Asking Questions to Create Cosmetic Innovations

One of the hardest parts of being a cosmetic chemist is coming up with new product ideas. Of course turning them into working new products is also challenging but we’ll save that for another time. In this post I’ll teach you a technique that I’ve used to generate some interesting new product ideas.

Killer Questions

I learned this approach by listening to a podcast called Killer Innovations. Phil Mckinney is the host and he explains how he helps come up with tech innovations at HP. It’s really a great podcast and you should listen to it.

One of the techniques he suggests is using the Killer Question approach. This is a brainstorming technique in which you ask a thought provoking question and try to come up with as many answers or product ideas to address the question. Here are a couple of examples.

1. If water was not allowed in your formula, how would you reformulate to reproduce what you are already selling?

So, if you make shampoo and weren’t allowed to use water, you might try some of the following

A. Powdered shampoo
B. Glycerin or PG based formula
C. Multifunctional polymer based surfactant
D. Concentrate that consumer dilutes with water
E. Aerosol based shampoo that foams when it comes out
F. Volatile oil based shampoo
G. Solid shampoo like bar soap
H. Hair cleansing wipes
I. Oil absorbing / cleansing comb or brush
J. Coat hair with self-cleaning film

These are 10 quickly brainstormed ideas which could be developed into new shampoo formulations or products. You can do the same with any product type. Now, whether these ideas are worth doing or not is a different question. I would say they are certainly worth developing working prototypes but you would have to prioritize which ones to try first.

Here are some more killer cosmetic questions.

2. If your customers were all color blind and couldn’t sense fragrance, how would you differentiate your formulas?

3. If you could use three times the amount you currently spend on raw materials, how would you improve your formulas?

4. If your customers were only allowed to use 1 gallon of water for personal grooming, how would you change your formulas?

5. If you had to reduce the cost of your formulas by 80%, how would you do that?

Brainstorming and idea generating is something that cosmetic chemists don’t do enough. Then following up on your ideas is even more rare. To really make an impact on your company and this industry it is going to take more and better ideas. By using a technique like this, hopefully you can come up with that killer formulation that will revolutionize our sometimes stagnant industry.

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