||Insourcing Innovation -- Who's Using TRIZ ?
A World of TRIZ
Imagine you’re the head researcher and developer at Proctor & Gamble (P&G), owner of the Crest® brand and other oral-care products. Then competitor Colgate-Palmolive launches a toothpaste with whitening agents, and spawns a market that grows to $500 million in about three years time.17 Meanwhile, sales of Crest steadily decline.
What do you do?
P&G brings in people with a reputation in other parts of P&G for instituting successful disruptive technologies, products, and solutions. “Company research at the time showed that although 50 percent of consumers wanted whiter teeth, only five percent had done anything about it.”18 The rules of teeth care were changing, and P&G had to respond. The ultimate solution came in the form of the Whitestrips® product, which, about a year after its introduction generated $200 million in revenue and close to 90 percent market share.19
Great, but how did it happen? The scientists on the whitening project figured the best way to compete with Colgate was to change the paradigm of applying whitener with a brush. Great again, but to do so they needed a way to make hydrogen peroxide gel stick to teeth longer than it would during a brushing cycle. And that’s when they turned to another part of P&G outside the oral care area.
In its food-wrap labs, P&G had a clear adhesive film that was made into narrow strips of whitening gel that could be attached to teeth. Presto, problem solved, and without the negative consequences of tray-based whitening methods that tended to cause irritation due to overexposure of hydrogen peroxide to gums. In other words, Whitestrips are a more exacting method of sticking the whitening agent to teeth, and only to teeth.
In a 2004 article in Strategy & Innovation, P&G chemical engineer Paul Sagel said, “We would have hit upon the idea of a film barrier anyway, but the work the company had already done gave us a great head start. The dimpling technology developed in the food-wrap research enabled the strips to retain the gel so it stayed in longer contact with the teeth. And it gave a better in-mouth experience than a flat film.”20
This was great for P&G, but the reality is that most organizations and companies don’t enjoy the benefits of cross-industry scientific knowledge. They are not as large and diversified as P&G. And even if they are, how still do they posit that technologies in one domain will apply to another? In this case, the P&G scientists used TRIZ to solve the very difficult technical challenges behind the Whitestrips product.
We’ve mentioned that TRIZ is a Russian acronym that, when translated into English, is the “Theory of Inventive Problem Solving.” For such a proven methodology, the name belies itself. TRIZ is not so much a theory as it is a world-class practice used by some of the world’s most innovative corporations. Some of these include Proctor & Gamble, Boeing, Siemens, 3M, Hewlett-Packard, Eli Lilly, Honeywell, NASA, Toyota, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Motorola, and many others.
17 Gary, Loren, “Broadening the Brand,” Innovation Handbook (Harvard Business School Publishing, 2004), p. 19.
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