Ideas: the Eastern promise
Nine out of ten companies consider innovation core to their corporate agenda. That’s my assessment, having travelled the world meeting leaders from corporates across the globe. So why are so few companies actually innovative? Why can only a derisory proportion demonstrate a focus on the future? We often review a company’s leadership competency framework when designing a development programme for managers. These competencies define the key set of skills leaders should possess – there is no surprise that ‘innovation’ features on the list. But saying it is one thing, doing it, quite another. Just as leadership is contextual, so too is innovation. Each individual, each company and each country has its own reasons to innovate. Similarly, each firm has its own opportunity, environment, resources and constraints to deal with. While many theories and models have emerged to unpeel this black box, there are some basic tenets we can learn from
innovation from around the world. Let’s chronicle some basics of how innovation has succeeded in the East and what learnings we can derive.
Japan’s golden triangle: long-term, collaborative and bottom-up
Say “innovation” and immediately we think of companies such as Google, Amazon and eBay. While these are all very innovative companies, we can learn a lot from countries like Japan and others in the East, which ruled the innovation roost until the 1990s. In fact,
Companies’ obsession with the next quarter’s numbers impedes the investment case for ideas that do not pay back in the short-term
Japanese lessons of innovation from the 1980s and 1990s are still relevant today – the first lesson being that innovation means taking a long-term view of market opportunity. The Japanese wove this philosophy into their companies from the outset – especially electronic manufacturers – and so were able to produce one innovation after another. Companies’ obsession with next quarter’s numbers ultimately impedes the investment case for an idea that does not pay back in the short-term. A second lesson from Japan is that open innovation will typically deliver better and faster results. This came naturally to the Japanese who were well versed in the Shukko system of transferable employment. Shukko causes groups of likeminded colleagues, supply-chain partners and customers to collaborate to seek new opportunities. Collaboration and transferring an existing idea to a new context are fundamental to idea creation.
Alamy / Freekpik, Nikita Golubev, Zlatko Najdenovski
The West’s lumbering companies could learn much from innovation east of the Arabian Sea, writes Nikhil Raval
Dialogue Q2 2017