The Washington Post interviewed the author of “Driving Honda” a new book that examines what it calls “the world’s most innovative car company.” Not too many companies get entire books written about them, and those that do are typically dead, dying, or deader than dead, i.e. not positive. The Post’s interview highlighted a number of interesting points about our parent company, which we wanted to highlight.
“In the ’50s, when he was still just making motorcycles, he had gone to a temple, and looking at the statue of the Buddha, he saw that the line from the eyebrow to the bridge of the nose was beautiful — one he said does not exist anyplace else. And so he designed the fuel tank for his motorcycle to have that line.”
The “he” was late founder and CEO Soichiro Honda. Our first reaction was that it takes an unusual person to see something beautiful and apply it in a functional way. But then we realized that we all have eyes. We all beauty on a daily basis, and we all have functions to perform.
It’s our position that everyone is capable of making a fuel tank that does more than hold liquid, not leak and not explode. Certainly as a CEO, those are your chief concerns. But you don’t become one of the world’s most innovative companies by being typical. Dare yourself to raise the bar higher and use beauty in what you do, like Soichiro.
“He made him go around and apologize to everyone in the company one after another, holding the burnt piston.”
The story of the piston engineer is too long for us to post, but we love it. Suffice to say that when Soichiro was displeased with your work, he let you know. Not only that, but he made sure that everyone you worked with knew. This is a confrontational strategy that gambles with your relationships. However, it also had the effect of prompting people to become better than they ever would have on their own. Harsh? Maybe. But it’s called a “comfort zone” for a reason; people rarely leave them willingly.
“Just give me the positive reasons. The negative are so overwhelming.”
Every decision has risks that have to be worked through for success to be possible. And once you begin an action, chances are that even more unforeseen problems will pop up. Those negatives can be lethal to good ideas, however, and should not be allowed to roam free. This CEO had the instincts to shut out the fears and clearly evaluate the upsides.
“A robot will never tell you, ‘Hey, I could do this better.’”
This applies equally to people as well as literal robots. You have to challenge yourself and others around you to constantly be doing better.