Portrait of an Innovator

How do we innovate?

Our economy runs on creativity and innovation. Innovation created light bulbs. It inspired the internet. It allows new ideas to flourish, like transistors, integrated circuits, and laser beams. But where does innovation come from?


Inventor Art Fry with Post-It note. Source: Wikipedia

Innovators often feel guilty, because they didn’t really do anything. They just connected a couple of ideas and saw something new. It seemed obvious at the time. A specific problem went searching for a solution—and that solution was adapted and generalized.

A great example is the post-it note. In 1968 a scientist at 3M—makers of Scotch Tape—was trying to develop a super-strong adhesive. Instead, he accidentally created a reusable, pressure-sensitive, low-tack bonding agent. The new product went practically undeveloped within the company for five years until another scientist—Art Fry—used it to anchor bookmarks in a hymnbook he used in the church choir. Now 3M sells over $1 billion of sticky notes per year in over 100 countries.

The best innovations are often staring us in the face. People just need the freedom to tinker, experiment, and fail—because a new recipe never comes out perfect the first time. Bill McKnight, an early leader at 3M, said that if you put fences around people you get sheep—and sheep never come up with new ideas. What innovators need is room.

Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA

Chief Investment Officer

By | 2017-07-17T12:22:26+00:00 September 24th, 2015|Global Market Update|0 Comments

About the Author:

Mr. Tengdin is the Chief Investment Officer at Charter Trust Company and author of “The Global Market Update”. The audio version of each post can be heard on radio stations throughout New England every weekday. Mr. Tengdin graduated from Dartmouth College, Magna Cum Laude. He received his Master of Arts from Trinity Divinity School, Magna Cum Laude and received his Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation in 1992. Mr. Tengdin has been managing investment portfolios for over 30 years, working for Bank of Boston, State Street Global Advisors, Citibank – Tunisia, and Banknorth Group. Throughout his career, Mr. Tengdin has emphasized helping clients manage their financial risks in difficult environments where they can profit from investing in diverse assets in diverse settings. - Leave a comment if you have any questions—I read them all! - And Follow me on Twitter @GlobalMarketUpd

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