I read that Spencer Silver, the inventor of the glue that made Post-it Notes possible, died this week.
According to his NYT obituary, "Dr. Silver worked in 3M's central research laboratory developing adhesives. In 1968 he was trying to create one that was so strong it could be used in aircraft construction. He failed in that goal. But during his experimentation he invented something entirely different: an adhesive that that stuck to surfaces, but could be easily peeled off."
The article continues, "It was a solution to a problem that did not appear to exist, but Dr. Silver was certain it was a breakthrough."
Dr. Silver tried to find an application within 3M for years, but was not successful.
One day, while on the corporate golf course, another 3M employee Mr. Fry heard about Dr. Silver's invention. He, too, started looking for an application within 3M . Then, while at church choir, the slips of paper bookmarking songs in his hymnal kept falling out. The rest, as they say, is history.
What are the lessons here?
If you love golf, you might say, "Spend more time golfing!"
If you're an entrepreneur, you might say, "Notice things around you. The extraordinary idea is often hidden in plain sight in the form of an ordinary problem."
If you want to achieve higher levels of business success, you might ask yourself, "One a deeper level, what are the problems my products/services could solve?"