This was my first ever visit to Japan, so you can imagine I was excited like a tourist. I was really looking forward to experiencing the different culture, the food, the art and also seeing the colours of nature. Unfortunately, this expectation remains a dream, because the reality of a business trip meant that I spent most of my time in cars, offices, and hotels. But the one thing I definitely wouldn’t miss out on was sushi. Once I had made it to my room, after a delayed flight due to a typhoon, the first thing I did was to order a nice sushi box to give me the energy to prepare for next day’s meetings. And yes, I can confirm this now, sushi is THAT much better in Japan. The taste really is a different experience – a delicious way to dive into a foreign culture.
The way of the samurai
In my eyes, Japan is historically the country of product innovation. Management philosophies like ‘lean manufacturing’ originated in the Japanese industry and taught us how to focus on what really adds value to a product. But this history, combined with cultural beliefs, possibly led to a tradition of continuous and safe innovation rather than daring, disruptive paradigm shifts. After all, in the samurai culture failure is not an option. On the other hand, if you can learn to accept failure as a part of the development process, these lessons will contribute to even bigger improvements to the product. “Don’t be afraid” – that’s the approach I prefer and tried to sell during my meetings with various customers. But that is directly connected to a second, highly relevant aspect of innovation which is to respond to your customers’ needs. Combining product innovation with an understanding of how customers are going to react will create true business value.
Impact of innovation
It was a great honour and pleasure for me to deliver the opening keynote at the SAP CX Day 2019. Especially since the Japanese audience was so curious to hear about what was going on in the West in terms of innovation. Beyond the aspects mentioned above, innovation impacts four major areas. It impacts your customers, it impacts your employees augmenting the innovation, and as a result it impacts your product. But finally, if you get it right, the effect innovation has on your brand will prove to be the biggest benefit.
Building up on that message, the two panel discussions that followed (‘The Future of B2B’ and ‘The Future of B2C’) allowed me to engage in some very interesting conversations. I saw an entire audience committed to taking on the challenge of innovation.
It is part of our mission to inspire and share our vision across the globe to expand our innovation network. We’re hoping to see some of the customers I had meetings with at one of the upcoming CX Live events in London, Dubai (where I’ll be speaking about how we drive innovation at SAP CX), and especially Munich where we would like to offer them an ideation Design Thinking workshop. The goal would be to identify where they can innovate within the ‘Horizon 1’ area, addressing challenges they can approach more or less immediately with existing, established technologies. At the same time, we want to encourage them to look further into the future by sharing our experiences with emerging technologies. Our Japanese customers are showing huge trust in the SAP CX vision and strategy which we want to live up to.