Although we need teams to make things happen, innovation can occur on an individual basis. For an individual to create innovation, he or she must think creatively and understand the market as well as consumer wants and needs. An example of this took place during my early hands-on innovation days as marketing manager at Sylvania Lighting.
Philips had developed the Long Life Soft White light bulb strategy, competing against GE Lighting. Consumers wanted soft white light bulbs and ideally longer life, so Philips went head on by pricing their product at premium GE Soft White light bulb rates but carved out a longer life offering. At the time, the number two player in the market was GTE Sylvania. I wanted to create an offering with a competitive advantage over GE and Philips. Consumers liked the soft white and long life features, but they didn't know how much longer "long life" meant, so I developed and successfully introduced Double Life Soft White light bulbs to market. The product clearly addressed the consumer desire to understand how much longer life the bulb contains -- and was offered in the preferred soft white option.
Sylvania went on to successfully place the innovative product into retail, which grew market share and was soon after bought by German lighting giant Osram. Years later, the market leader GE copied the phrase "Double Life Soft White," which is still being marketed and on the shelf today.
In creating Double Life Soft White, Sylvania had the challenge of needing more shelf space. Soft white and standard frost bulbs were common practice and available on the shelf in 4, 8, 12 foot sections or even greater retail shelf space. Both GE and Philips packaged their bulbs in light square corrugated containers. Sylvania, on the other hand, had a four-pack that was horizontally merchandised into a ridged box. Understanding the space and taking into account the need to fit more packages on the shelf, I came up with the idea of printing the graphics vertically on the box. Instead of four facings on a four-foot shelf, we were now able to place six facings side-by-side, which created room for the new offering.
While vertical graphics were a great creative solution, I wanted to maximize merchandising flexibility so I developed Dual Graphics -- vertical on the front side of the packaging and horizontal on the back side -- to give the retailer and Sylvania more merchandising options.
Many companies followed the creative success and introduced dual graphics afterwards on boxes for cereal, crackers and other consumer products. Dual graphics continue to be used widely today.
My key point is that in the case of Sylvania, both ideas were thought up by an individual. A team is needed to execute a marketing strategy and apply lessons on how to sell an idea, but it's not always necessary for a team to create and innovate since an organization needs just one lone champion to create innovation. It is the innovation champion who must share, carry out and sell his or her idea. Do you nurture your organization's innovation champion?
For guidance on how to start, nurture and profit from a culture of sustained innovation by meeting goals like bringing "at least one new product per year to market," see "Robert's Rules of Innovation."