An interview with Neil Barnett, former European Marketing Manager, Canon EMEA
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about Canon, its history and your role in it?
Almost everyone will have heard of Canon. Synonymous with photography and visual imagery, the company has been going strong for nearly 80 years since it was founded in Japan in 1937. Most people know Canon from its consumer business of cameras and printers and we are frequently named as one of the world’s most popular brands for this reason. However, there’s a lot more to Canon than that. Not only are we involved in lots of varying industries from medical imagery to CCTV (closed circuit television), but for a company with such a rich history, we’re actually incredibly innovative too. We file an average of five new patent registrations every day in the U.S., and for almost 30 years we’ve consistently been in the top five most prolific companies in this area.
Most importantly, it’s our company culture that allows this to happen. It’s really special and something Canon and all our employees are very proud of. We call it Kyosei, a Japanese word that means, “living and working for the common good,” and it shapes the way we treat our people and conduct our business because we are mindful of how our activities impact our customers, employees, partners and the world around us.
On a personal note, I’m part of the Marketing and Corporate Communications team within EMEA and I recently led a project we called “Miru,” which was designed specifically to bring our employees closer together and enact Kyosei across all areas of the business.
Q. What was Miru, and why was it necessary when you already had such a proud company culture?
Everyone is very aware of our culture and lived it in their own silos, but we wanted to broaden it so teams in different areas, different countries and different parts of the company could reap the benefits of sharing knowledge and working together easily. In the most basic sense, it is a new company intranet but in reality, it’s more like a digital workspace that’s engaging, inclusive and – most importantly – incredibly useful. Miru means “to see” in Japanese and the intended function was twofold. Firstly it was to encourage behavioural changes that would encourage diverse teams from across the broad Canon spectrum to work collaboratively, instead of just within their own offices.
Secondly it was technological. Our people weren’t fully empowered to behave according to Kyosei because they didn’t have all the necessary tools. In less than a year, Miru introduced lots of really useful, cutting-edge digital and social platforms such as Yammer, Skype for Business and OneDrive that have genuinely become part of Canon employees’ daily lives. Now everyone can – and does – work collaboratively, innovatively and with more agility and responsiveness than ever before.
Q. How long has it taken to do this, and what have the challenges been?
It’s taken about a year to conceptualise and start implementing Miru – nowhere near as long as you might think for a company that employs 17,000 people throughout 116 countries and with the obvious language barriers that go alongside this. In just a few months, we’ve got the vast majority of employees using Miru in some way and the feedback from this time has been inspiring – a 67% uptake of Yammer versus an industry standard of just 16%; an average of over 90% positive feedback from leaders, mentors and HR directors across the board; and dozens of business successes that have come about directly thanks to Miru.
The challenge is an ongoing one, because we don’t consider the process “finished” – and it may never be. While we have made good progress with Miru, we know that it is very easy to fall back into old habits and, because technology is evolving rapidly, another challenge is to become comfortable with ongoing change.
But this is actually a big opportunity for us. A lot of the digital change we see in the world is tightly interlinked with products and services Canon can offer, including trends such as 3D printing and virtual and augmented realities. Having Miru in place means Canon is much better aligned with how quickly this new world moves, so we can be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to emerging digital and industry trends.
Q. What’s next?
We keep innovating by using the growing digital dexterity of our employees, which is – and always has been – really important to Canon. It’s about delivering a more consumer-like computing environment that’s better able to facilitate flexible working practices.
We believe that, to be successful, companies need to support the digital workplace by shifting their culture from “knowledge is power” to “knowledge-sharing is power” – no longer rewarding heroes, but celebrating collaboration. That will breed faster sharing of ideas, more innovation and the ability to make changes quicker, which is what Miru does, and will continue to do, for Canon.
This article is a part of MSLGROUP’s Optimising Digital Collaboration from the Inside Out, for more information contact Anthony Poncier T +33 14482 4648 M +33 62334 0881 or Sébastian Faure T +33 14482 4565.