Pay Attention When Sony and Japan Embrace Open Innovation

by Stefan Lindegaard

Pay Attention When Sony and Japan Embrace Open InnovationThe “not invented here” culture is a problem at Sony. James Surowiecki addressed this in a 2005 article in which he stated that the Betamax video tape recorder failed in part because the company refused to cooperate with other companies.

Sony was also late in making flat-screen TVs and DVD recorders, because its engineers believed that, even though customers loved these devices, the available technologies were not up to Sony’s standards.

And Sony’s digital music players didn’t play MP3s, which is a big reason that the iPod became the Walkman’s true successor. Again and again, Sony’s desire to control everything kept it from controlling anything according to Surowiecki.

Over the years, Sony CEO Howard Stringer has been working hard to crack this staunch “not invented here” culture. As the company bets big on a 3-D revival, it seems as if they starting to get it.

In a Wall Street Journal article, Stringer says that getting to market quickly takes priority over making everything in house. This led to Sony reaching a licensing deal with an outside supplier for an essential component of 3-D televisions. Things are definitely changing at Sony.

Things are also changing for Daiichi Sankyo, one of Japan’s largest pharmaceutical groups. In a Financial Times interview, CEO Takashi Shoda talks about how a growing influence of western practices and the broader need for greater openness in order to innovate impacts his company.

“The era of trying to do everything in-house is gone,” he says. “Innovation means open innovation: partnership, networking, relationship with academics. There used to be an NIH – not invented here – syndrome. If a drug project did not begin in-house, we were not interested. That is changing now. Management is constantly encouraging outsiders,” Shoda says.

What is the message here? The future of innovation is open and global. Companies need to get this or they will lose out. And when even very tradition-driven, Japanese companies get it, everyone needs to pay attention.


Stefan Lindegaard is a speaker, network facilitator and strategic advisor who focus on the topics of open innovation, intrapreneurship and how to identify and develop the people who drive innovation.

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