YKK Stories

2017-08-28 Issue 12 Fundamental Behavior 11 – Innovate.

February 19, 2019
Author: YKK
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In October of 2011, I was driving to Macon for our annual R&D meeting, which includes the presentation of awards to our very talented engineers for new their new patents, and I heard on the radio that Steve Jobs had died. In my comments at the close of the R&D meeting, I shared the following Steve Jobs quote: “Some people say, ‘Give the customers what they want.’ But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do…People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Historically, we often have talked about seeking the “voice of the customer” when it came to product development. We wanted to develop the products which our customers told us they needed. But consistent with what Steve Jobs said, in more recent times our customers have demanded more new ideas from us, saying that we have a better grasp of the market than they do.

Both YKK and YKK AP have responded with innovations based upon our knowledge of the global marketplace. Without a doubt, innovation has been the key to our survival over the past ten years since the recession of 2001. The growth we have achieved has been in many new industries for both our fastening and our architectural businesses. Think about all the new products we’re providing now for some of the most innovative companies in residential and commercial construction, as well as in automotive, safety, outerwear, waterproof, and energy conservation industries.

Tape Craft is a great example of an NCA Group company that has evolved from making commodity products to being the industry leader in innovation. Their customers come to them with problems, knowing Tape Craft can create a solution.

Innovation has always been our lifeblood at YKK and at YKK AP. Tadao Yoshida spoke of it constantly to employees. As you have your discussions this week on the subject of innovation, I’d like for you to consider the following lessons Mr. Yoshida shared, and how they might be applicable to your life:

1. The key to innovation is to set challenging goals for yourself, without fearing failure;

2. Innovation often does not happen overnight; rather, it is the accumulation of steady efforts over time to make small improvements;

3. Anyone can be an innovator. It can even be done without a fancy laboratory or specialized knowledge.

4. To pioneer is painful at first, but there is no progress if you always follow others. We pioneer products that many people are willing to use with confidence. That is the purpose of YKK.

Someone once asked Chairman Tad Yoshida if he thought a product would be invented that would replace the zipper. Chairman Yoshida responded, “If such a product is invented, and I hope we’re the ones who invent it.”


Alex Gregory
Chairman and CEO
YKK Corporation of America