Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A reflection on my Innovation Career

My friend and co-worker said that blogs are great because they allow you to reflect on life when you otherwise may not have. Chris, you're right. And because the project I've spent the past year trying to launch finally started shipping yesterday, I'll take a moment to reflect on my professional innovation career to date.

Cleveland City Sewer System: I don't know if you can consider this a new product... but when I was interning at an Architectural Engineering firm the summer before I began college, I designed the Cleveland City Sewer system on several downtown streets. Not a glorious job, but I was very proficient at AutoCAD and could figure out where sewer pipes should be placed. I learned a little something about what Civil Engineers do.

Mammotome Breast Biopsy System: I co-oped at Ethicon-Endo Surgury (EES) while I studied Biomedical Engineering as an undergrad. The Mammotome system is a minimally invasive way to conduct a breast biopsy. The system uses sophisticated technology to identify the location of biopsy and collect the tissue sample. My first 6 month rotation was to redesign the defective thumb wheel on the biopsy system and test new software. I got my first taste of corporate America here...

Tissue Micrometer: My second assignment at EES involved working with the Pre-Clinical R&D group. They had challenges with time lost accidents due to their current system of measuring tissue thickness. With a fellow co-op engineer, I spent 6 months designing and constructing a Tissue Micrometer to reduce accidents and improve measurement accuracy.

The Thimble: Ever heard of the Da Vinci Surgical System? I had the unique opportunity to develop a haptic feedback system for this telemanipulation surgical device. The major downside of robotic surgery is that the surgeon loses the tactile experience of an open-body procedure. Ah Ha! An unmet consumer need! I, as a project leader, along with a team of 7 developed a solution for this problem. Our goal was to develop a method to provide surgeons with increased feedback on forces applied by the system with the intent of improving patient safety. A year of research, development and lots of sweat equity later, we had a final product with a patent and IP protection.

Camp Bearcat: Can you call this innovation? Sure, why not. Camp Bearcat was an innovative leadership program to develop leadership skills among First Year Students at the University of Cincinnati. It was my brainchild and my pet project during my last two years of undergrad. I'd say it was a pretty great success. One of the first students turned out to be the Student Body President during his senior year (gooooo Jerry!). I'm not sure if UC still offers the program, but it had a good run for at least 5 years after I graduated.

Bounty: As a manager on the Bounty Brand at P&G, I had the tremendous opportunity to work on New Ventures. Since P&G's core strategy is so rooted in Innovation, there were many opportunities to develop and launch new products.

If you're interested in more of P&G's innovation strategies, see AG's book "The Game Changer." My old director gave me this book and I found it really eye-opening and inspiring. It gave me a new view of CPG innovation and best-in-class ways to integrate innovation into the core of everything your business stands for. As my old director says, "the worst part of this book is the name." Once you get over the poor choice in name, you'll find the book page turning and chock full of real life examples.

While on Bounty, I championed an idea screening process that tested over 200 new product concepts over the course of two years, many of which I personally wrote and developed with fellow team members. We launched four significant projects from this database of ideas:

Bounty Glass & Surfaces: The first Value Add innovation in more than 3 years for the Bounty brand. Using consumer data, I was able to guide product development to deliver the desired consumer experience and enable a true product and concept fit. The accelerated timing meant that I could explore new (faster) innovative methodologies to test our communication strategy among consumers.

Bounty for a Cause: It was Bounty's 40th birthday, but we're giving the gift to others. This was the first cause-marketing effort on Bounty and tremendous commercial innovation. The project did not include a new product or product change, it was completely focused on consumer communication. We partnered with three national charities and encouraged consumers to go online and vote for which organization received a cash donation during the promotional period. An amazing example of how you pair brand equities with a focused consumer benefit to create an ownable proposition.

Bounty Napkins New Prints: This project was born out of the need to grow our napkins business... yet along the way, we discovered we could deliver significant cost savings by applying the prints in a different orientation. We used consumer insights and data to drive which designs, and how much of each, to produce. The refreshed prints were a hit with consumers and paired with the cost savings, our business leaders were pretty happy with the results.

Bounty Shop Towels: This proposition strategically allowed Bounty to enter a new class of trade (Home Improvement) where we had a right to win, but no true innovation targeted for this consumer base. We needed to learn a lot about our consumers and what unmet needs we could address with a new product in this channel. Low and behold: Bounty Super Duty Shop Towels.

5 React: I've spent the past year of my working-life bringing this project to market on an extremely accelerated timeline. React is my first real new product launch since joining Wrigley in Feb of 2007.

React offers two varieties, "a unique FRUIT flavor experience" and "a unique MINT flavor experience." The proposition is that "everyone experiences it differently." Said in another way, if you and I each chew a stick of React fruit you might taste mango and I might taste raspberry. What does it taste like to you? You'll just have to try it to find out...
It's breakthrough innovation, if I do say so myself, since we challenge the status quo by offering something unconventional. If you want to know what's so unconventional about the proposition, then visit your local retailer - products should hit shelves in about 2 weeks.

The ones that didn't make it: Along the way (as with all innovation roles) I've also recommended against launching many new products that didn't have a right-to-win in market, lacked a strategic fit, or just plain wasn't profitable enough for the business to launch. It's often more difficult to recommend against a launch, especially when the product was 7 years in the making. Plus, there's no glory in having nothing tangible to show other than an empty work plan. On the other hand, you can save the company millions of dollars that would have been wasted in advertising support and promotions. What would you do with an extra few million bucks?

1 comment:

cb22 said...

If I had a dime for every time someone said, "Chris, you're right!" ...I'd have $0.10.