1 – DUCT TAPE
If you need to repair something, it is always smart to start out by using the right kit – if it errs, then try duct tape.
The above-mentioned can well be the approach that several, more or less successful handymen use when they execute tasks at home.
But actually a funny story can be told about the duct tape. A story with an anchor in one of the largest historical happenings in the last 100 years – namely world war 2.
During the war the American soldiers missed some strong and swim-proof tape to keep their ammunition cases free from moisture and dirt.
The solution was delivered by the firm Johnson and Johnson, that proceeded on the basis of an already existing tape, which was used in medical purposes. The outcome was a tape of three layers with a layer of polyethylene in the top, a network of stuff in the middle and a rubber based tape product in the bottom.
The tape performed better than anyone expected. Besides from preventing the water coming inside it was also very strong, but paradoxically it was simultaneously easy to pull over. The tape got the nickname “Duck Tape” because its swim-proof capacities reminded of a duck’s feathers.
After the war, the building boom started in the USA and the returned soldiers continued their use of their strong reliable friend from the war. The tape was often used for work in touch with ventilation and air condition – also called “duct”. Therefore, today the tape is most often called “duct tape” in the USA.
Bonus info: Allegedly, the name “duct tape” comes from the English term of a handyman at music- and TV-productions – a gaffer? The tape became, also here, a part of the standard equipment in the time after the war before it drifted into the general housekeeping equipment.
The TV-dinner concept has maybe not reached the same breakthrough in Europe as in the USA. And furthermore you can discuss the “value” in the social and healthy effects that can happen in touch with eating heated food in front of the TV.
After all, it is an idea that has multiple innovative angles, and moreover it is a market that sells for an astronomical amount (2010: 4,5 million dollars).
TV- dinner was at the first inspired by airplane food, which after all makes sense, when you think about it. At the first it was Maxson Food Systems who during Second World War invented the airplane food as an alternative to those sandwiches that until then typically were served.
Already in the same decade the TV-dinner however was launched. There are different conjectures about who first got the idea about the TV-dinner, but one of the stories that has most following wind is about a combination of the fact that a mistake in the warehouse in the firm Swanson Brothers happened about the same time that one of the salesmen from Swanson Brothers visited Pan American Airlines. The inspiration should be a result thereof.
Other people think that Clarence Birdseye, who got the idea about frozen meals back in the 1920’s, should have credit for the idea.
Surely it is that the TV-dinner had success. Concurrently with that, it became more and more normal to have a freezer – and a television at home. When it during the 80’s and the 90’s simultaneously became more common to have a microwave oven at home, the concept about food that could be enjoyed in front of the TV was growing further. And now that we are talking about the microwave oven…
3 – THE MICROWAVE OVEN
The microwave oven has like many other innovative ideas its origin in a random, but inspiring incident. And do not forget that the idea is just a part of the innovation. The most important is continually to use the idea/the inspiration actively, so that it leads to something concrete.
And you have to say that this was what Percy Spence did when he in 1945 went by a radar system at his workplace – weapon- and electronics company Raytheon. Spence had namely a chocolate bar in his pocket and when he suddenly felt that it was melting, he started to wonder.
Next, Percy Spence took a bag of popcorn with him to the radar system. As they soon started to pop, the idea for the microwave was born. Spence found out that the radar system sent out microwaves with a frequency of 2.5 gigahertz and that water, fat and carbohydrates react on microwaves that is about this frequency.
The experiments sound a bit dangerous, but it was actually when someone from the continually bigger group that gradually became a part of the experiments, wanted to cook an egg, it went wrong. The egg simply exploded in his face.
Ensuing, Spence found out that he could catch the microwave energy inside a little metal box where the energy did not have the opportunity to escape. And when food was placed inside the box, the temperature went up fiercely quick.
Already in 1947 Spence and Raytheon have built the first microwave oven called “Radarange” for commercial use. The microwave oven’s way to mainstream success was long and pastry though. The first edition was 1.8 meters tall, weighed 340 kilos and costed 5,000 American dollars (today about 55,000 dollars). These early editions were only used by big restaurants, on big ferries and things like that.
Decades passed by before the microwave oven became a product that everyone owned. In 1971 1 % of the population in the USA owned a microwave oven. In 1986 it was 25 %. And in 1997 90 % have gotten the small machine.
Also here you can talk about that TV-dinner and the microwave oven have had positive impacts on each other. If you want to be able to make quick TV-dinners, you preferably have to own a microwave oven. And if you own a microwave oven it is simultaneously more tempting to make a TV-dinner.
4 – OSTOMY BAG
The invention of the ostomy bag is a piece of innovation that is as simple as brilliant. And it is even Danish.
The first known colostomy operation was conducted in 1776 by the French doctor, Pilore. And the patient stayed alive for 45 years, but the story reports nothing about, how the person lived with the ostomy.
You know though that many patients for the next almost two centuries lived very bad – if at all – with their ostomy. The results of ostomy operations were often very bad because of missing sedation means and antibiotic, which you did not seriously get in control before the penicillin became a reality around World War 2.
