Scientific serendipity: a quality analysis and assessment

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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