Posted on 10-04-2011
Filed Under (BUSINESS) by Shombit

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From Discomfort Zone column by Shombit Sengupta in Financial Express and Indian Express

To my dismay, I’ve discovered a school of thought in this part of the hemisphere that supports understanding of failures, not to learn from them, but as standalone case study subjects to avoid risk. This school of thought doesn’t enquire about how successful companies have achieved their triumph. Success can be gained from in-depth understanding of failures, though not necessarily their own, then rejigging them with dollops of useful, differentiated value.
Failure in a company could have one or several reasons ranging from misjudging market potential, strategy mismatch in company culture or marketing, production or quality flaws, vendor management, procurement and sales activation, to just plain wrong communication. There’s no reason to suggest that a strategy that has failed in one company will also fail under different conditions in another company. You’ll never know details of any failure’s root cause as nobody will reveal it.
The failure of a high quality product needs to be studied with curiosity, and from all angles. If you bring positive energy into a failed subject you may refuel its success. Was the French Concorde a failure? Was it not extreme innovation that could fly over Mach 3, close the distance of an ocean in half the time of normal aircrafts? In business, the word failure does not work. Japan announced in 2005 that they are now working on a supersonic aircraft to reduce sound and increase seats while cutting 50% of today’s flying time. They’ve suffered a few setbacks and are now collaborating with research done in France and the US.
Consumers of emerging economy countries are enjoying a heightened lifestyle with product offers from transnational companies in their open markets. However, in consulting with companies there, I find them to be slack in responding to competition. When a globally reputed company unveils a competing product, instead of delving into that product’s origin of success to rejig their product to meet consumer aspirations, the emerging economy company merely questions complacently, ‘Will it succeed? Will our consumers pay so much? Is this sophisticated innovation required?’ Such questions are baseless and judgmental. Consumers with money are always open to alternative choice and better options.  Innovation in business has to be a passion of curiosity to change the world with, not to question it.
As an industrial house in an emerging economy, you may modernize your business to compete, but unless you inquire into why your global competitor is winning in your economy, your market growth will merely touch the surface, and not sustain.
The Japanese, since the 1950s, have been exceptional in seeing things differently. They link microscopic observation to quality in product development. In the early 1970s, I remember seeing Japanese groups travelling around Europe, always with cameras. Collective discipline makes them process the microtones of their observation into high quality deliverables. Microtone is a Western musical term where multiple instruments play different chords with different tones to converge to a harmonious melody. Any miniscule mistake in these chords or tones can corrupt the musical output. That’s the power of a microtone. During the period the Japanese observe a subject, no criticism is allowed. The subject is kept intact for holistic understanding, without distorting its image or substance with preconceived thought baggage.
When you observe with curiosity, you go in-depth into the subject to find the processes, struggles and exhaustion it has gone through. The Japanese delve into the total package, not its surface. Having thoroughly understood its complexity, they top-up with added value. The object’s first and fundamental innovative system is kept intact. The Japanese reinvented the European motorbike and conquered the world with it. They renovated the piano. This sophisticated European acoustic musical instrument needs perfection at every stage. The German piano is acclaimed the world’s best, but the piano most rock, pop, classical singers or musicians on stage anywhere in the world today use is the Japanese Yamaha. You’ll see Yamaha blinking on the piano’s side, the brand showing off its popularity where it counts. When would India be capable of producing a world-class product that will replace the best that’s available?
South Koreans are following the Japanese route with fantastic visible results. They are competing globally, taking leadership in areas like hybrid steel, consumer durables, electronics and automobiles. In my experience in China, I find Chairman Mao Zedong has sharpened focus on their national character of discipline even outside politics. With stringent discipline, positive mindset and following in Japanese footsteps, China is overcoming its product quality deficiency and stigma with radically improved quality.
In 2002 Jean Michel Jarre, the laser and electronic entertainment musician, did two spectacular concerts in China. Son of celebrated music director, Maurice Jarre, whose Dr Zhivago and Love Story have become the world’s standard in easy listening, Jean Michel’s concert was unique because he wove together the Beijing Symphony Orchestra, Chinese National Orchestra, Beijing Opera chorus and notable Chinese rock musicians in his open air Western music concerts. He amazed a billion Chinese stage and TV viewers and everyone else in the world by using Chinese musicians and traditional Chinese instruments in Western music style. Enjoying the show on DVD, it proved to me that the Chinese capability to enter a new realm with calculated ease, and their command over discipline and curiosity will make their nation the future business driver of the world.
We are proud to be an intellectual society in India. But can our collective intellectual power, not individual intelligence, help us attain world-class business processes and products? Billion-mindset economies like India and China need a disciplined business mentality that can dissect success. To challenge the market, our professionals must collectively understand how and why innovation happened in developed countries. This will orient them towards the very foundation of the innovation mechanism.

To download above article in PDF rejig fail with cusity to suced

Financial Express link :http://www.financialexpress.com/news/rejig-failure-with-curiosity-to-succeed/774025/0

(2) Comments   


srikanta on 12 April, 2011 at 10:15 am #

Interesting article with lot of ins ights.Failure to undrerstand theo ta reasons and to take timely corrective actions have proved very costly to many Indian companies.But I still wonder ,with so many classic examples are in front of us,why we keep failing to learn?….

Hema Pasupatheeswaran on 18 April, 2011 at 11:01 am #

I’m Hema. My MD sent us all this article.

Def it provides interesting reading….Your examples are so nice. It shows how well read you are. i’ll keep reading your articles. It really helps one think analytically….thanks again…

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