What does the 1995 film Apollo 13, a chocolate bar and a broken laser pointer have to do with billion dollar ideas? Well, all three of these items were the catalyst that led to game-changing innovations in business.
Netflix founder Reed Hastings got the idea for unlimited due dates on DVD rentals after being charged $40 in late fees on an Apollo 13 rental from the local video store. He believed he could invent a better business model based around that concept and now Netflix is helping 10 million active subscribers avoid late fees altogether.
Over 50 years earlier, an engineer named Percy Spencer was working on an active radar set when he noticed the chocolate bar in his pocket begin to melt. This led him to invent that timeless classic found in so many kitchens, known as the microwave oven. Where would college students be without it?
Lastly, the broken laser pointer was just another piece of electronic junk Pierre Omidyar wanted to get rid of. Little did he know that the auction site he started in order to sell that pointer would one day bring in almost $9 billion in annual revenue. Oh yes, I’m talking about eBay.
My point in sharing these three seemingly unrelated events is simple; you never know when you’ll stumble upon the next big idea or where your inspiration will come from. Probably it’ll come to you when you least expect it and you might even miss the significance the first time around. So be mindful of the unpredictable nature of human ingenuity and innovation, because you could very well have a metaphorical chocolate bar melting in your pocket right now and you don’t even know it.