Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Innovating the Kimberly-Clark Way

Earlier this week, in anticipation of the upcoming FEI Conference in Orlando, I had the opportunity to  participate in a webinar featuring one of the event’s speakers. Cor Bosselaar is the Director of Global Innovation for Kimberly-Clark. Kimberly-Clark, as you likely know, is a $20B, leading consumer packaged goods manufacturer.  Its brands include Kleenex®, Scott®, Huggies®, Pull-Ups®, Kotex®, and Depend®.  Nearly a quarter of the world’s population uses their products every day. 

The heart of this session was Cor’s recounting of Kimberly-Clark’s journey of transformation during the past two years as they have defined new ways to conduct their front end of innovation.  My company, Sopheon, along with our partner Kalypso, has had the good fortune to share that journey with them. Cor’s message was insightful and practical.  In fact, it was downright inspiring, and I strongly encourage you to attend the session in which he is featured on Monday at FEI.

I won’t steal Cor’s thunder—I’m hoping you’ll hear his presentation yourself, or check out the replay of our webinar at http://budurl.com/transformFEI —but what I thought might be worth sharing are a few of the more provocative learnings that I took away from what he had to say.

1. Innovation isn’t about “getting more ideas.”

Much of Cor’s presentation is about how Kimberly-Clark is focused on doing a better job of leveraging the ideas and concepts they already have. He cited a recent study about innovation in consumer goods firms which found that the number-one challenge facing CG companies at the front end of the innovation process is that “Ideas are not broadly visible and therefore can’t be reused by others”. Sixty-two percent of the firms participating in the research identified this as a problem. At Kimberly-Clark, much of their efforts has focused on improving how they catalog and organize their ideas, concepts, and concept tests from the past and make them available globally for others to reuse.  Cor’s advice is essentially to make sure you “know what your company already knows” before going off and creating more ideas.

2. As Ed McMahon used to say, “you may already be a winner.”

When you pull together ideas, concepts, and concept tests from the past, you create a treasure trove in which, quite possibly, you’ll discover something that can be used to create a future product blockbuster. However, uncovering those winning insights requires more than just access to the data. It demands that you understand how and why those ideas have evolved over time, and that you trace their “lineage” as they move from one iteration to another. The most common drivers of continued evolution in ideas are consumer research and market feedback.  Of course, this end-user intelligence is also the foundation for the most important insights and learnings. That is what makes Kimberly-Clark’s approach so powerful—it not only provides access to the data, it also focuses on communicating the insights that are often key to product success.

3. The best ideas are world travelers.

A big part of the reason for Kimberly-Clark’s business growth is their ability to truly leverage their global network of innovators. They have smart people all over the world.  But until recently, they had a hard time connecting with one another, and that limited their ability to contribute to the innovation process. Kimberly-Clark’s successful efforts to pull people together globally into a virtual collaborative environment have enabled them to discover good ideas—regardless of their origin—and reapply those ideas in other parts of the world, sometimes even on the scale of a global new product launch.

And their results? Impressive. Cor highlights how the value of Kimberly-Clark’s innovation portfolio has grown by 75% over the past two years.  At the same time, the company has successfully increased its number of billion dollar brands from five to seven and is on its way to ten. Enviable accomplishments for any business, especially in the highly competitive world of CPG.

There is much more to Kimberly-Clark’s story. What I believe many will appreciate is the pragmatic approach the company has taken toward innovation.  Cor makes it clear that there are many tangible, practical, and repeatable ways the front end of innovation can be improved.  In Kimberly-Clark’s case, they involved  using a combination of enabling software tools  and the adoption of best-practice innovation business processes. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn from this true thought leader in innovation!


Bryan Seyfarth, Ph.D., is director of product strategy for Sopheon, and the consumer goods segment leader for Sopheon’s Accolade® solution suite. Bryan is an acknowledged expert on product development process optimization for consumer goods manufacturers. His perspectives and analysis have appeared in such publications as Consumer Goods Technology and Retail Leader, and he is a frequent conference presenter. Bryan has advised consumer goods companies throughout the world on the use of innovation best practices to improve new product output and financial success.

If you have an interest in learning more about the software and services behind Kimberly-Clark’s success, Bryan will be at the Sopheon-Kalypso booth (#8) at the Front End of Innovation conference in Orlando next week.   

Please stop by!  Alternatively, you can send your questions directly to Bryan at bryan.seyfarth@sopheon.com or follow Bryan on Twitter @BryanSeyfarth.  

1 comment:

karvsmith said...

well i like this post on innovation and really innovation is good UPS jobs for growth of any sector and great job!!!

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