Procter & Gamble and innovation: something new for a change

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Anyone who’s read management literature for more than 15 seconds is no doubt sick of Procter & Gamble constantly being dragged out as the default example of how companies should innovate. Still, P&G’s innovation culture, by company chairman A.G. Lafley and homeless uberconsultant Ram Charan in the latest strategy+business, adds some interesting new wrinkles to the story. It’s an extension of The Game-Changer: How You Can Drive Revenue and Profit Growth with Innovation, which the pair published earlier this year.

Lafley’s main essay has some of the usual CEO chest-puffing, but behind such pronouncements as “We are constantly innovating how we innovate” you’ll find some concrete examples, and one great riff on how people usually considered overhead by a business’s innovators can contribute to a culture of innovation:

“Our long-standing middle managers, people who have grown up in the P&G system (as I did), are starting to recognize that better innovation processes can expand their personal and leadership skills. They’ve all been through cost-cutting and productivity exercises. But that’s not the same as creating top-line opportunities that can earn kudos from consumers. Nobody is telling them they have to be the geniuses who invent an idea. They will get credit for turning ideas into replicable processes and learning from their mistakes. In operating cross-functionally, they are also moving away naturally from the old silos.”

Charam’s accompanying “Becoming a Great Innovation Team Leader” lists four best high-level practices (“Establish clear criteria and don’t hesitate to shift resources”; “Concentrate on possibility”; “Cross boundaries and help others do the same”; “Reward effort and learning”), but begs to be fleshed out some more.

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