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Creating value for society through Marketing × Innovation

October 28, 2016

Organizations and management that are able to “ideate”

Fujisawa:
I have a personal experience related to NEC's efforts to cooperate and collaborate with people around the world. The World Economic Forum, of which I am a part, strongly believes in the “multi-stakeholder approach.” It used to be called the European Management Forum, participated in only by European managers. However, having a limited participation prevented addressing various kinds of issues, thus scholars were invited so they could learn from them. Still it was not sufficient, so they invited politicians from advanced countries. Even then, it didn't allow them to forecast future worldwide trends, so people from emerging countries and developing countries were also invited. Further, to bridge the generation gap and incorporate the ideas of the youth, the Young Global Leaders were invited. But since it was not enough to cover only the business and political world, NGOs were also invited. And, recently, artists have also been invited to meet the need to involve other sectors. Thus, we can see that unless every possible stakeholder is represented, we cannot discuss the world's future and find better solutions to the world's problems. The Davos community, therefore, is continually growing to include different stakeholders.

Shimizu:
NEC also shares the same perspective. Although business has separate and individual objectives, ultimately, there is a need to clearly define what the overall goal is, what needs to be done to achieve that goal, and to connect these together. In reality, however, it is difficult to do, because we tend to think based on our immediate circumstances. That is also the case for the Davos Meeting. It has adopted a structure wherein the community listens to different opinions in the face of global issues, upon the realization that it cannot solve the issues by itself. NEC believes that connecting companies and orchestrating them along the “social value” axis has become very important.

Fujisawa:
Has your organization gone through changes in order to carry out your goal of “orchestrating”?

Emura:
We did make changes three years ago. One is the creation of an organization to pursue initiatives that generate innovation within the company. We created a framework for innovation and established an organization whose mission is to ensure that the innovation framework permeates within the company. The act of creating a framework to bring about innovations constitutes a major change.

Fujisawa:
What are you doing in particular?

Shimizu:
The most important thing in initiating new business is to concretize the best and most excellent idea. You cannot do this on the side within an existing organization. Trying to generate innovation using the same old methods usually won't work. It is imperative to particularly carry out ideation (creation of ideas) beyond the boundaries and logic of existing organizations.

Emura:
We created a Value Co-creation Center within the Central Research Laboratories. Rather than calling it an organization, I think it's more apt to refer to it as a highly flexible group of people working together. I often say to members of the group, “I don't want to hear that you come in to the office everyday!” To understand what needs to be solved, researchers themselves need to see and feel what's happening around them, discover the problems on the ground, and understand the entire process. For example, I tell a researcher who is working on a project to optimize convenience store operations to first go and work at a convenience store for at least three months. We have researchers working as interns at hospitals. Thus, we understand that more than changing the organization, it has now become very important to change thought patterns and behaviors. And that is also part of the ideation process.

Fujisawa:
It may be easy for a young employee to work at a convenience store or as an intern, but wouldn't it be hard for mid-level or management-level employees to do that? I think the hardest thing is to ask an experienced person to change his or her thinking and behavior.

Shimizu:
But we do need both the young and the experienced members to be able to move away from historically entrenched organizational cultures and go through self-transformation.

Emura:
That's true.

Fujisawa:
Management would be a challenge, wouldn't it?

Emura:
Of course not everything will be easy, but I think new ways of doing things bring about best practices. I think they lead to interesting discoveries. Since conventional approaches and management styles have their limits, it will be necessary to employ several management methods.

Growing industry and solving social issues at the same time

Fujisawa:
In 2017 it will be 40 years since NEC's C&C Declaration.

Emura:
In 1977, the then-chairman of NEC Corporation, Dr. Koji Kobayashi, expressed the idea that by the turn of the new century it would be possible for people to see and converse with each other at any time and from any place on the earth, and to achieve this he proposed the “C&C” concept of integrating computer and communications technologies. Even now, the idea of creating a better society by using the technologies proposed by C&C is fundamental to NEC.

Fujisawa:
Hearing about AI and IoT, it seems that, rather than getting old over 40 years, the C&C vision gives increased assurance of the realization of a new society. It will be important for NEC to view society as a whole and collaborate with all stakeholders in producing new value.

Shimizu:
It is a perspective of growing the company while finding solutions to social issues. The more we solve complex, high-level social issues and study what values need to be realized, the more we understand the importance of “Safety,” “Security,” “Efficiency,” and “Equality.” I am confident that our vision is the correct one, and that our technology plays a major role in achieving it.

Take action while you can

Fujisawa:
From a business perspective, speed and a medium-to-long-term perspective are also important, aren't they?

Shimizu:
From the outset, if management does not make decisions quickly when asking how to produce value from data and digital technologies, we will quickly be overtaken by our competitors. Drastic changes in where management resources are invested will be needed for the future. In other words, we will need to make a major shift toward digital technologies.

Fujisawa:
So digital technologies are key to preparing now for future success.

Shimizu:
In leading North American companies, it is becoming common sense to have a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) who promotes digitization and digitalization in cooperation with the CMO and Chief Information Officer (CIO). It is increasingly important to understand digital value correctly, and to nurture human resources that are able to use the technologies. Companies that do not begin investing in this now will regret it later. They will be asking, “Why didn't we invest in digitization?” and “Why don't we have the data that other companies do?” The speed of management decision-making is also important. We must begin immediately, even if we start small.

Fujisawa:
People always take time to learn, don't they?

Emura:
It is important to look into the future to see what we need to start learning now. What we are taught in school now may well be replaced by AI in the future, so we need to learn more essential things. It seems that communication and proactive decision-making are essential to human nature. When AI has evolved further in 20 or 30 years, what will we need to do? Ultimately we need to consider people as the center.

Fujisawa:
When the directors of leading digital enterprises speak of the essence of humanity, it is profound.

Emura:
Is that surprising? It seems like that's all we've been talking about lately.

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