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The History of Tape

Richard Drew created Scotch transparent tape just as the Great Depression gripped America. The product was an instant success as impoverished Americans used it to fix items that they could not afford to replace, including ripped clothing, milk bottle caps, and cracked eggshells. The tape that made 3M a success at a time when many companies were going under was a side project for Drew; an executive named William McKnight even told him to stop working on it during work hours. But after the product’s success, McKnight changed his tune and realized the importance of creativity and innovation. When he became chairman of 3M’s board, McKnight implemented the 15 percent rule, a tenet of business that encourages engineers to spend 15 percent of their time on passion projects. Drew went on to receive a posthumous induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his many inventions, and Scotch tape became one of the most important products of our time. In fact, 3M sells enough tape each year to circle the Earth 165 times!

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