Innovation Sighting: Task Unification and GladWare Containers

GladWare containers have become a common household item. Most kitchens today have that designated drawer filled to the brim with self-stacking plastic wonders and the infamous lids with the center circle. Those center circles are most convenient, providing an interlocking feature for stacking, as GladWare intended.

Yet just a week ago, a photo of a typical, everyday moment went viral. A mom packing lunches for her family snapped a shot of her partially filled GladWare containers, revealing a less-known innovation feature: a lid within a lid.  Who knew all along that Glad’s dressing cups fit up into the larger lid! Not only did the lightbulb come on for tens of thousands of lunch packers, but it revealed an innovation template within the GladWare design: Task Unification.

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. Glad, through the integration of a center circle in its lids, created an additional lid for its smaller dressing containers, resulting in an all-in-one packing option.

Fox News shares:

Though Glad has marketed its To-Go Lunch containers as equipped with special “dressing cups that snap into [the] lid,” most have just assumed the circle in the middle of the lid was a design feature, not a built-in dressing holder.

But now that this lunch hack has been revealed, it’s likely that more and more people will be taking advantage of the spill-proof cap storage.

You can also utilize this technique to innovate helpful products. 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
  1. Visualize the new (or changed) products or services.
  2. 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?
  3. 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?