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Exploding Creativity

November 22nd, 2008 at 12:19 pm

Swap Workers to Spur Innovation

The WSJ had an interesting article on how Proctor & Gamble and Google swapped workers: A New Odd Couple: Google, P&G Swap Workers to Spur Innovation. An abbreviated article can be read without a subscription at money.cnn.com: P&G, Google swap jobs.

P&G is the world’s largest consumer products company that wants to expand its reach to younger consumers who spend more time with online media, and Google wants a bigger portion of P&G’s $8.7 billion annual advertising budget, which is currently dominated towards television. In order to help each other help each other, they’ve swapped about two-dozen employees, who spent weeks attending the other company’s training programs and planning meetings. This is an interesting variation of diversifying your team, as I discussed in Episode 5: Diversity and Creativity.

As described In Episode 5, you can bring in outside stakeholders (clients, suppliers, service providers, investors, etc.) as team members or advisers on an as-needed basis. P&G and Google took this a step further and actually swapped employees temporarily. Giving “outsiders” such intimate access to company confidential information has got its associated risks (and I assume P&G and Google had an anti-poaching clause in their Non-Disclosure Agreement), but I certainly admire their creativity and courage to do this.

Of course, similar activites you can do internal to an organization to help spur innovation are swapping employees between different parts of the organization, where people get experience working in different aspects of an organization’s operations, and bringing in people from different parts of the organization to form a cross-functional team.

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  • Bob Sharp
    7:43 pm on January 13th, 2009 1

    Here’s some more info on P&G in this March 17, 2008, Fortune Magazine article: http://money.cnn.com/2008/03/07/news/companies/lafley_charan.fortune/index.htm. What caught my eye was the following:

    4. We organized around innovation. To get organic growth, we needed to innovate. Innovation enables expansion into new categories, allows us to reframe businesses considered mature, and creates bridges into adjacent segments. By running a disciplined development, qualification, and commercialization process, we have proved that we can manage a large portfolio of innovations in various stages of development. Innovation is at the core of our business model.

    5. We began thinking about innovation in new ways. We started from the premise that it is possible to run an innovation program in much the same way we run a factory. There are inputs; they go through a series of transformative processes, creating outputs. It is possible to measure the yield of each process, including the quality, the end product, and the financial and market results. We also developed tools and know-how to manage the risks of innovation.

    A.G. Lafley and Ram Charan: Great innovations come from understanding the consumer’s unmet needs and desires. Regardless of the market, innovation must be consumer-led.


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