The Poetry of Japanese Consumer Electronics

High-profile executive keynote speeches contain a “Big Idea.” A lot goes into coming up with the Big Idea. It starts with a thorough analysis of: 1) the audience, and 2) the ultimate argument you want to make. Take this example from a speech that an American technology executive gave to the Japanese Consumer Electronics industry in Tokyo a few years back.

Traditionally, the major Japanese CE players invested heavily in their own technologies, eschewing the encroachment of standardized ways of doing things (think about the classic business school case study of Sony and Betamax versus VHS). The computer industry spent several years telling CE players they needed to embrace standards used by the computer industry. The conversation had gotten a bit tiresome on both sides of the Pacific. Yet, the Internet was encroaching on the traditional CE space and something had to give.

This particular executive was on a campaign to re-start the conversation between industries and shed the “do it my way” baggage of the past. This speech was the opening of an executive initiative to do just that. We wanted to make a cultural connection, grounding an otherwise technical discussion in something other than technology.

We found the answer – the Big Idea – in Japanese poetry. We built the speech around the poetic form of Renga, a collaborative form of poetry writing that allows for creativity within a standardized structure of stanzas (you might think of a long haiku written by many people). This particular form of Japanese culture had spawned a global following in the Internet age, with Renga poetry being written by trans-continental collaborators.

The speech made the argument that standards would unleash Japanese creativity into a world connected via the Internet. It worked with Renga. It will work elsewhere as well.

Fast-forward to today, and smart TVs running Internet software are available from Sony and other major players.