The Chemical Spark for a Decade of Innovation

When Kurt Swogger took the position of global director of Dow Chemical’s polyolefin and elastomers operation, it was a struggling unit of the company, one in an industry with little innovation, in which customers were used to either selecting from existing products or waiting six to 24 months for the process that would produce a customized polymer.

Rather than accept the status quo, Swogger used the know-how he gained through his eclectic background at the company to ask the right questions of co-workers in diverse units across the enterprise. His search for ideas and patterns helped him unearth a puzzle piece — a catalyst that meant the company could make customized polymers in six days, unheard of in the sector.

In preparation of the large-scale industry change this would generate, Swogger and his team partnered strategically with the right customers and embarked on what would become a decade of innovation.

Read more in “Sometimes Help Needed for Business Can Be Found Within the Business Itself,” in the Darden School of Business/Washington Post “Case in Point” series.

“Sometimes Help Needed for Business Can Be Found Within the Business Itself” was written by Andrew King, senior researcher at Darden’s Batten Institute of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and based on original Darden cases by King, Tom Cross, and Darden Professors Sean Carr, Jeanne Liedtka and Alec Horniman.