Akio Morita Leadership
Akio Morita (1921-1999)
Co-founder and chief executive (pictured right) of Sony, the Japanese maker of electrical
equipment like the
- Walkman (the portable music player).
What did he say about leadership and business success?
1. Global marketing
He wanted to sell worldwide, and so he changed his company’s name to Sony to make it more easily
It was based on the Latin word for sound, sonus, and the slang name for cool guys, ‘sonny
He then made it into a global brand with international successes like the transistor radio
and the Walkman.
He thought it was essential to understand the needs of customers in each country, resulting in his slogan,
“think globally, act locally”.
So he moved his family to New York in 1963 to understand Americans better.
2. Motivate people
Extra effort comes from:
a) a family like feeling between managers and employees
(so that they work better together to achieve the company’s objectives like customer satisfaction).
b) the integrity and support of leaders and managers
He always made an effort to visit his employees and get to know them.
He founded Sony with Masaru Ibuka (pictured right together), and they complemented each
- Ibuka (the inventive engineer)
- Morita (the expert in marketing and finance).
They had the vision to see the commercial use of the transistor,
and, with great determination, convinced its inventors, America’s Bell Laboratories, to license
the technology to them.
4. Ideals and purpose
In 1946 Sony’s original objectives were to:
- develop technologies that would help re-build Japan’s war torn economy.
- give joy and fun to its customers.
Morita increased people’s creativity through:
- encouraging curiosity and free discussion of ideas.
- no blame for mistakes (finding their causes instead).
- questioning existing knowledge.
He said there are three creativities in business, which are all equally important: creativity
in technology, product
planning and marketing.
To have any one of these without the others would be disastrous.
After the Second World War, Japanese products had a bad reputation for quality, but Morita knew that this must
So he was an enthusiastic supporter of total quality
management and continuous improvement.
7. Creating new markets
He made sure that Sony used its technical superiority (particularly in miniaturization of
electrical equipment) to produce revolutionary products that created new markets for
So he persisted with the Walkman (pictured right), despite market research saying that people didn’t want
“Our plan is to lead the public with new products”, he said.
Sony also did this when it developed Japan's first transistor radio in 1957.
He was always:
- trying to anticipate what customers might want.
He was always learning from his failures and mistakes.
For example, Sony’s technically superior Betamax lost the battle to
VHS tapes in video recorders, because the film industry backed VHS.
So ,to give it greater control of the entertainment business, Sony bought in the late 1980’s:
Columbia Pictures (makers of the Spider-Man films, pictured right)
CBS records (now Sony Music Entertainment) - whose artists include Bruce Springsteen
(pictured right below) .
Key quote on decision
Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. But make sure you don’t make the same mistake twice.
Key quotes on
Curiosity is the key to creativity.
My solution to the problem of unleashing creativity is to set up a target.
Key quote on market
Carefully watch how people live, get an intuitive sense as to what they might want and then go with it. Don’t do
Our plan is to lead the public with new products rather than ask them what kind of products they want.
Key quote on
Advertising and promotion alone will not sustain a bad product or a product that is not right for the times.
Key quotes on
Create a family-like feeling within the corporation, a feeling that employees and managers share the same
People need money, but they also want to be happy in their work and proud of it.
Key quotes on
A company will get nowhere if all of the thinking is left to management.
The primary function of management is decision making.
Key quote on business
The company must not throw away money on huge bonuses for executives or other frivolities but must share its
fate with the workers.