Scientific serendipity: a quality analysis and assessment

To make serendipity happen, there are two ways open – ‘spiritual’ serendipity which relies on mindset and belief; and ‘scientific’ serendipity, an approach used by engineers, scientists and alike to stumble upon new paths, breakthroughs and new innovations

By Tom Gamble

Serendipity is the art of unexpected and happy discovery. To make it happen, there are two ways open – ‘spiritual’ serendipity which relies on mindset and belief; and ‘scientific’ serendipity, an approach used by engineers, scientists and alike to stumble upon new paths, breakthroughs and new innovations (think of Stephen Hawking!). Try the following self-assessment and test just how ready you are to embrace scientific serendipity!    

Scientific serendipity involves a combination of a number of qualities. Give yourself a score for each of the following from 1 – 5 (5 being highest).

  1. Knowledge: I possess deep background skills and knowledge of the field in which I work and search for solutions. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
  2. Humility: I am open to accept and speak with anyone, whatever their social or professional status. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
  3. Active listening: I actively listen to my professional and personal entourage and encourage people to communicate freely. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
  4. Tenacity: I am capable of pursuing my goals with great persistence and determination despite the setbacks and challenges I may encounter.
  5. Alertness: I have the ability to spot anomalies and exceptions to the rule and the will to want to analyse them. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
  6. Open-mindedness: I encourage and am open to all possibilities and opinion before forming a judgement. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
  7. Constructive curiosity: I am intellectually curious about things and insist on deepening my knowledge and effort to understand them. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
  8. Demandingness: When confronted with something I cannot initially understand my feeling of dissatisfaction, doubt and self-exigency drives me to search deeper in order to comprehend. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
  9. Daring: I enjoy pushing back the frontiers into new and unknown territories in an attempt to discover and understand things. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
  10. Trial and error: I repeatedly and persistently experiment to reach something while learning from my mistakes and subsequently modifying my approach and methods. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
  11. Inflexion: I positively and consistently adapt and change to events and occurrences in order to reach a solution. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
  12. Sagacity: I am able to demonstrate effective observation, mental penetration, insight and discernment when faced with an issue or topic. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
  13. Wider purpose: When searching for solutions, I am aware that discovering them will benefit a wider purpose and lead to wider progress in some way. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
  14. Analytical: I possess the ability to carry out empirical, deductive, abductive and inductive analysis of things and events. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

Feedback and action tips:

  • Identify your high and low scores. All statements are positive-oriented for rapid and easy assessment. A low score indicates that you would have to consider changing ways, methods, processes or outlook.
  • How can you explain these scores?
  • How can you improve on any low scores and what concrete actions can you undertake to try out those areas in which you identified lower scores?
  • Refer back to the self-assessment on ‘spiritual serendipity’. Combine the two approaches. Choose something you want to aim for and apply the two approaches. Set yourself a review deadline (1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month, 3 months, etc.?) and analyse the results. Good luck!

Read the recently published feature article Serendipity: How to make it happen.

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The Council on Business & Society (The CoBS), visionary in its conception and purpose, was created in 2011, and is dedicated to promoting responsible leadership and tackling issues at the crossroads of business and society including sustainability, diversity, ethical leadership and the place responsible business has to play in contributing to the common good.  

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