2. Adapt and change. It is not enough to see the cliff-the opportunities. We must turn. We all know that what gets measured gets done. Thus starting next year, Mitsubishi Electric will track not only quarterly profits but also our facilities’ level of polluting emissions and how efficiently they use resources. We will also create incentives that reward people when they take steps to reduce damage to the environment. Such rewards might go, for example, to those at the company who develop a television picture tube that does not contain lead and that therefore can be disposed of in a landfill without poisoning the earth.
3. Fit a niche. In the rainforest, conformity causes extinction. If two organisms have the same niche, only one survives. The other either adapts or dies. It is the same in many high-tech businesses. If two companies make exactly the same leading-edge product, only one survives. But in the rainforest, there are many winners. The same can be true in our economy. The question is not who is most fit, but where we best fit. If we fit-solve a social problem, fulfill a social need-we will survive and excel.
But what are most companies doing today? They are downsizing radically, desperately seeking the lowest cost. It is smarter to differentiate-to create distinctive products and fill unique niches. Mitsubishi learned this the hard way. We found we could not compete by always selling the cheapest TVs, stereos, and appliances. Rather than kill or be killed by our competitors, we must sidestep them by creating unique products that appeal to particular consumers.
4. Cooperate. The rainforest’s vitality and diversity stem from the fact that all the organisms together create a more efficient whole. Today, as companies grow different, we need each other to fill our gaps. Mitsubishi, for example, no longer expands simply by buying companies as subsidiaries. We profit more from cooperative joint ventures in which our partners retain their independence, specialty, and core competence. In one example of such a venture, Mitsubishi is working with an independent appliance dealer in Wisconsin to create a new company, Air Tech, to market a passive air exchanger and cooler that both lowers energy costs and helps prevent “sick building” syndrome. The product grew from collaboration between Mitsubishi Electric, which knew the technologies, and the dealer, who grasped the potential market for such a system among architects and builders. These cooperative relationships are now as vital to our future as are our products.
In Japan, we have two terms that help us understand why: omote and ura. Omote is the surface or front of an object-the external reality. Ura is the underlying reality. As business people, we have been looking at the rainforest all wrong. What is valuable about the rainforest is not omote-the trees, which we can take out. The real value of the forest lies in its ura-the design and the relationships among species. And the highest mission of business is to help fully develop the human ecosystem, sustainably like the rainforest, in all our diversity and complexity.