In The Economy of Cities, Jane Jacobs tells the story of 3M. The company started as a supplier of processed sand to metal manufacturers. As an offshoot of their core business, they decided to manufacture sandpaper. And they failed. The adhesive they developed just did not work to stick the sand o the paper. But they did not give up.
And surprise!—Their continued experiments with adhesives eventually led to the development of a whole line of tapes—including that office staple, Scotch Tape—and much more.
A friend told me about a conversation with a master ceramic artist at this year’s Smithsonian Craft Fair. The artist said that often when he opens his kiln to remove the fired piece; it is not what he expected. He finds instead a beautiful surprise!
So innovation, with its inevitable process of trial and error, should not, and importantly, must not be feared. And it’s also no use to insist on finding what you initially are looking for. The secret: be open to surprise!!