Eyeka, a Paris-based company that has built its business model on enabling co-created content for brands, is seeing Japanese demand for open innovation rapidly surpass that for branded and other content production.
In Tokyo recently from Singapore, Ambba Kuthiala, the company’s regional managing director, told Campaign that the trend towards focusing on video content had reversed in the space of two years. Up to 70 percent of Eyeka’s projects for Japan-based clients are now geared towards yielding business-related solutions, she said.
“Open innovation” is the buzzword of the moment in Japan, with a number of large, well-established companies looking to become more agile and bring outside intelligence into their organisations. But while the term may be fashionable, Kuthiala suggested that relatively few firms fully understand what open innovation entails. “A large number of clients are still at the cusp of it,” she said. With the advent of the “collaborative economy”, Japanese companies are at last searching for a way to become less top-down in their structure, she said.
Demands range from sourcing ideas for product reinvention to new services, research methods and ways of engaging with consumers. Projects that Eyeka is apparently involved include envisioning the future of retail, transactions, telecommunications and pain relief.
Kuthiala said Eyeka itself had acknowledged that it needed to take a more strategic approach and move upstream, initially driven by international clients such as P&G and Unilever. Crowdsourced video content is commoditised and is typically seen as “cheap and fast”, she said, whereas inspiring new ways of thinking in an organisation is potentially of higher value.
Open innovation is as much about a mindset change as it is about technology, according to Yoshiro Mizuno, an independent consultant who used to work at Ajinomoto and now works alongside Eyeka in Japan. He said Japanese companies tend to assume “innovation” has to be technical. But he pointed to Nintendo’s Wii as a low-tech example that succeeded by going against the grain at a time when competitors were focused on building increasingly sophisticated hardware. That change in thinking was an innovation in itself. While Nintendo clearly did not use Eyeka’s services to reach that point, Mizuno said that open innovation can help companies to hit on perspectives that they would likely miss if they continue to focus internally.
Mizuno added that, partly due to language, Japanese companies are still liable to miss out on international trends, which perpetuates the notorious ‘Galapagos syndrome’ that the country is trying to move away from. Crowdsourcing innovative thinking internationally can naturally help mitigate that problem, he said.
Video content still has a role to play, Kuthiala said, but it’s “the last leg of the journey”. Before that, bigger thinking needs to happen. She was not able to provide immediate examples of how crowdsourced innovation has brought about successful changes to a company’s business, however. “The roadmap is one to two years down the line,” she said. “It’s not a quick process for an end product. For large companies, I’d say it’s at least three years before you’re going to see any change. I can only say it’s helping clients to think and do things differently.”