One survey of patent holders (the PatVal study of European inventors, published in 2005) found that an incredible 50 percent of patents resulted from what could be described as a serendipitous process. Thousands of survey respondents reported that their idea evolved when they were working on an unrelated project — and often when they weren’t even trying to invent anything.
Kenneth Stanley: Why Greatness Cannot Be Planned: The Myth of the Objective
I believe these links could be useful to people in EA who are focused on hard questions where the answers (and the process to get to the answers) aren't yet obvious. I think the NY Times article provides the "why" and the YouTube video provides the "how."
My sense is that this is a highly undervalued tool/method for tackling hard ambiguous questions where the process to get an answer/solution isn't yet obvious, and it seems that EA is full of questions and challenges like that!
So, I hope this is a useful model to add to your problem solving toolkit as you work on doing good!