What do the following products have in common?
- diapers with a wetness indicator
- sunscreen with adjustable SPF
- a mud mask
The answer “family vacation” may come to mind, but we suggest that these three products share a common underlying pattern. Interestingly enough, research has shown that if you examine totally different innovative products on the market, they tend to share common patterns. And surprisingly, the majority of new and inventive products fall into only five patterns.
However, categorizing innovative products is not enough when trying to come up with a new one. What needs to be done is to find a way to follow these patterns, preferably in a conscious methodical way.
SIT (Systematic Inventive Thinking), is the name both of a company and of a method it developed based on these very patterns. The patterns have been transformed into five “thinking tools” that are applied in a structured process leading to innovative ideas for new products. The method is applied to help organizations and individuals become more innovative, by using these patterns in a systematic process applicable to people’s daily tasks.
This article focuses on patterns evident in the cosmetics industry. A description of the application of these patterns and tools in the field of chemistry can be found in the Journal of Business Chemistry.
Let’s look at the examples presented at the beginning of the article.
Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories worked with the SIT company and method for over two years. Many of Ahava’s recent patent registrations have the imprint of SIT tools resulting from working together.
During a workshop, one of the five SIT tools, Attribute Dependency, was applied. This tool involves the creation of new relationships between the different variables of a product or its immediate environment. Innovative ideas are generated through creating new dependencies, or alternatively, modifying or dissolving existing ones. One of Ahava’s patents, a Purifying Mud Mask, demonstrates this tool. The product is applied as a typical mud mask, yet does not retain that function over time.
The mask undergoes a chemical process that changes it into a “peeling” to remove dead skin. Most 2-in-1 products serve multiple functions at the same time, such as Shampoo and Conditioner in one. The uniqueness of the Purifying Mud Mask is that it provides dual functions but at different times. Since it is physically impossible that the functions of a Mud Mask and a Peeling occur simultaneously, it was the ability to imagine the same product changing its properties over time that allowed the team to come up with this breakthrough idea.
Let us look back at the other examples. By now you may have guessed that diapers with a wetness indicator and sunscreen with adjustable SPF are also examples of Attribute Dependency. How so? The first are training diapers with a wetness indicator embedded in the diaper’s design so that when the diaper gets wet its color fades. This on the one hand encourages the child to “keep” the graphic on the diaper, while on the other hand, keeps the parent abreast of their child’s situation. We can see here that a dependency was created between the level of dampness and color, resulting in raising awareness in a clear, visual manner.
In contrast, the sunscreen with the adjustable SPF actually breaks a dependency. The existing dependency between skin type and level of SPF has usually caused one of two things when dealing with two people with different skin types: they either buy two different bottles or compromise. However, a new sunscreen on the market eliminates this dependency by allowing the selection of different SPF levels with the turn of a dial.
These examples are just a taste of what the SIT method can offer. Why waste time hoping for an opportune moment to land into one of the five categories of innovative products? By using the Attribute Dependency tool, as well as the four other tools in its toolkit, you can assure yourself of the ability to introduce innovative products of your own onto the market.
Stern Yoni, Biton Idit, Ma’or Ze’ev. 2006. “Systematically Creating Coincidental Product Evolution: Case Studies of the Application of the Systematic Inventive Thinking ® (SIT) Method in the Chemical Industry.” Journal of Business Chemistry Vol. 3, Issue 1, 13-21.