Whipped Too Long

Smashed bottles, jarring jolts of electricity, spilled chemicals, machines running amuck! Can such accidents ever lead to great breakthroughs?

Consider the case of the factory worker at the Proctor & Gamble Company in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1878, he left for his lunch break in such a hurry that he forgot to turn off his soapmaking machine, leaving it to churn for a much longer period that it should. Instead of reporting his error, the man packaged the batch of soap and sent the bars to customers thinking that no one would be the wiser. He was wrong. The soap had an unusual quality. Rather than sinking to the bottom of the tub, air bubbles trapped in the bar of soap caused it to float.

Customers loved the new soap since it meant no more fishing around in a sink or tub for a bar that had sunk to the bottom. When orders for the new product flooded the company, Proctor and Gamble discovered the worker’s error and started mass producing Ivory Soap, “the soap that floats”.

 

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