Can you think of a time when something unexpected created a very pleasant, unintended outcome in your life? Here’s a cool example. The birth of 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

What is Serendipity?

Serendipity is defined as a pleasant surprise or a “fortunate happenstance.” In 1754, Horace Walpole coined the term after reading a Persian fairy tale entitled The Three Princes of Serendip. The princes were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.” So, looking at one thing and seeing another. Another product. Another process. Another application. Serendipity can bring us both great joy and great discoveries! 

What are Eureka Moments?

Serendipitous events may surprise us, but they are the products of our own reasoning ability coupled with observation and an open mind. All this is greater reason for celebration. 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!

What are Spin-offs?

A spin-off is a byproduct or something emerging from an original, larger product. Many times commercial spin-offs come from defense research. NASA’s space exploration program has resulted in many new technologies to improve our lives here on Earth. To find out more about these spinoff innovations, watch this video.

What is Preparing Minds?

So how can we prepare the minds of our 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.” 

For Your Classroom

One way to begin to create “prepared minds” in the students in your classroom is to use our Kreative Kwestions stems. 

  • What else could I . . . ?
  • What would happen if . . . ?
  • What is the opposite . . . ?
  • What could be combined . . . ?
  • Why is . . .?
  • I wonder . . .?
  • What other . . .?

Asking these kinds of questions allows students to think more creatively and be more open to possibilities. Eventually the goal is for students to ask the questions themselves. To encourage this type of thinking, keep a list of favorite questions posted or write these stems on cards and use them as conversation starters.

Let’s Reflect and Remember . . .

  • Anyone’s creative thinking ability can be enhanced through practice.
  • Serendipitous innovative thinking involves being observant and open to possibilities.
  • Having a prepared mind allows new ideas to enter. Fortunate Happenstances
  • Perhaps the inventor of the next Slinky is sitting right in front of you!

 “Serendipity always rewards the prepared.” 

~ Katori Hall

Live, learn, and lead creatively.

Rick and Patti