Design Thinking at Proctor & Gamble

GEstablished 179 years ago, Proctor & Gamble attributes their success to a company culture based on innovation.  Proctor & Gamble has continued to push towards greater innovation by embracing customer driven product development through a company wide design thinking initiative.

 “We know from our history that while promotions may win quarters, innovation wins decades.” – Bob McDonald, retired CEO of P&G

P&G created a design thinking facilitation team with members coming from every area of the company.  They began to introduce design thinking workshops that focused on a variety of issues such as new product initiatives, business strategy, and relationship building.

Cindy Tripp, who helped lead the design thinking initiative, said We want people to use these techniques daily in their work—using broad insights; learning faster; failing faster. Design thinking can be applied everywhere, every day” (Brown).

P&G knows that understanding consumers is crucial to successful innovation.  P&G strives to gain empathy with their customers by spending almost $2 billion annually on research and development, which is over 50% more than their competition spends.  P&G also “invests at least another $400 million in foundational consumer research to discover opportunities for innovation, conducting some 20,000 studies involving more than 5 million consumers in nearly 100 countries” (Brown).

Design thinking revitalized Proctor & Gamble and allowed them to introduce incredibly successful new products and enter new markets.  P&G’s Swiffer WetJet, Venus Razors, Crest White Strips and Olay are only a few of the most successful product lines introduced thanks to P&G’s new design thinking approach.  Both the Swiffer WetJet and Venus Razors have won the “Design of the Decade” Award, a very prestigious and sought after award given out by the Industrial Design Society of America.  The only thing the Swiffer WetJet and Venus Razors have in common: both were the product of successful design thinking cycles.

wetjet-features_v3The Swiffer WetJet created an entire new market for P&G. P&G gained empathy for their consumers by observing how they were currently cleaning and this lead to the identification of unmet needs in the cleaning market. P&G used this information to brainstorm and prototype ideas and quickly garner customer feedback.  Design thinking allowed P&G to avoid the pitfall of introducing just another regular mop with few competitive advantages into an already saturated market. Instead, they found a gap and created a product that truly met consumer’s cleaning needs and were rewarded with the domination of a new $100 million dollar market.


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