How P&G has evolved its Clay Street innovation studio to have broader impact

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1340-clay-street-2012Back in 2004, when Procter & Gamble initiated the Clay Street Project, the company wanted not only to get employees working in different ways to foster innovation, but also to address the problems that can get in the way of new ideas growing into successful new products. To accomplish that, it took teams of employees out of their day jobs, often for as much as three months at a time, gave them just one task one to focus on, and made the teams accountable.

The Clay Street sessions, as they became known, took place in a refurbished brewery in a not-quite-gentrified Cincinnati neighborhood across the river from Procter & Gamble’s corporate headquarters. To qualify for entry, teams had to have identified a big problem to solve. And over the years, many did just that. One of Clay Street’s early achievements was the reinvention of the flagging Herbal Essence hair care brand. Later there was the Swash session, which led to a new appliance designed to get rid of wrinkles and freshen clothes without constant laundering. And then there was the branding of Procter & Gamble itself: the company had long resisted a P&G brand, instead putting the emphasis on famous products like Tide, Pampers, Crest, Cascade, and Gillette. The popular Procter & Gamble ad spots about athletes and their mothers, shown during the Rio, Sochi, and London Olympic Games, are just one example of the wide-reaching initiatives that started with a Clay Street session.

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