A recent article in Business Week, “Sony Bets It Can Find The Next Big Thing,” discusses Sony’s poor results (six annual losses in seven years) and how they are still spending close to $5B in R&D to find the product(s) to improve their performance.
I commend them for their R&D efforts and it alone will not save them. The root cause problem is disclosed in the article. If you read Akio Morita’s autobiography, Made In Japan: Akio Morita and Sony, you will quickly discover that Mr. Morita believed that spending time with customers helped him uncover the “next big things.” As readers will recognize, this is in alignment with my beliefs about where CEOs should spend their time. (For more on this topic check the category link Spending Time with Customers).
Unfortunately, since Morita’s passing subsequent Sony CEOs have not understood the power of this approach. In fact the article notes: “CSL [their R&D center] has become an increasingly popular destination for executives seeking ideas, including Sony Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai…”
Spend less time at CSL and more time with customers if you want to turn Sony around. And if you want to keep your company on the forefront, spend more time with customers.
Do you see it differently?