What’s the secret of great entrepreneurship? Hard work, obviously. Brains, leadership, brilliant ideas and the ability to inspire are all essential ingredients, too. Oh, and a little bit of luck comes in handy.
From where I sit though, there’s something else: dialogue. The reason why Philips has become one of the world’s most dynamic, agile and entrepreneurial companies is because we listen, engage and learn.
It’s what we call Deep Customer Insight (DCI) and it’s why food mixers in Russia come with a unique attachment that dices and cubes vegetables with utter precision in a fraction of the time usually needed for their salads. That kitchen skill is unique in Russian culture so we adapted our product to suit them. It’s also why the same kitchen gadget that makes soup in France will extract milk from soy beans in China, why a different cutting approach for men’s shavers is used in Africa than in Western Europe – because it suits an African’s skin better and reduces irritation.
However, our work in this area expands far beyond products. For example, one recent Philips project is helping transform healthcare in Southern Denmark, where the government is spending five billion euros on building 16 new hospitals.
We brought together government, industry and healthcare providers in a wholly unique way at the Hospital+Innovation Congress. As facilitators of the two-day event, which was also attended by the Princess of Denmark and Minister of Health, we helped foster a powerful exchange of ideas, practises, innovations and feedback between the public and private sectors; conversation that will benefit generations to come.
That ability to understand the customer is as vital as our ability to create technological advances designed to protect the environment and make us live longer. What is the point of technology if no one requires it in the first place?
So the Philips entrepreneurial spirit begins by asking what you – consumer, business or government - want. We take a global platform and then try to localise it through DCI. Like many other Philips executives, I travel the world asking our 155 markets how we can ensure Philips innovations are meaningful to them.
True, meaningful innovation requires a deep understanding of how the ecosystem within which a product or service is consumed is evolving, so creative partnerships are essential.
Next year is the 200th anniversary of the Kingdom of Holland and for 100 of those years Philips has been at the forefront of technological research, always innovating, understanding trends and localising our initiatives.
To be a great entrepreneur, you need to be a great listener. That’s one of the things we’ve learnt from the past century and it underpins our concept of Deep Customer Insight. Every country is different, every customer is different, every consumer has different wishes, needs, desires and requirements.
We’ve always known that the company that has global presence and local relevance will be the most successful. Our innovations are the proof.
Ronald de Jong joined Philips in 1990. He held a number of positions in Supply and Service Operations and Supply Chain Management before becoming Managing Director and Member of the Board of Philips GmbH in Hamburg in 2004.
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