How to Create a Culture to Capitalize on Innovation

by Michael Graber

How to Create a Culture to Capitalize on InnovationCreating a Commercialization Culture

A presentation by Jay Morgan, VP Global Innovation Bayer Consumer Care given at the back end of Innovation Conference, October, 2015.

Jay Morgan shared his story of how Merck Consumer Care (now Bayer Consumer Care) began its innovation journey.

The story takes place in Memphis, TN. It begins in 2011. It began with struggle and a question: What are the barriers to innovation in your business that are keeping you from producing the desired results?

In 2011, things were “pretty good, but not seeing great growth.” We got a new CEO who had a very big vision. She wanted the double the size of the business in five years.

Because we were not going to get double the people or double the budget, we had to think in new ways. Value engineering and being more efficient wouldn’t double growth.

Fist, we studied the situation. In Pharma style, we visited other more innovative companies and made a journey of discovery.

The patterns of behavior and culture at these companies ran counter to our pattern. We lacked both ideas and execution—it was a cultural problem. We weren’t getting the results we wanted.

We broke the study into two camps: Incremental Cultures and Innovation Cultures. After a look into the mirror: we confessed we were an incremental culture and needed to change.

The innovation companies had a bias for action, shared work-in-progress, deep collaboration, and shared workspace.

Even the way Insights are gathered and shared are different at Incremental and Innovative companies. At Innovation companies, we go out into the context of the market itself, having in-depth and meaningful conversation with consumers.

The frame of the opportunity expands beyond new product development into every touch point in the brand experience: digital, communication, claims, packaging, shopping experience, or a business model innovation.

We developed a five-point plan for changing the culture:

  • Learn by doing (three projects in one year, as a prototype)
  • Start small ($50k budget)
  • Work on tools and culture (Design Thinking; One table, no offices)
  • Work in more cycles (Memphis Innovation Bootcamp)
  • Get help (bring in the Southern Growth Studio to do the projects with us instead of for us)

We also co-founded the Memphis Innovation Bootcamp with Merck, Michael Graber of the Southern Growth Studio, Dr. Brian Janz, and a few others to share this toolkit and create a broader culture of the Memphis community. In Memphis, we took innovators and applied to social challenges that benefited the Memphis community. We mastered the material by teaching in in several cycles of the Bootcamp.

Key learning for success: Engage the whole company. Form a Realization team—of key players that will help you realize the concept in the market. Debrief everything. Create revenue-based metrics.

The key takeaway was don’t wait for leadership to fix the culture. Start. Just start. Start small. Share the results, then scale with each success.

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Michael GraberMichael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an innovation and strategic growth firm based in Memphis, TN and the author of Going Electric. Visit www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.

One comment

  1. Great article – incremental cultures that profess to the need for big ideas are more common than not. The struggle is real! Absolutely agree with the main takeaway – don’t wait for leadership, just start doing!

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