Once an innovator worlds beyond its rivals in the technology field, Sony has fallen on some tough times recently dealing with financial issues and keeping up with other companies which have supplanted it as the world’s premiere innovators, like Apple and Samsung.
In recent years, the Japanese giant seems content riding in the wake of these companies’ success by making similarly styled smartphones or televisions, or it is playing it safe with its iconic products. For example. the PlayStation 4 was designed to run more like a standard PC, built to adhere to video game trends, not make new ones like the first PlayStation did.
Could Sony be just out of ideas, or is it biding time until it can come up with the next great product that will define an entire generation of technological advances?
Japanese business magazine Nikkei has explored a secret division within Sony dedicated to innovating and finding the “next Walkman or PlayStation.” Director Shinji Odajima takes ideas from employees at the company, and his team puts them to the test behind closed walls. So far, over 800 applications have been received.
“There are still plenty of employees in Sony looking for a challenge,” he says in the interview, translated by Engadget. “Renewal is supremely important for Sony.”
Odajima’s department holds auditions for employees once every three months to sell them on their ideas and possibly make a product out of it. He believes there are great ideas throughout the workforce at Sony, but it is impossible for them to get noticed due to an overwhelming bureaucracy. “We want to start something new; we just don’t know how,” and, “Who can I present my new ideas to?” were comments he often heard from his 200 employees.
Nikkei blames missing out on flat screen TVs and letting Apple beat them to portable digital music players on “an innovation dilemma” after a string of too many successful hits. Now with Virtual Reality seeming like the next step, Sony’s Project Morpheus finds itself in a footrace with Facebook and the Oculus Rift to see who can make the bigger impact earlier.
Are Sony’s best days behind it, or will Odajima’s division find something that will put both it and Japan back at the forefront of the infinite world of innovation?