Happy Accidents #044 - Post-it Notes

A semi-sticky revolution

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Post-it notes, those ubiquitous little pieces of sticky paper we rely on every day, are more than just office supplies.

They're the result of a remarkable "Happy Accident" that turned a weak adhesive into a multi-billion-dollar industry.

Let's dig in, shall we?


This is the part of every Happy Accident story where we see every successful outcome starts with the person putting themselves in a favorable position. They work hard, they try new things, they meet new people. They're not just sitting around 'hoping' to be successful some day.

In 1968, Spencer Silver, a 3M scientist, was pursuing a dream of creating a super-strong adhesive.

However, his experiment took an unexpected turn, and he found himself with a weak adhesive instead.

At first, Silver was unsure of the utility of this seemingly useless creation.


This is the part of every success story where there's a chance encounter, a serendipitous moment, an unintentional discovery (or Happy Accident) that paves the way for the next steps. In some cases, a Happy Accident can even be disguised as something bad in the moment.

Amid this uncertainty, Silver had a moment of insight. He realized that his weak adhesive could serve as a reusable bookmark, perfect for attaching to pages without damaging the paper.

Soon, his colleagues discovered that these bookmarks were also fantastic for leaving notes for each other.

The "Eureka" moment arrived when Silver and his team recognized the true potential of their accidental invention.


Just like Happy Accidents don't just fall into your lap (you need to set the stage first), they also don't turn into anything if you don't recognize them and take action. This is the part of every success story where we see people capitalizing on their Happy Accident.

The humble Post-it note was born, and it quickly became an office essential. This small invention led to an entire industry.

The sticky note market has grown into a multi-billion-dollar behemoth. As of 2021, the industry was projected to reach a staggering value of $2.4 billion by 2029, all thanks to the unexpected success of Silver's "weak" adhesive.

The next time you grab a Post-it note to jot down a reminder or mark a page, remember that its journey from accidental invention to indispensable office tool is truly a testament to the magic of "Happy Accidents."

(…and if you’re the creative type, check out this video on how to make origami butterflies out of Post-it notes 👇)


The creation of Post-it Notes was a "Happy Accident" born in 1968 when 3M scientist Spencer Silver was trying to develop a super-strong adhesive but ended up with a weak one instead.

It wasn't until he saw the potential for reusable bookmarks and easy-to-remove notes that the true value of this serendipitous invention was realized, eventually giving rise to a multi-billion-dollar sticky note industry.


I asked Alexa if I needed to be lucky in order to be successful. Check out her hilarious reply.


Do you need to be lucky to be successful? #happyaccidents #success #newsletter #askalexa

Some fun facts:

  • Post-it notes are available in over 150 countries today, with countless colorful variations to choose from.

  • The official Post-it brand also offers adhesive products like Super Sticky Notes and Full Adhesive Notes.

  • The largest Post-it note ever made measured 13.8 feet by 13.8 feet. Imagine the size of the to-do list you could fit on that!

  • The adhesive used in Post-it notes is officially called "acrylate copolymer microspheres."

The lessons here:

  1. Embrace accidents: Sometimes, the best discoveries happen when you least expect them. Don't be quick to dismiss unexpected results; they might just lead to something extraordinary.

  2. Creativity Finds a Way: Spencer Silver's ability to see potential in his "failed" experiment and adapt it to a new use demonstrates the power of creativity and adaptability.

  3. Office Innovations Matter: Even small office supplies can spark massive changes, revolutionizing the way we work and organize our lives.

YOUR Happy Accidents

Check out this post on Twitter (X) about how Nikita Kazkin accidentally started a business writing AI prompts.

Hey, Dennis Geelen here. Author of the Happy Accidents newsletter.

Are you looking to bet on yourself? See how I can help.