Striking the Right Match


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Greetings.  We’re just about to head back to Washington after a wonderful visit to Sweden, and it seems like a great time to reiterate one of the essential ideas of this blog.  The simple notion that there is genius all around us and that the real key to our success is combining what we know with the ideas and insights of others.  It’s a bit of stretch for many of us who have been trained to think in a certain way, but it’s vital to our ability to offer new and compelling products, services, and solutions to those we serve.  And this suggests that any time we have a chance to travel to places near and far we have a chance to stretch our thinking by finding a “match” that could spark our curiosity, genius, and innovation.

Which brings us to one of the last stops on our Swedish travels–the city of Jonkoping at the southern end of Lake Vattern, Europe’s sixth largest lake.  It was here in 1855 that Johan Edvard Lundstrom invented and patented the first safety match.  It was an invention of nearly epic proportions…kind of like the iPod of its day.  To do this, however, he would need to combine his own knowledge with the ideas and insights of several people before him including the British chemist and apothecary John Walker, the French chemist Charles Sauria, and the Swedish inventor and professor Gustaf Erik Pasch.  In 1827, Walker had discovered that he could start a fire by coating the end of a stick with antimony sulfide, potassium chlorate, gum, and starch and letting them dry.  The resulting “match” could then be used to start a fire by striking it anywhere–an exciting but somewhat dangerous proposition.  In 1830, Sauria created a match using white phosphorus that could also strike on anything.  The only problem with his creation was the fact that white phosphorus was poisonous and made people using it quite ill.  Pasch actually invented the first “safety” match in 1844 but could not figure out how to make them in large quantities.  Taking insight from all three, Lundstrom placed red phosphorus on the outside of the matchbox and placed the other necessary ingredients on the match head.  This meant that the match could only be lit “safely” off the prepared striking surface, would not make users sick, and could be mass produced.

We win in business and in life when we make the right connections, building and improving on the efforts and insights of others.  Where will you look for your next spark of inspiration?

Cheers and have a brilliant week ahead!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Alan Gregerman
Alan Gregerman is an award-winning author, consultant and keynote speaker who has been called "one of the most original thinkers in business today" and "the Robin Williams of business consulting." His work focuses on helping companies and organizations to unlock the genius in all of their people in order to deliver the most compelling value to their customers.


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