In 1928, while on holiday, the Scots biologist and pharmacologist Alexander Fleming accidentally left a number of cultures of staphylococcus bacteria uncovered. He returned to find the growth of bacteria in one dish inhibited by a growing blue-green fungus, Penicillium notatum. Penicillin, which Fleming named after filtering it off from a hot solution of the fungus, was later found to dispose of several of the world’s major diseases.
From the microwave oven through the Post-it note and on to the Viagra pill, serendipity – a random turn of events that proves fortuitous – has played a major role in the process of innovation.  Yet if 21st century managers always say they’re ready for ‘out of the box’ thinking, in practice many bridle at the idea of an innovation project moving sideways. Why should chance, tangential discoveries absorb researchers in the unexpected, the unfamiliar, the difficult, and the costly?