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What would happen if P&G acquired the Altoids brand? - A story from Fast Company

A.G. Lafley famously transformed a troubled Procter and Gamble into a powerhouse with a design-centric culture whose market value increased by over $100 billion dollars during his tenure. His pick to facilitate the change to a consumer and design driven company was Claudia Kotchka, P&G’s VP for Design Innovation and Strategy. Here are some of her lessons:

Elevate Design to the Top If the CEO isn’t on board, cultural change efforts are doomed to fail. Kotchka turned the job down twice until CEO A.G. Lafley signalled design’s importance by making the position a direct report to him. As a result, Kotchka had the authority to send the company’s top 40 executives to spend a day at design firm Ideo learning about design and helping to free up their creative spirit.

Get Outside Feedback Kotchka put together an advisory board of outside design leaders who meet every four months. They go over new-product concepts, provide fresh ideas and are famous for their unvarnished comments. “[One unit] had this breakthrough technology, and they were just sticking it in a tube in a box,” she says. “[GM’s] Bob Lutz goes, ‘Don’t waste your time. It’s just more goop.’

Understand the Design Process Designers are flexible and intuitive rather than rigid and exacting. So to think like one, you have to adopt the design process. Designers now host “Design Tastings”, internal events used to promote design and design thinking throughout the company. This exposure to the process sparks new sorts of innovation and makes it easier for non-designers to understand what design is.

Embed Designers in Business Units Design used to be siloed at P&G, viewed by most as peripheral and unimportant. Now most designers work directly with counterparts within each unit. Kotchka also launched the Clay Street Project, a skunkworks where small cross-functional teams are sent to spend 10 weeks using design methods to address a variety of wicked problems that threaten the company.

Let Designers Create Their Own Workspace In a place like P&G, where workspaces are standardized, this is both symbolically and functionally critical. Creating more open, imaginative spaces for the design group was one of the “biggest battles” Kotchka had when taking the job. She realized that work in a creative company necessitates more elastic and less linear conditions in which to work.

Read the original story by Jennifer Reingold here.

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