This article is from WeChat official account:Chaos University (ID: hundun-university)< span class = "text-remarks">, author: Shen climbing, support: bell beans, Tan Ying, from the title figure: vision China

Why can a century-old enterprise maintain a steady stream of innovative vitality?

When it comes to Yamaha, what do you think of? Electronic keyboard, motorcycle, and stereo? In fact, Yamaha’s products are much more than that.

It has also made many musical instruments, such as saxophones, wind instruments, and trumpets; it has also made electronic synthesizers, and a mixer for large-scale concerts; it has also made electric cars, mountain bikes, and held motorcycle events; even It has made swimming pools, slides, and bathtubs; it has also made drones; the singer of “Sing Onion Song”-the virtual idol “Hatsune Miku”, is also made by Yamaha’s singing synthesis engine.

Some people gave Yamaha the title of “Faithful Carrot” and “Improper Business”. Some people said it was the “Da Vinci of the corporate world”, and some said it was a “small universe explosion” musical instrument store. Is this different from common sense? It is generally believed that it is difficult for a company to be too diversified to succeed.

So, Yamaha has made so many products, how is it doing? In terms of performance, it accounts for 23% of the global musical instrument market. It should be said that it has a decisive advantage. The revenue in 2019 was 269.3 billion yen, which is approximately 2.5 billion US dollars. Its “Hatsune Miku” is the world’s most profitable virtual idol. Since its debut, its cumulative income has exceeded 10 billion yen, equivalent to more than 90 million US dollars. The market occupied by its motorcycles ranks second in the world. The agricultural drone it invented in 1989 is the world’s first agricultural drone, and it currently ranks first in the Japanese market…

It should be said that it not only created a lot of innovative products, but also led many industries, and even created an industry.

It has been 133 years since Yamaha was founded in 1887. How can it continue to come over? Today, Shen Pan, the innovation leader of Chaos University, brings youYamaha’s case study analyzes why this century-old company has created so many innovative products and how it maintains its innovative vitality.

Quick overview of the structure of this article:

1. Genes laid at the founding stage

2. Strategies to occupy the market on a large scale

3. “Growing” product logic

4. Responding to the advent of the era of creativity


A company hopes that its foundation will be evergreen, but it cannot be realized with a wish. I really like what Jim Collins said in “Flywheel Effect”: “The key to achieving excellence is not to have a lofty goal, but a mechanism that allows this goal to be practiced repeatedly.”

Peter Senge also said in “The Fifth Practice”: “The key to an organization’s long-term competitiveness lies in active learning and autonomous evolution faster and better than its opponents.”

So I think that the secret of an evergreen business is the ability to continue to innovate and drive growth. I hope to give you some inspiration through the analysis of Yamaha.

1. Gene “maintenance” laid in the founding stage

The founder of Yamaha is called Yamaha Innan. He was born in a samurai family in Japan in 1851. It should be said that he belongs to the upper class with a well-earned family. His father is in charge of astronomy and meteorology locally, so there are many meteorological equipment in the family. Yamaha has developed a very keen interest in these machines since he was a child, and followed his father to tinker.

When he grew up, he learned to repair watches in a British watch shop. Later, I went to a medical device company to repair medical devices and became a well-known skilled craftsman.

So, what kind of gene does maintenance produce? In fact, the essence of maintenance is to restore a product to its original function. We need to solve the problem through various creative methods.

There are some key points here, such as the ability to challenge problems, the determination to overcome difficulties, and the accumulation of knowledge accumulated during the maintenance process——

  • Understand the principle and operation mechanism

  • Ask good questions

  • Find the source of the problem

  • Creative solutions

  • Accumulate knowledge and technology

It is such a maintenance gene that has been rooted in the heart with Yamaha for generations.

In 1887, in (Meiji era, Japan), an elementary school in Hamamatsu Prefecture where Yamaha was located had an organ imported from the United States broken. The principal found Yamaha to repair it. Yamaha feels that the structure of this organ is not complicated, and many alternatives can be found in the material, which is not very expensive. However, when I asked the price of this piano, I was shocked. It costs 45 yen. At that time, the monthly salary of an elementary school teacher was 8 yen, and 45 yen was equivalent to half a year’s salary.

In Yamaha’s view, it might be possible to make it for 3 yen. So, he found his friend Kisaburo Kawai, who is also a decorator, and began to study this principle together. heWe found some alternative materials, such as replacing ivory with polished tortoise shells, cutting out reeds with ceramics, and using cattle bones as sound plugs. After 63 days of continuous development and experimentation, they finally made the organ.

However, the two were not sure whether the organ could be used, so they carried it to the Music Research Institute in Tokyo and asked the experts to appraise it. As a result, the organ’s pitch was quite inaccurate, very unqualified, and it was just a display.

