Sustainable Innovation - #2

I wrote about a technologically innovative product, that was not developed based on consumers’ needs, will not induce purchase intent of consumers.  Now, let’s think about one step forward assuming one new business team balanced with creativity and execution power come up with a great innovative idea or product.  How will it go through what types of functions in the company before launching in the marketplace?  This process is, what Mr. Nishiguchi called, a bottleneck of Japanese companies.  As far as he knows, there is no Japanese companies that can deliver a great/innovative idea because there is no internal system to create a new business.  Therefore, there is no success story from Japanese companies.  (I would say, even a foreign capital company in Japan with almost all Japanese have less success stories.) 


In order to transmit innovative ideas from Japan and to contribute to not only the people and economy in Japan but also in the world, there should exists business “eco-system” for innovation.  On top of this, the eco-system must be apart from the one for the existing business.  Whenever we discuss about innovative products and business models, we should stay away from the discussions about cash flow and return on investment because no one can knows or measure their potential growth: the idea never can be launched in the market and the innovation teams will lose their confidence. 


Three important factors to expedite innovation in an internal corporate structure are as follows:

1)    Senior managers who will not betray the innovation team

  • If the senior managers’ idea is not proactive but just to follow what others do, whenever they hear claims and noises about their innovation team, they tend to pretend that they were against from the idea from the beginning.  Instead, they should ask appropriate questions at a business meeting such as how much of insight that the team is getting from the market by asking a question such as “what is the challenge that customers and consumers are facing?  And how are we going to solve it?” instead of asking how much money that the idea can generate.

2)    An innovation team with balanced creativity and execution power

  • Explained in the previous article.

3)    Senior managers who can accelerate executions

  • Those are not the managers who simply tell the team, “I’m one of your supporters.  Cheer up!” at a bar after work but the senior managers who will take actions to move the project forward by coordinating to an appropriate function in order to make the idea happen in the market.  There seems to be more female professionals than males.  This is good news!


Innovation can be only achieved multiplying these three factors.  Therefore, if one of them is zero, the whole project will be nothing.  Also, please do not forget that if the senior managers try to measure against the benchmarks of existing business, they will kill the innovative ideas and the team itself.  Moreover, if they buy the innovative company and establish the parent and child company relationship, there is a high possibility of ruining the great innovation team.


By carefully checking the above three factors, senior managers should build up the management “eco-system” to always question the four items below.

Can we 

a) Find insight from the market? 

b) Make decisions based on different benchmarks from the ones for the existing business?

c) Value new and innovative ideas?

d) Maintain enough budgets?


I’m afraid how fast and how much the Japanese companies can generate innovative business will decide the future of Japan whose economy is about to change the direction: does the country recover and prosper for a long time?  Or does it start plunging   again after the Tokyo Olympic in 2020.  This is such a critical matter.

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