CONNECT & DEVELOP:
A NEW APPROACH TO INNOVATION
AT PROCTER & GAMBLE
Written by Larry Huston (vice-president for innovation and knowledge) and Nabil Sakkab (senior vice-president for corporate R&D) in 2006
Procter & Gamble launched a new line of Pringles potato crisps in 2004 with pictures and words—trivia questions, animal facts, jokes—printed on each crisp. They were an immediate hit. In the old days, it might have taken us two years to bring this product to market, and we would have shouldered all of the investment and risk internally. But by applying a fundamentally new approach to innovation, we were able to accelerate Pringles Prints from concept to ...view middle of the document...
It was through our European network that we discovered a small bakery in Bologna, Italy, run by a university professor who also manufactured baking equipment. He had invented an ink-jet method for printing edible images on cakes and cookies that we rapidly adapted to solve our problem. This innovation has helped the North America Pringles business achieve double-digit growth over the past two years.
WHAT IS CONNECT & DEVELOP
We knew that most of P&G’s best innovations had come from connecting ideas across internal businesses. And after studying the performance of a small number of products we’d acquired beyond our own labs, we knew that external connections could produce highly profitable innovations, too. Betting that these connections were the key to future growth, Lafley made it our goal to acquire 50% of our innovations outside the company. The strategy wasn’t to replace the capabilities of our 7,500 researchers and support staff, but to better leverage them. Half of our new products, Lafley said, would come from our own labs, and half would come through them. It was, and still is, a radical idea. As we studied outside sources of innovation, we estimated that for every P&G researcher there were 200 scientists or engineers elsewhere in the world who were just as good—a total of perhaps 1.5 million people whose talents we could potentially use. But tapping into the creative thinking of inventors and others on the outside would require massive operational changes. We needed to move the company’s attitude from resistance to innovations “not invented here” to enthusiasm for those “proudly found elsewhere.” And we needed to change how we defined, and perceived, our R&D organization—from 7,500 people inside to 7,500 plus 1.5 million outside, with a permeable boundary between them. It was against this backdrop that we created.
our connect and develop innovation model. With a clear sense of consumers’ needs, we could identify promising ideas throughout the world and apply our own R&D, manufacturing, marketing, and purchasing capabilities to them to create better and cheaper products, faster. The model works. Today, more than 35% of our new products in market have elements that originated from outside P&G, up from about 15% in 2000. And 45% of the initiatives in our product development portfolio have key elements that were discovered externally. Through connect and develop—along with improvements in other aspects of innovation related to product cost, design, and marketing—our R&D productivity has increased by nearly 60%. Our innovation success rate has more than doubled, while the cost of innovation has fallen. R&D investment as a percentage of sales is down from 4.8% in 2000 to 3.4% today. And, in the last two years, we’ve launched more than 100 new products for which some aspect of execution came from outside the company. Five years after the company’s stock collapse in 2000, we have doubled our share price and...