5 Problems which only Breakthrough Innovation can solve (Part 3 of 6)

Breakthrough Problem #2 : From Linear to Non-Linear Growth

You may read the introducing context for these cases here —

5 Problems which only Breakthrough Innovation can solve (Part 1 of 6)

5 Problems which only Breakthrough Innovation can solve (Part 2 of 6)

What parts of the current growth equation are extremely resource intensive and is a hurdle to future growth? Where has the current business cycle reached a point, when the need is to break the traditional Resource to Results equation like ‘Doubling the rate of Growth is going to require Double the resources’. Creating a non-linear growth strategy, will need an approach that will fundamentally challenge the Why, the What and the How of the current growth equation.

Triple the business in 3 years — A story of non-linear growth

Unilever Indonesia was performing brilliantly. It was even winning awards as the best company in Asia beating Toyota, Singapore Airlines etc.

The hygiene division contributed about 40% of the turnover but had been performing poorly for the last 5 years. Their bad performance went to such an extent that the hygiene division had begun to believe that they could not win the market. Even worse, they were fast losing credibility inside Unilever and were seen as a pariah that could not perform. Heads down, avoiding peers and feeling shame and guilt for staining the company’s amazing track record, the hygiene team isolated themselves.

It was in this situation that Laercio Cardoso stepped in to head the Hygiene Division of Unilever Indonesia. He had, as committed to his manager, taken on the challenge to ‘Triple the Hygiene business in 3 years’. However, when he met the team, what he saw was something far worse than lagging business numbers. In his words “When I arrived in Jakarta, I found the Hygiene Division in disarray. The team’s morale and energy was at its nadir, the relationships adversarial and the environment demotivating”. Reeling under poor performance, the hygiene team had been demoralized and demotivated.

What most organisations would do when they are losing badly in the market, is focus more and more on numbers. Create hard and focused targets, they monitor people closely, continuously, and minutely to achieve these targets. Laercio realised that to achieve his aspiration of tripling the business in 3 years he needed a breakthrough in the approach. Just pushing his team harder would not be enough.

He had shared the tripling goal with his team and noticed a discomfort. The realisation that hit him was, “to truly uplift the organisation they didn’t need another performance goal, they needed to transform their attitude”.

His deepest realisation was that to pursue a Non-linear goal the first Breakthrough needed was at the team mindset level.

He gathered his team at an offsite. The process of Orbit-shifting Innovation was applied to inspire the team to reflect, recognise and Breakthrough the Mindsets that had become the Gravity that was holding them back. What inspired the team to Breakthrough Boundaries was not a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) like ‘Triple the Business in 3 years’ — What they deeply resonated with was the challenge to ‘Regain Lost Pride’!

Moving out of their comfort zones, they shed their inhibitions. Some of the sentiments that gathered pace were :

  • ‘What will move me are not new goals but a new attitude’.
  • ‘Empower me and I would be happy to fight’.
  • “Fight in every way, fight for the market share and for the internal margin — fight for credibility and margin, fight for redemption and market volume’.
  • ‘I want to fight for the team and the team to fight for me’.

The rallying point became the challenge ‘Becoming the street fighter’ — where they would fight and reclaim the market — street by street.

There was a deep change in the everyday way of being as a Street Fighter. Voluntarism towards team goals, persisting with solutions for difficult problems, converting problems to opportunities, reaching out to find solutions for other departments — all of these became a new and sustained Hygiene Division way. In Laercio’s words ‘The street fighter challenge conquered the divisions heart and become our motto. It unleashed an outstanding energy, a winning spirit. We felt the force and we believed in it!’

Once this street fighter spark was ignited, there was no stopping the team. They took charge, they achieved their growth target of ‘3x the business in 3 years…not in 3 years, BUT IN 9 MONTHS.

In 9 months they were back on top of the market, and were once again, a key pillar in Unilever Indonesia.



Author: Rajiv Narang
Rajiv founded Erehwon in 1989 and he has over the last 25+ years led it to becoming one of the world’s leading Innovation Consulting firms. He has led a diverse and rich portfolio of strategic innovation & leadership initiatives with organisations across industries, cultures and countries including Johnson & Johnson, Bank of America, Max New York Life, Novartis, Unilever, IFF, Infosys, Wipro, ESPN etc. Recognised as an Innovation Thought Leader, Rajiv was part of National Planning Commission panel to recommend ‘India’s Innovation Strategy’, and the lead architect of the ‘Innovation for India’ Foundation. He is the co-author of a book based on Erehwon’s unique methodology — Orbit Shifting Innovation — The Dynamics of Ideas That Create History

Leave a Reply