Global Consumer Care Company An established business discovers its entrepreneurial spirit to drive growth

Industry: Healthcare

Expertise: Innovation

Schaffer Team: Patrice Murphy, Wes Siegal, Jonathan Stearn

A lean-start-up inspired competition builds innovation capabilities and cuts product development time from years to months.


Barbara ran the consumer care division of a global healthcare company with a sterling reputation for high-quality, brand name products. One day, she met with corporate leadership who told her that despite strong performance, Barbara needed to “up the ante” and deliver even better numbers. They were planning to spin off the division, and the sales pipeline looked meager. Barbara announced significant stretch goals to drive growth. Her team had to hit the ground running.


There was just one problem: launching innovative, new products in less than three years demanded breaking with traditional, highly structured processes. A cumbersome product development cycle marked by extensive analysis and internal focus was not going to work. Yet, pivoting to a fast, nimble, start-up inspired approach would not be easy.

To bring exciting, new products to market quickly, Barbara and her R&D head, James, needed to establish a separate structure that combined enough freedom for people to cultivate their ideas with the right amount of pressure to produce. They had to cordon off space for the most passionate innovators to create. And they needed to provide permission to take risks, the access to seasoned mentors and coaches, and the promise of funding for high potential ideas.


Barbara and James turned to us to help them shake up “business as usual”, unleash their teams’ innovation potential, and guide product development teams through a high-energy process of experimentation and learning.

To tackle these challenges, we applied the Lean Launchpad approach inspired by the lean start-up movement. Schaffer’s work began by helping Barbara and James establish an internal “Venture Capital Board” comprised of senior business leaders. These leaders were charged with soliciting new ideas, acting as mentors, and dispensing tough love. We helped orchestrate an innovation challenge for everyone in the division to submit new product concepts. Senior leadership vetted the over 60 ideas that rolled in, selected the top 20 teams to join a pitch meeting, and green lit just three of them.

Schaffer partnered with the Lean Launchpad founders to prep each cross-departmental team on how to move through a 16-week cycle of customer development, starting with a two-day boot camp to crystallize initial ideas. We helped each team leverage the Business Model Canvas to map out hypotheses about how their product concepts could meet pressing customer needs. Then, we assisted them in identifying potential customers to visit and drafting discussion and observation guides. As teams continued to validate their ideas with customers, Schaffer coaches helped them to sharpen their thinking, process learnings, and adapt ideas based on feedback. We also worked with Barbara and James to better understand the cultural shifts underway – a newfound sense of team member empowerment, a higher degree of collaboration with colleagues and customers, and more conscious focus on learning and adaptation.

Create a culture of innovation in your organization


After eight weeks, we facilitated a mid-point review with the VC Board to gauge progress, capture takeaways, and decide if it was worth continued investment in the teams’ search processes. One group received tough news. After numerous customer interviews and reframing their idea a few different ways, leadership deemed the project a “smart, fast fail.” Why smart? Finding out the idea had no legs in just eight weeks versus a year or more saved significant resource investment. The other two teams were thrilled to learn that they were still in the game. Both teams were forced more than once to evolve their ideas when customers weren’t biting. Their mentors and Schaffer coaches were tough, but supportive. Nothing beat the rush of excitement when prospective customers expressed interest in their roughed out sketches and prototypes, so the teams persevered.

After 16 weeks – a fraction of the time of the traditional product development process – two innovation teams demonstrated true market opportunities. Plus, the never-say-die persistence of a couple of the team members served as major career boosts. The company was indeed sold and both products are now being readied for launch.


The results Schaffer helped this global company achieve cannot be overstated. They enjoyed:

  • Reduction in time to develop high-potential new products hand-in-hand with customers.
  • Increase in the volume and quality of new business ideas sourced from employees.
  • Development of an entrepreneurial culture and “we can do it” confidence.


  • Innovative ideas are often lurking just beneath the surface at large organizations. Create forums for people to share their best concepts.
  • Cross-functional teams can deliver extraordinary innovation results with the right level of empowerment and coaching. Provide the right framework for them to astound you.
  • Even big companies can shift their cultures to be more entrepreneurial. Create the right conditions for team members to tap into their innovation potential.