The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup

Remember the old TV spots: “You got your peanut butter in my chocolate! No, you got your chocolate in my peanut butter! Delicious!” Two great tastes brought together to create something remarkable, as the slogan goes. Combining two distinct concepts in order to form an entirely new one is the root of The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup technique.

Think about some of the items you use every day, and you’ll likely be able to trace them back to their origins – the combination of two or more distinct items or ideas. The SUV you drive is a combination of a car and a truck. R&B music was a fusion of Rhythm & Blues. The ever-popular Sunggie is a combination of a blanket and a sweater. Your La-Z-Boy recliner – a combination of a bed and a chair. American Idol is a mix of talent show, live concert, and reality TV drama (character development, arguing judges, etc).

The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup is not only the foundation of thousands of products, concepts, scientific advances, artistic endeavors, and even efficiency gains, but also a powerful brainstorming technique to generate fresh ideas. Creative challenges of all sizes and shapes can use be conquered using this framework.

A good way to put the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup to work for you is to first list as many “ingredients” as possible. If you are working on a better way to deal with customer complaints, list all the current ways you handle the complaints along with all the other examples you can find from your industry and other industries. Maybe an unrelated field such as high-end hospitality does one thing while a fast food burger joint does something very different. Once you have a long list of possible ingredients, try random combinations to see if you can get a better end result by combining two things that were previously unconnected.

To push your thinking even further, include random things or ideas in your list. In the above example, what if you included a touch-screen kiosk? Or a gardening tool? Or a set of paint brushes? Or a Broadway musical? Or Oprah Winfrey? You can go so far as to flip open a dictionary (remember those?) to a random page and grab any word that you stumble upon. It can’t hurt to add them to the list. What you may discover is a completely unorthodox and refreshing approach to your creative challenge, and new ideas that you otherwise never would have imagined.

This week, take this technique out for a spin with your team and let me know what you think. The combination of two distinct ideas into something fresh and original just may turn out….delicious.