You'd be forgiven if you didn't automatically think of PepsiCo as a design-centric organization. 

But you'd also be wrong.

Mauro Porcini is the first person to hold the position of Chief Design Officer at PepsiCo. He joined the company less than three years ago. Last year, under his watch, PepsiCo launched Spire, a line of fountains and vending machines allowing customers to customize their drinks. So Porcini knows firsthand about what it takes to change a creative culture--in order to make it more design-friendly--and to lead a product launch stemming from the revamped culture. 

Moreover, many of his insights about design spill over into the related categories of branding and innovation. Concepts such as creativity, sketching or prototyping, and turning ideas into action pertain to many facets of growing and marketing a company, not just the visual or functional thinking commonly placed under the "design" label. 

"I strongly believe that design and innovation are exactly the same thing," Porcini says in his recent conversation with James de Vries, creative director at the Harvard Business Review Group. "Design is more than the aesthetics and artifacts associated with products; it's a strategic function that focuses on what people want and need and dream of, then crafts experiences across the full brand ecosystem that are meaningful and relevant for customers."

Porcini shared five phases that PepsiCo went through as it began to integrate his ideas about design, innovation, and branding into its everyday operations. 

1. Denial.

Denial typically takes the form of employees seeing there's no need for a different approach or a modification to the culture. The key to getting past denial is having a respected leader publicly champion your cause.

Nothing surprising there. But Porcini adds an interesting wrinkle: That it's also important to get endorsements from outside entities, such as designers or innovators at other organizations. "You need that kind of external endorsement to validate for those inside the organization that you're moving in the right direction," he tells HBR.

2. Hidden rejection.

Even when a new designer has buy-in from the top, there will be skeptics in some realms of the organization who publicly endorse the new approach but privately dislike it.

One way around this is through hiring. You can bring in midlevel design leaders with broad skills who are aligned with the new approach--and install them in each design realm, be it branding, industrial, user experience (UX), or innovation. In all cases, you need the design talent to have a holistic grasp of the company's new approach, and understand how their realm fits in with the bigger picture. 

Importantly, the designers have to have gifts beyond their ability to design. "When you're creating a new design organization, a new culture, you need to hire change agents and people who understand how to change the culture of design," explains Porcini. 

As tempting as it can be to hire the brilliant designer who doesn't speak executive-ese, you can't do it. "If you have designers who can't influence change, you get that familiar situation with designers whining that the business organization doesn't understand them and the business organizations saying the design community has no clue what we're trying to do," he adds. 

3. The occasional leap of faith.

Don't rule out getting support from a leader who doesn't quite grasp all of the design principles--but nonetheless puts her faith in what you're doing. As long as that leader vaguely understands that there's value to revamping the company's culture around design and innovation, that's what matters most. 

How can you get more leaders to take that leap of faith? Porcini recommends that you identify quick wins: projects "where you can show the value of design very quickly inside the organization."

4. The quest for confidence.

"When you try to do something different, there is always inefficiency and risk," notes Porcini. That risk is one thing when it pertains to the creative process. But when it's time for products to hit the market, you'll need to build even more confidence in the organization, as its new ideas face the public.

One way to do this is to show sketches and prototypes to the right people. "The more you prototype, the more you build confidence in the organization, and the more you know that what you're doing is the right thing," says Porcini. He adds a reminder: You can't let a late-breaking lack of confidence derail you from trying something new. "This quest for confidence is extremely important because so many corporations today are paralyzed by their fear of making mistakes or failing," he tells HBR

5. Holistic awareness.

You'll know you've reached this phase when the new design principles begin to reach other realms of the organization. "This is when design is not about designers anymore," explains Porcini. "It becomes universal, and it prompts everybody to modify their own approach to work--whether it's marketing, manufacturing, or any other function." 

Published on: Aug 13, 2015