Innovations Must Be User Centric
Innovation is always a hot topic. There are legions of books, articles, speakers, consultants, awards and more –all focused on innovation. But in the midst of all this noise, I think it’s important to begin with the most basic question: Why does Innovation really matter?
Innovation matters for two fundamental reasons: First, innovation is the key to improving quality of life for people in every part of the world. We face enormous challenges today – as individual companies and institutions, but also as nations, as societies and as a planet. I believe most, if not all of these, challenges can be highly responsive to innovation.
Second, innovation is the primary driver of business, financial and economic growth. I don’t know of a company or a country that has prospered and grown over the long term that has not also been an innovation leader.
This is why we look to consumers for inspiration for innovation. It is my firm belief that innovation MUST be consumer driven and it must be managed as a social process. At the end of the day, innovation is a human activity. On one hand, innovation benefits human beings and ideally it should be inspired by and focused against their needs and aspirations. At the same time, innovation requires human creativity and human collaboration. It should not be managed as a mechanical process, but rather as a flexible social process that very deliberately enables creativity and connections and collaboration. Innovation inspired by consumer needs can be a powerful transformational experience – making the world a better place. And that is what we like to believe we are about: Touching Lives and Improving Life.
Keeping this in mind, I have come to believe in four core principles of innovation:
Social Responsibility Sparks Innovation: The social challenges that we face today as a planet is perhaps the strongest driver of innovation. These challenges, daunting as they are, are also hugely inspirational.
Innovation Requires A Global View Of Scale: We must understand that today we live in a world where there are as many similarities as there are differences. A person in rural china or India may have more in common with rural Mexico or Brazil than with urban China/India. Similarly, Mumbai or Shanghai has more in common with NYC than with the rest of the country.
Collaborating For Open Innovation: The idea is simple and it’s an idea whose time has come. If innovation is a social process then it needs to be managed as such. We need to get out of our silos of company research labs and connect with the world’s most inspired minds to develop solutions that improve consumer’s lives. Why does P&G open up its innovation process? We have a great R&D organization - P&G employs more PhDs than MIT, Harvard and Stanford put together - but we also realize that for every P&G technologist and R&D manager there are at least 200 people on the outside of P&G who also have great ideas and likely have solutions, even better solutions than we can identify ourselves, to our technical challenges. These external creative people also have great product ideas which could benefit from the scale and global reach that P&G can bring to the party. At P&G, we’ve learned to look broadly across a broad range of partners across Manufacturers, Academia, Suppliers, Competitors and others. In India for example we work with the Indian Institutes of Management as well as the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.
Go Beyond Product Innovation: To really tap into the power of innovation to touch and improve lives, we need to define innovation broadly across multiple dimensions. Even as we make breakthrough products, we need to invent new packaging, new materials, new ways of communicating, of doing business, of managing people and even invent new ways innovating.
I believe if these principles became integral to how companies approach innovation we will have innovation that responds to human need.
As a company, P&G is committed to touch and improve the lives of more consumers in more parts of the world more completely, now and for generations to come. And Sustainable growth is possible when innovation integrates with ethical business practices and care for the environment. Organizations and governments need to leverage emerging technologies and collaborate with stakeholder communities across geographies to co-create value to make everyday life a little better now and in the future.