Famous Failures – Bubble Wrap

Have you ever had what you thought was a really great idea only to have it turn out to be not so great after all? Now imagine someone else picking up your discarded idea and proving it actually was quite brilliant.

This is what happened to Al Fielding and Marc Chavannes back in 1957.

These two gentlemen were working on an aesthetic problem. They wanted to create a textured wallpaper in order to create an interesting effect in a room. Their solution? Take two shower curtains and put them together so that pockets of air would be trapped between them. This sheet of plastic could then be put up on the walls to make for unique and charming décor.

The world didn’t exactly come flocking to their door.

Undaunted they tried again. Same product: different marketing approach. Maybe this unique bubbled plastic could be used to insulate greenhouses.

Not really. It sort of worked – but – it was not something every greenhouse owner couldn’t live without.

It took two years for someone to figure out what to do with the product. Frederick W. Bowers, who worked for the company which made the sheets of plastic with air pockets, realized they would be perfect for the transport of computer equipment for a company which had a sudden need for this kind of product – IBM. The material, now called ‘Bubble Wrap,’ was absolutely perfect for the job. The rest, shall we say, is history.

Bubble Wrap is one of those products that seemed to come along by accident. As a wallpaper, it wasn’t a great idea. (Just imagine your kids going around the house and poking the bubbles to pop them?). On the other hand, someone who was willing to think outside the box, or more accurately, think creatively about what to put IN a box, was able to come up with a use for the product no one else would have ever considered.

Thankfully, the creators of Bubble Wrap hadn’t given up on the product. They knew they had something interesting, they just didn’t know what to use it for. Sometimes you must experiment with your ideas to discover what you really have. Sometimes you have to think more creatively about what you have at hand.

The point is not to give up. Failure should never be anything more than a marker to tell you it’s time to attack the problem from a different angle. Learn from the mistake, then move on. Imagine what you’ll come up with when you do!




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *