Nabil Sakkab of Procter and Gamble on the Importance of Connections

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To enhance technological innovation, Procter & Gamble has undertaken a variety of activities designed to create connections. In his recent paper, Connect & Develop Complements Research & Develop at P&G, Dr Nabil Y. Sakkab, Senior Vice President at Procter & Gamble, describes how connections – both internal and external – are of increasing importance to innovation and business growth at the company.

We (1) asked Dr Sakkab about his interests in R&D management and include a review his paper below.

  1.  Published by Research and Development Management Association in R&D TODAY, March, 2020

Nabil Sakkab

Dr Nabil Sakkab, Senior Vice President at Procter & Gamble

Q. Can you recommend a good book on R&D management? 

Yes, I would recommend that anyone new to R&D management should read ‘Value Innovation Works‘, authored by Nina Goodrich and Richard K Lee and published by

The book describes the 10-Step Value Innovation process, providing details on each step and giving many examples/success stories.

It builds on Kim and Mauborgne’s Blue Ocean Strategy, which although that book has sold >4MM copies, it does not describe a clear process.

Q. Could you recommend a tool/technique that you have found useful?

I have come across many good tools but to be consistent with the book I have mentioned, I would  recommend the following:

  • The 10-Step Value Innovation Process and enabling tools
  • Value curves with metrics

Nabil Sakkab - Tesla value curve

[click to enlarge]

  • Contextual Interviewing (refer to Chapters 5, 7, 10 in Value Innovation Works).

This technique is designed to uncover the unmet, unarticulated needs of the Most Important Customer (MIC) in the Value Chain. Twelve MICs are interviewed in pairs in recorded telephone interviews. There are three rounds of interviews: 1. Uncover problems and challenges. 2. Critique “As Is” and “To Be” Value Curves. 3. Share their thoughts on the proposed new product(s) or service(s).

  • Text Mining Solutions (TMS) software which is configured to capture relevant information in real time from twitter (Value Innovations captures information relevant to the global auto industry, see the attached 6 Transformation Axes bringing seismic changes to the global auto industry).

Q. Looking back on your career can you think of a learning point you gained or something which you would tell your younger self about R&D?

When you face a challenge that you have struggled to address, don’t be afraid to ask for help from colleagues. Open challenges lead to better, cheaper and faster solutions.

Review: Connect & Develop Complements Research & Develop at P&G

Linking technologies in unexpected ways lies at the heart of breakthrough innovation in P&G’s products, packages and processes, explains Nabil Sakkab, Senior Vice President at Procter & Gamble, the company has undertaken a variety of activities designed to create connections which will significantly reduce product costs, improve quality and accelerate product delivery.

In the beginning, P&G created candles. As the company grew and diversified into synthetic soap products and beverages it became larger, decentralised and more global.

Connections became more difficult to make but the company started to experiment with new ways to leverage internal and external capabilities.

Examples of how P&G has created or reinforce connections include:

  • Creating a Global Technology Council – this made up business unit technology directors, corporate R&D Heads and key geographical R&D leaders to create a working forum. It  explores how to leverage the company’s technologies and serves as an ‘incubator’ for exploratory research and early-stage product development.
  • Launching  ‘InnovationNet’ – this is a powerful intranet for the global technical community at P&G. Researchers can trade information and make connections across the company as well as accelerate innovation
  • Hosting 20 Chartered Communities of Practice  – this covers a wide range of disciplines, with the aim of promoting cross-fertilisation and diffusion of expertise across the company. Activities include active problem solving via email conferences, knowledge sharing via live seminars and websites, recognition for expert practitioners and actively seeking internal and external expertise and tools for diffusion throughout the organisation.

P&G has had an unprecedented opportunity to enrich its innovation portfolios.

Dr Sakkab shared. “Seizing these opportunities will in turn drive the business growth that will benefit our employees and shareholders.”

These include opportunities to:

  • Take technologies ready now for commercialization and apply them to upgrades or products
  • Introduce new benefits in existing product categories and bring forward new-to-the-world products
  • Connect technologies with latent customer needs
  • Dream about products which have never been, and bring them to life for the benefit of the world’s consumers.

Connect & Develop Complements Research & Develop at P&G by Nabil Y Sakkab is published in Research Technology Management March-April 2002.


Dr Nabil Y. Sakkab is a 1970 graduate of the American University of Beirut with a Bachelor’s Degree in chemistry. He joined Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati in 1974, following a doctorate in Chemistry from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1973, and post doctorate studies at Texas A&M.

Dr Sakkab retired from P&G in 2007 as Senior Vice President, Corporate Research and Development. He served on P&G’s Leadership Council and the Innovation Committee of P&G’s Board of Directors.

He is a thought leader and worldwide speaker in the Open Innovation movement, the author of several scientific and Innovation Management publications and co-inventor on 27 patents.

Sakkab became an advisory professor for Tsinghua university in China in 2003, was awarded the 2007 IRI Medal for Leadership in R&D Management and the 2007 Holland award for best article in Innovation Management. He was a member of a U.S. State Department task force in 2011 to discuss innovation policy issues with China and was recently awarded the 2015 P&G alumni award for innovation.

He currently serves on the Boards of Altria, Celltex, PharNext, Chair Biowish Technologies and served on the Boards of Givaudan from 2008 to 2014 and Deinove from 2008 to 2016. Recently Dr. Sakkab became a member of the Tufts University Council on Nutrition.

Want to up your innovation game? Want to up your organization’s innovation game? Attending one of our Mastering Value Innovation Workshops is a great place to start. In 2016 we are going to change our approach. We will work with you to develop your own custom workshop that addresses your problems and you define the length and location. More information can be found in the Workshop Brochure.