At RTi, we are vigorous proponents of innovation and thinking out of the box, free of the constraints of business “realities”. Our Ingenuity approach to surfacing breakthrough innovation is in synch with this philosophy.

Having said that, after seeing a recent The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, we were humorously reminded about the “sticky” side of out of the box innovation. In a recent segment, Fallon gently spoofed recently honored Ellie, a 7-year-old from Ohio for her inventive way of dispensing peanut butter and jelly.

The problem Ellie claimed was she always tore the bread when making a sandwich the conventional way. So she purchased a solid deodorant dispenser, cleaned it out and loaded it with jelly. Another she filled with peanut butter. She demonstrated her new invention.  “No knives, no dishes, no parents,” she said. We thought (as did many others) what a great idea.

But when we shared Ellie’s “out of the jar” innovations with some of our pragmatists, reality set in.

  • First of all, the package is probably proprietary to the deodorant people, so a client would have to license it to use it.
  • Then it might need some retooling because it is meant to dispense a solid and pb & j are not solids, incurring engineering costs.
  • Maybe the products themselves would need to be tinkered with to make them ooze more easily out of the new container. So by the time the new package and factories are retooled, the product is going to cost more than some would want to spend for a basic lunch food.

So here’s an object lesson from Ellie’s creative invention demo on The Tonight Show:

First let the imaginative, unconstrained innovators do their “out of the box” creative
thinking. Then bring in the pragmatic business managers to avoid “getting stuck in a jam”.