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The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun

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The truth about serendipity

When Dr. Percy Spencer found a melted candy bar in his shirt pocket while playing with some radar equipment, he had every reason to throw it away. Odds are good that other people in radar laboratories around the world experienced similar globs of chocolate and other foodstuffs in their pockets and did nothing about them, other than to clean up the mess and get back to work. And given that the rational, logical parts of most intelligent people's brains would tell them to do the same (getting rid of the offending savory bits and forgetting about it as soon as possible), it's entirely odd that Spencer chose to do something different. Remember, he essentially found a bit of warm trash in his pocket and decided to spend the rest of the day playing with melted cocoa beans, ignoring the millions of dollars of supercool top-secret defense equipment surrounding him in the lab.

Imagine Spencer in that magical moment: alone in the lab, expensive lights blinking all around, his eyes staring down at two chocolaty fingers, his Hershey-stained clothes and lab coat desperate to be washed. If you walked past him at that instant, you'd think for certain he was insane: a chocolate-fingered loon. But although he didn't know it yet, this chance encounter—the moment that redlined his curiosity well past his logical mind's ability to follow— would lead him to the invention of the microwave oven. Curious about the source of heat, he put some popcorn kernels, and then an egg, ...

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