If you’ve ever heated anything in a microwave oven,
thank an unintended outcome. Percy Spencer of Raytheon was working on a military
radar system in 1945 when he noticed something strange. The candy bar in his
Spencer could have cursed and vowed never to bring a chocolate bar to the lab
again. He didn’t.
Instead he must have thought some version of “Hmmmm, that’s interesting” and
set about figuring out why. The result, two years later was the first
commercially available microwave oven, the Radar Range.
If you’re a bald guy with erectile dysfunction, pharmaceutical help is
available thanks to two unintended outcomes. Rogaine was originally developed as
a blood pressure medication. Viagra started life as a drug for heart conditions.
In both those cases, someone had to think the equivalent of “Hmmmm, that’s
interesting” and then figure out what was going on. The fact is that an awful
lot of what we try turns out differently than we expect. When that happens there
just might be a lesson to be learned or an opportunity to be seized.
Boss’s Bottom Line
“Hmmmm, that’s interesting” is the first step on the road to finding out why
something didn’t turn out the way you expected. It can also be the first step on
the road to problem solving or opportunity seizing.
“There May be Potential in those Mistakes” by Mary Jo Asmus
contains some more detail on the Rogaine story and some good advice.