Reinventing Innovation: 5 Keys for Success

November 29, 2016 Shekhar Mitra, Ph.D.



In my previous blog, I discussed the new model of innovation that is emerging. Companies of all sizes are leveraging both external and internal resources and processes in new and creative ways to accelerate innovation with greater in-market success. This week, I’ll share five keys for successfully reinventing innovation within your organization.

I retired from P&G in 2012, after a 28-year innovation career that included the development and launch of Crest White Strips, Crest Pro-Health, Olay Regenerist, prestige beauty brands (SKII, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana fine fragrances), Prilosec, and Aleve. Since then, I've guided several F100, private equity, and new venture companies on their innovation journeys. By tapping into new talent, co-mingling internal/external resources, and combining the best of big company expertise/discipline with small company agility, innovation is being reinvented.  It’s flexible, frugal, fast…and successful. Below are a few of the success drivers that I’ve observed, regardless of company size, category, or life stage.


1. Know where you’re going before you take the first step.
Innovation work should not begin until a business vision, innovation strategy, and innovation brief are in place. The Innovation Brief defines and guides the innovation effort, idea creation and resources required. It is critical to get this right. The best innovation briefs are co-sponsored by the senior business and innovation leaders, bringing business and technology together as well as connecting consumer insights with technical briefs. A critical part of my advisory role is to provide guidance in the development of innovation strategies and briefs, along with the selection of key talented experts from both inside and outside the organization to serve on the ideation team.


 2. Get the right players on the team.
The team should be selected only after the innovation strategy and brief has been approved. As a strategic Innovation Advisor, I look for both internal and external multi-functional experts and knowledge holders, who are creative, quickly make mental connections, are excited and passionate about collaboration and innovation, and can leave their ego at the door. For creation of new growth opportunities, a mix of talent with diverse functional expertise, including technologists, consumer/customer insights, marketing, and industrial design are critical to the outcome of novel ideas, concepts and, eventually, prototypes and final products that provide a memorable experience and deliver noticeable performance.

Members from outside the company are essential to help leapfrog idea creation and design initiatives with better outcomes. They bring a combination of experience, gut feel, and intuition, along with diverse category/industry experience that allows them to quickly connect observations and build on ideas as they are created. This is the result of years of both successes and failures that they have individually lived through. Due to retirement, downsizing, and restructuring, many larger companies find they have fewer experienced employees to draw from. For many start-ups, teams are relatively “junior." They bring a spirit of experimentation, but not the wisdom and judgement that only time can bring. Consequently, teams often rely on and get bogged down by data. For example, at one new venture, the young leadership team was excellent at gathering and charting social media data, but not skilled at interpreting or drawing conclusions from it. However, when the same social media data was viewed by more seasoned members of the team, what was originally an oral health care product idea quickly pivoted to a breakthrough business opportunity in pet care. The combination of internal and external perspectives creates a good balance between facts and intuition.


3. Leverage the open talent economy and new tools for flexible, frugal, fast development.
Establish a small core team, but bring in subject matter experts on an as-needed basis to rapidly address specific issues, participate in ideation sessions, overcome roadblocks, and/or fill knowledge gaps.  This ability to “bolt on and off” expertise is enabled by an increasingly large pool of highly experienced, qualified, and creative talent that enjoys the flexibility of interim or specific project-based engagements. Retirement, downsizing, and restructuring have resulted in a large talent pool of very experienced, creative people who are ready, willing, and more than able to help others innovate. 


4. Leverage the “LinkedIn Effect” of your team.
Both internal and external team members have their own personal network of additional experts and resources that they have engaged with over the course of their career. This results in a LinkedIn effect that creates exponential access to capabilities vs. relying exclusively on internal contacts. By tapping into these networks, the time to develop, source and prototype, and design superior products can be drastically reduced.


5. Keep bureaucracy at bay.
Experience suggests that this model of innovation rarely gets bogged down by internal bureaucracy, because it is structured in such a way that executive sponsors shield the Innovation Advisor and the team from hierarchy and processes that divert attention from moving forward. Changes in direction, management feedback/input, etc. is communicated through a single source (the Executive Sponsor to the Innovation Advisor), and the team is unencumbered by meetings, updates, and “death by PowerPoint”. Resources tend to be set aside, so the team is not constantly having to defend for funding. That said, it’s important that this independence is maintained, which is best achieved by the team delivering results.


Keep these five keys in mind as you adopt this new model of innovation. You'll accelerate success as you reinvent and reinvigorate your own innovation pipeline. Learn more about breakthroughs in innovation here.


About Shekhar Mitra, Ph.D.: Dr. Mitra is a Consulting Partner for YourEncore, President of InnoPreneur, LLC, and a top expert on the creation of innovation strategies, ideas, open innovation connections, and organizational culture. Having retired from Procter & Gamble as an SVP of Global Innovation, Dr. Mitra specializes in helping companies develop their innovation capabilities and portfolios through proven methodologies. He also serves on several Boards and Advisory Committees for companies and private equity firms.


Previous Article
5 Key Themes From Our Experts in 2016
5 Key Themes From Our Experts in 2016

Throughout 2016, YourEncore Consumer Goods Experts have shared their experiences and perspective...

Next Article
Reinventing Innovation for the New Normal
Reinventing Innovation for the New Normal

Innovation is essential for sustainable revenue and profit growth and, most importantly for ever...