pleasant surprise or a "fortunate happenstance". In 1754, Horace Walpole coined the term after reading a Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip. The princes were "always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.” Serendipity brings us both great joy and great discoveries!
Serendipitous events may seem to surprise us, but they are products of our own reasoning ability coupled with observation and an open mind. This is all the greater reason to celebrate it. As Isaac Asimov once said: "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but "That's funny . . .". Here are a few more “funnies” that have changed our lives.
- Alexander Fleming took a short vacation and returned to observe a strange fungus on a culture in dirty dishes he had left in his lab - Penicillin was born!
- Percy Spencer walked in front of a magnetron and observed that a chocolate bar in his pocket melted. Spencer soon invented the first microwave oven.
- While on a hiking trip in 1941, Georges de Mestral saw burrs clinging to his pants and also to his dog's fur. Soon after these observations Velcro was created.
NASA’s space exploration program has resulted in many new technologies to improve our lives here on Earth. To find out more about these serendipitous Spinoff Innovations watch this video.
So how can we prepare the minds of children/students to take advantage of what might be called “Fortunate Happenstances” in their lives? It really boils down to these words of wisdom given to us by Nobel Prize winner Albert Szent-Györgyi, “Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different.”
Creativity Tip of the week: Kreativity Kwestions & Conversation Cards
One way to begin to create “prepared minds” in our children/students and ourselves is to use Kreativity Question stems.
- What does this remind me of?
- What would happen if . . .?
- What is the opposite?
- What could be combined?
- Why is . . .?
- I wonder . . .?
- What other . . .?
Asking these kinds of questions allows us to think more creatively and be more open to possibilities. Eventually the goal is for children/students to ask the questions themselves. To encourage this type of thinking keep a list of your favorites posted or write the Kreativity Kwestion stems on cards to use as conversation starters.
The Most Important Thing: We can enhance our creative thinking ability through practice. Serendipitous innovative thinking involves:
- being observant and open to possibilities
- having a prepared mind - allowing new ideas to enter
- thinking differently and logically in hindsight
Live creatively and prosper,
Patti & Rick Shade
Curiosita Teaching - Founders