Creating a Design-Centric Culture

Few people have had as much experience trying to inculcate design into a traditional corporate culture as Claudia Kotchka, P&G’s VP for design innovation and strategy. Here are some of her lessons.


Get Buy-in From Senior Management

If the CEO isn’t on board, cultural change efforts are doomed to fail. That’s why Kotchka didn’t take the job until she knew CEO A.G. Lafley was really serious about design. And Kotchka has twice sent the company’s top 40 executives to spend a day at design firm Ideo.


Get Outside Feedback

Kotchka put together a board of outside advisers who are famous for their unvarnished comments. “[One unit] had this breakthrough technology, and they were just sticking it in a tube in a box,” she says. “[GM’s] Bob Lutz goes, ‘Don’t waste your time. It’s just more goop.’ ”

Understand the Design Process

Designers are flexible and intuitive rather than rigid and exacting. So to think like one, you have to adopt the design process. That’s why Kotchka launched the Clay Street Project, an experiment where groups of employees spend 10 weeks learning to free up their creative spirit.

Locate Designers Near the R&D Folks

Design used to be siloed at P&G, viewed by most as peripheral and unimportant. Now most designers work directly with researchers within each unit. This sparks new sorts of innovation and makes it easier for nondesigners to understand what design is.

Let Designers Create Their Own Workspace

In a place like P&G, where workspaces are standardized, this is both symbolically and functionally critical. Creating more open, imaginative spaces for the design group was one of the “biggest battles” Kotchka has had since taking the job.