THE OBSTACLE: Not everyone loved this brand new sticky note invention – Should they continue working on this project, or move on to something else?
You can have the greatest product in the world, but if people don’t buy it, that’s a problem. So, how do you overcome this obstacle?
Take 3M for example.
According to their website, the story goes that in 1968, Dr Spencer Silver tried to invent a super-strong adhesive. Instead, he accidentally created a glue that didn’t really stick things together.
Dr. Spence Silver, a 3M scientist, is busily researching adhesives in the laboratory. In the process, he discovers something peculiar: an adhesive that sticks lightly to surfaces but does not tightly bond to them.SOURCE: 3M website
One day, another scientist at 3M, Art Fry wanted a bookmark that didn’t fall out. He dreams of something that was only a little bit sticky and the rest is history.
This story is often given as an example of a life-changing accidental invention.
It’s important to note that there is some controversy over the credit for the invention of the sticky note.
In 1997, inventor Alan Amron sued 3M claiming he was the true inventor of the sticky product:
Amron said his idea in 1973 came about with chewing gum. He was looking for a way to stick a note on his refrigerator for his wife and used gum, providing inspiration for the adhesive he would use on his Press-on Memo. That year he took the sticky notes to a New York trade show and met briefly with two 3M executives, Amron said, but nothing came of the meeting.Source: LA Times
Regardless of the source of invention, in 1978, 3M found that test markets showed that people had mixed reactions to the Post-It® Notes. People weren’t sure if this was something they wanted to use.
(Crazy, right? Today, sticky notes are everywhere.)
What would you do?
You have this cool product that you’ve created. You see a lot of value. You want people to use it. But, when you asked a few people what they thought, some people like it, and some people don’t.
Do you continue on with the product, or do you scrap it and go with something else?
3M thought that success depended on people actually trying the sticky notes to see for themselves how useful it could be.
So, they go to Boise, Idaho and put in an enormous amount of effort to see what happens when office people actually try their sticky notes.
It’s now known as the Boise Blitz. 3M simply flooded the office supply industry with samples, and then afterwards, asked consumers what they thought. It turns out to be a huge hit!
“An astonishing 90 percent of consumers who try the product say they’ll buy it!”SOURCE: 3M website (archived)
So, the 3M managers decide to take this product, polish it up and sell it.
In 1980, Post-It® Notes are launched in the US and they’re a hit!
A Growth Mindset Example of Strategies, Effort, Optimization, and Tinkering
I don’t know if the people behind the Boise Blitz sampling effort had a growth mindset or not.
But, I do know that we can look at what happened in this story to realize that if we do certain things, we can overcome obstacles.
Perseverance means to not give up, and one way to not give up is to realize that there are always obstacles in life, and there are things we can do to help us overcome them.
Teacher Pro Tip: Use the following free Google Slideshow to give this example of perseverance by using strategies. Here is the FULL SIZE Slideshow Link
3M’s Post-It® Notes are a great example of how we can use strategies, effort, optimizing and tinkering to overcome obstacles.
We see a little bit of tinkering with the story of the sticky note / post it note invention.
- Dr Silver was trying to make a super strong glue. One of his attempts failed and resulted in a super weak temporary adhesive.
- Amron was trying to find a way to stick a note on the fridge for his wife. He tried gum which might not work, but maybe something initeresting would come out of it.
Most of the things we try when we tinker don’t actually work. But sometimes, you can make interesting discoveries along the way.
We see some effort in this story. The marketing team at 3M decided to give free samples out to the office supplies industry in Boise, Idaho.
- A little bit of effort might have been going to a couple of people and giving them some free samples.
- A lot of effort is when you do a blitz and give out a ridiculous amount of free samples, “saturating the office supply industry with samples.” Source: 3M website.
Optimizing happens when you keep track of how things are going, come up with theories about why you’re getting the results you’re getting, and then try to improve your results.
We see some optimization in this story.
- In 1978, the marketing team at 3M showed their Post-It® Notes idea to some test markets.
- The people in the test markets gave mixed signals. Some people loved it. Others, not so much.
- They figured out that they needed to get people to use the product and once people experienced its awesomeness, they would want to buy more.
I like to use this story of the Boise Blitz as an example of using strategies to overcome obstacles
- In 1978, the team at 3M had a problem. People weren’t loving this new “Post-It® Notes” product that they were developing.
- I imagine people shaking their heads. It’s an awesome innovative idea. Why aren’t these people loving it?
- Someone probably realized the underlying reason why people in the test markets had mixed reviews was probably because some people could see its usefulness in day-to-day life, but not everyone.
- So, rather than just asking groups of people if they think they would buy this new sticky-note product, they changed strategies.
- They had to get the Post-It® Notes into the hands of office people, get them to use it, and then ask them if they would buy the product.