The Frisbee origin story is a classic tale of looking at something (an empty pie plate) and thinking “This could…” be something else.
In the early 1900s, the Frisbie Pie Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut, was doing brisk business selling pies from its trucks.
Managers looked at their mobile pie operation and saw a good business. The pie salesmen saw something different.
Returning to a neighborhood where they had sold pies days earlier, they saw kids flinging empty pie pans to each other.
To warn people that a metal disc was about to be airborne, the kids would yell “Frisbie!” as they threw.
Several years later Fredrick Morrison saw kids throwing the pie plates back and forth and was inspired to design a more aerodynamic—and impact friendly—disc from plastic. He patented his “Pluto Platter” flying saucer toy and sold it to toy company Wham-O.
The company paid tribute to the discs origins by renaming it “Frisbee,” and the rest is beach and backyard history.
A pie plate became the Frisbee we know today because of the abilities it contained beyond its prescribed identity and use, and because of a group of kids who understood this.
The Frisbie pie plate had a set identity: it was a pie plate. Its function was also set: it held pies.
The kids that picked up an empty Frisbie pie plate knew what it was and what it was supposed to be for, but their agile minds saw past those definitions and thought, “This could be used for something else.”
The extra abilities of a pie plate enabled the Frisbee to be created. Opportunity suffocates in minds closed off by old notions and certainties. The Frisbee origin story holds an important lesson:
Put a pie plate the hands of those with an agile mind and it will lead to a Frisbee.
Put a pie plate in the hands of those with locked minds and it will lead to another pie.
Like this article? You’ll love the book This Could… a guide for innovators, makers, and everyone wanting to do more with what they already have to be part of resourceful innovation.
“A masterclass in the art of possibility.” – Fiona Luis