Two key elements every entrepreneur and professional need!

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Does the name Percy Lebaron Spencer mean anything to you? It should. His curiosity and the mystery of a melted chocolate bar altered the way millions live their lives.

Percy LeBaron Spencer was an orphan. He never even graduated elementary school. As a child, he worked in a spool mill in Maine.

But the young boy had a knack for science. He left the mill and eventually became an engineer at Raytheon.

His innovations earned him 300 patents, but it was what he did with a simple observation that proved to be truly momentous. It was 1945 and Spencer was in charge of magnetrons. Magnetrons were the core of radar and radar was helping to win the war.

Well one day, Spencer was standing in front of a magnetron and something funny happened. A bar of chocolate in his pocket melted — even though he could feel no heat from the machine. Curious, Spencer put popcorn beside the magnetron. It popped all over the room.

Other engineers had noted the phenomenon, but only Spencer grasped that a magnetron could have uses far beyond radar. And that is why Spencer is now known as the father of… the microwave oven.

And now you can say: Yes, I know that.


Have you ever wondered why some people seem to be able to discover the extraordinary in things that other people simply ignore?

The key to Percy LeBaron Spencer’s success was not just that he noticed the chocolate melt –other engineers had done that — but that he wondered why and didn’t stop until he found out.

A Reader’s Digest profile on Spencer called it his “Itch To Know.” Spencer asked questions about everything and often worked tirelessly to discover how something functioned or why something functioned the way it did. Just a side note, but some of this tinkering led to him also being credited with an important role in the invention of television!

But from a branding point of view the Spencer story reminds us of something that we need to remember: we must try to be curious, the first element key element for every entrepreneur and marketing savvy professional. Whether you are inventing the microwave or running a bakery, a dog walking service or whatever, being curious about what’s around you can lead to great things. The Spencer story is all about remembering that many people might see something, but only a handful see the significance in that something. And seeing that significance is what can lead you to make the kinds of changes to your brand that will make a big difference. Remember our friend and the invention of the shopping cart –people had been shopping without carts for generations, but he saw a need and a way to meet that need in a new way.

The microwave story also says something else… Think practically, the second element. Spencer knew in an instant that what he was curious about (i.e., the chocolate melting in his pocket without any detectable heat) could be applied to another area of human need: cooking. That’s the key: seeing how what you discover can work practically. There’s nothing like finding the way to meet a need with a great idea. Fit that puzzle piece in the open space and everything falls right into place!

John Tantillo is a branding and marketing expert who is known as The Marketing Doctor. He is author of “People Buy Brands, Not Companies,” Kindle Version, and on online Udemy course: “Go Brand Yourself, The Secrets of Branding for Personal and Professional Success.”