Even Fortune 500’s look to the Future

What does it mean that these first two days of FEI include three of the oldest Fortune 500 companies (GE, Disney and P&G) are sharing their innovation stories?

Is it perhaps a sign of our tumultuous economy?

Well, Kathy Fish, delivered a flyover of the P&G innovation ecosystem and the impact they’ve had. But, as Kathy did, we need to give a nod to the candle and soap makers of Gamble and Procter respectively who founded this 180 yr old venture.

They started with a simple, clean, white soap known as Ivory. It had one significant attribute impacting the product experience, it floats. A simple change from the existing product experience for a bathtub experience -- now you don’t need to spend time searching for your soap. It was a good ol’ fashioned disruptor brand.

Then, William Cooper Procter, the capable son was at the helm when Tide was invented. Another P&G brand still around, selling a better clean in a messy world. Even as fabrics, technology and consumer behaviors change, the Tide brand uses innovation to remain relevant. All the way to the invention of Tide Spin, a door-to-door laundry service being tested in a handful of neighborhoods.

From here Kathy allowed the audience to dip their toes into the pool of innovation methods used inside their hallowed halls.

Here are some of the larger themes from Kathy’s perspective.

One: They’ve moved from performance attributes, to experience attributes. They are setting a horizon of customer delight in order to make it hard for them to go back. This idea shows up in their research with “deprivation testing.” When the researchers try to take back a product from the hands of an individual, and then they initiate an emotional reaction from the individual. This is basic, human, and brilliant.

Two: They are managing teams to get the most out of their investments. They’ve adopted lean methods to accelerate the speed of learning. They have moved away from entitled funding to “earn as you learn” as a way to create real intrapreneurial teams. And, they’ve kept teams on a future focused portfolio by reminding everyone to fall in love with the problem, not the solution. Again, all good practical methods rooted in a philosophy. 

Three: They don’t seem to be afraid to reinvent a brand for another generation. There’s a long list of historical brands who were unable to take the leap from an existing (but aging) audience to a new, yet unproven audience. Their team is taking these risks with Olay, Tide, and Oral B in ways many brands haven’t tried or haven’t been successful.

These are the three big ones from this author’s seat. Perhaps you can find a lesson in Kathy’s perspective. Perhaps you can inspire a team to new heights. Whatever your situation, at least you’re not trying to push innovation, lean methods, and disruption from inside a 180 yr old company.
The experiences shared from Kathy was worthy of this audience. And, perhaps we should ask why are other brands not sharing like GE, Disney and P&G have done? Where’s Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon? If these broader learnings advance society and the individual brands, why wouldn’t the beasts of Silicon Valley share? Are their legal departments keeping them from doing good? If Disney can do it, they can too.

Thank you Kathy for showing up and delivering.

About The Author

Aaron Keller

I am an author, strategist, researcher, cyclist, reader and consummate entrepreneur. When an interesting idea crosses my path, I find any way we can bring it to life. Earning an MBA from the Carlson School and numerous valuable credits at the school of hard knocks, I’ll sit at a boardroom conversation with anyone. Want to talk business strategy, consumer behavior and design? Oh, it’s on.


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