The two did not feel frustrated, but thought that the matter must be resolved. They studied music at the Music Research Institute for a month, and then repeatedly tested them with a tuning fork. Finally, through unremitting efforts, the tuning was even more accurate than imported organs.

So, in 1889, the two established Yamaha’s organ factory. At that time, after the Meiji Restoration, Japan economically implemented “Shengye Xingye”, advocating a Western lifestyle, and schools also promoting Western music education, and they were buying imported organs one after another. Yamaha’s organs were of very good quality and cheap, so they quickly opened up the market.

In the early days of its founding, Yamaha laid the genes for maintenance: constantly discovering problems, constantly overcoming difficulties, and constantly using technology to seek breakthroughs. These ideas have been affecting Yamaha’s development.

Second, the strategy of large-scale market occupation “overcome difficulties”

We know that if a product wants to open the market quickly, it needs to make some explosions. What kind of method is used? There is a principle called the “80, 80, 10 principle”, which is to meet 80% of the needs of 80% of people, and then have a 10 times better price.

Break through technical bottlenecks

This is logically easy to understand, big demand, and extremely cost-effective, but it is not easy to do it. Because the cost is often restricted by many things, such as materials, processes, time, and output. Only through technological breakthroughs and the elimination of these constraints, can the cost be drastically reduced.

After the end of World War II, Japan ushered in strong economic growth. Japanese people have a keen interest in Western music and longing for it. Being able to be proficient in a musical instrument and having a piano at home has always been a symbol of success, and a manifestation of a high level of education and a global worldview. But at that time, Japanese pianos were mostly imported, and the price of a piano was very expensive.

Genichi Kawakami, the fourth president of Yamaha at the time, wanted to create a piano that everyone can afford.

The structure of a piano is not like an organ. It is very complicated and contains more than 12,000 parts that need to be tightly closed. Whether the tone of the piano is good or not depends on the closeness. From castanets, bass bridges to treble bridges, each part needs to be polished by hand by experienced masters. Hand-made is the only way to fit perfectly. Therefore, the piano produced by Yamaha at that time was also expensive and the price remained high.

Kawakami Genichi, who took office in 1950, took his technical team to the United States to investigate piano companies and visited the world’s very good brands, such as Steinway. Seeing that people already have relatively large-scale hand-made, I feel that I am still in a very primitive age of making piano. After coming back, they began to greatly improve the process and make it large-scale.

Kawakami Genichi is such a person. He constantly seeks challenges and asks more good questions.

For example, what kind of material can make the piano sound better? Normally, when a technician or senior engineer tells an answer, the manager trusts the expert’s opinion, and it passes. But Genichi Kawakami was not such a person, so he kept asking: Are you saying that the material is really that good? Which kind of wood is better from Europe and Southeast Asia? Would it be better to dry these materials for a few days?

Until he asked the other person “I don’t know”, he ordered “Then you go and try.”

So they bought the piano from Steinway and disassembled it, and then constantly tested the soundboard with various elements such as strings, wood, and drying time. Changing again and again, they obtained hundreds of thousands of data, and then made the best combination, which became a unique way for Yamaha to make pianos. This method, to a large extent, surpasses the traditional method of making pianos that can only rely on the experience and feeling of technicians.

In the process of doing it, they also encountered some technical bottlenecks. They found that the biggest constraint for mass production is the drying time of wood, which usually takes 10 to 16 weeks. In order to overcome this technology, they began to develop a technology that can quickly dry wood. After unremitting efforts, in 1956, Yamaha produced the first automatic drying furnace, which can dry the wood needed for 50,000 pianos at a time.

At that time, Yamaha only produced more than 10,000 pianos, so everyone was very opposed to it and felt it was too extravagant and wasteful. But in Kawakami Genichi’s view, this is a very important move: If this technical difficulty is overcome, Yamaha pianos will be manufactured in larger quantities, and then more costs will be reduced, and they will enter thousands of households.

After that, Yamaha continued to transform through automation and computer equipment to increase production. In 1959, it had sales of 6,000 pianos. In 1960, it sold more than 25,000. By 1966, it had sold 100,000 pianos and had become the world’s largest piano manufacturer.

Enhance brand reputation

In addition to the cost-effective products, how can we expand the scale of users? That is to enhance the reputation of the brand.

This is not only to meet the needs of some functions, but to constantly think about the nature of user needs. What is the nature of the user’s musical instrument? When a user buys a musical instrument, he must not just want to own this musical instrument. He wants to play beautiful music through this musical instrument, which means he must master the ability to play music.

