Yuichi Ishizuka began his Canon career in 1981 with the Camera Division and has since served in a variety of roles, most recently as President & COO of Canon USA. He’s spent 33 years of his career in North America which has given him a unique perspective on the importance of Canon’s international business and global footprint. Four months ago, he moved to London where he now serves as President and CEO for Canon in EMEA.
Most people are familiar with the Canon brand: it is a global provider of digital imaging technologies for consumers, businesses and industry with almost 200,000 employees across the globe. Innovation is always at the top of its agenda, investing approximately 7% of revenues annually in R&D, consistently make the top three in US registered patents and has a global ‘always on’ R&D network.
We at CEO Today were delighted to speak with Mr. Ishizuka about his work and experience, Canon’s history, and what’s in sight for the future.
Tell us about the goals and objectives that you’re arriving with as the new President and CEO of Canon EMEA? What excites you about your new role?
As one of three global regions for Canon, our contribution in EMEA is critical in ensuring the overall success of our organisation. Regardless of leadership style, most people understand that goals and objectives must lead towards growth with profit. My overall objective is to make sure we do that whilst staying agile and adapting to changing market trends and dynamics both in our core and new growth areas.
I often talk about my personal philosophy. These are a set of words that summarise lessons I have learned throughout my career and shape me as the person I am today. I think they accurately describe who I am. They are: respect, fairness, be effective & efficient, customer orientated, and teamwork. Regardless of what part of the world you live in and what culture you come from, in my experience if you keep these things front of mind, you’ll be heading in the right direction.
What was the process of transitioning from your role as a President and COO for Canon USA to your new role like? What were some of the challenges that you were faced with?
Whenever I heard stories about Canon in EMEA, I drew my own conclusions about how business was conducted and on how it differed from my business in the United States. The reality is – what has really stood out for me – has been the real passion for the company; most people I meet genuinely care about Canon and the state of the business, and want to contribute to that. Getting up to speed with the diverse markets, cultures and management styles across Europe, Middle East and Africa is an obvious challenge however it’s also an opportunity to find the commonalities and best practices that exist with our businesses in other regions around the world.
There are many leadership styles, good and bad. I keep it simple; stick to your beliefs and principles and just ‘be yourself’. Have a vision and a passion and then do things your own way, because if you don’t, you will not be authentic and without that, you can’t gain trust.
What are your tips for a smooth and effective CEO transition?
Very straightforward in some ways. There are many people in Canon EMEA (approx. 17,000), and many of those have been with the company for a long time. I’ve spent most of my career in Canon USA, but I am still hungry to learn new things; so, whilst I can bring innovative ideas and best practices from other parts of the world, I can also learn from my colleagues who have always worked in Europe and I’m excited to get to know and understand the region. Listening to and trusting your team is a good place to start.
I would also add that leadership transitions present a good opportunity to question things. New leaders have a short but unique opportunity to ask ‘Why?’ Why are we doing things in a certain way? Just because we’ve always done things one way, doesn’t mean that we should continue to do them the same way if they are not effective. New leaders should question everything.
Finally, some things make for an easy transition; our global business is built on a specific philosophy – that what is good for society is also good for business. That philosophy is Kyosei, which means living and working together for the common good and is a deeply held belief at the heart of everything we do. In my experience, a strong and consistent global culture helps with many things, including leadership transitions.
Canon celebrated its 60th anniversary of operations last year – can you reveal some of the company’s long-term objectives and the future?
That’s correct, we celebrated our 60th anniversary in Europe last year. We’ve been around just over 80 years in total. Our first president Takeshi Mitarai was a doctor whose primary motivation was to find a solution to help diagnose TB – the biggest killer of Japanese in the 1930s. In 1940 we developed a camera (x-ray) expressly for this purpose, and with that our company was born. As with any other technology-based company, we always have an eye on the present and one on the future. Our expertise is around imaging, we have a rich history that is leading the world in imaging technologies. With current industry trends, you don’t have to have a crystal ball to see that we live in a word where imaging is omnipresent in almost everything; helping to push boundaries and find solutions in everything from the medical field to the automotive industry. As such, we are excited about the future.
Aside from cameras, what do the next 12 months hold for Canon’s newer businesses?
I think it must be around the vision we are setting out for the future. We are a company well known for our core businesses; cameras, copiers, etc., and for many years we have been very successful in leading the field in many of these areas. We must continue to innovate in those areas whilst at the same time rethinking our overall business portfolio. So, our vision for growth and our global strategic plan takes us into new growth areas where we already have expertise such as Network Video Systems and Healthcare.
With networked cameras for example, the number of potential applications is enormous. Utilising a network of high-resolution cameras backed up by state-of-the-art image processing, facial recognition software and other analytics is a game changer in areas such as retail, factories and warehouses. This type of technology has the potential to massively improve productivity.
We are also a major player in the semiconductor business which supplies for instance OLED panels for smart phones, tv screens etc. That’s an industry at the sharp end of innovation and we’ve only just to begun to imagine the possibilities there.
This has been the biggest change at Canon over the past several years and will continue to be so, well into the future; we must keep innovating if we want to continue to be successful.
What excites you most about the future of technology?
It is the uncertainty of what is around the corner which excites me most. Technology advances so rapidly and the disruptive developments we’ve recently witnessed in automation, AI and smart city technology pave the way to a new future which can help solve many of the world’s major challenges. Canon has always been an innovator and we think we have a key role to play.
Another important point is our responsibility as a global organisation to contribute towards developing a sustainable future for our customers and the society in which we live. For us, that is all about equipping people and businesses with the ability to use our products and services to spark positive social change, whilst at the same time minimising our impact on the environment through our operations and helping our customers to do the same. On a broader scale, it’s also about working collaboratively to pioneer transformational approaches to some of the biggest social and environmental challenges we face. In simple terms, it’s our Kyosei philosophy being realised and that makes me proud to be part of Canon.