It’s about solution recognition, not about idea generation
It’s not about idea generation, stupid! It’s about solution recognition. In most cases, you already have the solution. Only, you are not looking at the right places.
At some time, P&G wanted a solution of providing teeth whitening ability to people, in the comfort of their homes. They had the right bleaching gel for it but found that the saliva in the mouth prevented the gel from doing its job. Also, the application films were not touching the curved surfaces of the teeth.
With such a problem statement, P&G looked around the ‘oral care’ division for several option but did not find one. Then someone suggested, ‘Why are we restricting ourselves to the oral care people. Let us generalize the problem, so that we can look for solutions in other divisions too’.
In the generalization phase, the problems were crystallized as –
- You have to put gel in the mouth, but you also don’t want to put it in the mouth, since saliva is present in the mouth and saliva counteracts gel. This is the classic ‘You need it while you don’t need it’ situation of TRIZ.
- We need a substance that will accept a gel application and is also flexible and stretchable.
To search along these new parameters, they put together a team of experts from all their divisions, not restricting only to the oral care. They got the following answers immediately –
- The laundry division told them that the ‘Pampers diaper’ product was already using a technology that gives a stretchable and flexible product. As a bonus, it was also using a no-slip grip.
- TRIZ experts told them that one approach for ‘ You want it and you also don’t want it’ is to carefully analyze whether you actually need both at the ‘same place and/or same time’. P&G did this analysis and found that both did NOT have to be at the same place as the initial perception had suggested. The saliva had to be near the gums while the gel had to be on the teeth. The problem now changed to ‘how to keep the teeth insulated from the gums’? Once the problem was stated like this, another solution came immediately, ‘We are already using resealable tabs. Can you use it to ‘seal’ the teeth off from the gums?’
- Another division told them that they were already using a substrate that would accept gel to make a film.
Merely by combining these various solutions already available in P&G, ‘Crest Whitestrips’ was produced and launched. These strips deliver a level of tooth whitening that surpasses anything else available in the retail market and consumers pay only $35. This innovation had nothing to do with semiconductors or rocket science, but still shot the revenues up from zero to $300+ million in 2 short years. Yes, $300 mn in 2 years.
In most cases, there is no need to generate new solutions. Break down your problems in bits and pieces, generalize them and have people from diverse backgrounds look for solutions in their fields. Then apply those solutions to your problem.