Global Companies Must Innovate …

A Dialog with Philip Berry, Consultant to Colgate-Palmolive, Managing Principal, Berry Block Bernstein LLC

GLOBAL HR NEWS: Please tell us about yourself; include your original hometown, education, current hometown, family, and please name the most recent book you have read, or are reading at this time.

PHILIP BERRY: I was born in New York City. I went to the public schools of NY, received my Bachelors degree from Queens College; my Masters of Social Work and MBA from Columbia University and Xavier University of Cincinnati, respectively. I have a lovely wife, Karen Berry, who graduated from Wellesley and Columbia University; and 2 children; my son graduated from UPenn and is an investment banker at JPMorgan Chase, and my daughter is graduating from NYU this year with a focus on dance, languages and cultural anthropology. We are global citizens.

I have just finished reading The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Innovations at the Intersection of Idea, Concepts and Cultures, by Frans Johanssen. This author has developed some great notions of innovation and creativity considering cultural frameworks and diversity as driving factors of consideration.

GLOBAL HR NEWS: Please describe the meaning of your most recent position in the company. Is it “Global HR”?

PHILIP BERRY: Very specifically, my position was Vice President and Corporate Officer of Global Workplace Initiatives. My purpose was to develop global diversity and inclusive strategies on a global basis which enhance Colgate’s ability to attract, develop and retain diverse talent while developing innovative ways to increase their contributions to the business.

GLOBAL HR NEWS: Please tell us about your recent work-life, i.e. your roles/positions at Colgate-Palmolive that enabled your appointment to the current role.

PHILIP BERRY: Before coming to Colgate, I worked for 8 years in various positions at Procter and Gamble. However, at Colgate I was in the position VP of Human Resources for various divisions: Central Europe, Africa, Middle East, Latin America and Western Europe; in addition to being Global VP of Employee Relations & Best Place to Work.

GLOBAL HR NEWS: Relative to “global HR management”, Colgate-Palmolive is a globally competitive company with recognizable brand names. As we get into this interview, first please describe how this “situation” drives HR Directors to select the right employees (and their families) to represent the company on an international assignment. What are the challenges?

PHILIP BERRY: Colgate is a truly global company being globally diversified in over 120 countries in all continents. As such, it is important to attract, develop and retain people of all backgrounds, cultures and nationalities.

It is also critical to be able to operate effectively and develop products which cater to the needs and desires of the local country consumer.

Further, as we move expatriates around the world with their families, it is critical that they understand the cross cultural aspects of living in a country other than their own.

Building this global mindset and cultural sensitivity in our people is critical to their business survival and to the family’s satisfaction while operating abroad.

GLOBAL HR NEWS: Please comment on how Colgate-Palmolive views the emerging “new world economy” developing and serving people in China, India, Central & Eastern Europe, Brasil, Russia.

PHILIP BERRY: Certainly, this is very important. We have been operating on the ground in many of these emerging markets for decades and have learned that as the local economies morph through stages of development, you have to be ready to always understand the changing needs of the consumer.

You have to be ready to offer them products of value and to utilize innovative ways to package, market and sell your products to keep consumers excited about your brand.

GLOBAL HR NEWS: Regarding Innovation with respect to a multinational organization, can it be presumed that the sheer size of an organization prevents Innovation in day to day activity?

PHILIP BERRY: Sheer size is not the critical factor in terms of enhancing or preventing innovation. If you are big, then you have to have business processes which make you small and nimble.

This means you have to operate across boundaries as a global team. That you need to have superior communications up, down and across the organization; and that you also need to have values in place which encourage cooperation, sharing of information, and joint decision-making.

If you are small and don¹t have these, you will fail. Many large companies operate as silos and this limits their ability to take advantage of the economies of scale.

GLOBAL HR NEWS: Assuming that companies want Innovation, how does top management view it? What¹s the Business Case for Innovation? Please describe.

PHILIP BERRY: The business case for innovation is very simple. Competition is more global now than ever before and the consumer is more global in his/her tastes and preferences. In order to satisfy these emerging and changing consumer demands and continue to increase sales and profits you have to continually come up with ways to stay on top of the consumers mind with your product or service.

In other words, you must innovate because the tried and true efforts are not enough.

This is evident in the auto industry, banking industry, electronics industry, consumer products industry, and will soon be evident in the gas/energy industry, mark my words on that.

According to a recent study by the Conference Board, innovation is one of the top ten challenges on the minds of global CEO’s, along with controlling costs, making profits, expanding into new markets, among other things.

