Sony Corporation was initially called Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo K.K, and began its operations as a research and manufacturing company of telecommunications and measuring equipment that grew to become the Sony known today (Gershon and Tsutomu 105). Sony Corporation has made a reputation in the business world as one of the leading innovators in its industry, while boasting a position in the top 20 of the world’s best tech companies and also ranking 69th world largest corporation by the Fortune 500. The firm was founded in Tokyo, Japan by Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita in 1946 (Gershon and Tsutomu 106). Starting out with 20 employees and a capital of 190,000 yens, the organization saw tremendous growth to become one of the leading manufacturers of electronics and entertainment gadgets for both consumer and professional markets (Das 5). With a worldwide basement in different regions like Japan, the United States, and Europe, amongst others, the business operations range from electronics, picture entertainment, music entertainment, computer entertainment, Sony Ericsson to Sony financial holdings. The company is popular with products that include audio, video, television, information and communications, as well as semiconductors.
The company’s current name came from a Latin word ‘Sonus’ which implies sound (Das 5). The company has slogans (“Like No Other,” which was used previously, and “Make Believe,” which is used currently) that portray its commitment to inspire and empower their customers. Being in business for over six decades, Sony Corporation has created numerous innovative products and technologies that help people live more convenient lifestyles that are enjoyable and productive. With rare achievements, including pioneering innovations, Sony gained a solid reputation for quality, reliability, innovative, and stylish design that it continues to enjoy today.
As one of the global leaders in the supply of electronic and entertainment gadgets, Sony is committed to developing highly efficient products that satisfy consumer needs and stand out in terms of innovation and excellence through cutting edge technology with up to date content and services. The organization’s aim is to strengthen operations in its wide range of products, while still maintaining its leadership position. In the pursuit of this aim, Sony has laid down three corporate initiatives it strives to follow. The first one is the customer viewpoint initiative that considers the consumer’s perspective in viewing the company, its products, and services. The second is the Technology Nr. 1 Initiative, which is focused on the value of reinforcement of the company’s cutting-edge technologies in the target areas like digital imaging devices and home video equipment to maximize the investment of resources. The third one is the “Genba” initiative that is concerned with strengthening Frontline operations, including design locations, manufacturing facilities, and sales offices.
Unlike many companies in their formative years, Sony founders recognized that the whole world is their marketplace, and therefore they were careful to strategize and enter the United States and European markets, and not restrict their products to Japan alone. This shows that the founders understood the value of having a global brand right from its inception. In 1958, Morita went to the United States for the first time, where he analyzed the market structure and how the American corporations were carrying out their business (Gershon and Tsutomu 107). It is also in this time of visit that the new name of the organization was fashioned from Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo to a simpler ‘Sony’ as it is nowadays. The name Sony was used to demonstrate that despite being a small organization, it was constituted by young, self driven individuals who possess the energy and passion towards unlimited creation. The change of name into an easier to pronounce word only adds to demonstrate the global mindset of the founders.
Throughout the 1950s, the company expanded and established bases abroad, a move that strategically placed it to explore new opportunities, such as the potential in movies, music, and finance (Gershon and Tsutomu 107). The initiative was also meant to curb the retrogressive idea that Japan produced goods of substandard quality. The move was facilitated by the “global localization” strategy, whose purpose was to make Sony a truly global corporation with manufacturing plants in the US, Europe, and Asia, among other areas. The plants were monitored for quality productions by Japanese managers and engineers. People across the world became so familiar with Sony products that they never realized the company was Japanese.
The company has been under the leadership of brilliant managers and engineers who made sure that Sony lived up to its mission and vision. For instance, Noro Ohga, who was one of the previous CEOs, led Sony into the modern age of unique stylish designs and creative marketing. Under his leadership between 1982 and 1995, the corporation expanded from an electronic business to a comprehensive entertainment company with interests in gaming, music, and pictures; with the Sony Music and Sony Pictures segments are the globe’s biggest entertainment producers, while PlayStation is one of the best games in history making Sony the most successful game manufacturer. Sony Inc. is strongly committed to pursuing research and development initiatives with an astounding passion for innovation (Das 3). The business is established on the premise of Japanese culture, where it juxtaposes the traditional practices with modern ideas to find the best working conditions that help the company live up to its mission and vision. Since its inception to the present day, the vision of the founders coupled with a persistent focus of the right employees to pursue challenges and better technology for consumers brought up a unique corporate philosophy, which separates Sony Inc. from competitors (Das 11).
Innovation involves the creation of new valuable ideas and implementing them timely to come up with products and services, which is Sony’s mainstream culture. Innovation is one of the most critical success factors for the Sony Corporation, as it has been used over time to differentiate the company from other competitors (Das 10). In terms of consumer perceptions, Sony is viewed as one the world’s greatest brands in the electronic business. The company has dared to try out innovations that many other competitors have shied away from; for instance, the innovation of the video cassette recorder.
