SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. — Established companies tend to focus on execution rather than acting like disruptive start-up businesses in the marketplace. That’s why so many legacy corporations — including many Fortune 500 ones — find themselves slowly reacting to a quickly changing world, said business consultant author Jim Stengel, former global marketing officer at Procter & Gamble.

Businesses must reinvent their organizations and cultures to better engage consumers and differentiate their brands from the competition, Mr. Stengel said while speaking at the American Bakers Association’s annual convention, held April 14-18 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

In conducting research for his book, "Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World's Greatest Companies,Mr. Stengel said he studied why the top companies thrive and others don’t. Overall, he noted that the most successful businesses center their brands on the concept of improving people’s lives, which causes them to resonate more with consumers — and outperform their category competitors.

Jim Stengel, Procter & Gamble presentation at ABA“What we found is that they are driven by a strong sense of purpose and have an extremely customer-centric culture,” said Mr. Stengel, who also wrote “Unleashing the Innovators: How Mature Companies Find Life with Startups.”

One of his most significant milestones during his tenure at Procter & Gamble, Mr. Stengel said, was turning around the struggling Pampers disposable diaper brand in the late 1990s. He helped to transform the business into a baby care brand that provided mothers across the globe with assistance in guiding the development of their infant children.

Being more externally focused and developing alliances with entrepreneurial companies may help spark risk-taking innovation, Mr. Stengel said. While at Procter & Gamble, he said he steered the company on to significant insights after he reached out to Google in its infancy and decided on an employee exchange between the giant consumer packaged goods company and what was then a mere search engine start-up.

“You (bakers) play such a significant role in so many millions of moments of glee and joy every day, and that is just  marvelous." — Jim Stengel

Bakers must focus on connecting with consumers to create an experience that will provide them with a service and memories of special occasions rather than just selling products to them, Mr. Stengel said.

“You (bakers) play such a significant role in so many millions of moments of glee and joy every day," he said, "and that is just marvelous."