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Providing Solutions for Consumer Needs

Bryan Semkuley, Global Director of Innovation at KCC
Taylor Keefe
August 2nd, 2012
Over the years, Bryan Semkuley, Senior Director of Global Innovation at the Kimberly-Clark Corporation, has been responsible for building many great brands at his company. He’s done this by developing new opportunities, discovering new solutions and guiding people using his strong leadership skills and strategic business sense. We spoke with Semkuley regarding the current state of innovation at Kimberly-Clark and how it provides solutions for consumer needs.

4 Questions with Bryan Semkuley

1. How do you motivate you team to come up with good ideas?

The first thing you need to have is the right people involved with the innovation team. These people have to be innately curious, adventurous and willing to challenge the status quo. Once you get the right team together, motivation comes easily because these people are predisposed to being curious, creative and inspired.

2. Can you describe innovation at your company?

I would say on the front end we’ve got multiple approaches to explore unmet consumer needs. We've got certain processes in place to help us get to more refined and validated concepts. Once we want to move forward with something to commercialize, we've got a strong implementation process in place that engages the organization in an integrated approach in order for us to hit our respective launch targets on time and with the right cost structure.

3. How do you create a culture of innovation?

This is a great question. Innovation is one of the core values at Kimberly-Clark, and has been one of our foundational building blocks for 140 years. From a culture perspective, it comes with the leadership; that cultural change has to stem from the top. Given that we do have a CEO and senior leadership team that want to drive innovation, I believe that this commitment is really needed to make innovation the cornerstone of progress for the organization. Another great aspect of our culture is that we allow people the ability to try initiatives that you don't usually have the latitude to try. We provide an environment where teams can take risks and learn from any failures.

Innovation is central to success. It comes through in everything that we do, from product development to marketing. Innovation is a broad platform for us, so the more we do it, the more we can be successful at it and achieve our vision.

4. Are there specific areas of your culture that you’ve enhanced to make your team more innovative?

One of the things we've done quite successfully, and shared with the organization, is the strong ability to really probe and observe, and get outside of our “walls.” We talk to experts in other fields in an attempt to drill down and really understand missing needs. You don't want to think like a consumer but rather be a consumer. Through that information gathering process, we create and develop a hypothesis. The hypothesis is the starting point, and then we spend time testing ideas, correcting faulty thoughts, thinking of new ways to market and new business models. It's transactional learning -- understanding the marketplace and seeing how things are actually adopted by consumers.