So, for such a product, a good way to increase its reputation is to train potential users through education. As a result, Yamaha became a non-profit teaching organization and has been committed to doing such things for decades, which has affected many young people. When many children learn music from an early age, the first musical instrument they come into contact with is Yamaha. In 1980 alone, Yamaha had more than 9,000 music schools in Japan, with more than 600,000 students, and more than one million students worldwide.

In addition to giving users an in-depth influence from an early age, it is also necessary to influence some opinion leaders, through their endorsements, to make better marketing for the brand. Because piano is a serious decision, ordinary people do not particularly understand it, and they need these artists to provide some professional trust.

Yamaha continuously sponsors its pianos to some artists so that they can use them in concerts, and it also sponsors some top universities, the number is very large. Dissemination through the media has affected the minds of the public.

It is this extremely high cost performance, coupled with the reputation of an excellent brand, that makes Yamaha pianos occupy a very large market in the world. In 1987, it produced 200,000 pianos annually, becoming the world’s largest piano manufacturer.

3. The product logic “long-termism” that “grows out”

Through Yamaha’s leap from musical instruments to motorcycles, let’s talk about the underlying logic of its product growth.

A musical instrument company, how could it suddenly jump to making motorcycles? What are the underlying principles and logic behind this?

a line “grows out”

In fact, it is not a complete leap made out of nothing. Motorcycles also grow from the musical instrument line.

I will sort out it for everyone: It was first repaired for imported organs, and then began to make musical instruments. In the process of making musical instruments, I have mastered a lot of knowledge and technology of wood processing. At this time, the Japanese government after the outbreak of World War II needed many companies to process and produce some military supplies. Yamaha was assigned the task of making wooden propellers for fighter jets.

When making wooden propellers, the propellers need to be continuously polished, which requires an engine to do these experiments and tests for them. But this engine is old and bad, notOften affect production. This inspired Yamaha’s maintenance genes. It must get this thing done, so it took out the engine and disassembled it. Then, in the process of constant maintenance of the engine, he mastered the technology of this engine.

They also invited Honda Soichiro-at the time he was the president of Tokai Seiki Heavy Industries, and later the founder of the famous Honda Motor-they came together to study engines and even developed a blade that can cut metal The automatic cutting machine allows the metal processing project that could be completed in one week to be completed in just 15 minutes.

After World War II, Yamaha’s propeller department ceased, and musical instruments were also dragged down by the post-war economy, and the market was sluggish. Genichi Kawakami said that from the perspective of wood, it is difficult to increase the output of musical instruments without limits. They must find some new footholds for the future of this enterprise.

As the Japanese economy continues to recover and the manufacturing industry is on the rise, public transportation at that time could not meet daily demand, and oil was also very limited. Therefore, motorcycles became a very important tool for everyone to travel and transport, and the demand was huge. .

Gen Kawakami thought of such a foothold as soon as he asked whether he could make engines and produce motorcycles?

At that time, more than two hundred companies entered the motorcycle industry. If it is simply to do better and cheaper, it is very difficult to work. How can it be unique in the fierce market competition? The most important thing is to go back to the company itself, find its core competence, and create a differentiated product through this core competence.

So, the young technicians of Yamaha thought at that time: We should pursue design and create our own imaginary motorcycle with our own hands.

So, their innovative concept is to perfectly integrate design and performance. In February 1955, the first motorcycle 125YA-1, which was developed in only 8 months, was completed. The appearance is very smart and beautiful, with unique shapes, novel colors, and extremely sporty.

Moreover, they have also made great improvements in technology, turning the previous three-speed gearing into a four-speed gearing, so that riding will be more comfortable. They also recruited artists from the musical instrument department to debug the sound of the engine. Every motorcycle is made by hand, and the exquisite craftsmanship is extremely artistic. Because the popular motorcycles on the market at that time were mainly “silly, big and crude” black, the Yamaha motorcycles received great attention once they were launched.

However, the cost of this motorcycle is very high, and the price is very expensive. How can users accept it? Yamaha proved its high quality through races. YA-1 participated in the largest Fuji mountain bike race in Japan, and won the first appearance. In the same year, he took part in the first Asama Plateau Race and won the top three. The evaluation and popularity of Yamaha YA-1 have soared rapidly, and many distributors have joined their team to expand the market.

By continuously participating in the competition, it has formed a very unique technological accumulation in terms of braking, balance, heat dissipation, etc., so these accumulations are used for mass production products. Therefore, Yamaha motorcycles are very high in appearance, performance and quality.

In the spirit of quality first and perfect after-sales service, Yamaha’s image is rooted in everyone’s minds.

Long-term beliefs

Then, Let’s dig a little further, what is the underlying logic that it has grown out of? In fact, it is based on a long-term belief, and then continuously produce innovative products through the accumulation of technology, and through the long-term influence on the value proposition of consumers, let the products continue to emerge.

