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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Design of Procter and Gamble

I have been reading The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage by Roger L. Martin of the Rotman School of Management in Toronto. The book does an excellent job of introducing you to design concepts, and their applications in business.

I will review the introductory parts of the book in another post, but I want to point out that Chapter 4 of the book, pp. 75- 103, called Transforming the Organization, are devoted to describing P&G's embracing of the design concept in the 2000s, and the remarkable results that came about. I was hired into P&G in the late 70s, very much an analytically and engineering oriented problem solver. I saw this transition occur and although I was skeptical at first, saw a number of very useful results.

A number of new design processes were created to make the best use of mysteries, heuristics and algorithms within the knowledge funnel (well defined in the book) to further the abilities of the company. Top down organizations were set up under the leadership of Claudia Kotchka, to help people understand design.

A method of solving 'wicked problems' was instituted to remove some of the friction in moving innovation forward. Connect & Develop was created to effectively bring in external innovation. I would have included more about how P&G's innovation centers were used to establish laboratories to test the ideas. They also engaged Global Business Services to use IT methods to build 'decision cockpits' to help groups work together.

As the book points out: the idea of 'design is NOT about making things pretty', but how to spark innovation and make it work. It is about continuously demonstrating and letting people experience the value of design in business.

Anyone interested in P&G's approach, and how this is credited by many with saving P&G in the early 2000s should read this book. It's business writing of the best kind, describing both the theory and why it works with great examples. Experience at several other companies is also covered. Its also a nice slice of corporate history at P&G.

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