Innovation from the Inside-Out

A talk from Karen Hersherson, clay street project leader, Proctor & Gamble

Innovation for P&G is about platforms and pipelines that create long-lasting value. To get these types of results, the company had to build an incubator for project teams, named clay street.


Innovation for P&G gathers multi-functional teams that work together over a long period of time to create truly holistic innovation.


We work with teams and their leaders to create innovators. On the journey they become more confident and creative to handle the messy side of front-end innovation.


We have an amazing group of adjunct facility—from psychology to drama to arts and design.


The stories I will share are about what we’ve seen and learned at clay street.


Here is the main point: if we can bring more of our humanity to innovation, we get better results.


So, we work on seeing, feeling, and being.


SEEING. If you look at any work of art, any product, it is a reflection of the people that created it. A Jungian taught me this valuable lesson. Therefore, we focus on people, not the concepts.


People come in with very silo-ed thinking. Marketers thought as marketers, for example, and engineers thought as engineers. It is hard to see outside of their trained perspectives, as identities are tied to their role.


Our goal was to give space and time for people to get out of their given roles. Let people live the questions, not rush into a debrief. Let new neural connections begin to take root.


The second thing that got in the way was the sense of being valued. If you don’t feel valued, you won’t take risk and throw out “stupid” ideas. Therefore, we do a lot of ideation, and do “Yes, And” exercises. The idea isn’t to get the killer idea, but to learn how creativity is a team sport. Then, the valuable ideas flow.


What we learned is the concept of disorientation. Here, in this state of mind, the world is crazy and topsy turvy.


Three soft-skill methods to see dynamics underneath as part of Seeing:


  1. Display thinking
  2. Slow down
  3. Name it



FEELING. We now tear away the armor. We invite for everyone to put away phones and laptops. The ROI of putting these distractions away allows for genuine incubation. Data is making us lazy thinkers, invalidating our gut instincts.


Here’s our recipe: Take away distractions. Take away roles. Take away templates. Add love. We work on the relationships early to mitigate against the conflicts that always arise as a by-product of the creative process.


As we build the heart, it showed up in their work as part of Feeling:


  1. Subtract what distracts
  2. Ditch the templates
  3. Build relationships


BEING. I have to surrender control and fully trust the people and process. We use a lot of mindfulness practices. We mediate together.


Here are some habits of Being we practice:


  1. Identify your triggers
  2. Explore the feeling
  3. Build daily habits



Think about if you can see the human dynamics happening underneath your innovation practice? How comfortable are you dealing with the emotions that arise? How are you role modeling the feelings that arise?


These parting words should be the motto for clay street: “if you want create transformation innovations, you have to be able to transform yourself.”


Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an innovation and strategic growth firm based in Memphis, TN and the author of Going Electric. Visit to learn more.