Good manufacturers make products. Great ones create their own products with the kind of impression that stays in customers’ heads and hearts.
Zhejiang, China -- (ReleaseWire) -- 11/21/2019 -- Rarely do manufacturers know whether they make long-lasting impressions on their customers. Most would boast their prices and qualities, squeezing the margins of cost without losing the qualities. However, it's not enough for today's manufacturing industry. Many distributors and retailers are focusing on private-label products to which they can find identities and appeal beyond price.
Even though innovative cultures are desirable by most leaders who claim to understand the value contained in them, they are uneasy to achieve and sustain. This is confusing. How can practices obviously so universally preferred-even fun-be so tough to implement?
"Because most would get innovative cultures in a wrong way," says Michael Yao, president and found of Everich which is one of the biggest water bottle suppliers in China. "The easy to like behaviors which most go after are just one side of the coin. It takes tougher and even more monotonous behaviors to reach them." When the bottle company decided to set up its own R&D team, it's on the road not taken. Most manufacturing companies emphases on productivity—produce mass products with the lowest cost. However, Yao knew at that time innovation and design are the core value for the future of this company. "Innovation means we have to explore the uncertainty and the unknown, it's like a bet" Yao said. It has over 30 R & D team members, most of whom are from Europe with the capability of designing over 200 items and 60 fresh items each year. However, failure is the norm especially for the innovative cultures, like what has been shared by Google Glass, Apple's MobileMe and the Amazon Fire Phone.
Yao says he doesn't mind failure, but not the incompetence. Having recruited the best talent Everich can find, the company sets particularly high standards for their team with much tolerance for failure but intolerance for mediocre skills, lousy attitude, and sloppy thinking. In Everich, people who cannot meet their expectations are either let go or transferred into departments that better fit their abilities. This is what happened to Apple when Steve Jobs fired those who were considered not up to their tasks. Pixar movie directors would be replaced if they failed to keep projects on track. Employees at Amazon face a forced curve in which the bottom ones would be culled. For these innovative cultures, what tolerant is failure and what intolerant is incompetence.
It is not easy for managers to remove "incompetent" people. Keeping them may be compassionate, but it's detrimental to the development of any company. Many do not understand such brutal behavior as they consider the company as family and firing someone in the family is not something managers are comfortable with. The truth is to accept incompetence means to have really competent people. "We don't like subpar performance in our R&D, but we do accept productive failures"
Yao said if the company can yield valuable experience from failures, it is worthy. One needs to fail in order to discover the path forward. So it's hard to maintain a healthy balance between informative failure and rooting out incompetence. The New York Times once reported such difficulty happened to Amazon whose former and current employees were interviewed to comment on Amazon. The result turned out that most labeled Amazon as "bruising" and there was always the extremely and highly pressured performance in their work, even someone ended up crying at the desks.
Besides the strict disciplines and rules on the performance, Everich also has an atmosphere that is psychologically safe, meaning their employees can freely utter their opinions and openly discuss their ideas about problems without the worry of reprisal. As such, team members are truly engaged in the discussion and innovation and ideas are evaluated and improved. "If everyone is afraid of criticizing and challenging others' opinion, daring not debate the ideas of others, the door for innovation is shut down," Yao said. Being candid and honest in the company is significant, but this is a two-way street. Criticism can be sharp and not everyone can accept being confronted about the ideas, especially when one's position is higher than the one who gives critiques. The secret to achieve this, according to Yao, is to set leaders themselves as examples to demonstrate it is possible to express their disagreement.
"We aim to get the best result."
It is extremely hard to lead the journey of creating and maintaining an innovative culture.
China has the largest labor market awash with tons of industries specializing in manufacturing. Traditionally, manufacturers spare efforts to boost the local workforce and productivity without thinking too much about creation and design. Unlike other bottle manufacturers, Everich knew how to think and do out of the box. After years of accumulation, Everich has output of more than 200 creative designs each year and many of which are used by customers and sold exclusively. Now it is one of the biggest bottle manufacturers in China that works with Starbucks and Wal-mart, Target, etc. With fully automated continuous product lines and unique design, the stainless steel water bottles manufactured by Everich won the certificate of FDA and LFGB, Sedex and passed the audit of first-class brand customers. Looking at the achievements Everich has made, Yao said it is not an easy step, but he believes he and his company will carry on.
"The road is still long, and we will search up and down,"
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