Innovation Sighting: Coca Cola’s Green Billboard

The Task Unification Technique is great because it generates novel ideas that tend to be novel and resourceful. It’s one of five techniques in the SIT Innovation Method.

Task Unification is defined as: assigning an additional task to an existing resource. That resource should be in the immediate vicinity of the problem, or what we call The Closed World. In essence, it’s taking something that is already around you and giving an additional job.

Here’s a great example – Coca Cola’s green billboard functions as a traditional billboard by communicating its brand while filtering the air with live plants. From AdWeek:

Advertising doesn’t get much greener than this: Coca-Cola and the World Wildlife Fund have unveiled a new 60-by-60-foot billboard in the Philippines that’s covered in Fukien tea plants, which absorb air pollution. Each plant can absorb up to 13 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. “This billboard helps alleviate air pollution within its proximate areas as it can absorb a total of 46,800 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, on estimate,” says botanist Anthony Gao. The rest of the billboard is just as environmentally friendly. The plants are contained in 3,600 pots made from old Coke bottles and designed to help the plants grow sideways. The potting mixture was made from industrial byproducts and organic fertilizers. And a drip irrigation system was installed, which saves water and fertilizer by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants, through a network of valves, pipes, tubing, and emitters. “We are proud that we have brought to life the first plant billboard in the country,” says Guillermo Aponte, president of Coca-Cola Philippines. “It is an embodiment of our company’s ‘Live Positively’ commitment to making a positive difference in the world by incorporating sustainability into everything that we do. With this, we hope to inspire Filipinos to join us in our journey, because we know that together, we can make a positive impact.” 

To get the most out of the Task Unification technique, you follow five basic steps:

1. List all of the components, both internal and external, that are part of the Closed World of the product, service, or process.

2. Select a component from the list. Assign it an additional task, using one of three methods:

  • Choose an external component and use it to perform a task that the product accomplishes already
  • Choose an internal component and make it do something new or extra
  • Choose an internal component and make it perform the function of an external component, effectively “stealing” the external component’s function

3. Visualize the new (or changed) products or services.

4. What are the potential benefits, markets, and values? Who would want this, and why would they find it valuable? If you are trying to solve a specific problem, how can it help address that particular challenge?

5. If you decide the new product or service is valuable, then ask: Is it feasible? Can you actually create these new products? Perform these new services? Why or why not? Is there any way to refine or adapt the idea to make it viable?