It seems that a random piece of good luck will have a massive, positive impact on our ability to vaccinate against Covid-19. The scientists running the Oxford University/Astrazenca trial made an error in an early batch of the vaccine. As a result, a sub-group of the trial’s volunteers received only a half-dose in their initial jab, followed by a booster of a full dose. Everyone else in the trial received, as planned, two full doses.

The ‘wrong’ dose given to this sub-group, however, went on to show 90% effectiveness, compared to just 62% effectiveness for those given the ‘correct’ treatment. The researchers’ mistake may not only improve the world’s ability to overcome the disease, but also do so at a significantly lower cost.

There are other examples of unexpected errors that have led to innovation breakthroughs. The post-it note, for example, was created by a 3M researcher who was developing new, strong adhesives, but ended up creating an adhesive that had a ‘removability characteristic’. Other examples include the microwave oven and graphene.

In the 19th century, Louis Pasteur’s discovery of penicillin occurred after he realised that injecting seemingly forgotten, old cultures of cholera into chickens didn’t kill the animals. Far from it – it actually made the animals more resistant to the disease.

The thing to note with all these examples, however, is that the scientists and researchers were already looking for something; they were trying new things, they were experimenting. If you’re not experimenting it’s difficult for you to discover anything new, whether by design or accident. As Pasteur himself put it, “Fortune favours the prepared mind.

How well is your mind and your organisation prepared to recognise new innovation opportunities and breakthroughs?

Off The Record: Nobody Does It Better by Carly Simon

I wasn’t looking

But somehow you found me

I tried to hide from your love light

But like heaven above me

The spy who loved me

Is keeping all my secrets safe tonight

Fixing The Innovation Gap

Though 80% of CEOs believe innovation is critical to their organisation’s success, only 6% are satisfied with what’s being delivered. Fixing The Innovation Gap gives you practical steps to improve your organisation’s ability to develop and run an innovation system that works.

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© Stuart Cross 2020. All rights reserved.