In un articolo su The Conversation volto a dimostrare il lato oscuro della creatività, Lynne Vincent racconta la storia di quando questo lato oscuro è risultato essere alla base di uno degli oggetti di maggior uso quotidiano negli uffici — ma anche nelle case: il Post-It della 3M. Che è l’equivalente nel mondo della cancelleria di ciò che la Settimana Enigmistica rappresenta in quello dell’editoria: l’oggetto che vanta più tentativi di imitazione. Ma anche, a voler essere pignoli, una sorta di metonimia applicata all’uso quotidiano: si intende con Post-It non solo l’originale prodotto dalla 3M (con tanto di marchio registrato), ma qualunque imitazione più o meno riuscita dello stesso.
In 1968 Spencer Silver, a scientist at 3M, was working on developing a strong and durable adhesive for building aircraft. At one point, he created a very weak adhesive. While it lacked the necessary strength, it had the remarkable qualities of leaving no residue and being reusable.
Nonetheless, 3M deemed the product useless, put it aside, and forgot about it.
Years later, Art Fry, a chemical engineer at 3M and church choir member, was frustrated about losing his place in his hymnal. Fry, who’d been aware of Silver’s invention, had an idea: he coated some paper with Silver’s failed adhesive, marked the hymnal pages with the pieces of paper, and then removed the paper after the church service without damaging the pages.
Seeing potential value in the product, Fry reintroduced it to his superiors. They panned the idea, and ordered that he cease working on the project.
Nonetheless, Fry defied those orders and continued with the project. He built a machine to produce the Post-it notes, distributing the prototypes to 3M’s secretaries, who loved them. Fry ignored his managers’ requests, used company property without permission, and bypassed the established protocols of the company – all to pursue his idea.
3M eventually saw the product’s value and manufactured it. Post-it notes became wildly successful and profitable: Fry had taken what was considered a useless product and applied it in a unique and useful way. But the story of the Post-it note demonstrates both the positive and the dark sides of creativity. On the one hand, a creative idea resulted in value and profit; on the other, an individual was willing to be intentionally dishonest in order to execute his idea.