As CEO of LIXIL Group Corporation, Kinya Seto T’96 has a clear vision of how he wants to steer the company’s innovations over the next decade.
First, he wants the Japanese manufacturer of water and housing products to become a global leader in the field. Second, he wants to transform the way the industry views water efficiency. And finally, Seto intends to take a digital approach to the company and their leap into the future.
Accomplishing these goals is no small feat, so when he was ready to get his senior leadership team on board with this transformation agenda, he knew exactly who could help: Vijay “VG” Govindarajan, the Coxe Distinguished Professor of Management at Tuck, and Seto’s former professor. “Ever since I was a student at Tuck 25 years ago, VG’s lessons on strategy have inspired and guided my thinking. VG is an inspiration and the best teacher I know on innovation,” says Seto. “At LIXIL we have made significant progress in simplifying and transforming our business. The time is now right to place greater emphasis on innovation across the organization, and on building this in a sustainable manner. I wanted our leadership team to have the same opportunity to be inspired by and learn from VG as I did.”
I am of the opinion that innovation and transformation cannot be done entirely from the top. You need to get a whole lot of people engaged in thinking about this.
The two began collaborating with Tuck Executive Education and LIXIL’s learning and development team to create a custom program for senior leadership based around Govindarajan’s three-box solution for strategic innovation. This renowned process provides individuals and organizations with a framework for transformation and innovation, allowing participants to create the future by making changes today.
By bringing together senior leaders from across LIXIL, Govindarajan was able to give the corporation a common language around innovation. “I am of the opinion that innovation and transformation cannot be done entirely from the top,” says Govindarajan. “You need to get a whole lot of people engaged in thinking about this. So for this program, we did an intervention with the very top leadership, which is Kinya and about 20 of his direct reports, but then we followed it up with sessions for a large group of very high potential executives across the company.”
The virtual custom program was truly a global experience, with participants spread out across the world and a real-time translation system for participants whose first language is Japanese. Unburdened by the need for travel, participants were able to connect with each other and with Govindarajan over several weeks, giving them time to get to know each other, think through their projects together as a team, and consider concepts learned in sessions more fully than if the program had been run in person over a few consecutive days.
“One of LIXL’s advantages is our incredible diversity,” says participant Seneca Lutchmana, leader of LIXIL Africa. “Working with colleagues from different functions and markets around the world, it was eye-opening to see how we arrived at potential future business ideas through this program.” Lutchmana’s deliverable from the program was focused on water efficiency and hygiene. “Water is one of the world’s most precious resources, and as a maker of pioneering water and housing products, our team looked at potential new applications in hygiene from a variety of new angles that could redefine how we live,” she says. “Especially today, in a world where the COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating many ongoing social and economic changes, the need to uncover future innovations has become more pressing and we are excited to be there to make a difference.”
Water is one of the world’s most precious resources, and as a maker of pioneering water and housing products, our team looked at potential new applications in hygiene from a variety of new angles that could redefine how we live.
Another participant, Andy Yutaka Ando, general manager of LIXIL Water Technologies Japan and a leader of the synergy creation office at LIXIL Corporation, had a similarly positive experience with the group projects and presentations. “I saw many great ideas from other participants, got to know colleagues in other regions, and learned how investors would evaluate ideas based on feedback by panelists,” he says. “I really enjoyed discussing Box Three ideas with leaders from the different businesses at LIXIL. We came up with a new business idea related to digital technology thanks to everyone's different perspectives. We would not have been able to produce this outcome without the three-box solution since it required us to forget dominant logic and adopt a bold goal.”
Looking to the future, Seto feels confident the program has helped LIXIL prepare for the future, and is currently working on ways to expand the program to other leaders in the company. “The program has truly reinforced the ability of our people to come up with innovative and potentially game-changing business ideas in a short space of time, if we apply the right approach," he says. “I would recommend Tuck’s custom programs to any executive. It was a well-structured, informative, and collaborative experience—the type of external stimulus that helps spur an internal change in mindset.”