Here’s a nice piece on the invention of the Slurpee (via Marginal Revolution). An excerpt:
Knedlik’s [Dairy Queen] franchise didn’t have a soda fountain, so he began placing shipments of bottled soda in his freezer to keep them cool. On one occasion, he left the sodas in a little too long, and had to apologetically serve them to his customers half-frozen; they were immensely popular.
When people began to show up demanding the beverages, Knedlik realized he had to find a way to scale, and formulated plans to build a machine that could help him do so.
You never know what customers are going to like. Here’s a secret, kids,– they do not teach you how to figure that out in business school. There’s not a formula or process to follow to do it, other than trial-and-error.
I think executives who are trying to find ways to grow their company should consider using more low-cost, trial-and-error discovery .