December 2, 2008


In 1928, Alexander Fleming found some blue-green mold in his lab at St. Mary’s Hospital. That discovery ended up being the basis for the discovery of penicillin. But what would have happened if Fleming simply threw away the mold?

In 1856, two quarry workers found some bones at their limestone quarry near Düsseldorf and passed the bones along to their manager. Those bones ended up being the first official discovery of remains of Neanderthal man. But what would have happened if those workers had simply thrown away the bones?

There are tons of examples of serendipitous discoveries, but what’s often forgotten in those reports is that the people that made the discoveries decided to explore anomalies instead of just throwing them away.

We throw valuable information away every second. Not all the information we receive will lead to great discoveries, but every piece of information that comes our way has the possibility to teach us new and exciting things if we just take it in instead of throwing it away.

That strange blip on your site statistics? That odd reaction by that one user? That little bug in your application that never seems to go away? Don’t throw away those anomalies: they could be hiding great discoveries.

What kinds of amazing things are you throwing away every day?