Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Slinky was a “Fail”?

Nearly every day I receive an inquiry from someone looking for help with their “million dollar idea”.   The more I work with inventors the more I realize that there is no “right” formula for successfully taking an idea and turning it into a million dollar home run.  A majority of good ideas never get from the “aha” stage to the market for a variety of reasons.

But some do and that is what inspires inventors to keep on trying.   Yahoo recently published an article that originally appeared in Investopedia listing 7 products under $5.00 that made millions!  These products include:  Post-It Notes, Slinky, Crazy Straw, Silly Bandz, Pet Rock, Antenna Ball and Koosh Ball.

What’s interesting about some of these products is that their inventors did not set out to create what they turned out to be!   For example, The Slinky was invented in 1945 by Robert James for the Navy as an anti-vibration device for ship instruments. However the Navy didn't use them so James searched for another use for his invention and made it into a toy.  Over 300 million Slinkies have sold since! 

“Post It’s” resulted from a huge “fail” after a 3M employee was tasked to create a new strong adhesive and came up with an adhesive that didn’t stick well so he started using it to attach notes to his reports.   Soon his fellow employees wanted it and the rest as they say, “is history”.

The moral of these stories is that sometimes the most successful products stemmed from “failed” inventions that were “re-purposed” into something else.  Failure can lead to great success if we are willing to think beyond the obvious and see opportunity where others may not!     Many of the most successful inventors did not set out to create the product that ultimately brought then success – they simply never gave up when they failed.

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