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50 Best Workplaces of the Year 2021

Closing the Capability Gap: Canon U.S.A., Inc. Aggressively Overcomes Challenges of COVID-Induced Hybrid Working

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“Our EOS Webcam Utility Software and EOS cameras work together to help keep remote employees connected to the office.”

Canon Inc. has been around for more than 80 years. It is a stable company and an innovative leading provider of consumer, B2B, and industrial digital imaging solutions with approximately $30.4 billion in global revenue. A Canon office was established in New York in 1955 and Canon U.S.A., Inc. was formally established in 1965.

Canon U.S.A.’s strategic and visionary President and CEO, Mr. Kazuto Ogawa, has positively changed the corporate culture in a short time since being named to his position in April 2020. Mr. Ogawa strives to be open and approachable to Canon employees, fostering a positive work environment. And because of the pandemic, Canon is adapting to current industry needs. Canon U.S.A. has created a new business unit – the Hybrid-workplace Solutions Group, along with a few new products. The company is also providing a hybrid work style for certain employees where permitted by job duties.

The Silicon Review reached out to Kazuto Ogawa for his comments on how he changed the corporate culture at Canon U.S.A and what he has achieved so far leading Canon’s U.S. unit.

Below is an excerpt.

Q. Where does Canon U.S.A., Inc. stand at the moment relative to other participants in the industry?

Canon U.S.A., Inc. remains a leader in digital imaging solutions. And with the nature of work shifting to a hybrid environment, Canon is working on a way to help employees working from home feel connected to the workplace. A solution, currently in development, called AMLOS (Activate My Line of Sight) helps remote colleagues feel like they are in the meeting room at the office. Employees at the workplace will be able to simply gesture to the camera in the meeting room to start the meeting. They can then invite their colleague at home to join their meeting, and that remote worker will be alerted to join a call, so that they can then join via Microsoft Teams and the AMLOS solution, with their colleagues who are in the office. Canon has always been in the business of helping the world communicate visually, and this AMLOS solution is one of our latest ways of helping to keep people connected.

Q. Looking at Canon U.S.A.’s success in the market, its R&D, sales and marketing, and distribution divisions must be fully loaded, equipped with start-of-the-art technologies, etc. My question to you is, how differently do you run these divisions than your competitors?

Employees are what make companies thrive, so we invest in them so that these divisions succeed. They are encouraged to voice their ideas, they’re provided with ongoing professional development to hone their skills, and they are rewarded and recognized for their work and going above and beyond their responsibilities.

Q. From your perspective, how is the industry you serve currently evolving? And what are the trends in the different categories?

The industry is evolving following the COVID-19 pandemic, accelerating the hybrid workplace model for many companies. As workplaces adapt, Canon has been working on solutions for hybrid environments. Our EOS Webcam Utility Software and EOS cameras work together to help keep remote employees connected to the office. The way we approach meeting market needs is evolving as well. We look to our customers more than ever, communicating with them to find out what’s needed in the industry, and then applying some of their feedback to our new services and products.

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Q. What are the company’s values? What characteristics do you look for in employees to represent those values?

Canon is led by our philosophy of “Kyosei,” which translates to “all people, regardless of race, religion, or culture, harmoniously living and working together into the future.” This is reflected in our values that are evident in everything from product development to philanthropic efforts that bring about meaningful volunteering opportunities for our employees. Employees collaborate throughout our company by participating in special business projects, volunteer programs, committees, and events.

Q. Trust is one of the most important currencies of leadership that requires authenticity and consistency to maintain. What’s your take on this?

I remain open and approachable to employees. They’re comfortable reaching out to me to share their thoughts and ideas, and they work together so the company succeeds. I recently began holding CEO Town Halls and ‘Coffee with the CEO’ sessions with employees. Besides, I communicate with them frequently through written or video messages. The company also has important guiding principles called “The San-ji Spirit,” or “The Three Selfs,” that have been passed down since Canon was founded. They are self-motivation, self-management, and self-awareness. Through these principles, employees are encouraged to take the initiative, conduct themselves with responsibility and accountability, and understand their roles in all situations. 

Q. No doubt Canon U.S.A. is an industry leader, charting new territories in the digital imaging solutions segment. Given how frequently circumstances change, what plans for transformation are you pursuing to remain relevant now and in the future?

Staying connected with our customers and stepping into new territory are some of the many ways Canon is remaining relevant. We’re now implementing new ways to engage with our customers and find out how to best support them. For the beta model of our EOS Webcam Utility Software, we created an online forum to find out how well the software worked for users, and where they may have had difficulties. Some of the feedback was incorporated into how we built the full production model. Without customers sharing their points of view, experiences, and preferences, the software might not have achieved its level of success. Moving forward, Canon will continue looking to customers, listening to the market, and creating innovative solutions. Canon is always working to identify market needs now and in the future, and we are now implementing virtual reality into digital imaging. Our RF5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye lens is a new product that gives users the ability to shoot stereoscopic 3D virtual reality content with the EOS R5 camera*. Canon created this product to meet the growing demand for high-quality 3D VR systems. Virtual reality is new territory for Canon, and one of the many examples of how we are remaining relevant now and in the future.

Kazuto Ogawa | President & CEO

Kazuto Ogawa has been with Canon, Inc. for 40 years, 27 of those outside of Japan. He majored in social psychology, and always had a passion for marketing and sales. His first job was as a Canon copier salesman knocking on doors in Tokyo. In 1983, he joined Canon Canada, as a young trainee. Remarkably, 25 years later he returned to Canon Canada as President and CEO. He also has held senior leadership positions at Canon Hong Kong, Canon Singapore, and Canon China. Mr. Ogawa became President and CEO of Canon U.S.A. in April 2020 in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and he is a Senior Managing Executive Officer of Canon Inc. in Japan. Mr. Ogawa likes to run in marathons and is a self-taught guitarist.

“Canon is led by our philosophy of ‘Kyosei,’ which translates to ‘all people, regardless of race, religion, or culture, harmoniously living and working together into the future.’ This is reflected in our values that are evident in everything from product development to philanthropic efforts that bring about meaningful volunteering opportunities for our employees.”

“Our RF5.2mm F2.8 L Dual Fisheye lens is a new product that gives users the ability to shoot stereoscopic 3D virtual reality content with the EOS R5 camera. Canon created this product to meet the growing demand for high-quality 3D VR systems. Virtual reality is new territory for Canon, and one of the many examples of how we are remaining relevant now and in the future.”

*Must be paired with the Canon EOS R5 camera equipped with firmware update version 1.5.0 or later and utilize Canon E0S VR Software solution(s) (paid subscription). Viewing in 3D requires the use of a compatible Head Mount Display.