How do we discover what we’re not looking for? How can we become more serendipitous? In the age of big data and bioinformatics, such questions are more relevant than ever. We develop new tools to help us spot clues in mountains of information, and machines are getting better and better at aiding discovery. And yet, serendipity remains a very human art. Pagan Kennedy discusses the origins of the word serendipity and qualities of mind that lead to successful searches in the deep unknown.
Some inventions are the result of purposeful problem solving—like sippy cups to prevent toddlers from spilling juice or rolling luggage to make travel easier. Some are accidental, discoveries made by people working on something else entirely; for example, while testing heart medications, scientists noted side effects of one in particular, and the drug Viagra was born. Award-winning writer Pagan Kennedy explores the science of human imagination as it pertains to innovation and creativity. She unearths commonalities that predict the success of inventors, and theorizes that the skills required for “inventology” can be taught and learned.
In her latest book, Inventology: How We Dream Up Things That Change the World, "a delightful account of how inventors do what they do” (Kirkus Reviews), Pagan reveals the imaginative and practical processes behind groundbreaking innovations across numerous disciplines. From in-depth research and exhaustive interviews, she shows why successful inventors tend to be passionate, polymathic amateurs versus focused professionals working inside their fields. She explores whether serendipitous inspiration can be coaxed, suggests how to raise kids to be resourceful and inventive, and describes what factors beyond the “Aha!” moment are required for successful product development.
Pagan’s years of science reporting inform her takeaways on innovation, creativity, iconoclasts, and self-invention. Her 11 books include The First Man-Made Man, a study of early 20th Century transsexual Laura (formerly Michael) Dillon, whose desire to feel comfortable in her own skin drove experimentation and led to breakthrough medical technologies. Pagan’s journalism has appeared in dozens of publications including the New York Times Magazine, where she wrote the Innovation/Who Made That? column. Pagan’s Head, her early ‘zine, anticipated today’s highly personal, self-produced creative culture. She has also taught widely, including at Dartmouth College, Boston College, and Johns Hopkins University. As a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT, Pagan studied microbiology and neuroengineering; she has won numerous other awards including an NEA fellowship, a Smithsonian fellowship, and two Massachusetts Cultural Council fellowships.
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