Impact of Culture and Stage Gates on Innovation

Interview – Cor Bosselaar – Kimberly-Clark

Impact of Culture and Stage Gates on InnovationI had the opportunity to interview Cor Bosselaar, Portfolio Manager of Corporate Innovation, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, about innovation, stage-gate processes and building a balanced innovation portfolio. Cor Bosselaar leads the development and implementation of innovation capabilities at Kimberly-Clark Corporation. In support of accelerating innovation results, their main focus is building and improving Stage-Gate® and portfolio processes. Through these efforts, Kimberly-Clark is moving towards a brand-led organization with a focus on driving global scale. His work at both the business and the corporate level over the past 9 years gives Cor a unique perspective of business process improvement.

Here is the text from the interview:

1. Why is innovation so important to Kimberly-Clark?

Our vision is to ‘Lead the World in Essentials for a better life’. To deliver on this vision we are constantly looking at better and more effective ways to deliver these essentials to our customers and consumers. Innovation is the enabler for our long term success by identifying new opportunities and delivering new products and services.

2. What is Kimberly-Clark hoping to achieve with its innovation efforts?

Innovation is a key part to deliver on our promises to our customers, consumers and shareholders. It enables us to be successful in business and in the communities we operate, as we have been doing for 139 years

3. Some people are fond of saying that stage-gate processes stifle innovation. What do you think?

Stage-gate processes, when used wisely, are enablers of innovation. It helps the project teams to focus on what is important and be very creative in a focused area. It takes away time spent in the past on getting approvals for funding and resources

4. What are some of the keys to building a balanced innovation portfolio?

To have a balanced portfolio you need a deep understanding of your consumer needs, your brands and your strategies. This allows you to identify exciting and profitable opportunities. Coupled with a solid risk assessment approach you can balance the needs of maintaining your current products and expanding the business into new areas.

5. What is the most important culture change for organizations to make in order to support innovation?

Each organization is at a different place with a different culture so it is difficult to say what change is needed. However, in order to have solid support for innovation the organization does need to recognize its value and role in delivering on the business vision and strategies. Secondly, and maybe more important, the people need to have the confidence they can do it and can deliver on its promises

6. What are some of the biggest barriers to innovation that you’ve seen in organizations?

One of the barriers can be a short term focus on delivering the results, which can result in an organization putting too much emphasis on cost control and current products and not enough investments in riskier innovation. The other one is a lack of confidence in the organization that it can be successful at innovation; a couple of failed launches can result in a focus on current products only.

7. What skills do you believe that managers need to acquire to succeed in an innovation-led organization?

A thorough knowledge of their consumers, brands, strategies and technology capabilities are important for success. However, at the end of the day the most successful managers are those that combine that with strong people skills. Nobody can achieve anything on their own in the complex organizations of today and needs the ability to effectively work together with others.

8. If you were to change one thing about our educational system to better prepare students to contribute in the innovation workforce of tomorrow, what would it be?

Kimberly-Clark has been in business for 139 years and has always been able to recruit and retain the best people over its long history. A strong company culture and internal training and coaching are key to have the right teams in lace to drive innovation.

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Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is a popular innovation speaker, embeds innovation across the organization with innovation training, and builds B2B pull marketing strategies that drive increased revenue, visibility and inbound sales leads. He is currently advising an early-stage fashion startup making jewelry for your hair and is the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. He tweets from @innovate.

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