Q & A With Greg Dubejsky
After leading teams at P&G and TD Bank, Greg Dubejsky joined MaRS Discovery District this fall to build out a new corporate innovation capability. With expertise in building business & innovation models for multibillion dollar brands, his work has been recognized by the Cannes International Advertising Festival and the United Way.
What does intrapreneurship mean to you? How would you define it?
I see intrapreneurship as a set of different principles and behaviours. You need to be an entrepreneurial thinker and really care about every aspect of the business as if it was yours. Intrapreneurs also tend to be innovative thinkers – which is a combination of having an open mind, a willingness to experiment, and embracing the concept of learning vs. pass/fail. Intrapreneurs also need to have a thick skin.
Tell me about your role: how do you do what you do? What motivates you to keep moving forward?
At MaRS, I’m building out a new corporate innovation platform, to build innovation capacity at the enterprise level. I get to interact with some of the brightest people I’ve ever met — experienced entrepreneurs and intellectuals — and draw from these resources to build solutions with external corporations, where those ideas are desperately needed. I’m lucky to work across many industries, and with a fantastic team.
I’ve been with MaRS for a month and a half, and excitingly this job didn’t exist before I took it on. To date I’ve led and supported engagements with multiple MaRS corporate partners, as well as provided advisory direction on our upcoming corporate innovation summit, MaRS Verge. I’m doing a variety of talks and interviews internally and externally to find patterns in where corporations are struggling to innovate. This will allow me to work throughout the resources at MaRS disposal to create a platform and a community of corporate innovators — ultimately supporting MaRS’ mission to help fuel the growth of startups and innovators by creating more receptivity for innovation.
In my previous role at Gillette, I was leading global front-end innovation capability. This was another ‘pilot’ role, so I had a blank sheet of paper as my job description and a chance to chart the path forward. I focused on building innovative thinking capacity and capability internally, identifying our next billion dollar bet, and scaling up a lab team focused on disrupting ourselves and our business model. The strategy work led to a deep understanding of the case for change, and I led the design (and early delivery) of the product & business model work that will fuel Gillette’s next major platform.
What are some of the skills and tools you rely on to succeed? When hiring, how do you identify that type of thinking?
I studied Engineering Physics, so I’m a math and science nerd at heart. I think this instilled in me the need to spend quite a bit of time defining the problem before framing the solution. I want to make sure I really understand a problem — I believe this is core to forming a strategic intent, and from there using the right tools to explore solutions.
I have managed very large teams in my previous roles with Gillette and TD, and typically, I work well with people who are able to prove they can analyze and understand a problem, and exhibit leadership behaviour. I like to lead people the way I like to be led — with an understanding of the challenge, but the freedom to get to the solution a variety of different ways. Collaboration is also incredibly important — no one gets ahead by themselves.
Which company or large organization in your mind is doing innovation well? Who do you look up to and feel inspired by?
In the US, T-Mobile is doing some really fantastic work. They’re changing what it means to be a telco with their idea of ‘the un-carrier.’ By deeply focusing on the underlying problem their users were facing, they brought the ‘un-carrier’ concept to life in product, marketing, and go-to-market execution. It’s truly holistic.
Strangely, I also admire the OxO kitchen gadgets brand. They take things like food containers or peelers, that are so mundane and boring, and make them amazingly easy to use. They start with an inspirational design target (their peeler was designed for someone with arthritis) and let that dictate their solution, knowing that it will appeal to a much broader audience as a finished product. I hate peeling vegetables, but I love my OxO peeler.
Warby-Parker in the US is also a great example of innovation done well: they disrupted an old-fashioned, vertically-integrated industry with a very strong product and a customer-focused e-commerce business model. Now they also leverage physical locations to build out their brand presence in a meaningful way. They’ve got a great go-to-market strategy, and brilliant technology.
I’m also inspired by people who can make change happen at scale. When I lived in Boston I was lucky to have two leaders I worked closely with over multiple years – John Mang, who leads the Global Gillette Brand Franchise, and Troy Nimrick, who led upstream R&D. There is a lot I learned from them that I strive to emulate today about how to inspire & support large teams. They gave me a massive challenge to tackle at Gillette, with loose guardrails, and were available to support and empower me to lead significant change without micromanaging.
What’s your best advice for other intrapreneurs?
Part of being an intrapreneur is about embracing a think-act-learn mentality — you’ll get things wrong, but you need to be willing to learn things, and if you’re not learning, there’s no point. Look for the champions within and outside your organization who believe in what you’re trying to do for your company. Grab coffees and meet with as many people as you can, and use their perspective to build on your existing mental models & frameworks. Read a lot, seek to understand the human, technical, and business aspects of a given problem, and push outside your comfort zone.