Making Innovation the Norm

at Procter & Gamble

Inspiring Innovation by Making It a Habit

Main source of information: The Innovative Enterprise, Harvard Business Review

 

Best Innovation Practices P&G: Making Innovation the Norm P&G Case Studies Customer-driven Innovation Lateral Thinking Innovation Process Continuous Innovation Innovation at P&G, Procter & Gambler Innovation Management Best Practices: Making Innovation the Norm

 

 

When asked 'What's the one thing you've done that most inspired innovation in your organization?' Craig Wynett, the Chief Innovation Officer at P&G answered 'What we've done to encourage innovation is make it ordinary. By that I mean we don't separate it from the rest of our business. Many companies make innovation front-page news, and all that special attention has a paradoxical effect. By serving it up as something exotic, you isolate it from what's normal. You don't trumpet your ordinary business. The same has to be true of innovation. For innovation to be reliable, it needs to be addressed systematically, like any business issue in which you define the problem and then solve it." The classic business questions 'What do we want to accomplish, and how?', 'What resources will we need?', Who will be on the team?', 'How do we motivate and reward them?', and 'How will we measure success?' apply to innovation too.

"Today's most sought-after business talent is the ability to originate, But the perception of the creative process is still based on self-limiting assumptions about eureka lightbulbs flashing over the head of some inspired genius rather than the well managed diligence of ordinary people," continues Craig Wynett. "At P&G, we think of creativity not as a mysterious gift of the talented few but as the everyday task of making nonobvious connections bringing together things that don't normally go together. One way to do that is to look at contradictions in the marketplace."

For example, P&G developed a product called ThermaCare, a disposable heating pad that provides regulated low-level heat for at least 8 hours. How did they come up with it? Many aging baby boomers have all kinds of creaks and muscle twinges. Drugs can treat the pain, but they can also have negative side effects. So you have a contradiction: people don't want to live with pain, but they don't want to take painkillers. P&G saw this contradiction in the market and viewed it as an invitation to create a breakthrough product, one that resolves a paradox without requiring any trade-offs.

Opportunities like this can come up in just about any industry. (See also the P&G's Align success story)

A final word of caution from Craig Wynett, "Isolating innovation from mainstream business can produce a dangerous cultural side effect: Creativity and Leadership can be perceived as opposites. This artificial disconnect means that innovators often lack the visibility and clout to compete for the resources necessary for success. Only when innovators operate with the credibility of leaders will innovation become a productive part of everyday business."

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