Though, it was still connected with enormous difficulty, a lot of obstacles and bad hygiene in terms of bad smell and leaks, to be ostomy operated until 1954, when a smart, Danish nurse came up with a genius idea. The idea is so simple, that it almost is too obvious, but it has changed lives for many ostomy operated people worldwide since then. And moreover the idea led to one of the greatest vocation successes here in Denmark, the company Coloplast with 7,400 employees.
The simple idea was to use a common freeze bag, equip it with stick material on one side and next, a hole was made through.
Afterwards it was easy to stick the bag on the right place on the body. And easier to avoid leaks than with a solution with bandages.
About three lines. Sometimes more is not necessary to describe an innovative idea that can change lives for millions of people and earn billions.
In this context it though has to be mentioned that a lot had to happen with the ostomy bag before it became what it is today. And there was a need of impact from another nurse before a real production was set in motion.
Aage Louis-Hansen owned the company “Dansk Plastik Emballage”, that had reached success by developing innovative welding methods, which achieved to make his packaging completely close. Though he had never earlier produced for the medico industry and was skeptical, when Elise Sørensen for the first time pitched the idea about mass producing the ostomy bag.
Fortunately, Aage Louis-Hansen’s wife was a nurse too. She could see the potential and convinced her husband to conclude a franchise agreement with Elise Sørensen and produce the first 1,000 bags. From the beginning it was a resounding success and Coloplast was established by Aage Louis-Hansen in 1957.
Bonus info: The creating woman of the ostomy bag, Elise Sørensen, had personal motivation for her invention, when her sister by an age of 32 years was operated for cancer and thereafter was not able to get rid of her feces in the usual way.
5 – POST-IT
Can be that the ostomy is a relatively simple invention. The same applies to the duct tape.
But none of them trumps the next innovation, when it comes to simplicity: The Post-IT.
The history behind this innovation is almost incredible. This is a real story about the product, which nobody knew could be very useful.
Maybe this was the reason that the birth of the Post-IT was so difficult and long lasting. It took 12 years to invent the product technology, until the product was available in the market.
The chemist Spencer Silver worked in 1968 in the company 3M with development of a new glue. At that time, the intention was exclusively to develop a stronger and more hardy glue.
By chance he found a glue, which was not that strong. On the other hand, the composition of the glue made it possible to remove it and fix it again several times without leaving remains of glue.
For years Silver was fighting to find a need of the new type of glue. He was very enthusiastic himself, but his colleagues did not really see the idea. In 3M’s own opinion, they produced industrial super glue so what was the purpose of a relatively weak glue?
However, silver continued and was in fact so pro-active pitching his idea that he got the nick name “Mr. Persistent” in the corridors at 3M. His persistence did not bring him forward and “Mr. Persistent” had to put the project on stand-by. Not necessarily forgotten but kept.
Years were passing without any usage of the new glue until another scientist at 3M, Art Fry all of sudden was facing a very tangible challenge.
Art Fry practiced weekly in a church choir that sang during church service. Every time he used small, loose pieces of paper in order to mark which songs in the psalm book they were going to sing during the church service. However, he found out that the papers fell out again.
He needed a piece of paper with glue. A type of glue which did not leave any marks in the books. Then Art Fry remembered that he had heard his colleague talk about his glue, which exactly solved that problem. Fry has subsequently described how he got an adrenaline kick as he realized the potential.
Art Fry also realized that it was not only a bookmark with glue, but also a note tool. The entire potential was clear to Fry and Silver, as they began using the Post-ITs for writing messages to each other in the development team that was working on making the Post-ITs ready for the market. It became almost a new way of communication within the team.
At the beginning of 1980, after many market tests, Silver, Fry and their team had a product, which was ready for the market.
From that time the Post-ITs became a huge, worldwide success.
Bonus info: Fry and Silver did not become so rich from their product; but they have expressed a great satisfaction with their respective careers at 3M, where they stayed until they were retired.
The above-mentioned examples prove that innovations can arise from many spectacular occurrences and situations. Most of them do in any case not come from R&D-departments or problem-solving meetings.
In some of the cases, the odds for innovation have seemed bad. Common for the successes is that some persons behind the ideas have held a certain degree of persistence. A certain motivation. Without this basis, many of the above-mentioned ideas had probably not become successful – in any case not at that time.
The courses of action indicate that more of the innovations probably have become successful in spite of the preconditions rather than due to the preconditions.
It is obvious that persons, who are innovative, will be met with a certain degree of resistance. Often the idea will cause enthusiasm. But what about real support? Real cooperation about realizing the idea? Many organizations need to realize that they fall behind. Too many tasks are probably the reason, but maybe also an excuse, which is often used.
If you want to increase the opportunities for success with innovation in the organization, you have, first and foremost, to create an innovation culture – for example where positive conflicts and friction become the breeding ground for crazy ideas and innovation. Get inspiration in the weblog: Glem disruption! Fokusér i stedet på innovation og skab resultater gennem sunde konflikter og innovationskultur.
If you want further, find more inspiration here: