Opinion

The glue that wouldn't stick | The Pirkle Report

There once was a chemist at Minnesota, Mining and Manufacturing — 3M — who was working on inventing a new glue. Now the whole point of a glue is to stick and stay stuck. But he had invented a glue that would not stick, called low adhesive in the industry.

So what possible use could there be for a glue that doesn't stick? The project was considered a failure. His name was Dr. Spencer Silver and he was a genius. He realized that a glue that did not stick might have a use. He realized that the characteristic of not sticking permanently might be an advantage. For five years, he tried to promote this idea in 3M, but to no avail.

What he had invented was the glue that is on Post-its. You know Post-its. Those little pieces of paper that you write notes on and stick to your wall or desktop or wherever you want to stick them. The big advantage is that they don't stick permanently and can easily be removed and posted somewhere else. If they stuck permanently to your wall, they would be of no use.

His colleague in 3M, Art Fry, made up some pieces of paper with this non-stick glue and began using them. Soon he realized the possibility of using them as bookmarks. But it was many years later that the 3M businessmen, not geniuses, were finally convinced that this idea should be released as a product.

Now Post-its come in all sizes and all colors and are sold around the world. They have become an integral part of everyone's office and home use, too.

Often genius is simply in recognizing something that nobody else has recognized — the possibilities of something different.

We often think that everything has been invented. Yet after 80 years of automobiles, someone finally came up with the idea of a cardboard piece that would fit on the dashboard of the car that would keep the sun out and keep the car cool. Imagine how many years went by before someone thought of that.

That is why my email signature file reads "genius is not in understanding complexity, it's in understanding simplicity."

For many great inventions you use, you say "this is so simple, why didn't I think of that?"

So put on your thinking caps. Everything has not been thought of. Perhaps we should be teaching this simple concept to kids in school.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Sep 19 edition online now. Browse the archives.