Not every innovation happens intentionally. Next time you experience an innovation “failure,” ask if there’s a better process or product that could result from the experience. Consider these history-making mistakes:
An 11-year-old Frank Epperson was mixing powdered flavoring into his soda water one winter evening in 1905. He left the drink outside overnight in record-cold temperatures with its mixing stick still in it. Epperson found a frozen treat the next morning. Almost 20 years later, after selling his treat at a California amusement park, Epperson applied for a patent on his creation that he initially called an Epsicle.
John Pemberton, a pharmacist, was trying to make a cure for headaches by mixing together a bunch of ingredients. After eight years of being sold in a drug store, the surprising combination became popular enough to be sold in bottles.
The Kellogg brothers forgot to store their boiled wheat properly, and once it was later processed, it came out as flakes. The younger brother, Will Kellogg, tried the same process with corn and created a crispier flake.
The chocolate-chip cookie
Ruth Graves Wakefield, co-owner of the Toll House Inn, was making a Butter Drop Do cookie recipe and ran out of baker’s chocolate. In its place she added a few pieces of semi-sweet chocolate. The chocolate didn’t fully melt, and she ended up with chocolate-chip cookies.
Engineer Percy Spencer was touring a Raytheon laboratory when he stopped in front of a magnetron. After a moment, he noticed that the chocolate bar in his pocket was melting. His curiosity piqued, Spencer next put unpopped kernels of popcorn in front of the magnetron and watched them explode. These experiments led to the development of the microwave oven.
Constantin Fahlberg, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University, was investigating the oxidation of o-toluenesulfonamide. One day he ate his dinner without washing his hands first and noticed the food he was eating tasted very sweet. After further research, he discovered that what he tasted was a form of saccharin.