Game changing innovation is hard. Unlike what most people believe, it is not just the outcome of brilliant ideas, but brilliant ideas executed brilliantly. Whether it be at P&G or Aravind Eye Hospital, innovation demands hard work and several organizations struggle to even get started with it.

That is why we chose to look closely at Godrej & Boyce. It’s journey towards innovation is young and we believe it holds some interesting lessons.

Lesson #1: Boundaries can liberate

Several managers argue removing boundaries and letting chaos reign will unleash innovative energy and lead to discoveries of new growth strategies. While it works in some circumstances, at others this strategy runs the risk of having managers / innovators spending valuable time, money and resources on strategies an organization would not pursue under any given condition.

Paradoxical as it may sound, a creative way out is to orchestrate chaos within set conditions. To do this, the leadership team ought to spend time clearly articulating what the organization’s strategic choices are. These include what it wants to be, what it plans to do and what not to do to get to where it intends to get. The process can be liberating.

The executives at Godrej realized that for the company to grow, it ought to revive growth in its household appliance business, which over that last decade had been hammered down by competitors like LG and Whirlpool.

So instead of focusing its energies on finding ways to build a larger share in small market of consumers, Godrej opted to focus its competencies on finding a way to attract the 80 percent of Indian households who didn’t consume Godrej products.

Lesson #2: Start with the customers’ job

A key lesson from ex-P&G chairman, A.G. Lafley is that the key to successful innovation is a ‘consumer-is-boss’ mind-set. He’d often argue, observing customers can help identify opportunities to innovate. Most often, customers have an important unsatisfied job to be done and either they are not able to adequately address this job today or face barriers which inhibit their ability to get the job done.

Armed with this insight, the team at Godrej thought it is a good idea to get their hands dirty and to figure out where potential gold mines lie. One of the questions they asked was: Why is it that over 80 percent of Indians do not own a refrigerator?

To understand that, they conducted open-ended interviews and videotaped habits of people in rural India. Post a series of ethnographic sessions, they figured the ‘job’ these consumers were trying to solve was elementary – all they needed was an affordable way to preserve leftovers for a day or two and to keep a few drinks cooler than room temperature.

This job was markedly different from the one higher-end refrigerators do and could not be solved with a cheaper strip-down version of the conventional refrigerator. Going to the non-consumers and understanding their barriers to consumption helped Godrej unearth an opportunity to create a new product for the underserved market.

By Rahul Nair & Akshay Mehra

Rahul is an Analyst at Innosight. He specializes in collaborating with clients in medical devices, information technology and pharmaceuticals to identify launch and execute innovations using the disruptive innovation theory. Photography and cooking keep Rahul occupied during free time.

Akshay is a Principal at Innosight. He has worked with clients in consumer product companies, medical devices and pharmaceuticals to identify disruptive innovation opportunities in their industries. Before Innosight, he has worked in brand management at a consumer products company, and was heading a start-up in Bangalore. During his downtime, Crime Fiction and History keep him occupied.

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