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Innovation is like attending a track meet, where the companies supply the sprinters and the consumers wait (hopefully!) at the finish line to judge who wins. By creating a shorter track and by being willing to quit the race when we can’t win it; Kimberly Clark is changing the rules of the race itself.
Leading the world in essentials for a better life - that's what Kimberly-Clark is all about.
Kimberly-Clark places consumers at the center of everything we do. Billions worldwide choose our products to make a positive difference in their lives. That's a big responsibility and one we take seriously.
- 57,000 employees working at manufacturing facilities in 36 countries
- Leading brands sold in more than 175 countries
- 140 years in business
- Nearly one-quarter of the world's population purchase our products every day
- We created the first facial tissue
- $20.8 billion in sales in 2011
- With brands like Kleenex, Scott, Huggies, Pull-Ups, Kotex, Poise and Depend, Kimberly-Clark holds the No. 1 or No. 2 brand share in more than 80 countries
- Previously ranked first in the personal care category in Dow Jones' Sustainability World Index five years in a row (2005-2009)
- Contributed $32.1 million in cash and products to charitable causes in 2011
The team leading this new effort was chosen by senior management to “break the rules” and build a shorter innovation track. A small entrepreneurial team consisting of 5 people, based at the Global Inovation Center in Seoul, Korea has changed the rules of how KC typically innovates.
Strong brands provide many opportunities for domain expansion and organic growth. In fact, sometimes the opportunities are so numerous, that deciding where to innovate can take as much time as the innovation itself. In a large organization, hundreds or thousands of partially developed ideas are often languishing; shelved, not based on their merits but on resource decisions, strategy mis-alignment or a host of other reasons. When a large number of options exist, it is human nature to grab onto the familiar ones, leaving other potentially big ideas unexplored. Also, it is easy to get into the trap of seeing the product execution as the only innovation and ignore the other elements of the business model. Kimberly Clark leadership realized that to bring big, game changing ideas to the market, a different approach would be needed.
The team, named “Win Big”, set out to develop a new approach to pilot and launch in market a series of market facing experiments.
To rapidly investigate alternate ways to bring new ideas to market, K-C set aside a small team (5 members) consisting of product developers. Members went through an intensive boot camp on how to look at opportunities through the lens of a entrepreneur trying to build a business of their own. They applied Clayton Christensen’s disruptive innovation approach and emergent strategy to develop business plans (in about 3-4 weeks), along the lines that a venture capitalist would like to see to invest behind an idea.
l Create 3-5 pilots for implementation in 2013. We defined a pilot as an in-market transactional learning event. (Sell something to someone, somewhere!) This could range from a single kiosk at a mall to a full commercial launch. The idea and related learning objectives determine the scope of the pilot. Pilot exists to validate a few, key project assumptions – not to measure volume or prove financial success criteria.
Key differences from “the norm”: (*indicates shortening the “track”; ^indicates improving the outcome)
l Innovate on the full business model – not just product offering^.
l Pilot rather than launch mentality -- Take risks – some “failure” is expected if the team is truly pushing the boundaries of the business model.^*
l Project team has direct Executive sponsorship*^
l Provided one country as a “laboratory” where pilots could be launched.*
l Team empowered to make decisions including if and when to kill an idea. Failing fast – a must.*
l Very frequent consumer touchpoints – in-home, at-shelf, at work, on-line. Qualitative only. Pilot will support launch decision – no large Quant studies.*
l Laboratory country provides marketing support to ensure buy-in^
Design Team embedded from start to help bring concepts and packaging to life earlier in the project than usual.
May 2012 – Project Chartered, leadership approval of objectives
July 2012 – Project team named and kickoff
August 2012 – Screening completed of over 500 ideas to arrive at initial 8 ideas. Prototype development. 2 ideas ruled out, 2 more added. Later – ideas pared down to 3 specific opportunities.
September 2012 – Initial consumer in-home evaluation of three ideas in laboratory country and developing business plans
October 2012 – Re-vectoring -based on consumer response and leadership intuition about size of market – all 3 plans were stopped and team decided to focus to build on one single idea that had the potential to Win Big globally.
l Ideas spanned across brands and regions (and therefore organizational lines) but having Executive sponsorship enabled us to cross lines easily
l Because consumer data was qualitative, it could not be easily defended against skeptics. However, by having frequent (monthly) interaction with our steering team, we ensured that leadership was tracking with our hypotheses and decisions.
l Getting the laboratory country on board was critical, we did not have dedicated resources from the country so finding a way to get engagement while being respectful of their other obligations was key. Having a dedicated resource would have been very helpful here. We did a one day workshop in the country to get engagement and buy-in.
l Financial criteria for what constituted a “big idea” was not well established. This lead to some disagreement over the program was on track or not. Establishing success criteria early on is now a higher priority.
l Our company tends to be very adverse to killing projects so sorting through hundreds of ideas to get to eight ideas and then re-vectoring to a new idea in about two months is very aggressive for us. Teams will often spend 18 months to three years (or more) tinkering with a single idea to get the proposition right.
l We are a small team but our approach – specifically the aspect of creating a very early prototype and getting into the field with it right away and being willing to kill the idea if it does not show promise – has been adopted by other teams at our location.
l This approach works well for the mission we have been given; but more time is needed to determine how this can be integrated across the organization. The risk profile is higher both from the standpoint of too quickly ruling out good ideas and of getting to market with less consumer validation than typical.
l Having someone in the organization actively looking at new business models can be both inspirational and threatening to the rest of the organization.
l Being transparent with success and failure is key to building your credibility.