Richard James had a life changing moment in 1943. He worked as a naval engineer, stabilizing the instruments on ships, and one day while making adjustments to some springs he watched one fall to the floor. Others saw the same thing and went about their business, but Richard James had a life changing idea.
In the book Eureka! The Surprising Stories Behind the Ideas That Shaped the World, Marlene Wagman-Geller tells the story about Richard’s eureka moment—in addition to many other profiles. Richard considered how the spring could be used as a toy. In 1945, he and his wife Betty borrowed $500 to produce four hundred of what they called Slinkys at a display in Gimbels department store in Philadelphia.
Betty was concerned that no one would buy a toy and her husband would be crushed, so while on her way to get coffee she paid someone a dollar to buy one. When she returned to the stand her husband was surrounded by people waving money and they quickly sold out. Since 1945, over 300 million Slinky’s have been sold, enough to wrap around the world 126 times.
We all have eureka moments. Most do not result in the success enjoyed by Richard and Betty James; however we are all capable of impressive innovations. I am always amazed at the great ideas produced by a team, assuming they are given a voice.
Ideas are typically limited by the fence we put around them. Open the gate, invite your team to consider the possibilities, and plant the seeds for a valuable eureka moment.