In 1972 somebody handed John Hough a pair of shears made overseas, suggesting he duplicate the manufacturing process and make them himself. The advantage they had over normal scissors was extreme cutting power. The shears had been manufactured with a heat-treating process which hardened the mild steel blades.
Hough set out to copy the heat-treating process which involves dipping the steel into hot molten salts in order to try and get an even heat throughout. However, his engineers didn't really know what they were doing, and, try as they might, the process eluded them. They threw out the first 20,000 or so pairs of shears they made.
The breakthrough came with an accidental result that came from trying to jam too many blades into the heat-treating vat so they could produce them cheaper.