In 1902 Minnesota Mining got stuck with a small mountain of low-grade anorthosite sand that no-one had use for. Unable to sell the lot they looked for a way to get rid of it a few sprinkles at a time, which is when they invented ‘sandpaper’… and a whole new industry.
When they realised the glue they’d used could work just as well on plastic tape, they invented what we now call ‘sticky tape’ and by the time they discovered that iron oxide + sticky tape = ‘audio tape’ they’d realised there was more to life than mining.
That’s when they changed their name to Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, or as we now know them, 3M.
American Express began as a courier service, Nokia started out in forestry. Virgin began as a record shop before moving into financial services, travel, media and entertainment, publishing, consumer electronics, mobile phones, aviation and (any day now) commercial spaceflight. Yet when people argue against innovation the one objection you’ll always here is some variation on: ‘It’s just not what we do.’
It’s an argument that wouldn’t last a second with the people at Playtex, makers of intimate apparel for ladies since 1932. Wanting a piece of the US Space Program, in 1965 they took upon themselves to design the Apollo moonsuit and they’ve been making spacesuits ever since.
So next time you hear ‘It’s just not what we do’ feel free to finish the sentence with the magic word that opens up the possibilities: