Continuing a series of blog posts inspired by the highly recommended book “Where Good Ideas Come From” by Steven Johnson, in this blog post I want to discuss the important role that serendipity plays in data — and, by extension, business success.

Let’s start with a brief etymology lesson. The origin of the word serendipity, which is commonly defined as a “happy accident” or “pleasant surprise” can be traced to the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip, whose heroes were always making discoveries of things they were not in quest of either by accident or by sagacity (i.e., the ability to link together apparently innocuous facts to come to a valuable conclusion). Serendip was an old name for the island nation now known as Sri Lanka.

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