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Work and The Founder of Japan, Inc. Published: Sunday, October 31, 1999 By: Dr. Manuel Angel Morales

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the Sony Walkman, the portable radio / cassette (some 186 million have sold worldwide) that herald the age of personal electronics. In many ways, the device sums up what Sony Corporation and Akio Morita, its visionary co-founder, are all about: providing people with products they never realized they needed. Where Sony innovates (and it does so with regularity) fashion, tradition and staples follow. Unfortunately, this very same year Akio Morita passed away.

Morita developed a very interesting consumer behavior theory. He expressed that the purpose of a leading organization is to lead the public with new products and services, rather than ask them what they want. In his very frank autobiography, Made inJapan, he instructed that organizations have to refine their thinking on products and services and their uses, and work hard to create a market for them by educating and communicating with the public. Morita arrived at this breakthrough philosophy after his company`s introduction of a new tape recorder failed. He learned, the hard way, that having a unique technology and being able to make unique products was not enough. It was important to sell products, provide services and educate the market profoundly. Quickly, he became a master merchandiser, squeezing eventual success out of the tape recorder business by developing a target market in Japan`s schools.

His was wisdom the following. Everyone has some kind of ideas that people agree are good. The important thing is how are you going to interpret that idea in your industry. Leaders and strategists are nothing more than sophisticated interpreters…

The name of the company was chosen because it was short and catchy, a variation on both the Latin sonus, or "sound" and the youthful-sounding American slang of "sonny".

Through the years, Sony`s successes kept on coming; Walkman, Watchman, Discman (VCR for home use), Triniton color TV system, 3.5 inch computer floppy, compact disk, filmless camara and the videocamara. The theory was that of keeping a premium on innovation. It also signified the strategy of devoting 10% or more to the R & D effort.

Hand in hand with staying electronically on top there was a profound theory of branding nourishing the Sony name and identity. One 1998 survey saw Sony rated, amazingly, as the number one brand among American consumers ahead of Ford, General Electric and Coca Cola. The company is so familiar and popular that it has earned a reputation of unsurpassed quality. Morita early saw the potential of the company for going global and in 1962 opened a showroom on New York`s Fifth Avenue. He expressed on many occasions that due to economic interdependency the future of his country was coupled with that to the United Sates and other international businesses. In 1963 he moved to New York and founded the Sony Corporation of America.

But this visionary who reversed the negative associations with the phrase "made in Japan", had a profound theory of work. He stated that working within a complex and uncertain environment requires people capable of balancing prudence, boldness and risk. The test of intelligence is the capacity to cope with two or three opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to perform. The result of a given life equals ability by enthusiasm by attitude and behavior. The formula allows for the existence of an evil genius (as would result from negative attitude and behavior), and exposes that average ability can be overcome with boundless enthusiasm and positive thinking.


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