RitaSue Siegel just pinged me that Claudia Kotchka, the vp of innovation, design and strategy at P&G is leaving. This is huge. She is a giant in design and second only to A.G. Lafley himself in spreading the culture of design thinking throughout P&G. Her energy and brilliance have made all the difference in helping to transform the culture of a giant corporation into an innovation-centric organization. We profiled Claudia in the very first issue of Inside innovation.

This is part of what we said about Claudia:

“Today the company (P&G)has gone from insular to open source, thanks in large part to its cultural alchemist, Claudia Kotchka. In 2000, new CEO A.G. Lafley took office and in 2001 created Kotchka’s position of vice-president for design innovation and strategy. He told Kotchka to help him open up the cloistered halls of P&G and inject design thinking into every corpuscle of the company. Call it the MySpace-ification of P&G. To help change the culture, Kotcha, the mash-up artist, mixes things up. Bring down the walls to get inside people together and throw open the doors to bring in outsiders. Innovate by being connected and inspired by people around you. Be creative by being transparent, open and stimulated by outside, global ideas.

For the first time, fresh ideas flow into P&G from networks of outside scientists, engineers, and trend-spotters. Inside silos are gone — well, going — creating hybrid products born of collaboration like the new Allessi-looking version of the Swiffer. Kotchka has brought in an outside design board of world-class designers to weigh in on product launches. As for her own working area, it is a tiny, messy affair. She spends most of her time in the halls, listening, learning, talking.”

Philip Duncan of Landor will replace Claudia in 2009. He’s ex-P&G. In the release, this is what Lafley said of her: “Under Claudia’s leadership, in only seven years, we’ve built world-class design capability at P&G. She has helped integrate design and design thinking into how we innovate and how we operate as a company. Her passion for the power of design has strengthened our brands and our business.”

I saw Claudia at the Serious Play conference in Pasadena two weeks ago and she told me to write about two things. Design Thinking. And the impact Gen Xers are having on corporate culture. I’m hoping to catch her here in Chicago at the Institute of Design’s Strategy Conference to find out the why of the surprise departure.

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