Why talk about long-termism? This is very important, because you have to invest a lot of energy, time, and resources in overcoming a technical difficulty. If you don’t have a long-term mindset, you don’t want to take this matter into the long-term. In fact, you would not do it. Thing.

Long-termism is a pattern for an enterprise to help the enterprise reject the narrow zero-sum game, continue to innovate, create value, and reshape the dynamic moat of the enterprise. This is a description by Zhang Lei in the book Value, and I very much agree with this view.

Yamaha is following the long-term doctrine. On the one hand, it constantly explores the needs of users, and on the other hand, it continues to explore the value of products.

I use a picture to show you clearly:

If you want to make A product, do it very well and exceed user expectations. In this process, you may encounter some technical limitations and bottlenecks. Then go to research and develop and overcome these difficulties. Once these difficulties are overcome, the technology itself can produce new products. These products and the original products form complementary products, forming an innovative product matrix.

For example, when Yamaha is going to be a musical instrument or an electronic musical instrument, it is necessary to conquer some electronic signal equipment, as well as routers and other network equipment. When these are created, it has a network division, and then it can create some synthetic software. On the basis of some music synthesis software, finally created that very profitable virtual idol Hatsune Miku.

For example, after making a motorcycle, you can also make a “motorcycle” on the water. This is a speedboat. So when I was working on a speedboat, I discovered that the speed of the speedboat is not only the function of the engine, but also the influence of FRP, so we began to conquer the technology of FRP. When developing and conquering FRP, it mastered the technology of manufacturing FRP. Then it’s going to be a swimming pool, because it is essentially this kind of FRP technology. Then do slides, and then start to do resorts and golf.

Some employees pointed out that swimming pools are actually the same as family bathtubs, so they started producing bathtubs again. Moreover, the sound is combined to produce a bathtub with sound. Just like this, it was overwhelming, and it grew out step by step.

With so much investment in technology research and development, will it be costly and uneconomical? In fact, if you look at it from the perspective of long-termism, it is easy to understand, because this organization continuously solves problems and gains new knowledge through production and research and development. It continuously improves and improves efficiency, so that when the next task or production unit is completed, the production time can be quickly reduced. This law is the technical learning curve.

Look at Yamaha to make drones. If it’s independent research and development, is the research and development cost very high? But many of Yamaha’s technologies have accumulated, so when it comes to making drones, the cost is much lower than other companies. It began to study propellers during World War II and was a master in various aspects such as flight control systems.

We have seen such a growth flywheel: To create better products, it will be subject to some technical limitations; when these technical limitations are broken, more innovative products can be created to meet more needs, so Can create better products.

So Einstein said: “The strongest force in the world is not the atomic bomb, but compound interest plus time.” With the accumulation of such technology, as time goes by, the efficiency of such compound interest will increase. It’s getting more and more obvious.

If we look at the product map of Yamaha, it looks very messy at first glance, and it has everything. But after sorting it out, it will be very clear.

Looking at the two curves again, in fact, a product matrix that appears to be very messy is actually very clear. There are a few lines in total: one line for musical instruments, which continuously grows more products; from the musical instrument side The engine grew, and then other products grew.

Fourth, respond to the advent of the era of creativity “co-creation awareness”

Finally, let’s talk about the future.

What are the problems encountered in this era? It is knowledge work. Whether you work hard is difficult to measure through intuitive observation. Therefore, the corresponding management focus should also shift from measurement results to incentives, so that this kinetic energy can continuously form a match, and then continue to inspire everyone to create greater value.

Yamaha puts forward the value proposition of “co-creation and moving”, which is essentially empowering creators, allowing them to create better things, so that everyone is a creator and can create a better Works come. Then the co-creation carried out can continuously empower creativity, forming such a cycle. It allows the value proposition of co-creation and moving to be continued.

So, from exquisite craftsmanship products, to the ultimate experience service, and finally form a long-term spirit and belief. The value of the entire product is constantly being enlarged, and the life cycle of the user’s product is also constantly being extended.

In this era of creativity revolution, creativity is the scarcest factor of production, and it is also the biggest change that organizations need to achieve.

Old Mr. Ren Zhengfei once said: “The law of history is death, and our responsibility is to prolong life.” Traditional management is like a limited game, defeating competitors for the purpose of profit, building a moat, and dust. After settled, repeat this known routine continuously. The essence of the survival of an enterprise is an infinite game. The goal is not to defeat the opponent, but to constantly adapt to changes and continue to live.

So, we need to have a co-creation with usersConsciousness. Perhaps this is how to create long-term value by continuously co-creating with users, constantly growing hair, and constantly letting these innovative products grow.

This article is from WeChat official account:Chaos University (ID: hundun-university), author: Shen climbing, support: bell beans, Tan Ying