For Phil Duncan, global design officer for Procter & Gamble Co. (IW 500/11), innovation in its simplest form is "putting together what is known with something that is unknown."
"It's about connecting context—the ‘what is it?'—with ‘wow, I didn't know it would do that,' and wrapping it all in an irresistible experience," Duncan explained earlier this year at the Front End of Innovation Conference in Orlando, Fla.
Duncan, a 20-year veteran of Cincinnati-based P&G, has seen that conception come to life with the recent launch of Tide Pods.
"We all knew that the liquid aspect of our laundry experience—while really good—had a few opportunities [for improvement], as we like to say," Duncan noted. ..."That was a less-than-ideal consumer experience."
Introduced in February, Tide Pods are tiny pre-measured packages of liquid laundry detergent—sold in a bag or plastic fishbowl-shaped container—that can be dropped in the wash.
Duncan said it was clear from early customer trials that "this unique dosage device" dramatically changes the way consumers interact with laundry detergent—for the better.
"They were touching it, holding it, delighting in it," Duncan said. "Whereas before it was kind of a removed element that you poured out of a bottle or out of a scoop."
Tide Pods come out of what CEO Robert McDonald calls "an increasingly promising pipeline of category- and brand-creating innovations," which P&G hopes will turn the tide of lackluster growth in recent years.
"Some of our fastest periods of growth—and some of our largest and most profitable present-day businesses—were driven by discontinuous innovation: disposable diapers, liquid laundry detergents, home-care items like Swiffer and Febreze," McDonald says in P&G's 2012 annual report. "We need to get back to this level of innovation in a meaningful way."