The Secret Behind Most of the Life Changing Discoveries

Assignments are coming up and tests are knocking on your door, so you finally have to start studying. You go to your room, close the door and tell your parents to not disturb you unless dinner is ready!

After a while, your mom enters to give you a cup of coffee. She sees a desk covered with books and her kid staring at the wall. So, she yells: ‘What are you doing, don’t you have exams?!’ and while she is about to spill the coffee on you. You then tell her that you may have discoverered something that can shape the future. So, your mom stops, just to hear how crazy your justification can be.

So, you say:

‘In fact, coincidence is the key to countless discoveries, starting from anti biotics, pacemakers to even superglue.’

Molten Candy

For a start, in 1945, microwaves (electromagnetic wave) were used in Radar systems. At that time, American engineer Percy Spencer working in Raytheon was testing a new radar set. The candy bar in his pocket melted although the room was cold, thus he discovered the heating property of microwaves and designed the first microwave oven. A molten candy in a man’s pocket has led to the invention of microwave oven that is a part of almost every house.

The Miracle in Medicine

In 1895, a German mechanical engineer Wilhelm Röntgen was doing some research in the lab where a cathode ray tube was covered with a sheet of black cardboard, and he noticed a faint shimmering from a bench a few feet away from the tube. Therefore, he did further experiments reaching the conclusion of an amazing property of that ray. He called it (X-ray) – which is the energy that penetrates through soft tissue. He tested that on his wife’s hand, which was the first x-ray image in history. The doctors believed that X-ray was a revolutionary discovery that shaped modern medicine. Furthermore, there are many more examples.

Source: Wilhelm

After all these pieces of evidence of the value of coincidence, your mom spills the coffee on you and yells so that you study! But seriously speaking, what should be our current focus in the field of research? Is it to continuously study what we know, or should we give more space to the unknown so that we can bring something new to the world!

Exploration vs. Exploitation

Exploitation of old certainties might seem the safest way to survive, but will it be enough to catch up the pace of time? Or maybe, exploring new possibilities would lead us to the brightest future.

Dr James G. March, who’s an American sociologist, helped us to evaluate both concepts in our real world in his famous article ‘Exploration and exploitation in Organizational Learning’. For instance, a famous Swedish company, Facit, used to produce mechanical calculators and it was the best in that field with no doubt. However, it couldn’t survive for long when another company started launching new, more advanced electronic calculators. The issue here was the lack of exploration, and also focusing completely on bringing up new ideas can be destructive as well.

It is obvious that a synergistic cooperation between exploration and exploitation is the best solution, yet many companies and industries fail to survive.

The key is defining the right amount of priority to each of them. One of the best examples is Nokia. It started as a Finnish pulp mill in 1865 ,then shifting to electricity generation and a wide range of products from the 1930s till the 1990s when it started telecommunication business. Even when Nokia was knocked down in that field by Apple and Samsung in 2007, it had surprised the world to come back as a leader in high end networking gears, achieving revenue greater than 15 billion dollars by 2015.


Therefore, both exploration and exploitation are essential to survival in various fields and even for us humans. When we were babies, we explore everything around us and as we get older, our focus gradually turns into exploitation instead. However, we always have to try new things and keep exploring in order to survive.

Written by Merna Ehab

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