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To Be An Innovative Chemist You Have to Ask Questions

I read this interesting interview over at the Harvard Business blog. Some university types conducted a 6-year study of 3000 “creative” executives and came to the following conclusions about what Innovatorsinnovative people have that non-innovative people lack.

Basically, there are 5 skills that they have developed. We outline the skills below and suggests some exercises that can help you build them.  This should be useful in your cosmetic science career.

1. Associating

This is the ability to make mental connections between seemingly unrelated ideas and problems. For example, the guy who made Velcro was inspired by the way burrs stuck to his dog’s fur.

Exercise 1 – Mash-up exercise. Think of 2 different kinds of products, one personal care product & one non-personal care product.   For example, skin lotion and a mop. Spend 5 minutes trying to come up with inventions that would combine characteristics of both products.  Here are just two quick examples.

  • A mop you use to apply skin lotion (for your back?)
  • An additive to your mop solution that softens & moisturizes your floors

Don’t worry whether the ideas are good or not.  The point is to train your brain to start thinking this way.

2. Questioning

Innovative people are inquisitive people. They constantly ask questions like “what if” and “Why?” This can make them look stupid because the answers seem simple but it can also shake up your brain and get you to a new way of thinking.

Exercise 2 – Questioning. Ask basic questions about the product you are working on. For example, “What if you couldn’t use water to take showers? How would products be different?”. “What if none of your consumers could see color or smell fragrances? How would your products be different?”

3. Closely observe details

Scientists are well suited for this skill. When you are trying to develop innovative products the first thing you should do is observe someone using the current product and see if you can find any points where you can improve the process.

Exercise 3 – Video observations. Go to YouTube and search for people doing demonstrations on using the type of products you are developing. You can find people applying cosmetics, makeup, washing their hair, washing their face, etc. Watch the process and see if you can figure out a way to make it easier.

4. Experiment

Here’s another skill your training as a scientist will help. If you are able to come up with a hypothesis and test it, you are well on your way to developing your new idea into an innovative product.

Exercise 4 – Be an inventor. Get a book like ‘How to make sneaky things out of everyday objects’ and just tinker. To be an inventor, you have to invent. Practicing the inventions of other people is a great way to get started.

5. Good at networking

In today’s world, the “lone inventor” rarely exists any more. To get things accomplished you need a good network. You need to know people who can help you get things done.

Exercise 5 – Cosmetic Science Networking. Attend your local SCC or ACS meeting and start connecting with people in your industry and area. Also, start building your profile and connections on LinkedIn. This is a great place to find people who can help you accomplish whatever you desire. If you want to start with someone, feel free to connect with Perry and Kelly.

To become an innovator, you have to practice. Doing some of these exercises on a regular basis will help you get better. Hopefully, it will help lead you to that great new innovation that the cosmetic industry desperately needs.

Do you have any innovation exercises that can help lead to new product ideas? Leave a comment below.

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