Thomas Sullivan was a tea merchant in New York.
In 1908 he dispatched to customers samples of tea leaves in small silken sachets for them to try. Some people thought that the sachets were to be used like metal infusers. Customers were supposed to empty out the contents but instead they put the whole bag into the teapot and then added hot water.
Sullivan heard back that the customers were happy with this new arrangement so he designed tea bags for large scale production. He made bags of gauze and then paper. He later added string and a tag so the bag could be easily removed.
Innovators are open-minded and quick to learn from failure. They are ready to observe and adapt when the unexpected happens.
According to the Daily Mirror, a survey by English Heritage showed that people rated the tea bag as one of the most important inventions of all time alongside the wheel and the internet.
Paul is a professional keynote conference speaker and expert facilitator on innovation and lateral thinking. He helps companies improve idea generation and creative leadership. His workshops transform innovation leadership skills and generate great ideas for business issues. His recent clients include Airbus, Microsoft, Unilever, Nike, Novartis and Swarovski. He has published 30 books on lateral thinking puzzles, innovation, leadership and problem solving (with over 2 million copies sold). He also acts as link presenter at conferences and facilitator at high level meetings such as a corporate advisory board. He has acted as host or MC at Awards Dinners. Previously, he was CEO of Monactive, VP International of MathSoft and UK MD of Ashton-Tate. He recently launched a series of podcast interviews entitled Insights from Successful People.