Discover When to “Stick” Out Failure

The Surprising Story of the Post-It® Note

You have likely used a Post-It® Note, but do you know who invented them? Originally discarded as a failure, the adhesive that made the World’s favorite sticky note was ignored for years.

Tasked with developing a high-strength glue, Spencer Silver accidentally made the weak adhesive we now find on Post-Its®. But he didn’t dream up the handy notes.

Silver did not give up when his soft-stick adhesive was rejected by his company, 3M. Although he couldn’t think of a good application for his new product, he thought maybe someone else would.


Sometimes we overlook opportunities because we lack perspective. Showing off his product to dozens of employees within his company, Silver added new perspectives to his less than impressive glue.

Perhaps Silver’s mistake was asking his fellow scientists rather than people from a broad range of backgrounds. Five years of presentations produced no results until a disgruntled choir member became tired of losing his bookmarks.

– Wouldn’t it be great to have a bookmark that would stick to your page? –

Think about this: How can the power of the internet be used to quickly generate ideas?


Contrary to popular opinion, good ideas do not appear out of nowhere. Spencer Silver spent years pondering possible uses for his slightly sticky formula and encouraging others to do the same.

The result of those years of mental investment was the moment when Art Fry had the bright idea to apply some of the tacky glue to a piece of paper and stick it to his hymnal.

Don’t expect to achieve a big breakthrough if you are not spending time exercising your creativity and communicating your visions to others who might be interested.

Stick With It

Together Silver and Fry stuck with their product and convinced a reluctant company to give the little yellow sticky notes a try. The rest is history, but maybe you have an idea that is only a beginning. Try broadening your perspective and approaching the idea from different angles.

Failure may be worth “sticking out” if we can find an alternate application for it. Once we are no longer thinking creatively and are instead stubbornly trying to force the same failed solution over and over again, it is time to give up.

Think about it: is it time for you to give up that idea, or do you need fresh perspective and input from others?

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