Friday, May 13, 2011

Finding inspiration in unlikely places

Inspiration can come from the most unlikely sources. According to, the shape for Coca-Cola's iconic bottle came from the cacao tree seed pod. The bottle's designer found the plant pictured in the Encyclopedia Britannica, while he was looking for information on the two plants for which Coca-Cola is named (the coca leaf and kola nut). Intrigued by the striations on the pod, he decided to base his design on that look. The rest is history.

The Post-It note is another story of unusual inspiration. Arthur Fry, an employee at 3M, sang in his church's choir and had trouble keeping the pages marked in his hymnal. His makeshift bookmarks would fall out whenever he opened the book, causing him to lose his place. A 3M colleague, Spencer Silver, had created an adhesive that was strong enough to stick to surfaces but weak enough that it could be easily removed without causing damage. One Sunday, as he sat in church, Fry realized that Silver's adhesive might be just what he needed to keep his bookmarks in place. From those bookmarks the idea for the Post-It note was born.

So where do you go to find inspiration? Books? Websites? Blogs? Colleagues? Friends? A walk in the park?

As businesspeople, we live busy, hectic lives. Sometimes, our fevered pace can limit our focus and stunt our creative growth. But inspiration is an important key to improving products, building efficiencies, and growing our bottom line. So today I challenge you to seek inspiration somewhere outside your normal "comfort zone." It may not lead to a revolutionary product or packaging scheme, but it might just provide the breakthrough you need to push yourself to the next level.

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