Post It Notes – An Employee Idea that Was Originally a Mistake

Coby Skonord|
February 19, 2021

Can you imagine what would life be like without the Post-It Note? A tool that’s synonymous with innovation and one of the most versatile products for brainstorming and collaboration ever invented, almost never made it into Ideawake’s offices and yours.

From two failures to they’re ultimate success, the story of Post-It Notes spans over a decade and is a testament to the importance of innovation

The Original Post-It Note was Invented by Accident (1968)

When Spencer Silver, an employee researcher at 3M was trying to create a stronger adhesive for the aerospace industry, all he ended up being able to create was a weak adhesive that could easily be removed without residue.

The project was recorded as a failure, and it wouldn’t be until 6 years later in 1974 that the next chapter of this crazy story unfolded.

The Lightbulb Moment (1974)

It wasn’t the original inventor that discovered the Post-It Notes true potential. Art Fry, a colleague of Silvers was trying to find a solution for keeping his place in his Hymnal at church. He has an Aha moment, and tries Silver’s adhesive, which works like a charm.

Fun Fact – All Fry had access to at the time he was building prototypes of the Post-It Note was yellow paper, which is why their original color was yellow.

Failure to Launch (1977)

Enter 1977, nearly 3 years after Fry’s eureka moment and over 9 years after Silver had originally invented the Post-It Note accidentally. 3M releases what we today call the Post-It Note in 4 test markets under a different name – “Press’n Peel.”

Amazingly, when they originally introduced this versatile tool, no one knew how to use it. The result was lackluster sales, and Press’n Peel being pulled from store shelves shortly after its launch.

Ultimate Success (1979 – Today)

Two years later in 1979, Press’n Peel notes are rebranded to Post-it Notes and free samples were given to offices in the Boise Idaho metro area as part of the “Boise Blitz.”

This time, lightning struck and 90% of offices that were given their original packs of Post-It Notes reordered them.

Today 600 Post-It Note products are sold in more than 100 countries, with 3M selling more than 50 billion individual notes per year. They are available in 8 standard sizes, 25 shapes, and 62 colors.

Key Takeaways

  • Innovation is a muscle that’s built over time, it’s not something that happens with one “Eureka” moment.
  • Don’t deal in absolutes – It took over 12 years from the original invention of the Post-It Note and 2 failures before it became an iconic product.
  • Peer Collaboration is Key to Make Innovation Happen

Has the next Post-It Note already been invented inside of your organization? Learn how to better foster a culture of innovation at your organization by launching an employee ideation program.

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