Joseph McVicker was hired in 1949 to head Kutol Products Company, an Ohio firm. The company’s best selling product was a moldable compound used to remove soot from wallpaper. The compound sold well until the introduction of vinyl wallpaper. Vinyl wallpaper could be easily cleaned with soap and water rendering Kutol’s product obsolete. With the need of Joseph McVicker’s signature product waning, a small adjustment was needed.
McVicker realized that the wallpaper cleaner also could also be repurposed as modeling clay. In 1955, the product in local daycares and schools. Within a year, the product was being sold in stores under it’s new name, Play-Doh. Joesph McVicker became a millionaire. In the film, How Do You Know, Paul Rudd’s character, George proposes that the McVickers’ story has always reminded him that we’re all “just one small adjustment away from making our lives work.”
The Play-Doh story is good advice. Joseph McVicker faced business extinction. But rather than turning and running, he made the small adjustment needed to remain relevant and his little dough came a cultural icon. How often do we forget that small adjustments often add up to big changes?