The Power of People in Love with People with Mauro Porcini

Mauro Porcini at the CultureLab Podcast

Many companies aspire to be industry disruptors and innovation leaders, but only a handful can genuinely claim those titles. What sets them apart? Stick with us on this episode of the CultureLab podcast, where we dig into the nuts and bolts of innovative cultures.

We’re zeroing in on PepsiCo—a company that’s nailed it when it comes to creating an environment where people excel. According to their Chief Design Officer, Mauro Porcini, the secret sauce is love, empathy, kindness, and generosity. Sounds simple, right?

As Mauro puts it, ‘Innovation is an act of love—or it should be. It’s about empathy, respect, and generosity from one human being to another.‘ He even penned a Gold-Award winning book on the topic, ‘The Human Side of Innovation: The Power of People in Love with People.’

This week, we dive into how PepsiCo has successfully shaped a culture that fosters ground-breaking innovation and award winning design. So tune in and get ready to challenge your own assumptions about what makes a culture thrive.

Episode highlights

Embracing vulnerability and personal growth

Mauro opens up about a major crisis in his life, including the emotional challenges he faced and the importance of being open about what we go through and seeking help.

Creating a culture of innovation

The journey of building a team and a culture where breakthrough innovation can thrive can be challenging. However, having a dream and vision, attracting like-minded individuals, and navigating the phases of culture change can make the process more manageable.

Navigating organizational change: the five phases of culture transformation

We focus on discussing the five phases of culture transformation.

Mauro outlines these phases as follows:

  • Denial
  • Hidden rejection
  • The occasional leap of faith
  • The quest for confidence
  • Holistic awareness

We need to understand which phase a company is in and how to navigate through each phase effectively. This is why finding “co-conspirators” within the organization who are willing to support and drive cultural change is key.

Realistic expectations and the role of leadership

Setting realistic expectations for cultural change within an organization is critical, similar to the role of leadership in driving this change. We know that not everyone will embrace new ideas, and, paradoxically, having too many people onboard might indicate a problem. By recognizing the five phases and understanding which phase the company is in, leaders can better align their actions and expectations.

Defining and embodying cultural values

Mauro shares how he created a list of characteristics for ideal innovators and a culture of innovation. This list was made public and used to guide HR recruitment and leadership behavior. He also shares how writing values down and making them public forces leaders to be self-aware and consistently embody these values.

The importance of iterative and reality-based core values Developing core values through an iterative and reality-based process is important. Core values should not be mere buzzwords but must reflect what makes a company successful and unique. This approach involves testing, challenging assumptions, and embodying these values.

Hiring and leading for change

Mauro shares how he and his team developed a compass for both hiring and leadership behaviors, which helped in finding and developing the right people to drive the cultural change.

Infusing fun and playfulness into work for innovation We explore the importance of infusing fun and playfulness into the workplace to foster innovation. For innovation to thrive, it’s necessary to create an environment where people enjoy their work, manifest these behaviors, and inspire others to replicate them.

Kindness, (com)passion and love in business: a sound strategy Kindness and love may seem unconventional in business, but they are potent drivers of growth, efficiency, and productivity. Mauro stresses that embracing these values can be a strategic advantage for organizations, fostering a better society and a more peaceful world.

Listen to the interview in the player below or on iTunes. If you like what you hear, please leave a review, and it may be featured on a future episode.

More About Mauro Porcini

Mauro Porcini is PepsiCo’s first ever Chief Design Officer. He joined the food & beverage corporation in 2012 and in said role he is infusing design thinking into PepsiCo’s culture and is leading a new approach to innovation by design that impacts the company’s product platforms and brands, which include Pepsi, Lay’s, Mountain Dew, Gatorade, Sodastream, Doritos, Lifewtr, Bubly, Aquafina, Cheetos, Quaker, 7Up, Mirinda, amongst many others.  His focus extends from physical to virtual expressions of the brands, including product, packaging, events, advertising, fashion and art collaborations, retail activation, architecture, and digital media. He leads teams based in New York City, Purchase, Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles, Orlando, Miami, London, Dublin, Moscow, Il Cairo, New Delhi, Shanghai, Bangkok, Mexico City, Sao Paulo and Cape Town.

Mauro is the host of his own successful video podcast “In your shoes – with Mauro Porcini” on Apple podcastSpotify and YouTube, where he interviews inspiring personalities from the creative community worldwide.

Since 2020, he has been a presenter and judge on the TV show New York by Design and America by Design, airing on CBS and Amazon Prime Video.

In the fall of 2022, Mauro published his first book in English, The Human Side of Innovation. The Power of People in Love with People (Berrett-Koehler), which focuses on innovation, design and leadership. **The book was named a Gold Winner of the Better Future – New York Design Award the month of its publication. In the spring of 2021, he published his first book in Italian L’età dell’eccellenza – Come innovazione e creatività possono costruire un mondo migliore (Il Saggiatore). It is now in its fifth reprint.

Prior to joining PepsiCo, Mauro served as the first ever Chief Design Officer at 3M, where his mission was to build and nurture a design sensitive culture in a technology driven global corporation.  His teams, based in the U.S., Italy, China and Japan, won many of the world’s most prestigious design and innovation awards.

Mauro began his professional career at Philips Design and then created his own design firm, Wisemad Srl, in Italy with the celebrated entertainment producer and music star Claudio Cecchetto.  His work on wearable technologies has been showcased at the Louvre in Paris as well as the Seoul Art Center.

Over the years he has been on the board of directors for several organizations. Currently, he is the President of the Politecnico of Milan Foundation in the United States (Fellows of Politecnico), sits on the board of directors of the Design Management Institute, and on the advisory council of other design, art, innovation and business institutions.

Mauro is a fashion lover, but not a fashion addict – regardless of his collection of more than 300 pairs of shoes. He lives between New York City and the Hamptons with his wife Carlotta, with their daughter Beatrice, and with their two Pomeranians, Leone and Bella.

Books mentioned in this episode

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Finding My Virginity and Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson

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Additional resources

CultureBrained® Community – a one-of-a-kind virtual community for Heads of Culture, founders, and leaders who want to up their culture game.

The Culture Playbook Guide.

Discover Your Personal Values.

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