Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Power Your Way to Innovation With an Electric Toothbrush!

By Connie Harryman, Applied Concepts Creativity
Guest Blogger
Organizer IIR
LIVE Front End of Innovation Europe 2010

Topic: The Invention Environment and its Difficulties

Speaker: Peter Hilfinger: Inventor of the Powered Toothbrush & former R&D Director, BRAUN/ORAL B

Peter Hilfinger invented the electric toothbrush; he was the leader of the team. He outlined the conditions for innovation as exemplified by the development of a revolutionary electric toothbrush. Braun/Oral B will now be a part of Procter and Gamble.

They were searching for a new product to fit into their portfolio. There was a big potential in the worldwide market, but there was an existing electric toothbrush that had not done well. It had no special benefits and the price was very high. It was a conventional electric toothbrush that had the same thing as a manual toothbrush.

There was a need to offer benefits that the manual toothbrush did not offer. Therefore, they tried to find out why people did not like existing electric toothbrushes. There were few consumers who are willing to pay for same benefits as a manual toothbrush.

Recommended time for brushing of 3 minutes was perceived as 3 minutes. Consumers use their toothbrush less than one minute; this is still true today.

Desired Benefits:
1. Is more convenient to use and creates pleasant sensation when being used: leaves you with a good mouth feel.
2. Does a better job at cleaning, compared with common manual cleaning practices.
3. Does it in less time than the recommended three minutes.
4. A brush head motion which was seen as not reproducible manually. So everybody understands that an electric device is necessary.

You cannot innovate by asking people what they want. This is useless and not productive. If you use nonfunctioning mockups, consumers do not understand the concept. This is due to psychology.

Consumers like mirror images of themselves versus pictures of themselves. They have strong preferences to old established ways. You have to make the decisions. Recommend strongly, otherwise remain in the mainstream. They were not committed to a final business plan. They only had a rough idea of what they wanted to do.

If a final business plan is approved then any new idea is reviewed against the business plan.

The electric toothbrush was considered as the most unneeded product. One of the features of the new electric tooth brush is that the brush head is circular.

Conditions for innovation include:

1. Top management understands and supports that final project plan has to be flexible while in progress.
2. R&D management has the freedom to set interim targets.

Each team member is aware of the entire project, including the financial targets and the desired contribution to the success of the company. The R&D team agrees with the project targets set up by the management! Meanwhile the team develops a sense of responsibility for the whole project Team members enjoy periods of creative rest.

Their initial tries resulted in bleeding gums. Eventually a working sample was built. The prototype outperformed the manual toothbrush with a better interdental plaque index, it was more convenient, it had a better feel of clean, and the teeth felt more polished.

They had some difficulties with production of the product. They were given more time to fix these issues and resolved them by using different materials to produce the bevel gears. Top management decided to go into the market.

Peter Hilfinger summarizes by saying that innovation needs freedom and creative rest, do not press innovation work into timeframes and financial constraints too early, and rely on your own strength.

No comments:

Clicky Web Analytics