Winds of Change

Have you ever read one of those thought experiments designed to illustrate the ability of the human mind? I’m referring to ones that state something like: Aoccdrnig to a rscheearcr at Cmagbride Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers of a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. (Hopefully you can read this.) This intriguing exercise came to mind while I recently attended a symposium on innovation, hosted by the Midwest chapter of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists (SCC).

As one might expect from an innovation-focused conference, plenty of interactive elements were used to engage attendees. In the Word Mash-up activity, attendees were assigned a random object and personal care product type and “mashed” them together to invent the next blockbuster. The idea was to brainstorm without limits, to foster innovation.

My team combined a watch with nail polish to imagine a nail lacquer that dried a certain color but utilized some sort of built-in mechanism to automatically change color at a given time or season; it could also turn clear to allow for easy application of the next coat over it. We also incorporated a tiny blower in the side of a watch to quickly dry the nail polish. While this exercise produced some far-fetched concepts, a few realistic ones also rose to the surface—which was obviously the point.

In many companies, thinking outside of the proverbial box is encouraged year-round; but in the last few months, innovation has notably been emphasized in event themes and even government agency efforts.1 This is partly due to a continued survival instinct in a tough economy, but we’re also turning the corner to a new, uncertain yet hopeful year.

Embracing this notion of re-invention, Cosmetics & Toiletries ® has re-assessed the content it produces and has major changes planned in 2011. Can’t wait till next year? As a sneak preview, our annual awards presented at In-Cosmetics have been repositioned to better represent our brand focus. The Cosmetics & Toiletries R&D Awards will honor one innovative raw material or development technology, and one finished cosmetic product or development technology for the craft of its formulation.

Delight in the winds of change as they usher in winter across the north and carry summer to the south this holiday season. Who knows where they will take us.

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