Accidental Innovation


While being intentional about our innovation is sure to bring results, you might be surprised at the number of commercial innovative ideas that come by accident. 

Some classic examples of accidental innovation include:

  • Penicillin

  • Corn Flakes

  • Synthetic dye and the colour mauve

  • Potato chips

  • Vulcanised rubber

  • The pacemaker

  • The microwave

  • Teflon

  • Safety Glass

Here's when and how accidental innovation is likely to happen:

  • Accidental combinations

  • Accidental substitutions

  • Accidental omissions

  • Accidental reductions

  • Quantity variation

  • Incorrect application of instructions

  • Dropping, fumbling, breaking physical elements

While the accident component is what usually enables the magic to happen, the first part for most of these accidental innovations started with some form of experimentation. 

It's the flaky dough that Keith Kellogg left standing too long, but decided to bake it anyway that led to cornflakes being born. And it's Charles Goodyear spilling rubber, sulphur and lead onto a stove to create vulcanised rubber.

Accidents happen, and with the right mindset, allowing a few accidents may just be the shortcut to a new innovation. Why not replicate some of these accidents in a controlled situation to see what commercial innovations you can create?



Nils Vesk

Founder of Ideas with Legs | Innovation speaker | consultant | author

nils vesk