What’s the big deal about the year 1837? Well, historically speaking, it’s probably best known for two politically consequential events: the inauguration of Martin Van Buren as the eighth president of the United States, and the first and only time the U.S. Senate selected the vice president. (If you’re wondering, the hand-picked veep was named Richard Johnson.)
Thankfully, this isn’t a podcast about post-colonial America or innocuous Senate rules. More critical to our area of expertise is the solidification of a pivotal partnership that year in Cincinnati, Ohio between immigrants William Procter and James Gamble—the result of a chance encounter (they married sisters) some time earlier. At the suggestion of their mutual father-in-law, the then-candlemaker and soapmaker founded Procter & Gamble (P&G) 182 years ago, and the Fortune 500 consumer goods corporation continues to be a modern-day trailblazer.
To help explain how an organization that’s been around for 37 presidential administrations continues to thrive (and innovate), we spoke with Tony Saldanha, a 27-year executive at P&G, and author of the upcoming book Why Digital Transformations Fail.
In this podcast episode, Saldanha and host Michael Leadbetter, CEO and founder of Pivot Factory, explain how a large company can undergo a complete internal transformation to ensure future success. As you’ll hear, Saldanha discusses his time as a P&G executive and what it takes to become a true innovator within a company. He also talks about the key to digital transformations and common pitfalls that undercut such efforts.
P&G is a great example of a company that’s keenly aware of industry trends and technological advances, and using that knowledge to foster exponential growth. As Saldanha notes, it’s important for any company to undergo an unbiased examination and adjust accordingly, especially amid a push to innovate.
One of the difficulties of being on the “leading edge,” as Saldanha calls it, is “you’re also the first to kind of get to the point where your previous strategy starts to slow down and not work as well anymore.”
“It’s always about reinventing yourself to stay relevant, whether that’s in product research or product development.”
Implementing new ideas and strategies is always beneficial, but these efforts should be part of a much larger strategy, so as to avoid common mistakes.
When you’ve embarked on the path toward change, you never want to begin the process and then be forced to ponder, “What am I supposed to do now?” shares Saldanha.
His overall message: “It’s always about reinventing yourself to stay relevant, whether that’s in product research or product development.”
For P&G, Saldanha knew there was a point where the company had to shift. Remarkably, this coincided with his attendance at a talk given by Salim Ismail of ExO Works (the guest of our inaugural episode). P&G took what ExO calls the “Sprint,” a 10-week consulting program focusing on innovation and accelerating growth, and decided product innovation was in order. As a result, P&G started integrating new technologies to grow their product lines, which includes myriad noteworthy brands, such as Tide, Bounty, Gillette and Old Spice, among many others.
This new strategy was put on full display at CES in Las Vegas in early January. As VentureBeat reported: “P&G is focused on putting sensors and artificial intelligence into things like skin advisers, razors, and blemish removers.”
Innovation as a Discipline
Saldanha offers three examples to showcase why innovation is so important:
- Creating Business Models Around Technology
For example, Amazon is the dominant force in online shopping and was estimated to net nearly 50 percent in U.S. retail sales in 2018. Also, Spotify, with a monthly subscription rate of $9.99, and nearly 230 million global subscribers, has completely disrupted the streaming music market.
"You never want administrative issues to get in the way of innovation."
- New Technology to Trade Old Ideas for New Ones
- Creating Completely Different Internal Operations on Digital Platforms
You never want administrative issues to get in the way of innovation. The best way to avoid such problems is to streamline operations using the latest technological offerings.
“Why digital transformations fail?” asks Saldanha. “Very simply put—and this is sometimes an answer people don’t want to hear—the reason is very simple, it’s lack of discipline.”
One major obstacle is the almost-intoxicating pull of reverting back to established norms, which prevents innovation from completely taking hold, he continues. Fortunately, that tug toward “business as usual” principles isn’t universal. For those companies only now coming into existence, for example, the need to refocus operations is almost nonexistent.
The ‘Core’ & ‘Edge’ Initiatives
Some organizations consist of two groups with competing interests, explains Saldanha: the “Core” and “Edge.” These are crucial concepts, because they speak directly to common problems that prevent innovation from taking hold. The former, he tells Leadbetter, symbolizes how things have always been, while the latter represents the innovative wing.
“We’re in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,”
The main takeaway from this fascinatingly informative sit-down with Tony Saldanha can be described as the following: Change must originate from inside the organization, and transformation is key for any business to not only thrive, but survive.
P&G is a perfect example. It has certainly proved that innovation is possible, regardless of how long a company has been around.
“We’re in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” says Saldanha. “And just like previous industrial revolutions, if you do not transform, your enterprise will fail. So this is a very relevant issue.”
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The Pivot Factory Podcast is a Morey Creative Studios production.
The Pivot Factory Podcast is hosted by Michael Leadbetter, and engineered and produced by Michael Conforti, Rashed Mian and Christopher Twarowski. Jed Morey is the executive producer.