From Rotary Magazine:
Spencer Silver just across town from where I sit typing this in Minneapolis. The 80-year-old chemist died recently. Silver’s name may not be familiar to you, but his work has touched your life. And it offers lessons for all of us about what it means to be creative.
In the late 1960s, Silver was trying to come up with a strong glue that could be used in aircraft. Instead, he accidentally came up with the opposite: a weak glue that could be reused over and over.
Rather than seeing this as a failure, he saw the potential in his discovery. Silver promoted it within the company where he worked; for years, he gave talks about it. Finally, someone else came up with an application — a “reusable bookmark.” But it was still several more years before the first Post-it Notes went on sale.
It was a creation that has, to some degree, changed the world.
The history of the Post-it Note challenges many of our beliefs about innovation, creativity, and even genius. When we think of those words, we might picture a lone inventor in a darkened room using the formidable powers of his or her mind to come up with something astonishing, something the world has never seen.
Silver was not like that. In fact, few creative people are. Craig Wright, author of The Hidden Habits of Genius, writes that a chemist colleague once told him, “Scientists don’t have ‘eureka’ flashes. Rather, they experience ‘My, that’s strange’ moments.”