Innovation: Making Inspiration Routine

It's not about brilliance. Valuable new ideas are the product of hard work and smart, disciplined processes.

Scott Menchin


In April, A.G. Lafley, the chairman and CEO of Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), and Ram Charan, adviser to such business leaders as Jack Welch and Robert Nardelli, published an insider's guide to innovation at P&G and other top corporations. The Game-Changer: How You Can Drive Revenue and Profit Growth With Innovation argues that innovation -- like learning -- must be continuous and pursued at all levels of the organization. The book describes dozens of mechanisms for keeping the idea pipeline full, such as P&G's customer-immersion programs, which send employees to live in consumers' homes, and innovation "hot zones," facilities where product teams spend weeks on creative exercises.

It's a great book, but for owners of small companies, it's a little like reading about Disney World when all you have to play with is a backyard swing set. We wondered: Could P&G's approach to innovation be made to scale for businesses with a tiny fraction of P&G's resources?

We asked Lafley and Charan to imagine they were the founders of a company in an industry of their choice, with $4 million in revenue and 30 employees. What would they do to make their business as innovative as possible?

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