Here are two CPG products from this week's Best New Product Awards. I tried them at home and noticed a pattern. That pattern suggests a different way to use the Subtraction Template of the innovation method, S.I.T.. The question is whether that pattern can be replicated on other products to create line extensions and new categories.
The first product is the Bounce® Dryer Bar from Procter & Gamble. The second is the Scrubbing Bubbles® Toilet Cleaning Gel from SC Johnson. See if you can spot the pattern in each:
What sets innovative products and services apart from others? Common sense would suggest they have unique and unusual characteristics that make them very different than all the rest. Furthermore, if you wanted to study innovative products and services to learn the hidden secrets they hold, you would try to identify those different and original attributes. But just the opposite is true. A very high percentage of successful new products launched each year follow the same set of patterns. Innovative products are more similar than different from each other. If you can identify these patterns and overlay them onto your products and services, you should be able to innovate in a predictable, templated way. THAT is the essence of the corporate innovation method, S.I.T..
Creating innovative TV commercials is more effective when using patterns embedded in other innovative commercials. Professor Jacob Goldenberg and his colleagues discovered that 89% of 200 award winning ads fall into a few simple, well-defined design structures. Their latest book, "Cracking the Ad Code," defines eight of these structures and provides a step-by-step approach to use them.
Here are the eight tools:
If you are like most people, you laugh at jokes at their very end, not the beginning. Why? Because jokes make sense only in hindsight after we hear the proverbial "punch line." We have no context to start laughing at the start of the joke. But once we hear the final line, our mind works its way backwards to make sense of it. We laugh.
So it is with innovation. An abstract concept remains abstract until our mind works backwards to make sense of it. Only then do we see the value. Edward de Bono describes this phenomena in his new book, Think! Before It's Too Late.
Here is a nice example of the Subtraction tool of the corporate innovation method, S.I.T.. Imagine painting a picture without the paint. From PSFK:
From metal to billboards, Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto aka Vhils is regarded for his work across a variety of mediums. However, his “Scratching the Surface” style (which we first noticed here) is particularly remarkable. Using decrepit city walls as his canvas, the artist carved faces from the concrete, unmasking the beauty inherent to even the most neglected spaces. The pictures below are taken from Moscow, London, and all over Italy.
To use Subtraction, start by listing the components of the situation, product, service, process, etc. (The method works with just about anything that can be conceptualized into components). In this case, the innovator (artist) would create a list something like this:
Software runs much of our lives. It runs everyday items like computers, automobiles, banking, telephones, and even kitchen appliances. Software will affect more of our daily routines in the future. According to market researcher DataMonitor, the global software market will grow to $457 billion, an increase of 50.5% since 2008.
The problem with software is you cannot see it. The term was coined originally as a prank to contrast the term, "hardware." Unlike hardware, software is intangible - it cannot be touched. So how do you innovate software especially with a corporate innovation method like S.I.T.? This method uses the components of the product or service as the starting point. Companies sometimes struggle creating new applications because software seems too abstract.
The secret to using S.I.T. on software is this. Don't innovate the software code; rather, use the innovation method on what the software does. Apply the method to the products and processes that the software affects. This will create new-to-the-world innovations. Then, write the software code that implements these new applications.
Here is an example with the software program, Quicken. We start with a component list of a routine process within the software - creating an invoice.
Innovation methods are not just for inventing new products. Savvy marketers also apply structured innovation methods to the “big event” – the product launch campaign. Companies spend millions of dollars to get a product off to the right start. The launch of a new product can make or break it.
Some companies excel at this. Memorable campaigns include Apple's launch of the iPhone, Microsoft's launch of Windows 95, and my all time favorite - Tickle Me Elmo - by Fisher Price. But a lot can go wrong with product launch, so marketers need ways to stand out from the crowd. Whether you have a big budget or small one, the use of a structured innovation method can take those dollars further and perhaps make the difference between success and failure.
For this month’s LAB, we will demonstrate the use of Systematic Inventive Thinking to this critical aspect of marketing: the product launch.
Hewlett Packard's announcement that it's combining its PC and printer divisions is meeting skepticism. Larry Dignan, editor-in-chief of ZDNet, had this to say:
"Hewlett-Packard says it's combining its printer and PC divisions partially because the move will drive "innovation across personal computing and printing." Oh really? Color me decidedly skeptical on that claim, which was touted in the company's announcement today. My mental block: What exactly are the touch points between a printer and a PC, and where does the innovation lie? HP does have printing innovation. Its inkjet technology can be used for drug delivery, for instance. However, unless your PC is delivering doses of pharmaceuticals to you, it's a stretch to see the connection."
For this month's LAB, lets put the S.I.T. method to the challenge. Imagine being part of this newly-combined HP organization. Here is how you might apply each of the five techniques of systematic inventive thinking. The key is to leverage each technique in a way that forces non-obvious connections between the two units, laptop and printer. These configurations become a "virtual product." We use Function-Follows-Form to work backwards to the problem they solve or benefit they deliver.
The Task Unification Technique is one of five in the innovation method called Systematic Inventive Thinking. It is defined as "assiging an additional task to an existing resource." It is such a powerful technique because it often leads to Closed World solutions, or what we like to call "thinking inside the box." It yields innovations that tend to leverage some resource in the immediate vicinity in a clever way. It also tends to yield innovations that have a characteristic known as Ideality - the solution to a problem only appears when needed. When the problem arises, the solution is also there.
Go behind the scenes of "Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results." Enjoy this one hour webinar with co-author, Drew Boyd, who shares insights about the writing of the book and its impact on the creative potential of organizations.