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PepsiCo Designer: 'Listen to Your Customers--But Don't Believe Them'

Innovation is not about process, it's about people, says Mauro Porcini.

When it comes to innovation, playing it safe is too easy.

But nurturing growth and true innovation means taking risks, said Mauro Porcini, chief design officer at PepsiCo, during the World Innovation Forum on Wednesday.

One way companies limit risk-taking is by relying on focus groups.

Imagine if the wheel had to be approved by a focus group when it was first invented, said Porcini. What if the group didn't like its round shape and suggested one that was square? 

By relying on focus group feedback, sometimes "we kill the idea, but we think we are making it more approachable to people or more understandable to people," he said.

And when the modified product fails, it's easy to blame the original idea. But it's the process that's to blame. 

"Innovation is not about the process. The process is important, it is a tool -- like brush is a tool for painting. But give a brush to Andy Warhol or Leonardo DaVinci and you'd see the outcome will be completely different," he said. 

"Listen to your consumers, but do not believe them," he stressed. To be a successful innovator, you have to interpret what they are telling you.

Don't let them stop you from inventing the next wheel.

Last updated: Jun 12, 2013


Jana Kasperkevic is a graduate of Baruch College, City University of New York, where she earned a bachelors degree in Journalism and Political Science. She covers start-ups, small businesses, and entrepreneurship for Inc. Her work has appeared in The Village Voice, InvestmentNews, Business Insider, and Houston Chronicle, among others. She lives in Brooklyn.

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