Guive Balooch is a scientist turned cosmetics genius who currently helms L'Oreal's Connected Beauty Incubator, a lab focused on creating forward-thinking products and services that disrupt the cosmetics industry. When I interviewed him on my Innovation Crush podcast, Guive broke down the processes behind creating globally impactful ideas and products, the passion it takes to make innovation happen, and how his team of brilliant--yet disparagingly different--minds come together to push L'Oreal to the edge of possibility.
Fresh off the successful launch of their augmented reality Make Up Genius app, Guive offered up some pretty stellar takeaways during our chat on how to put together a great innovation team:
1) Combine multiple disciplines.
Every now and then someone asks me, "Hey, buddy... Not you... You. With the weird face. What's the most common theme that comes up on your show?" Usually it's one of two answers. Either how the innovator's journey is a lonely one (we'll get into that in future articles), or how innovation is birthed from gathering diverse perspectives. For Guive and his team, this passion for diversity means piling on skills in technology development, cosmetics, chemistry, marketing, and social psychology. A few members of his team are on other continents, which also equates to different ethnic and cultural points of reference.
The focus on diversity allows every creative opportunity to be approached from multiple perspectives ... at once. The last thing we want to do after we launch a new product, service, or in some cases an industry, is say, "Oh, crap! We didn't even think about that!" Whether a service for your local community or the hottest new global technology product, allowing an engineer, a 15-year-old whiz kid, a seasoned marketing vet, an artist, and a scientist to work on the same project means you're automatically solving for unseen nuances and opportunities for success.
2) Leave key performance indicators behind.
I'm always jealous when I ask someone what their company holds them accountable for, and the answer is "nothing." Despite my jealousy, it turns out that within companies like L'Oreal or Adidas or even NASA, real innovation needs a bit of unbridled freedom. When tied immediately to sales or CRM goals and things of that nature, the need to hit performance goals begins to overshadow the goal of disruption. To the contrary, this doesn't mean go all buck wild at the idea buffet and never make anything viable. That's what leadership is for. These intrapreneurial innovation teams set goals based on opportunities they see in the marketplace, a direction the company wants to head in, or cultural trends they've identified as important for their industry.
3) Collaborate, mimic or acquire.
Every industry is being disrupted by the startup community. Large corporations look at them like old people look at a group of rambunctious 17-year-old's in sagging jeans--with disgust, awe, and a bit of fear. But these young companies are taking over top positions amongst their competition, and in some cases ending them (just ask Blockbuster). When you assemble a nimble team like Guive has, you also have the opportunity--and the obligation--to play close attention to what's out there. Here is what I see as your best options:
- Collaborate: Through accelerators, incubators, or even just a small project, find ways to work with startups relevant to your industry.
- Mimic: Think like a startup, move like a startup, and create like a startup. If you see a function or service you love, test out a version of your own. Sooner than later. By the time Blockbuster started its delivery service, it was too late.
- Acquire: If you can't beat 'em. Buy 'em.
4) Fight like Mike Tyson.
When Mike Tyson was at the end of his rope and getting pummeled by Carls' Jr superstar (not with cheese), Evander Holyfield, he still wanted to be champ so bad that he bit the man's ear... twice. Of course he lost the match, and at the same time, he added another reason for us to be both disturbed and intrigued by him. When it comes to innovation inside large corporations, the same rules apply. The company might not see the same value you see in your ideas. They may not give you all the funding you wished you had. They might even forget you exist, until that damn board meeting pops up and they have to answer for you. It's your team's job to make sure you have all the tools, runway, and visibility you need to succeed. And although your fans (stakeholders who believe in you) may still adore you, sometimes you might need to just go ahead and bite someone's ear off to defend your value.