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Motivating the corporate "elephant" to innovate

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VF Corporation created a series of Bright Spots to augment their product mix and sell the innovations inside the company to ensure the innovation eggs hatched in the market. The real goal was to change the culture to accept innovation.

By working with consumer-based insights and using them to change the corporate culture, Soon Yu, the Global VP of Innovation at VF Corporation, speaks about the potency of sharing success stories as innovation champions.

Yu asks "what are the bright spots in your organization?" He encourages the crowd to find these bright spots and use them to motivate and inspire the culture and efforts. Then, put your money into the success. VF Corporation started an innovation fund, hovering around $4 million a year that paid VF employees to go outside and immerse them in the real market.

VF also started a Speaker Series with Thought Leaders. Built up a Global Insights group, hiring 20 people. 

As the company was entering new categories and new markets, they had to find ways to match consumers with the brands they were testing. One example from North Face in China conveys how the psyche of Chinese consumers have an inner life and a driving internal dialogue that sees life as an adventure, which is a key brand trait. Captured in a Bright Spot, the story is rich in universal human connection and emotional appeal.

What have been the results of all this work? The culture has changed and the top-line revenue has grown. VF now has a $2B pipeline with 1/3 already realized in the market. Three new product innovation centers (performance apparel, footwear and jeanswear) were formed. And, the company formally added new global innovation structures.

To get others on board, they made a trip to John Deere's Innovation Center, which was an "aha" moment and the convinced last convert, a Deere fan. "By going outside we saw what we needed to do with our structure."

"If you're going to be an innovation leader, you need to own the change. Use your empathy skills. Seek the pain points. Chase conflict. Figure out why there is a disconnect. Once you diagnose, keep your focus on the behaviors, not the outcome. Our behavior was 'go outside'." Co-create agendas and strategies with your team. Yu says "they can't argue at the point, because they invented the agenda."

Share the Bright Spots. Practice. Go outside.

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