If you look up ‘Social Innovation’ at the fount of all online knowledge — Wikipedia — you’ll find a description of strategies, concepts and ideas that address different elements of society in which the primary objective is not profit optimization, like working conditions, education, community development, health, etc. This definition is not generally attractive to most businesses.
When an executive of Pentaho told his son that he was joining a company whose corporate strategy is ‘Social Innovation,’ his son’s immediate response was “cool.” He was thinking about social media, gamification, and other ‘cool’ things that teenagers get excited about.
At our Hitachi Connect 2015 conference in Las Vegas last week, I asked a young lady in her 20’s about what she thought of Social Innovation as a corporate strategy, she had a very positive response, as she is passionate about making the world a better place. Many forward-thinking universities like Stanford and the Monterey Institute for International Studies have established graduate programs around Social Innovation. The Monterey Institute’s Center for Social Impact is focused on Social Entrepreneurship and Social Impact investing.
I also discussed the concept with some Europeans that were attending the event. Social Innovation immediately called to mind social welfare, and in some cases, had a negative connotation, especially for people that live in areas where a higher share of government expenditures for subsidies and entitlements is required. They preferred the term ‘Industry 4.0,’ which encompasses both the Internet of Things and the Internet of Services (which facilitates the realization of a Smart Factory).
Other impressions and comments that heard ranged from negative: “it’s too nebulous,’ or ‘it’s not intuitive,’ ‘jinglish,’ ‘marketing hype,’ to positive: ‘very real,’ ‘practical’ and even ‘inspiring.’ One person summed it up nicely, saying: “We all work to get rewarded, but isn’t it much more rewarding if you are also doing something good for society?”.
At Hitachi, Social Innovation is much more than just a corporate strategy—it is a very real, very practical business plan and mission statement.
In his keynote address at Connect last week, our CEO, Jack Domme, confirmed this and demonstrated how we are delivering on our Social Innovation initiative with real world solutions, all of which were being on display at the event in our Social Innovation Solutions Showcase.
Although the concept of Social Innovation was new to some of this year’s event attendees, it has actually been part of our core corporate strategy since March 2009, when it was first mentioned in Hitachi’s annual report by then CEO, Takashi Kawamura:
“Meeting these market needs will require further technology advances, as well as the establishment and enhancement of infrastructure fused with Information and telecommunications technologies. I believe this era of change is a good opportunity for us to take the lead in the world by displaying our capabilities. This is because Hitachi boasts global experience in power and industrial systems and environmental systems, and cutting edge information and telecommunications technologies. I am committed to creating a strong company that can support the demands of this new era. That's why we decided to focus more on the Social Innovation Business.”
What Kawamura was describing was the Internet of Things.
As some of you may recall, at that time, 2009, the world was in the throes of the worst financial crisis since the great depression of the 1930s. Major structural changes were underway, both socially and economically. Hitachi saw an opportunity to develop intelligent, more efficient infrastructures to provide smarter, safer and healthier social and economic environments.
In 2010, Hitachi celebrated its 100th Anniversary with the Hitachi uVALUE convention in Tokyo, where Hiroaki Nakanishi (then President and now CEO of Hitachi), delivered a keynote speech, titled “The Hitachi Group and Social Innovation,” in which he articulated Hitach’s Social Innovation vision and introduced key initiatives to accelerate social and business innovation around the world.
In the ensuing four years, Hitachi has delivered on that vision, implementing Social Innovation projects around the world, including smart cities like the City of Copenhagen in Denmark, and train-as-a-service in the United Kingdom.
Meanwhile here at HDS we have been developing the foundational data infrastructure, content, analytics platforms that are powering Hitachi Social Innovation, and building industry-specific data-driven solutions for healthcare, public safety, and telecommunications, through the integration of operational technologies from the Hitachi Group and acquisitions like Archivas, Parascale, BlueArc, Pantascene, Avrio, Sepaton, and Pentaho, with the information technologies of Hitachi Data Systems.
Our Social Innovation announcement also included a cloud-based M2M analytics solution: Hitachi Live Insight for IT operations, and Hitachi Live Insight Center of Excellence, which offers best of breed services, consulting and best practices to help organizations swiftly and confidently design, test, customize, and deploy advanced data analytics, applications, platforms and integrated solutions to support new data-driven business initiatives.
All these solutions and more were on display last week at Connect 2015. What happened in Vegas will be delivered throughout the world.
I agree that the term ‘Social Innovation’ may not be intuitive for some, and can conjure up different ideas and concepts for different people, however, I don’t see that as a bad thing—it ignites discussion. However, for Hitachi, Social Innovation is about both internal and external transformation--what used to be an insular factory culture is now an emerging global leader in data-driven solutions--and it’s about realizing the promise of data to deliver smarter, safer, healthier and more efficient societies.
This is not Industry 4.0 or gamification. Hitachi Social Innovation is about the Internet of Things That Matter.
 For more details on what we are delivering today, see http://www.hds.com/corporate/press-analyst-center/press-releases/2015/gl150428a.html