“On a June morning in 1974, a Marsh Supermarket cashier in Troy, Ohio, rang up a 67-cent pack of Juicy Fruit chewing gum using something novel — the black and white stripes of a universal bar code,” writes Sam Gringlas in their recent NPR article entitled “IBM Engineer Who Designed The Universal Product Code Dies At 94.”
“The Universal Product Code is now a packaging mainstay on everything from cereal boxes and produce to electronics and airplane tickets, but it might not have worked without IBM engineer George Laurer,” shares Gringlas.
According to the article, “Laurer, who died this month at 94 in North Carolina, had been given an assignment by his manager: Write a proposal for grocery executives explaining how IBM would take a previously invented bar code pattern, in the shape of a bull's-eye, and make it work in supermarkets across the country.”
“But when that manager returned from a vacation, Laurer was there to meet him. ‘I didn't do what you asked," Laurer shares.
“Instead, Laurer had created something else — the bull's-eye was gone and in its place was a linear bar code. Laurer had deemed the bull's-eye design unworkable. The circular code, inspired by Morse code and patented by N. Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver in 1952, was too small, and it would smear when run through the poor-quality printing presses used for most food labels at the time,” Gringlas explains.
"My nature and my training would not allow me to support something I didn't believe in. I simply went against my manager's instruction and set out to design a better system," Laurer said in a 2010 interview.
You’ve got to challenge or even ignore the status quo to innovate.
We know all about this.
It’s not easy, and sometimes close to impossible.
But when you get it right – you can change an industry for good.
Laurer set out to design a better system
You’ve got to set out to design a better operation.
Keep reading; here’s how.