“… because his experiments could be so outlandish”

Technology Review reports about art, innovation, and a certain prize-winning scientist:

The path to a great achievement—whether it is a technological innovation or a masterwork of art—is almost never direct. On the contrary, creative breakthroughs often come after wrenching failures. That idea animates The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery, a book by Sarah Lewis…

Andre Geim, a physicist who is based at the University of Manchester, was not seen as someone who would ever win the Nobel Prize, because his experiments could be so outlandish. He won the IgNobel Award in 2000 for levitating a live frog with magnets—and then [won the Nobel] for isolating graphene 10 years later. He was dealing with failure: the psychological frustration that can come when people don’t quite take you seriously was difficult for him to endure, required a kind of courage. And he did [the graphene work] through a process of Friday-night experiments: times where, in the laboratory, they felt free enough to fail, and therefore made these groundbreaking discoveries. He’s a good example of what it means to allow the generative process of failure to help you, through these Friday-night experiments.

He was also doing something quite unusual, which is being a deliberate amateur: every five years or so he would go into another field [of physics] and work on other people’s realms of expertise, go to all the conferences, and ask questions they didn’t dare. It required that he get up to speed quickly in a new field but also, as he describes it, not read himself out of his own new ideas.