I am fascinated with the idea of synchronicity and serendipity as a key, new player in qualitative research discoveries. It already exists in art and music--and love--as a powerful factor.
Reading from Joseph Cambray's excellent book Synchronicity, the final chapter starting on page 102, Cambray discusses the idea of serendipity as a recognized area in scientific and medical research.
"...reflections on coincidences having consequences and meanings that go beyond the personal. The topic is recognized in scientific and medical research. The origins of the term serendipity are a bit exotic and unconsciously compensatory....coined in 1754 during the height of colonialism, in the Age of Enlightenment by Horace Walpole, a British man of letters who also wrote gothic novels, a psychologically complex figure. The definition of serendipity offered by Walpole derives from the behavior of heroes of a tale he recalled from childhood. These heroes as they traveled 'were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.'
"It is the gift or capacity of the well-informed mind that is open to chance that can make the curious or odd, often seemingly minor occurrence in an encounter into a meaningful, at times momentous, event, that is, for the synchronistic dimensions to become more evident."
There are a series of serendipitous events involved in the discovery of bacteria (Alexander Fleming who shared the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1945 with Florey and Chain), examples of inventions in astronomy, physics, biology, medicine, and pharmacology, while Freud's Interpretation of Dreams is considered a striking example of serendipity made incidentally and accidentally when Freud was engaged in exploring the meaning of the psychoneuroses. Jung continued on with seeing meaning in serendipitous events to more fully explore his theory of synchronicity.