Learn From Leaders with Sarah Köchling
Managing Principal at Blossom Innovation
Starting her career at P&G China in 1991, Sarah is one of the country’s marketing pioneers. Fluent in Mandarin, she earned her marketing stripes and set category benchmarks launching iconic brands such as H&S and Tide Detergent; and leading the feasibility and local licensing of sachets and styling aids for the total P&G haircare franchise . She continued to build her brand management and strategy expertise at J&J International, where she led sales and marketing for the Acuvue brand across Asia, and launched the first ‘teen’ contact lens.
Apart from MNC experience in FMCG, Sarah has worked on web and wireless start-ups as a founding partner and as the CMO for China’s very first theme park chain, and as the CMO for the world’s largest lingerie OEM (a local Chinese firm).
After consulting for two global innovation agencies for six years, in 2014, Sarah founded Blossom, a strategic insights, innovation and design consultancy that supports clients to get to breakthrough consumer, market and industry insights and collaboratively transform them into impact at all levels of their organization.
Five Questions with Sarah
Q1: One habit that helps you keep focused and productive
Mindful meditation at night before bed relaxes me and helps me to identify my top 3 priorities for the next day, which I write down, so I have satisfaction that I’m making progress toward my goals every day.
Q2: One piece of advice for entrepreneurs in your industry
My industry is insight-driven innovation consulting, so my advice is to always ask “What is the problem consumers, customers, or staff have and how are we solving for it?” As long as you are aligned and stay razor focused on this, you can add value to any client. Research or product development without being clear on what consumer, customer or staff challenge you seek to solve wastes everyone’s time, energy and money.
Q3: One of the most important lessons you learnt from your career
Look beyond the product itself and beyond what consumer or customers tell you, instead look at product in-use for valuable steers for development opportunities. When you witness first-hand how a consumer uses a product, you might get some surprises. It might spark ways to solve challenges you never knew existed and that consumers failed to articulate.
Q4: Something you’ve changed your mind about in your career
I used to think people had to be born creative, that it was not a trainable skill. Now after years of training Constructive Creativity, I know creativity is a muscle that everyone has, they just have to flex it regularly to feel its power. To help people tap into their power more often, I recently developed another training, Inspiring Curiosity: How to discover and apply creative inspiration in the information overloaded world we live in. With so much competing for our attention, it’s easy to get distracted and to miss out on game-changing observations that can drive great innovations or change our destiny. Like creativity, the power to notice things lives within us, but we have to practice it regularly to make it work for us.
Q5: One trait that you would like to see in people you work with
The ability to agree and disagree and to embrace it–see the upside of having disparate beliefs in the room. Everyone does not have to hold the same beliefs or opinions, and to do so should not be conversation or collaboration ending. Who knows, someone might just change your mind if it’s open enough!