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Evolve, dominate or die

Organisational theorist, business educator and author Eddie Obeng comments on innovation, Brother’s 110-year-heritage and its future, after guest speaking at an exclusive European partner event organised by the print and technology specialist.

Ask yourself a simple question, when you’re buying a drill, are you buying the drill or are you buying the hole?
The reality of today’s customer is that they’re less interested in the product and more interested in what the product can do for them. It’s really about a good, neat hole, not the drill body or the drill bit. So yes, today’s customer wants gadgets and devices that can do the job at hand and do it well but they want their machines to do more – be more.
If a device can do more than one thing, two things, three things, four – then so far so better. And we find ourselves firmly rooted in an MFC ‘multifunction culture’ as a result. Now that’s good news for a business like Brother. They’ve been bringing multifunction printing devices to market for more than 20 years, with both inkjet and laser technologies.
But the marketplace and competition is changing. And if you’re just selling drills with a transactional approach, and not thinking about how you can continue to satisfy your customers moving forward, not thinking how you can be more and do more for them, then big tricks are being missed. Competitors could steal your market share if you don’t look to make a contractual bond with your customers.
Listening is, therefore, king. Especially for OEMs like Brother and its engineers in Japan. It’s their R&D that’s creating the products of the future, today. They need to hear the wild, wonderful and future-gazing features customers are demanding, or simply dreaming of, to be able to innovate in the right direction. 
But Brother’s no stranger to innovation. It’s brought hairdryers, microwaves and sewing machines to market over the years alongside typewriters, print devices and labelling machines. It’s a brand that’s not afraid to think outside the box. Its most recent innovations include a laser marker device that burns an image on to plastic and metal, and a clean energy hydrogen fuel cell. 
Combine Brother’s ‘At your side’ promise with pioneering Japanese R&D and you can see a company that has embraced its past, and over a century of innovation, to create the future.
What will printing look like in the future? The concept of creating something with a look, a tangible feel and message will always be there but the medium we are printing on will, I believe, change. Will it be flat? Will it be flexible? It will be exciting to see just how we document in the future. 
It’s the businesses that only notice what they’re looking for that don’t ‘see’ the path to innovate. Businesses that don’t have time to see what’s new, simply won’t evolve, they won’t dominate – sadly it’s likely those business will fall by the wayside and die. 
Thinking again about the drill - would the demanding customer of the future be looking for a silent drill, the ability to make holes without noise? What’s my motto? Look to the customer who asks you to do impossible things, because that’s where the future lies. 

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