Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Pimp my Ride? Nope, Smell my Phone . . .

One really interesting session from the Front End of Innovation included a scented all-natural plastic from the Innovation Lab at Eastman Chemical Co. Gaylon White, director of Design Industry Programs at Eastman, demonstrated a plastic made from wood pulp that has the feel, sound and quality of wood – yet is bio-degradable as a plastic so it wins points from environmentalists.
Auracell – this is where the smell comes in – resulted from efforts with two other companies to add scent or deliver anti-microbials to avoid infectious disease. White has a Razr phone cover that smells like pina colada from Fone Gear – one of five available flavors.

In 2005, the innovation lab itself ran into a wall when several of its champions left the company. Some executives wanted to return to less innovative approaches, including supporting the sales process through trade shows and handshaking instead of more visionary or disruptive methods.

Creativity always meets resistance and we’re no different than anybody else in that sense,” White says. “Externally, innovation lab was a hit but even our employees didn’t know what we were doing with our materials. The biggest mistake we made was that there wasn’t sufficient internal communications, a bigger splash, more frequent and closer communication,” he said. “The resistance was the mar/com group which had traditionally been reliant on trade shows -- they saw us as taking away money from things they could be doing.”

His message: “We’re transmitting, you’re not receiving” was aimed at both executives and sales people who weren’t open to changes that support and sustain innovation. White suggests taking extra care to ensure your mission and message can be clearly understood within the company, among consumers and stakeholders. Any confusion can lead to reluctance or, worse, efforts at undermining change – especially if it means a loss of prestige or resources.

One solution included reorganizing the innovation lab’s website to serve audiences inside Eastman and to engage customers outside. The plastic samples White once gave out as small chips have been reborn as yin-yang shaped ‘pebbles’ that have become collector items -- all 22 different scents, colors, finishes are eagerly saved among designers or packaging executives.

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