<trp-post-container data-trp-post-id='26585'>La serendipity at heart from studies

It's fashionable to say that Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin by accident, if not by chance, because he was extremely careless, as described by Wikipedia - "He usually forgot which crops he was working on and his laboratory was usually a mess. -He had allowed mould to develop on his bacteriological cultures in his absence!

To cut a long story short: the lazy bastard forgot to clean up, which earned him ... the Nobel Prize for Medicine!

Except that Fleming was by no means the only one to lose interest in his chores, and many of his colleagues regularly found their dishes overflowing with mould: but they were quick to wash them - full stop!

Fleming had the idea of taking a closer look at what was going on - why moulds had developed on his crops and what the consequences were - and was surprised to discover that a fungus had killed the bacteria in his experiment.

And so he discovered penicillin not by chance, but by ... serendipity.

Serendipity is "the art of making a discovery, particularly a scientific one, by chance".according to Larousse, but we prefer this one discovery by chance and sagacity of relevant results that you weren't looking for "says Wiktionaryciting the American sociologist Robert King Merton.

Certainly the second definition is better than the first, but it's not totally accurate either: just as there are lots of biologists who don't wash their glass dishes, there are lots of intelligent researchers who won't discover anything 'by chance' - or rather by serendipity!

Because the condition sine qua non The key to serendipity - apart from chance and a certain amount of intelligence - is a genuinely open mind, or rather a strong curiosity that leads you not to miss out on the realities that present themselves to you, or simply to break out of your intellectual conformism.

In fact, among the greatest specialists in serendipity should be all marketing research managers - because one of the characteristics of our profession is the curiosity of the experts who practise it.

Take the search for insights: there's nothing more central, and nothing more complicated either; sometimes you search for months on end... to no avail! And sometimes the right idea comes along ... while you're working on another project.

Then, in the middle of a group meeting, a consumer makes a digression that is so off-topic that no one in charge of research will try to pick up on it - and that's normal, it has nothing to do with the discussion of the day; yet the insight that we were struggling to discover is there!

Serendipity in research means constant vigilance, a willingness to listen to ideas, a readiness to pick up on the weak signals that will become powerful ideas, emerging trends and so on. It also means being proactive and providing marketing with unanticipated opportunities.

Of course, the Web, and especially the social Web, are an interesting medium for serendipity - hence a certain fashion effect; but the discipline is not new and can be practised both On and Off line: it's just a question of mindset!

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