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Importance of followers

My #article was published on 日本経済新聞(日経新聞)Business Daily today.

This time I wrote about the importance of #followership in the #innovation and new business development activities of large companies.

Many large companies emphasize on developing “#leaders” and HR provides many training programs to develop leadership skills.

But when we interviewed 20 large companies Innovation leaders, they said their projects gets stuck halfway through, due to lack of #cooperation from their colleagues in other departments and they are struggling to make their projects successful with the limited budget, resources and support from the company.

I notice this issue a lot in the open innovation and #SDGs projects, as the innovation or SDGs teams activities are seen as “it’s their job and has nothing to do with us” from the other departments.

Unfortunately only a few leaders can’t make a difference without the support of the “followers”.

Innovation and SDGs are long term projects that need to run #sustainably by involving many players with diverse skills (within the company and from outside) and need to engage whole company’s employees and resources.

You can read the details in the article and our solutions in the comments section (pls use google translate for English)

Also, please feel free to share it with the people who might be interested in the topic.


In recent years, many major companies have set up innovation and new business divisions to take on the challenge of new initiatives. However, even the definition of innovation differs from one company to the next, and the implementation of unprecedented initiatives is always a difficult task for leaders, as they are unable to decide on policies and actions, and even more so, they face many obstacles before they can gain the cooperation of existing business units.

While senior management demands results, they are "unable to fully involve other members and other business units" and are "fighting a lonely battle". In the last three months, we have interviewed leaders of more than 20 such business units, and we would like to suggest the importance of followers as a possible solution to many of the situations we have identified.

In general, starting something new is a negative situation for pioneers, with a majority of indifference and some resistance. What gives strength to the pioneer is the simple support and comments from followers, such as "likes", as they are also found on social networking sites. It's a small endorsement that says, "I'm always watching and interested." From there, the first person to take action together emerges, more supporters are added, the pioneer can continue with his challenge, and a movement is born.

This phenomenon is also frequent when companies engage in innovation. Usually, the leaders of innovation business units do not have a clear solution for innovation and are in a state of trial and error. Nevertheless, they try to formulate strategies and take up the challenge. The leader is anxious and makes decisions on the direction to take while looking at the results from the ideas and actions of the members, but the existing departments say that they do not know what they are doing because of the trial-and-error and decision-making process in the absence of a correct answer.

A key factor influencing innovation in a company is how well people from departments other than the innovation division can become followers. This can be hinted at by the examples of 3M (3M) in the US, which continues to grow by creating new products one after another, and Rohto Pharmaceuticals, which has expanded its business from pharmaceuticals to cosmetics and is now expanding globally.

What they all have in common is that they are encouraging innovation throughout the company by creating new discoveries from within the company, by creating horizontal and diagonal skewers between departments, stimulating communication, and gaining insights from members in different positions and positions.

Even if other departments within the company do not act directly with the innovation division, they can become followers and give their support and opinions, allowing leaders to solidify the basis for their decisions even when there is no right answer. Since other departments are involved from the start, the challenges of not being able to involve other departments and fighting in isolation are also easier to solve.

When companies set up innovation divisions, innovation does not happen easily. However, other departments should be interested in the teams and members who are trying to take new action, and create a mechanism for them to cooperate to the extent that they can. If everyone can cooperate as a follower, no matter what their position, this will be a great help to team leaders and members who are trying to start a new initiative with no right answer, and will be a key factor in making innovation a success.


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