Business Today

Deconstructing innovation

The Game-Changer is an inspirational and practical guide for internalising success.

Arnab Mitra | Print Edition: September 21, 2008

The Game-Changer
A.G. Lafley &
Ram Charan
Penguin Portfolio

Pages: 336
Price: Rs 399

The question, in one form or the other, is thousands of years old: how do you teach an elephant to dance? There are essentially two ways to approach this query. You can choose Option 1, the easy way out, and decide, after a few failed attempts, that it can’t be done and focus your attention, instead, on cats, dogs or any other creature more amenable to your instructions. But you can also choose Option 2, throw away the existing rule book, think differently and actually come up with a new set of instructions that transforms your pet pachyderm into Mr Twinkletoes.

This brings us to a second question: can such innovations be institutionalised? In The Game-Changer, How Every Leader Can Drive Everyday Innovation, A.G. Lafley, Chairman & CEO of Procter & Gamble, and Ram Charan, whom Fortune called the most influential management thinker alive, argue that given the right leadership, conditions and resources, innovation, too, can be replicated with almost assembly line regularity.

Lafley, who took over the reins of P&G at a time when analysts were writing its obituaries, has turned the FMCG behemoth around. How did he do it? The short answer to that is innovation—by putting in place a broad template within which individuals and departments could do things differently while remaining loyal to P&G’s overall goal of “delighting customers at two moments of truth—first, when they buy a product, and second, when they use it”.

The authors also turn on its head the conventional wisdom that small companies make better innovators than large ones. Large corporations, they argue, enjoy advantages—like scale, management and financial bandwidth and other resources—that smaller companies don’t, and these can be leveraged to embed innovation in their DNA.

The book is clearly divided into two “voices”—Lafley tells the reader how to proceed down the often slippery road to innovation, drawing from his own experience in turning P&G around, while Charan, the ubercool guru to Fortune 500 CEOs, explains why he succeeded and how such, and other, innovations can be internalised by almost any corporation. One must add here that the examples don’t relate to P&G only. The authors draw liberally from innovation successes at Nokia, Samsung, Lego, DuPont and GE to highlight real life examples of how visionary companies have used “innovation as the basis for sustaining profitable organic growth and consistently improving margins”. It is such practical examples and the DIY guides at the end of several chapters that make this book a must read for occupants of C-suites as well as those who don’t quite aspire to get there. As the authors say, the spirit of innovation has to percolate down the organisation—from the CEO down to the man on the shop floor.

Rapid transformation
Behnam N. Tabrizi
Harvard Business School Press
Price: $29.95 (Rs 1,290)

It’s a cliché, but it’s true: change is the only constant in life—for human beings and for organisations. It’s also a fact of life that people and companies find it difficult to adapt to change. For corporations, which have to cope with changes in technologies, markets, consumer mindsets and people behaviour, it is sine qua non to have in place a template to manage change.

Rapid Transformation, by Behman N. Tabrizi, Consulting Professor at Stanford University’s Department of Management Science and Engineering, offers companies a 90-day plan for fast and effective transformation. Drawn from 10 years of research with more than 500 leading companies, the book breaks down the transformation architecture into three 30-day modules and proposes clear, easy-to-understand steps and a detailed framework to manage change.

The book gives real life examples of transformation management undertaken at such thoroughbred companies as IBM, 3M, Apple, Nissan and HP. Drawing from the examples of these companies that have reinvented themselves time and again, in different geographies and cultural contexts, Tabrizi tells readers, managers and students not to resist change but to ride it to its logical conclusion.

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