Fail Fast … the Story of Innovation, Persistence and WD-40

Mike Schoultz
2 min readSep 25, 2017

Have you heard the story of innovation and WD-40? Are you persistent in the use innovation in your business?

Do you first experiment with prototype testing before full scale rollout?

In his book, The Art of Innovation, Tom Kelly writes:

Quick prototyping is about acting before you’ve the answers, about taking chances, stumbling a little, but then making it right.

Prototyping is problem solving. It’s a culture and a language. You can prototype just about anything — a new product or service or a special promotion. What counts is moving the ball forward, achieving some part of your goal. Prototyping is the shorthand of innovation.

Many of us have several cans of WD-40 around our home. Most of us have never heard its story.

WD-40 is the trademark name of a penetrating oil and water-displacing spray. It was developed in 1953 by Norm Larsen, founder of the Rocket Chemical Company. WD-40, abbreviated from the phrase, Water Displacement, 40th formula, was originally designed to repel water and prevent corrosion, and later was found to have numerous household uses.

Larsen was attempting to create a formula to prevent corrosion in nuclear missiles, by displacing the standing water that causes it.

So, why is WD-40 named WD-40?

Because the first 39 water displacement formulas designed by Larsen and his company failed.

What can we learn from this story?

Innovation requires lots of patience and persistence. It requires you to experiment fearlessly.

To be successful in innovation, you need to:

Fail fast … learn fast … fix fast

Customers don’t care how many failures you had … but they won’t wait.

Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he writes about topics to help improve the performance of small business. Find him on G+, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.



Mike Schoultz

Mike Schoultz writes about improving the performance of business. Bookmark his blog for stories and articles.