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News & Blogs: 5 Questions

5 Questions with Jenna Dudevoir

Tuesday, August 16, 2011  
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Marketing Director

"The more diversity, the more opportunity there is to identify better ideas and ways to get things done."

Jenna Dudevoir is marketing director for Kalypso, leading all aspects of the consulting firm’s marketing strategy. She also is involved in developing programs dedicated to the personal and professional growth of the company's employees. She serves as NEW co-ambassador for Kalypso. Prior to joining the firm, Dudevoir held marketing and pre-sales roles at Alignent Software and served in marketing and client relationship management roles at Bates Communications, an executive coaching firm she helped start. She contributed to and edited
Speak Like a CEO and edited The Third Act: Writing a Great Ending to Your Screenplay.

Kalypso recently released a study showing collaborative idea generation -- working with many partners in the value chain -- will produce real bottom-line results. How does diversity of leadership advance collaborative partnerships?

The ultimate goal of collaborative partnerships for cpg manufacturers and retailers is to create new growth opportunities by developing more innovative offerings together. Diversity of leadership provides an opportunity to gain new ideas, perspectives and insights to feed this process. Consider diversity not just in terms of gender and ethnicity, but role level, cross-functional responsibility, thinking style and experience. Diversity of the insights from the retailer, manufacturer, shopper and consumer create the engine for collaborative innovation. We find that companies that are diverse across all of these dimensions are generally more successful in developing successful collaborative innovation initiatives.

For the study, you surveyed 170 NEW members at the 2010 Executive Leaders Forum. Nearly 3 in 5 said their organizations’ leadership was only "somewhat diverse" when it came to gender. Is that a fair assessment?

It’s a pretty accurate reflection of the current workforce environment. Although women account for half of the U.S. workforce, we know many organizations lack gender diversity at the senior level. Companies are setting diversity strategies and are making incremental improvements, but the gender and ethnic diversity is just not there yet in the boardroom. There is a significant opportunity to close the gap for executive management and c-suite diversity to truly reflect the workforce demographics.

What would greater gender diversity in the c-suite mean for collaborative idea generation?

There are many studies that illustrate how gender diversity positively affects collaboration and raises the collective intelligence of teams. Simply stated, the more diversity, the more opportunity there is to identify better ideas and develop better ways of getting things done. A successful collaborative innovation program starts from the top and that means having leadership that is diverse not only in gender but in backgrounds, experiences and capabilities. This diversity ultimately helps drive the bottom line in sales and profit improvements.

How can manufacturers and retailers nurture collaboration internally -- and what role does diversity and inclusion play?

Manufacturers and retailers have a tremendous opportunity to drive business growth by collaborating together, but they must get their own house in order first and structure their own organization to collaborate internally. A clearly defined innovation strategy that focuses on organizational behavior, processes and capabilities is the key to success. Of course, inclusion and diversity play a critical role in achieving this. While a collaborative innovation initiative starts with executive leadership, it can’t remain there. Internal innovation teams need to represent all functions in the broader innovation process. Aligning the organization around this helps people understand their individual role in the process, and where they can contribute. Effectively harnessing the diversity of thought, experience and perspective will yield breakthrough ideas and products that meet unmet needs.

Do women leaders approach collaborative partnerships differently than men? If so, how?

Forming collaborative partnerships can be challenging, especially where manufacturers and retailers can potentially compete. It’s a delicate balance. The foundation for all collaborative partnerships is trust, and building personal relationships is at the core of that. While many studies show that women are socialized to form collaborative relationships, our survey participants reveal there is still work to be done in this area, with only 35 percent rating themselves as excellent collaborators and innovators. They cite the need to devote more time and effort to building these personal relationships that are so critical to collaborative innovation. There are terrific examples of women executives in cpg/retail who are creating breakthroughs for their companies by leading this effort.

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