We don’t frequently report new product case studies on the Brainzooming blog. One reason is we don’t cover our own client innovation work because it’s almost always confidential.

Another reason?

Commenting on stories about new product development innovations as reported in magazines is too speculative. Having been involved with public relations spin for Fortune 500 level companies, by the time you read a major story in the press, it may have little resemblance to what actually happened to innovate the new product.

Instead, the case study-oriented stories we cover tend to focus more on a strategic thinking question we use frequently: What brainstorming questions or creative thinking exercise would have generated this innovation?

Even if the brainstorming questions or creative thinking path we hypothesize isn't what the brand used to hatch its innovation, it helps us continually develop new strategic thinking exercises or refresh familiar brainstorming questions we use with clients of The Brainzooming Group to generate ideas.

Tostabags – Making “Cooking” a Grilled Cheese Sandwich Easier

One recent product that was new to me, however, screamed for a blog post on brainstorming questions.

Grilled-Cheese-EasyTostabags (affiliate link) literally jumped off the shelf during a Saturday morning grocery store shopping trip. With Lent approaching and me doing more of my own food preparation (notice I didn’t say “cooking”) recently, the promise of an easy grilled cheese sandwich was top of mind!

As Facebook friends pointed out, it’s not like making a grilled cheese is that hard. But when your main food prep motivations are using as few dishes or utensils as possible and trying to maximize the microwave oven’s role, traditional grilled cheese preparation is a 3-item chore (stove, frying pan, and spatula).Talk about complicated!

The clear benefit of Tostabags, developed by Guy Unwin of the UK’s Planit Products, was not lost on me. This was especially true since the price tag covered the brand name, making the benefit more clear than the brand name! The ability to take two pieces of bread, put a piece of cheese between them, slip it into Tostabags, and slide the whole deal into a toaster? That’s much easier, and what’s even better, having tried one out, Tostabags work. The grilled cheese sandwich was great!

Brainstorming Questions that Could Lead to Tostabags

Not knowing how Guy Unwin came up with the Tostabags idea, you can imagine the idea flowing very naturally from an exercise learned from Chuck Dymer called Trait Transformation (it also goes by the name SCAMPER).

The basis of Trait Transformation is initially identifying:

  • An innovation objective, i.e., innovating new products to make cooking easier
  • Characteristics related to the innovation objective

In the case of coming up with the idea for Tostabags, the characteristics might have been kitchen items associated with cooking (i.e., stove, microwave, utensils, toaster, etc.) or common prepared foods (i.e., sandwiches, scrambled eggs, pizza).

With the characteristics (or “traits”) identified, they are modified through “transformers” to deliberately change how they factor into the innovation objective. Typical transformers include:

  • Simpler
  • More Complicated
  • Bigger
  • Smaller
  • Easier
  • More Customized
  • More Complex

Using a Trait Transformation approach, you can clearly see the combo question: How could we make preparing a grilled cheese sandwich easier?

Answer: Pop it into a bag in the toaster!

Try Them Both – Trait Transformation and Tostabags

If it’s not apparent already, I’m a longtime fan of Trait Transformation and a recent fan of Tostabags. Try Trait Transformation out when you need new innovation ideas that vary what’s already out there. And while you’re busy innovating, keep yourself energized eating an EASY grilled cheese sandwich with Tostabags!  - Mike Brown

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.