YKK Stories

2019-03-18 – Issue 91 – Fundamental Behavior 11 – Innovate

March 18, 2019
Author: YKK
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Innovation is the backbone of any successful company. YKK has strong traditions and those should be respected, but we should not let those traditions hinder innovation. The goal of innovation is to create value for our external customers, internal customers (i.e., employees), and society.

The business world is full of companies that have thrived on innovation such as Google, Netflix, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple and many others. It is also full of companies that were left behind because of a lack of innovation including Blockbuster, Kodak, Polaroid, Blackberry, Sears, and many others. One of YKK’s Core Values that is a common theme among innovative companies is “Do not fear failure, experience builds success.” Not every idea results in a success. However, when an idea does not work out as initially planned, it is important that we learn from that experience and use that learning experience to build on the next idea.

Innovation can take many forms, including incremental improvements to existing products, machinery, services, and processes; completely new products, machinery, services, and processes; entirely new business models and ventures; and cost/efficiency improvements. The beauty of innovation is that all employees can contribute in some way, but we need to avoid the trap of “it has always been done that way.”

Observing, asking, and understanding your customers’ (external and internal) challenges and goals can give you the opportunity to ask “what if” in an effort to add value for your customers through products, machinery, services and processes. However, sometimes your customers do not know what they need, which gives you the opportunity to wow your customer with creative thinking. Henry Ford (founder of Ford Motor Company) said, “If I had asked the public what they wanted for transportation, they would have said ‘a faster horse.’”

Young children have very creative and inquisitive minds, but some people as they age lose that creativity and inquisitive thinking. My wife reminded me of an incident with our oldest daughter, who at the time was 3 years old and had a sweet tooth for candies. My wife would occasionally give our daughter an M&M chocolate candy, which she loved. In order to keep the M&Ms out of the reach of our daughter, my wife asked me to hide the bag of M&Ms in the cabinet above our refrigerator since my wife could not reach the cabinet.

One day, while my wife was upstairs, our daughter moved a stool next to the counter adjacent to the refrigerator, moved a large popcorn can on the counter next to the refrigerator, climbed on the stool, then the counter, then the large popcorn can, and shimmied herself on top of the refrigerator. A little while later, when my wife came into the kitchen, she found our daughter on top of the refrigerator with her hands and mouth covered in chocolate. It is not surprising that this daughter was a gymnast throughout high school.

Let’s not lose the creativity and inquisitive thinking of young children and respect, but challenge, the traditions of YKK by asking ourselves, “What if?”

Keith Meyer
Vice President of Finance
YKK Corporation of America