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5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable Model for Entrepreneurship in Japanese Companies, Feb. 13 2001
This review is from: Revolutionaries at Sony: The Making of the Sony Playstation and the Visionaries Who Conquered the World of Video Games (Hardcover)
Revolutionaries at Sony is the authorized case history of how Sony came to enter and become a leader in the video game business in the 1990s. Many people despair about the potential for large companies to produce entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial results from within major corporations. Even more people would despair about that occurring with fast-changing technologies in the slow-moving, consensus-driven cultures of Japanese companies. The latest look at this general subject is found in the well-done book, The Innovator's Dilemma.
This book is an important case history on the subject, because it both confirms and challenges many common beliefs about intrapreneurship (being an entrepreneur inside a company, a term coined by Gifford Pinchot).
First, Japanese companies have a reputation for being not very innovative. The Sony entry into computer games is just the opposite, an important innovation based on a well-considered bet on advanced technology and how a market could be developed. In describing this case, the potential advantages of a large company because obvious in terms of creating access to and the ability to use more types of advanced technology.
Second, the case history is especially noteworthy because the Sony team took the unusual perspective (but one that I subscribe to in The 2,000 Percent Solution and The Irresistible Growth Enterprise) that ordinary people can approach perfection routinely. And the Sony team did just that.
Third, Ken Kutaragi, the key entrepreneur in the story, shows how being a contructive rebel can pay off. Shades of skunk works at Lockheed! He clearly must be familiar with the literature that suggests that you need to get the team away from everyone else, yet access top talent. He did this by the unusual approach of heading a joint venture between Sony corporate and Sony Music, a subsidiary. This allowed the venture to be both in and out of Sony, depending on what is needed. He was aggressive when Sony was wrong, and enthusistically supportive when Sony was right in its support.
Fourth, this case is an excellent example of technological vision: Many of the key decisions were based on the expected development of future technology, but that technology was not yet available as the product was developed. If the technology had not become available later, Sony would have lost a fortune. Yet it made one instead. This is a wonderful example of anticipation.
The summary of the key principles that created this success (over $7 billion in sales in its fourth year -- one of the greatest new business entries in history) near the end is worth putting on your wall.
Anyone who wants to create fast growth should study this book. It provides many key lessons into the required leadership practices for technology-based businesses in the 21st century. I suspect it will become a classic in Japan. It should become one everywhere else as people seriously consider how to make giant companies dance nimbly with technology.
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Donald Mitchell

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