Experimentation is intrinsically linked to new knowledge creation. Let me expand on this topic through an inspiring example. The story takes us back to 1964 when Silver Spencer, a chemist with 3M initiated his experiments to develop polymer based adhesives. In his own words:
The Key to the Post-It adhesive was doing the experiment. If I had sat down and factored it out beforehand, and thought about it, I wouldn’t have done the experiment. If I had limited my thinking only to what the literature said, I would have stopped. The literature was full of examples that said you can’t do this.
Silver’s initial attempt to sell his concept within 3M wasn’t exactly successful. The focus at that time was to find a glue that formed an unbreakable bond rather than a glue that was weaker and that supported only a piece of paper. The feedback from the market didn’t auger well too for the Post-It concept till Silver met Arthur Fry, a chemist but more importantly in the context, a choir director. Fry mapped the concept to the behaviour of his members of the choir who would drop bookmarks while switching between songs. He wondered what if his members had a little adhesive on their bookmarks!
The realisation sparked more experiments until a paper product that could be easily attached and detached from the surface without affecting it, was born!
While history celebrates the Eureka moments, it is important to focus on the experiments that supplements those moments. After all failures and the learning associated with them are often the pillars for success.
Reference: Experimentation Matters: Unlocking the Potential of New Technologies for Innovation by Stefan H. Thomke
And the topic for the next post is Failure.