The Corporate Innovation Journey: Procter & Gamble

P&G Brands

P&G Brands

Few corporations can be considered firmly entrenched in Enterprise Innovation. However, we have had the opportunity to play a role in the Innovation Journey of Procter & Gamble over the years. To us, they are the avant-garde corporate innovators that provide a model for how corporations can and should make this Corporate Innovation Journey.

Procter & Gamble has always been an innovative company, developing products with advanced technologies in laundry detergent (Tide), toothpaste (Crest), disposable diapers (Pampers), and fabric softeners (Bounce), to name a few. In the late 1980s, a corporate review of the innovation practices being used across the many divisions of P&G revealed more distinct practices than there were divisions. While the divisions had all produced innovative successes, there was no one innovation process that could be learned and shared across the corporation.

We were selected by P&G to help them develop a creative process for innovation that could be used across their divisions. Called Concept Lab, it was a two-day, creativity-based program for the development of new product concepts. For several years, ad hoc, cross- functional brand teams created portfolios of new product ideas that filled their new product pipelines for many years.

CEO John Pepper recognized that the innovation engine at P&G was focused on creating new products in the categories that already existed at P&G. In order to grow the business, P&G would have to find new business opportunities in the white spaces between their siloed divisions. So he appointed Craig Wynett, a brand manager in the health care area, to head up an office of innovation called Corporate New Ventures. We worked with Craig to help launch this CNV group, one that went on to bring the billion- dollar opportunities of Swiffer, Crest White Strips, and ThermaCare to P&G. But as important, it created a Dedicated Office of innovation at the corporate level of P&G to pursue growth opportunities beyond the existing business units.

The innovation landscape at P&G changed again when A. G. Lafley took over the CEO role. Convinced that innovation was the key to P&G’s long-term success, he greatly expanded the responsibility for innovation to include most everyone in the company. In his book, Game Changer: How You Can Drive Revenue and Profit Growth with Innovation, Lafley writes,

Innovation is all about connections, so we get everyone we can involved... To succeed, companies need to see innovation not as something special that only special people can do, but as something that can become routine and methodical, taking advantage of the capabilities of ordinary people, especially those deemed by Peter Ducker as knowledge workers... Every day, more P&Gers are involved in innovation.
— A. G. Lafley

With his deft and focused leadership on innovation, P&G rose to great levels of prominence during the Lafley years. They completed their Innovation Journey by making innovation the responsibility of everyone in the organization, not just a select few. They reached the level of Enterprise Innovation. With systems, structures, and a culture in place to support innovation throughout the entire corporation, P&G is poised to remain a competitive global force into the future.

2016 Update: Today, Craig Wynett is the Chief Innovation Officer at P&G

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