Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Co-designing and co-creating at Procter and Gamble

Innovation is part of everything at P&G: In Harvard Business Review’s 100th episode of IdeaCast, A.G. Lafley, Chairman and CEO of Procter and Gamble talks about innovation and design...

There has been quite a lot of talk on the web lately about P&G and their innovative practices. Both my online business and design feeds have been dropping P&G’s name everywhere so I wanted to find out what the fuss was all about, and I thought I would go straight from the horse’s mouth.

A recent Harvard Business Review’s IdeaCast, interviewed Chairman and CEO of P&G, A. G. Lafley on what innovation is in P&G and how it is done.

I was not surprised to find Lafley mentioned that they place the customer, or end-consumer, at the centre of everything they do (“the customer is the boss”), but I was surprised to find he mentioned the desire to co-create and co-design with customers at P&G. It was not so much the idea that P&G might be doing this that surprised me (well, actually yes it is), but the rapid familiarity a big business has with phrases that are common (or aren’t they?) in the design world.

Just how quickly are businesses able to grasp design approaches? And how much of an issue is this for the design industry and designers? Or is it already an issue and are we missing the boat?

A few other things worth mentioning is that Lafley was surprisingly open about the ‘how’ of P&G innovation and in a very detailed way. He outlined key aspects of the P&G Innovation Review Process which require:
  • Having the right people in the same place and at the same time
  • Having a conversation around critical issues and
  • Having these conversation around posters of which Lafley calls “low tech in a high tech innovation world.”
The role of leadership is critical in P&G’s innovative practices. Lafley calls himself a CIO- Chief Innovation Officer, and his role is to ask the critical questions in the sessions and also ensure that everything the business does is closely aligned to the business strategy.

At the end of the podcast, Lafley was asked how he keeps people motivated at P&G. Lafley responded by saying that it wasn’t him that was responsible for motivation, but instead it was customer’s enthusiasm for the new ideas and the potential impact new P&G products could have on the lives of people.