But the aspect of Oishi that caught the attention of Nico’s staff was its customer-centric strategy. The company’s executives and staff are directed to pay attention to customer conversations, as well as requests, commentary, and suggestions. They also conduct internal studies and visits by mystery shoppers. Such perspiring led Oishi to boost its revenue by offering customers a greater variety of options at its buffets and to successfully market the restaurant’s green tea for home use. Nico’s team, in turn, drew valuable insights from Oishi’s success. They hung out at Oishi buffets, observed beverage choices, and listened to what customers had to say about their drinks. Based on what they heard and saw, Nico’s team decided to reposition a line of sports drinks to focus on its health benefits — with excellent results.
For the Oishi Group and for Nico’s team, who learned from Oishi’s example, innovation came through careful and systematic observation of customer needs and reactions. It came through trial and error and through a willingness to thoroughly explore a wide variety of possibilities. In short, it came through a lot of perspiration that ultimately made inspiration “no sweat.”
Karen Otazo (www.global-leadership-network.com/Ask-Dr-Karen.htm) is an author and management consultant concentrating on Fortune 50 executive clients. This article is adapted from The Truth About Being a Leader…and Nothing But the Truth (FT Pearsons/Prentice Hall, 2006).