YKK Stories

2018-09-03 Issue 66 Fundamental Behavior 11 Innovate

February 19, 2019
Author: YKK
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YKK has a simple mission – to serve our customers and our communities. We succeed in that mission when we not only meet their needs, but exceed their expectations. Their needs are not static. Their needs are always changing. We satisfy those changing needs by coming up with new products and ways to make and deliver those products. That is innovation. Therefore, we must innovate to succeed. And when I say ‘we,’ I mean everyone is invited to get in the game. We need all of our collective brain power to really find the things that will fulfill that mission. The nice thing is that anyone can play.

By 2004 Amazon had already spent several years trying to build the right loyalty program. They needed something unique (in other words, something ‘innovative’) but had not found the right solution THAT WOULD SATISFY AND DELIGHT THEIR CUSTOMERS. In late 2004, Amazon software engineer, Charlie Ward, submitted a simple but seemingly audacious idea to the company’s online suggestion box: “Why not give the customer free two day shipping?” That idea sparked the creation of Amazon Prime, which now boasts 100 million subscribers paying $99 per year to enjoy Amazon’s free two day shipping, a video streaming service, and much more! All because Charlie Ward said, “What if?”

Innovation is not always a singular idea that clearly presents itself. Sometimes the best innovation arises from failure; sometimes it needs a second set of eyes. Sometimes it takes years to see the potential. In 1968, Spencer Silver’s project to develop an adhesive for the aerospace industry failed. His Acrylate Copolymer Microspheres were durable, but terribly weak. They maintained their adhesion but could not be counted on to hold much. Since the adhesive did not leave a residue, he thought it could be applied to the top of bulletin boards, allowing notices to be posted without a pin. His management team did not like the idea because a) it did not solve the immediate problem of airplane glue, and b) bulletin board sales were not sufficiently large for it to make sense. It was not until 1973, when product development engineer Art Fry, tired of having the bookmarks constantly fall out his hymnal in church, realized the adhesive needed to be applied to the paper, not the board. With that, 3M’s Post-it® notes were born. That was 45 years ago and they still sell one billion dollars worth of them a year. How is that for satisfying customers’ needs?


Jim Reed
YKK Corporation of America