Innovations play a major role in organizations that seek survival and growth on the development of new technology, products, and services. Being innovative can only make sense if it is valuable, on-going and worthwhile other than a “boom and bust” event (Das 10). Innovative firms have got to have clear structures in place to support their innovations. They ought to emphasize creativity while engaging with teams and cross-functional integration. Additionally, product planning that involves decisions on how best to use technology in a given market needs a creative team.
Creativity in Technology
The electronics industry is dynamic and highly competitive such that the survival of companies largely depends on their ability to invent new products and use the latest technology. A look into the Sony Corporation, whose name is synonymous with electronics, reveals that they have been pioneers in developing and introducing innovative products into the global market right from the early days of inception and have continued doing so until the present date. For instance, Sony produced and launched the G-Type, Japan’s first magnetic tape recorder in 1950, launched d first PNP alloy-type transistor and germanium diode in 1955, the world’s first direct-view portable TV, the TV8-301 in 1960, the world’s first compact transistor VTR, the PV-100 in 1963, the world’s first home-use open-reel VTR, the CV-2000 in 1965, the world’s first IC radio, the ICR-100 in 1967, the world’s first color video cassette recorder in 1971, the world’s first CD player, the CDP-101 in 1982, 8mm camcorder, the CCD-V8 in 1985, and the world’s first consumer use digital HD video camera recorder conforming to HDV standards in 2004.
Other creative products include the Walkman personal stereo that was produced in 1979, the Minidisk (MD) player launched in 1992; the PlayStation game system in 1995, and the next generation high capacity optical disc “Blu-ray Disc” recorder in 2003, among many others (Gershon and Tsutomu 109). Most of the gadgets were the factor emergence globally and set the bar high for quality and competition. On the other hand, not all innovations or new products introduced in the market usually achieve instant success because having a good technology may not be good enough. Sony Corporation has set a trend that is desired by not only their competitors, but also organizations across other industries. The company never stepped back after failure, but rather accepted the outcomes, learned their lesson, and repeated trials until an effective product was made. That kind of spirit within the teams working together has enabled Sony to stand out in making convenient and user-friendly products.
Creativity in Planning and Production
It is only through creative planning and production that organizations can make accurate predictions about the potential future markets in advance and design products for them. These are the sentiments echoed by the founders of Sony Corporation when they commissioned products that consumers had not realized they needed and the ones that they were happy with when launched. It is through this principle that Sony launched creative gadgets, such as transistor radio, Walkman, CD, and DVD, and succeeded in winning the market (Gershon and Tsutomu 108). This shows that having the right commodity in the market at the correct time automatically leads to high sales achievement.
Under Morita’s leadership, he performed many functions in the organization ranging from innovation of new products, design, implementation, and marketing. His time saw Sony consistently innovate new gadgets and advanced technology, including the walkman personal stereo and the Sony brand becoming a household name across the globe (Gershon and Tsutomu 113).
Creativity in Marketing
Even though breakthrough technology played an important role in Sony’s rise and dominance, the company’s key capacity lay in commercializing new, well-designed and quality products. It took advantage of the large consumer potential that was neglected by the competitors by marketing their offerings in creative ways that impressed them to buy. Success in marketing their products has been achieved by way of clever ways of advertising and careful evaluation of the effectiveness of every launched campaign (Gershon and Tsutomu 113). For instance, Sony uses favorite television channels that attract huge audiences, like sports and series, to advertise their products. Additionally, Sony boasts of its entertainment channel known as Sony TV that targets family audiences.
The corporation’s marketing strategies largely focus on conveying the benefits of having its commodities to the consumers. For instance, the marketing plan of the video cassette recorder utilizes the idea of time shift to inform consumers that they can always record their favorite programs and watch them later. Moreover, the Sony Company encourages the development of new products with fashionable designs through a blend of aesthetic squares and circles like in the PlayStation, a revolutionary game device.
The business was founded on the basis of the Japanese culture, which focuses on the establishment of long-term relationships (Das 8). Autonomy of the workforce is crucial to breeding interaction and strong ties between the employees themselves and the organization leadership (Gershon and Tsutomu 114). This culture values work and bases the reward system on long-term goals and the nature of the stable relationships people to feel safe while taking challenges. Sony takes the lead in championing for the well known Japanese corporate culture that is committed to a lifelong career of its workforce and equal opportunity employment (Das 11). Such a culture makes the staff feel secure in their workspaces and devote their best to their own success and that of the firm. The criteria of finding employees are vigorous such that the open vacancies can only be filled with competent people who are right for the job. Right from orientation of new employees, recruits are often told that Sony is their responsibility, which gives them a sense of ownership, and that they should strive to create happiness themselves.
