Navigating Industry Disruption by Disrupting from Within

How the world's leading consumer packaged goods company created a new structure to produce a steady stream of disruptive innovations.

Full case study is available for purchase from Harvard Business School

P&G came to Bionic with a quest: shift their innovation process from linear, expensive, and opaque to nimble, gritty, and transparent. Together, we built a permanent-growth capability — their Growth Operation System — across their business units, yielding bold, consumer-driven innovations:

1. Dedicated, multi-functional teams to act and think like entrepreneurs: We created groups of two to three "founders" who engaged in fast-cycle, inexpensive experimentation to identify and test ideas around a consumer problem.

2. Growth Boards to invest like venture capitalists: We implemented a small, cross-functional executive leadership group to make investment decisions for each business unit.

3. Executive Sponsors to enable the teams: Each team had an influential BU leader to partner with them on making decisions about their program and serve as a force to provide the necessary permissions and resources for the teams to experiment.

4. Operating System to empower supporting functions: Within each BU, we put together a small group to provide support to the founder team, across operations, supply chain, logistics, finance, rewards, and other functions.

By laying this foundation, P&G has been able to build a robust portfolio of more than 100+ initiatives and sustain new growth across the company. We have been able to overcome foundational challenges and explore new ways of working through GrowthWorks by coaching leaders at P&G in new mindsets and methodologies. Their journey of growth has led to a profound refounding of P&G.

Executive Summary from Harvard Business School

When Kathy Fish, Procter & Gamble's Chief Research, Development & Innovation Officer, and a 40-year company veteran, stepped into her role in 2014, she was concerned that the world's leading consumer packaged goods company had lost its capability to produce a steady stream of disruptive innovations. This, coupled with intensifying competition from more agile, digitally-savvy direct-to-consumer companies, convinced Fish that P&G needed to renew its value proposition.

She believed it was essential that all 100,000 employees see innovation as their job, and that all aspects of the consumer experience-not only the product itself-be "irresistibly superior." But making this change would require wholesale transformation, which was challenging because P&G's business units had decision-making rights for their businesses. Thus, when she launched GrowthWorks, an initiative to bring lean innovation to scale at P&G, Fish designed it to be business unit-led and corporately-supported. Fish and her team tackled challenges as they emerged along the way, such as the need to adapt career systems. Fish took a "pull" versus "push" approach and it caught on like "wildfire," eventually producing a portfolio of over 130 projects, and momentum that led P&G to headline the Consumer Electronics Show for the first time.

While progress indicators were strong, the business units still struggled to incubate innovations, and Fish feared that unless P&G's overall innovation performance management and reward systems changed, the new approach to innovation would not take hold in a sustainable way. Fish grapples with whether to take a more "push" approach and add innovation metrics to the business unit presidents' annual scorecards, which typically focused on short term deliverables.

Purchase and read the full case study at Harvard Business School

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