May 28, 2023

Post-it Notes, iTunes, WeChat revolution... You too can start the fire of innovation

Humble beginnings

Post-it Notes was created when 2 scientists - one with a product that he couldn’t find a strong demand for, and another with a bookmark problem he couldn’t solve - got together and experimented.

iTunes was invented by 2 former employees of Apple who were then brought back by Apple to continue developing their product into iTunes.

WeChat was conceived by a team of 7 people within Tencent appointed by senior management to create a competing offering to their popular QQ product.


Post-it Notes have changed communication, encouraging creative expression and productivity for millions around the world.

iTunes has transformed the way that people around the world consume audio and video content, ushering in the era of mass consumption of media on mobile devices.

WeChat has revolutionized the way that its 1.2 billion users work, shop, socialize and get entertained.

The best ideas start as conversations

One commonality that these three breakthroughs have is that they are disruptions created from within large organizations. Essentially, small groups of people within these firms got together to create these disruptions despite the organization’s main business focus being on other products / markets. Evidently, disruptive innovations from within large firms can help in creating new revenue streams, address competitive forces or, in some cases, completely revolutionize the industry. However, more often than not, the structures and forces within large organizations that enable them to be efficient and effective are often hindrances to such innovation. As such, creating mechanisms that enable disruptive innovations is ultimately easier said than done.

One option is to adopt the Tencent approach with the leadership team appointing a dedicated group to work on the disruptive product.

Another option is to enable people from across the organization to get together and collaborate like Dr. Spencer Silver and Dr. Art Fry did at 3M to create Post-it Notes, or like Bill Kincaid and Jeff Robbin did to create iTunes.

Every revolution begins with a spark

To enable this, there are no easy answers but fortunately, feasible solutions are within reach. One approach is to make your internal talent network exceptional.

A strong internal talent network is characterized by far-reaching visibility into and easy connectivity with people and opportunities in the organization. This is achieved through elements such as social learning driven hands-on application and reskilling, democratized access to mentoring, flexible career pathways and an internal gig ecosystem.

These networks provide a conducive environment for people in organizations to discover each other, get together and execute ideas. This will fundamentally result in increased interactions and new conversations among employees from different functions and geographies. These conversations are likely to lead to more experimentation and idea execution which may ultimately flourish into the next big collaboration that would take the world by storm.

Talent marketplace solutions are a great way to make your internal talent network exceptional. Given that most talent marketplace solutions available today are on the cloud, your organization will be well on its way to building these new connections and conversations the moment you decide to embark on the journey.

Disruptive innovations are waiting to happen in your organization. All you need to do is to help people like Spencer Silver and Art Fry in your organization to find each other, let their conversations flow and allow the collaboration to begin. So what are you waiting for? Explore one of the available talent marketplace solutions and start your innovation revolution today.

You can read the backstory for Post-it Notes, iTunes and WeChat below. We referenced these for this article.

  1. History Timeline: Post-it® Notes
  2. Apple launches iTunes, revolutionizing how people consume music
  3. On Growing: 7 Lessons from the Story of WeChat

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