Sony Corporation not only focuses on product development, but also emphasizes on the welfare of its employees as they are the root of the company’s original products. The workforce is the ultimate foundation of any company’s performance and its consequential success. A company’s investment in intellectual capital ensures that there is collective brainpower that is essential in sharing shared knowledge amongst the employees, thereby making them the greatest assets of the business (Gershon and Tsutomu 114). Sony Corporation motivates its workforce and encourages personal development though on-the-job learning, alongside regionally specialized programs, and leadership training (Das 20). Sony found mechanisms to make their staff feel instrumental to the corporation’s success and view their jobs as a pathway towards the achievement of their individual goals. These perceptions by the workforce have been essential to increasing their engagement and productivity to achieve the company’s mission.
Japanese companies often strive to transfer ideas or technology between different industries to come up with revolutionary products. This is facilitated by the ‘generalist’ nature of their workforce that is flexible and can move back and forth between divisions; thereby in a position to transmit ideas swiftly between consumer and industrial product areas (Das 18). Sony practices “freedom and open-mindedness” culture, where individuals are encouraged to engage in new challenges to inspire them and give them an opportunity to develop careers. People are free to engage with others and share their innovative ideas that are aimed at satisfying the needs of the consumers and add corporate value (Das 11). The founder, Masaru Ibuka, actively engaged with several teams at different levels, which broke the senior-junior syndrome in the workplace and set their spirits at the highest level (Das 11). He honed human skills that enhanced his relationship with employees in a family-like setting such that everything worked smoothly. Ibuka trusted the personnel and gave the freedom to explore and be creative, which resulted in the success of Sony. He also believed that mistakes are normal and acceptable, but should serve as a lesson so as not to make the same error twice.
The corporation has a compensation mechanisms based on work contributions and reward systems that motivate the workforce to pursue greater challenges and achievements. For instance, the Sony MVP award is given to the people who have applied specialized knowledge and technology to add value to the company, while the DE (Distinguished Engineer) acknowledges the engineers’ work in developing the brand Sony. The performance of each employee is reviewed periodically by the management through open and blunt discussions that ensure transparency.
Strategy to Open a Similar Company
Leadership is an important factor that depending on how it’s managed determines the success or failure of a business. The CEO must clearly define the organizational vision for innovation, just like the founders of Sony did and the company has been able to constantly create original digital entertainment experiences that resonate with consumers’ wants. The leadership should be able to take on the right roles at the right time to help with different functions of the organization. For instance, from time to time company founders have to go out of their way to perform many functions that they would otherwise assign to different departments in their management structure. A good example from Sony shows how Morita, with his abilities in imagining, designing, implementation, and innovation was able to double up his responsibilities to also do marketing. Leadership that posses human skills that can relate well with employees, while giving them autonomy and freedom, are essential for enhancing trust and motivating the workforce. Consequently, there is the need for the company to implement a structure that gives freedom and independence, but still be in a position to maintain control.
A startup company ready to take on the industry competition must be ready to spend lots on money on research and development because it is only through such strategy that an innovative idea to come up and be actualized the company can also hire new facilities and expert employees to help in the manufacture of their products. This also means that the employee set up should be dynamic and creative to come up with modern designs, features, and latest technology that people resonate with. Additional spending may be needed in re-educating the sales force regularly to spark innovation and keep them up to date with trends. However, a little care should be taken when investing in innovation so as not to put the company’s financial viability and competitive position at risk.
As there are already world leaders in the tech industry, an upcoming company will have to be disruptive in order to get recognition. Their latest innovations should be able to render existing product lines obsolete and continue with the trend of continuous innovation. Therefore, the organization’s CEO should be at the forefront in advocating experimentation and taking proper risks.
The CEO of startup firm also needs to model open-mindedness and value diverse opinions and approaches from the workforce while encouraging consistency and reinforcing the company’s strategic vision. Lessons about open-mindedness can be learnt from the example of Sony that shows that it is a prerequisite for sharing new ideas and innovation. The personnel need to be empowered to take risks on new, different and challenging ideas (Gershon and Tsutomu 114). The CEO should take the risk out of risk-taking by encouraging freedom of expression, which can spark potentially game-changing ideas and solutions. The management should be willing to commit all their resources towards the promotion of innovation and examination of new thoughts, and execution of new solutions.
Sony has demonstrated its ability to capture peoples’ imagination and enhance their lives through cutting-edge technology that has served people for over a half a century. The company’s products are perceived as unique, smart, and with outstanding designs and offer great performance. Based on the Japanese culture, Sony forged a way to integrate traditional and modern practices to come up with its own unique strategies that helped expand its brands worldwide right from the formative years of the company. The company also managed to secure a reputation as daring innovators and industry leaders, which has served well to promote consumer confidence in their products. All these factors have worked collectively and managed to transform a once small company into a worldwide giant. Their business model is efficient and can be emulated by other companies across all industries to run successful businesses, even in turbulent economic times.
Das, Bharati. “Sony and the Japanese Culture.” Available at SSRN 2370964(2013).
Gershon, Richard A., and Tsutomu Kanayama. “The sony corporation: A case study in transnational media management.” International Journal on Media Management 4.2 (2002): 105-117.