How often do you find solutions?

Today is April 30 and the Navigate the Chaos question to understand is “how often do you find solutions?” Those who navigate the chaos often find solutions to problems, answers to questions, and resolutions to issues. Every day presents new problems, questions, and issues to practicing this trait provides one with a valuable skill to use while navigating any chaotic situation.

On the issue of finding solutions Albert Einstein noted “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we use when we created them.” To think differently then is the key to finding solutions. Art Fry and Spencer Silver provide one example of finding solutions.

In 1968, while working at 3M trying to create a super strong adhesives for the aerospace industry, Spencer Silver accidentally managed to create an incredibly weak, pressure-sensitive adhesive agent called Acrylate Copolymer Microspheres that could easily be peeled off of a surface and it was also reusable. Since 3M management viewed Silver’s creation as too weak to be useful, the discovery was a dead end. Silver spent the next five years trying to figure out a way to use his discovery.

One day 3M product development engineer Art Fry attended one of Silver’s seminars on the low-tack adhesive. Fry sung in a church choir in St. Paul, Minnesota and had a problem of accidentally losing his song page markers in his hymn book while singing. From this, he eventually had the stroke of genius to use some of Silver’s adhesive to help keep the slips of paper in the hymnal.

During the seminar Silver placed some of the adhesive on a bulletin board to demonstrate how it worked. With his hymnal issue in mind, Fry suggested Silver was using the adhesive backward. Instead of sticking the adhesive to the bulletin board, the adhesive should “put it on a piece of paper and then we can stick it to anything.”

To try this approach Fry and Silver found a lab with paper and did an experiment. The original notes’ yellow color was chosen by accident, as the lab next-door to the post-it team had only yellow scrap paper to use.

3M launched the product as “Press ’n Peel” in stores in four cities in 1977, but results were disappointing. A year later, 3M instead issued free samples directly to consumers in Boise, ID, with 94 percent of those who tried them indicating they would buy the product.

On April 6, 1980, “Press ’n Peel” was reintroduced in US stores as “post-it notes.” Fry and Silver changed his thinking and found a solution to his problem that ultimately helped many others.

How often do you find solutions?