Reckitt put their success in innovation down largely to insights into consumer habits. But they don't ask consumers about their needs.
Last week's Sunday Times reported that the company believes:
"Consumers are not very good at imagining what they might want to buy if it were available. They may have a strong view on what works well when they are doing humdrum jobs round the house, but they cannot imagine what might do it better:
'Consumers are not very innovative'.
'Consumers will generally not come up with the next innovation. So we try to have ideas that target consumers in specific areas. Then we screen them. We go through literally thousands of ideas every quarter. Then we ask consumers about the ideas.'
This is done through focus groups, one-to-one interviews and even by installing company employees in people’s homes to see how they go about their household chores. 'We literally say to people, ‘show me how you do the dishes; tell me how you clean the floors’.' "
I think this approach would provide a much more appropriate basis for strategic HR than just getting close to the business - paraphrasing Reckitt's President, business leaders are not generally very good at imagining what they might want from people management.