NEW BOOK: Pivotal: Creating Stability in an Uncertain World 

407-476-5373 |

Innovation Insights
by Stephen Shapiro


The Innovation Minute #19: Find Someone Else Who Has Solved Your Problem

Today is the first video in the “Shift” part of the FAST Innovation Model (Focus, Ask, Shift, Test).

In this video I share a fun example that provides a different approach to finding breakthroughs. Hint: your years of expertise may not be helping!

Be sure to watch the previous videos!


Today, we move to the third part of my FAST innovation model. You’ll remember that FAST stands for Focus, Ask, Shift and Test.  Today, we’re gonna talk about shifting your mindset. I’m going to do that through a fun example.

A group of dental experts were trying to create a whitening toothpaste that didn’t use abrasives or bleach. If you think about the problem they were working on, they were asking the question, “How do we, the experts in dental care, create a toothpaste that whitens teeth without abrasives or bleach?”

They went off and they tried a number of different solutions, none of which worked…until they asked a different question. They asked, “Who else has solved a similar problem?” Not necessarily the same problem, but a similar problem.

They realized that, when they asked the question, “Who else makes whites whiter, without abrasives or bleach?”, possible answer would be laundry detergent.

As it turns out, the company that was working on the toothpaste problem also has a laundry detergent group. So, they decided they would have a conversation with them, and they asked, “Hey, when you’re not using bleach, how do you make whites whiter?”…

They were told something fascinating. They were told, “We don’t. We make whites bluer. Laundry detergent is blue for a reason. The blue dye creates this optical allusion, this optical effect that prevents the reflection of yellow. Your clothes are still dingy yellow, you just can’t see it.”

They thought this was a pretty cool solution, and they went off and they created a whitening toothpaste that has a blue dye in the middle of it. And you can see this blue dye. This blue dye creates the illusion of whiteness instantly.

I use this example not because I think this is the greatest invention in the world and that this toothpaste will revolutionize healthcare. I use this example because I think it’s the greatest thought process. Whatever problem you are working on, ask yourself, “Who else has solved a similar problem?”

Go ahead, think about a problem you’re working on. Try to reframe it in a way where you can ask, “Who else has solved a similar problem?” And guess what, in some cases, just like in this case, the answer may come from in the four walls of your company.