During the 1970s, Procter & Gamble, a world leader in consumer packaged goods with brands like Crest and Tide, was caught off guard when a competitor, Colgate, launched a new product Irish Spring. The green-striped Irish Spring was the first such soap bar launched in North America and proved to be quite successful. This didn’t sit well with senior management at Procter & Gamble, who prided themselves in being market innovators.
Procter & Gamble wanted to launch a product that competed against Irish Spring but that just wasn’t a “me-too” product – it had to be superior to the competitive offering. The product development team went to work but couldn’t produce a better green-striped bar that delivered superior performance compared to Irish Spring. A young Min Basadur, founder of Basadur Applied Creativity and the renowned Simplexity Thinking process, was called in to help the team overcome their inertia. Dr. Basadur discovered that the team defined its problem as “How might we make a green-striped bar that consumers will prefer over Irish Spring?”
This definition of the problem greatly restricted the range of creative solutions that the team was under pressure to produce. Dr. Basadur engaged the group in a problem definition exercise which resulted in changing the problem to the broader “How might we better connote refreshment in a soap bar?” This opened up the creativity process which resulted in a blue- and white- swirled bar with a unique odor and shape called Coast. The brand became a market success. By narrowing the definition of the problem and jumping straight to generating solutions, the team wasted a half-year.
What are the “green stripes” in your organization? The problem is that, after experiencing years of success in a marketplace, companies get caught up in their own worlds and have trouble looking at complex issues with fresh perspectives. Neuroscience tells us that, after we repeat patterns of behaviour over time, they become embedded in an area of the brain called the basal ganglia. We repeat these deeply embedded behaviours without conscious thought over and over again. This restricts our ability to think creatively. The problem is that the world continues to change but we become limited by our own green stripes – stifling our ability to innovate.
The key to effective change is to get rid off your green stripes and broaden your perspectives. This appliers equally to individuals, teams, departments and organizations. The Simplexity Thinking process is a dynamic methodology designed to help you and your organization overcome your green stripe limitations and increase your ability to generate creative solutions. Contact us for details.