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Incorporating International Ideation

Eric Fletcher, Vice President of Marketing at Ricoh Canada
Michael Hemsworth
November 24th, 2013
In the constantly shifting imaging and information management world, Ricoh’s Vice President of Marketing Eric Fletcher needs to keep up with a number of different demands in order to help facilitate the innovation process at the international imaging and electronics brand. Fletcher brings with him an impressive 20-year roster of experience to the Ricoh team that includes time with telecommunication companies and beyond. Using the brand’s international reach to start conversations on a global level with various sectors of the company, Ricoh is leading the way with an innovative mindset that’s prepped for a competitive future.

7 Questions with Eric Fletcher

How does your team generate new ideas?

We have really two separate ways of doing that; one is through our customer facing innovation process. We’ll talk about the new innovations and solutions to gain a better understanding of how we can deliver something new. Another is our internal process that consists of brainstorming in both the team and individual environment. ‘Ricoh Around the World’ is an international network of the brand that allows us to reach out to certain groups and vet ideas that we’ve got on our radar. It’s a great tool to learn from as well as offer other parts of the company another opinion that they might not have otherwise.

Do you have specific rituals for re-setting your team to be creative?

Not necessarily something that we have formalized. We’ll reach out to outside organizations to see if there are any that we can work with. It’s not necessarily about resetting our team to be creative, but rather looking outside to people who are doing this day in and day out, and seeing how we can learn from them. Whether it’s a keynote address or a team-building exercise, we’re always looking for creative ways to inspire everyone to be the best they can be.

How do you identify trends? What resources does your team use to spot trends and consumer insights?

It’s something of an anomaly, actually. We’ll see something and question if it’s a fleeting concept or something to learn and adapt from. If we see it several times (two or three,) then we’ll take it straight to the customer to start the discussion. It’s really about funneling information down to really be able to effectively pick out what opportunities are the ones we need to go after.

What is the biggest challenge you face when innovating?

There are really two challenges that come to mind. For one, there may be something that was tried a while back, but didn’t work for any number of reasons that could include timing or what have you. As such, they might worry or avoid it all together. People sometimes view innovation as change, which can be identified as scary. We’re trying to drive the message that change isn’t scary, but that it’s a good thing. We feel that it drives the innovation process along those lines.

Has there ever been an instance where another industry has influenced an innovation at your company?

The tech industry as a whole and mobile phones more specifically has really significantly impacted how we’re looking at things. I don’t think you can’t not look outside your own company for innovation, because it’s really about looking at the kinds of interaction and what have you to really develop ourselves further.

What makes an innovative culture? How do you create a culture of innovation?

It’s a couple of key things; the larger you are as a company, the more difficult it is to have an innovative culture. You have to have an executive team that’s willing to support that culture. If you can take time out of the day to really keep up with the pace, then it makes staying innovative that much more organic. Building a culture where failure is learning and shooting the messenger should be avoided is key because we want to try this and that without fear. We want to plant some of those seeds of innovation to see what’s going to work.

Looking to the future, how is Ricoh going to be a leader in innovation?

Our industry has gone through and will continue to go through some significant changes. Ricoh has the right culture to provide leadership in part of that industry change. It’s about who can deliver the best product the fastest, so in that respect, we’re going to continue to push in new and innovative directions without sacrificing quality.
References: trendreports, ricoh