From Idea to Inspiration

How some of the biggest ideas in business came to be.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the March 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »


Attorney Steven D. Strauss has gathered dozens of tales about big ideas from Post-Its and Palm Pilots to Viagra and Silly Putty. And he tells them all in The Big Idea (Dearborn Trade, $17.95). These accounts reveal how the TV remote, Teflon, Tupperware and many other products came to be, each chapter ending with a lesson that sums it up.

Some of the guidelines are obvious. No one will be dumbfounded to learn that "Nothing beats good publicity for increasing acceptance of an innovative product." But the stories illustrating these rules help make them memorable.

Take for instance the story of how Silly Putty languished for years as first a dismal industrial product and then a resoundingly unpopular toy. Then, when Silly Putty's promoter, ex-copywriter Peter Hodgson, was down to his last penny, a magazine writer happened on the now-familiar egg and touted it in The New Yorker. Hodgson netted 250,000 orders in three days. When he died 26 years later, the Silly Putty fortune was $140 million. That's the power of publicity.

Through the Ages

Today's entrepreneurs must cope with unprecedented generational diversity. They may employ four generations, from grizzled Traditionalists shaped by the Depression to Millennials just entering the work force. That's a challenge, but one baby boomer Lynne C. Lancaster and Generation Xer David Stillman help entrepreneurs overcome in When Generations Collide (Harper Business, $25.95). The two experts in managing age-related conflict boil complex issues down to their essences. For instance, they summarize each generation's attitude in key words: Traditionalists are loyal, Boomers optimistic, Xers skeptical and Millennials realistic. If you can remember those few words and look past gray beards or nose rings, you may solve the generational puzzle.


Austin, Texas, writer Mark Henricks has covered business and technology for leading publications since 1981.

More from Entrepreneur

One-on-one online sessions with our experts can help you start a business, grow your business, build your brand, fundraise and more.
Book Your Session

In as little as seven months, the Entrepreneur Authors program will turn your ideas and expertise into a professionally presented book.
Apply Now

Are paying too much for business insurance? Do you have critical gaps in your coverage? Trust Entrepreneur to help you find out.
Get Your Quote Now

Latest on Entrepreneur

My Queue

There are no Videos in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any video to save to your queue.

There are no Articles in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any article to save to your queue.

There are no Podcasts in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any podcast episode to save to your queue.

You're not following any authors.

Click the Follow button on any author page to keep up with the latest content from your favorite authors.