GLOBAL HR NEWS: How does Innovation happen? Where does it occur? How is the process managed? How do you measure it?

PHILIP BERRY: Innovation doesn’t occur naturally and it is not magical. It specifically occurs in four areas: within business processes or systems; in products or services; within the customer interface; and within people (in terms of new modes of thinking, behaving and functioning).

For example: recognize regionalizations, outsourcing, and new organization designs ¬according to the Conference Board are new business processes that must be explored. Products and services can be improved and enhanced.

Whatever happened to customer service and coming up with unique ways to reach the consumer?

In terms of measurement, we must first define innovation. It is not just something new, or sexy or exciting.

Innovation is turning knowledge or capabilities into money by creating new products, services, processes or relationships.

Innovation is the development that shows a marked departure from past practices with a promise of significant results.

These results must be quantified like any other part of the business or innovation is just wasted activity, not valued added!

GLOBAL HR NEWS: How does Colgate-Palmolive develop leaders as a result of enabling Innovation?

PHILIP BERRY: You begin by developing the competencies, getting senior management commitment, communicating the intent and encouraging everyone, from the administrative person to the most senior people to come up with innovative ideas.

GLOBAL HR NEWS: How does Colgate deal with the Barriers to Innovate; How do you implement change and how do you keep it going?

PHILIP BERRY: The most important thing is to establish internally is an atmosphere where it is OK behavior to come up with new ideas which may be a marked departure from past practice.

The real question is how you deal with barriers-to-anything in an organization.

You must inspect what you respect – putting resources to what you believe. You need to have values which encourage open communication.

Also, you need to have people develop goals and objectives which include innovation as one of their factors of consideration; giving feedback; and, coaching as part of continuous improvement.

Once people know that you are serious, with dedicated time and attention, they will “catch the wave” and sustain the development.

Einstein said: “You can’t develop solutions with the same state of mind that developed the problems.”

Encouraging diversity of thought is critical to sustaining excellence and managing change. I always say that if everybody is thinking the same, then nobody is thinking!

This is one of the things that true diversity contributes to.

GLOBAL HR NEWS: It appears that one of the biggest “human capital” challenges in the next few years will be successfully managing organization disruption created by the large scale exodus of the baby boomers.

With respect to the theme of corporate innovation and competitiveness, could you please describe how Colgate-Palmolive is looking at this potential scenario to sustain organizational excellence even in a perpetually disruptive job market.

PHILIP BERRY: The most important aspect of these type of scenarios is knowledge management which enhances the capability of the organization to compete and innovate.

This is best accomplished by establishing processes which bring forth and tap the ability of all employees to contribute effectively. Organizational capability is increased when values and competencies are aligned with the overall mission.

Everyone, baby boomers, Gen X and Gen Y need to see how the mission meets their needs and enables them to express their competencies.

At the same time, effective change management must be in place to manage the transition from where the organization is now to where it needs to be.

Effective, innovative organizations discover ways to tap into the creative talents of all its people. We have the processes, mechanisms, and most importantly the values that do this.

GLOBAL HR NEWS: Is there a ‘track record’ for innovation in multinational companies?
Does innovation work?
How do you get people to want to be involved and take a risk?

PHILIP BERRY: Where innovation has worked well in different companies is where a value-system is already in-place that appreciates and respects new ways of thinking.

And, where people feel there is recognition for, and I do not mean monetary recognition, but where there is frequent praise of individuals… recognition for their efforts …and we continuously encourage them and this communicates to them that what they can do will make a difference.

At Colgate-Palmolive we develop training programs that teach people and that helps them to think broadly… essentially, “how to do it” different from before.

We also help people develop skills to work successfully in teams; we provide them feedback and coaching to enable them to better recognize and understand the impact of their strengths and weakness areas, and where there are development needs then we structure the work assignments and focus tasks and activities that will address the specific needs and specific strengths, and all of this will enhance personal and professional development and remedy the situation or open up new opportunities for individuals and the company as a whole.

GLOBAL HR NEWS: Briefly, can you please comment on how can companies fix the apparent problem of attrition after an international assignment.

PHILIP BERRY: Yes, it is a problem and yet at Colgate we see the problem differently.

The Repatriation “situation” and challenge is really all about HR Management and very specifically about Succession Planning Systems and Career Development.

And at Colgate this is “job #1” for us and we focus on this as a value-system component company-wide and across the glob. We address the problem with an attitude of innovation and competitiveness.

GLOBAL HR NEWS: We thank you for this information and your brilliant insight and leadership.