What you need for innovation and customer-centric design (CCD) culture transformation to happen

On August 9, 2012, I attended a talk by Claudia Kotchka at Westpac in Sydney CBD (organised by BT Financial Group). Claudia is a Senior Executive and Change Agent who successfully led an innovation culture transformation at Procter & Gamble. I walked out of the room inspired to continue doing what I do as an innovator, service and user experience designer. Below are some of my notes:

Procter & Gamble brief story

Procter & Gamble (also known as P&G) is a consumer goods company with a vast stable of household brands. The story in a nutshell was that P&G was doing fine relying on their technology and TV (advertisements), but it was only until 2000 when the company crashed. The reason was they lost the touch with their customers. Two mistakes Claudia mentioned P&G fell into were:

  • relying just on data to take decisions, and
  • only thinking from the “What do we make for customers…” angle, instead of “What do the customer really want/need?”

Introducing this new Design Thinking  approach to things at P&G took Claudia about 7 years. It is not a simple task when the understanding of “Design” for the majority is different from what “us” service designers understand. Design is everything that is man made -Claudia said.

The Rough Design Maturity Continuum

There are 5 levels of design maturity said Claudia; only a few companies work on level 5 (e.g. Apple), other very few on level 4, and the majority work on levels 3, 2 and 1.
The image below is the one I grabbed from the internet, which was used by Claudia to explain the levels.
design maturity model by bplusd


As a example of a product design at this level Claudia mentioned the universal remote control, which was needed but not consciously designed.

Level 2. STYLE

The Altoids mints, P&G didn’t think the style and aesthetics of the packaging could impact so positively to the customer experience. P&G almost made the mistake to make it all plastic and uniform to reduce costs.


The liquid measuring cup angled. Initially P&G thought they couldn’t improve the original liquid measuring cup as it worked just fine, they said. With research designers they learned that people struggled looking at the measurements on the side of the cup, so they included an angled measurement ruler to be seen from above, which was a hit!


Nike was the example here. Nike found that the problem was not making better shoes for runners, but the need to have a ‘personal trainer’ to take with you when going running. The solution – a chip in the shoe that talks to your iPod and keeps track and provides feedback of your exercise.

Level 5. FRAMING

The story of Keith Tantlinger, the inventor of the shipping containers. The way he saw the problem of limited storage and mobility and created the shipping containers that shaped and revolutionised the cargo shipping industry.

What is a Prototype?

“A prototype is to further the dialog with a customer”. The more unfinished or rough it is, the more honesty you get from customers as they are not afraid to hurt your feelings, they can see you need help!

Customer Centric Design process

  1. Insight through Empathy
  2. Experimentation
  3. Multi-disciplinary Collaboration. CCD is for everyone to practice.

Among some of the examples she mentioned to support this process, are:

P&G’s data told them that the problem with the nappies was the leaking, so what do they do next? P&G put all the budget into the “absorption” of the nappy. On the other side, their competitor Huggies, they cut budget from “absorption” and put it into the nappies wrapping material, making it quite and nice touch-feeling; not the plastic feeling and loud material Pampers was using. The end result: Huggies killed Pampers in sales. Mums didn’t want to see their kids wrapped in noisy, hard-looking, plastic nappies, plus the Huggies nappies felt good to the touch when holding up the babies.

“Keep the change” – Bank of America (B0fA)
A solution they came up working with IDEO. After observing a behaviour of people rounding amounts when paying by check, they took that behaviour to the credit and debit card payment systems, putting those extra cents into their savings account. This solution brought billions in savings to B0fA.

“Fast, Cheap” – Apple retail store
How did Apple made sure their new retail store was a success? Apple prototyped the new retail store with cardboard several times, guaranteeing this way the success of it by the time they build the first real one.

“Gen Y laundry” – Tide detergent
Research on gen Y showed that gen Yers don’t do much laundry or non at all. Plus there was a finding around their attachment to their jeans, which were not cheap. So Tide created a formula “Total Care” that focused on cleaning and taking care of those expensive jeans.

Factors for Success

To close her presentation, Claudia shared what to her are some of the factors for a successful innovation culture transformation. There are:

  1. Senior Management Champions
  2. Hire Experiences Talent. Give designers spaces, no cubes to work
  3. New types of research (Claudia is not fan of focus groups)
  4. All disciplines together
  5. Get help (meaning that you don’t have to do it alone, find someone who can do it better than you, and think what’s in it for them as well)
  6. Go with Suction. Who is in more need of a CCD culture? E.g. Claudia started with Pampers at P&G)
  7. Teach CCD to Business Managers (injecting the language, mentoring up, visiting design schools, case studies, field trips)
  8. Teach Business to Designers. Send them to classes!
  9. Show Don’t Tell
  10. Put Systems in Place. It is not possible to do competent work in a flawed system, no matter how good the people are.
  11. Fail Early, Fail Often

That’s it! Well… there’s a lot more that can be said for each of these factors and examples but I prefer to hear from you if you have any comment or question.


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