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P&G at forefront of ‘design thinking’

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The traditional attitude toward design is that it’s “the last decoration station on the way to market.”

The standard approach to new products is to understand the problem, develop ideas and do a final, external check with the customer before launch.

Design thinking flips that process. Customers help identify a need or opportunity. Then the company brainstorms ideas, and finally co-creates and reworks products using low-resolution prototypes with the consumer.

In his new book, The Game-Changer, P&G’s chief executive A.G. Lafley lays out differences between the two approaches. A brief summary:

First is how P&G pulled off such a big change. At the outset, it brought in top theorists, but later shucked the academic and theoretical aspects to focus on a completely experiential approach.

To take advantage of co-creation, the company found that the less “finished” a prototype is, the more feedback customers give you. If you offer them a half-baked idea, they realize that you don’t have all the answers.

“They know you need their help—and really open up,” says P&G design chief Claudia Kotchka.

One result is the company’s Olay line of beauty products. Going to www.olayforyou.com provides a consultation that recommends the most suitable products.

— Adapted from “P&G Changes Its Game,” Jeneanne Rae, BusinessWeek.

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