The Sony Group's Founding Prospectus

Sony's 1946 incorporation statement put people at its core.

The Sony Group's Founding Prospectus
Photo by wtrsnvc _ / Unsplash

This morning, I watched Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's 2004 TED Talk on "Flow, the secret to happiness." This was a really great talk: not only did it give me a lot to think about, I've also come away from it with a list of things to look into more. I love it when I come away from something with more opportunities to learn — when something like this TED Talk is one node on a graph of knowledge with many edges.

Here's one of those connections. In his talk, Csikszentmihalyi quotes from the first "Purposes of Incorporation" of Sony:

establish a place of work where engineers can feel the joy of technological innovation, be aware of their mission to society and work to their heart's content.

Sony hosts this document online — "the Founding Prospectus of Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation" — and though their translation is slightly different, it's still clear that joy and deep work are connected in this statement. Here's Sony's version:

The first and primary motive for setting up this company was to create a stable work environment where engineers who had a deep and profound appreciation for technology could realize their societal mission and work to their heart's content.

It's amazing to see that the prospectus for the company that eventually became Sony makes it clear that its people are at its core. Engineers working to their heart's content is the primary motive for why Sony exists.

I really enjoyed this document. Not only is the history fascinating, but many of the things mentioned here about how to treat your employees and your customers are valuable insights, 78 years later. It makes the existence of this corporation feel inevitable — as if TTK (Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation) must exist. Even with an obviously-strong market position, it still outlines how the organization must do the right thing.

In addition to forming in order to "actively participate in the reconstruction of war-damaged communications network by providing needed technology," TTK listed promoting "the education of science among the general public" as one of their primary purposes. Most organizations could probably do well by adopting the "Management Policies" section wholesale: staying nimble, tackling the right challenges, and choosing an organizational structure which emphasizes being proactive and equitable. Emphasizing customer service as mission-critical — while demonstrating that there's value in subverting the described norm by having dependable and comprehensive customer service — is certainly something I hope organizations in 2024 and beyond will learn from.

I honestly do not have a strong opinion about Sony, but if even a shadow of these principles still remains within the organization, they'll certainly be on the right track.