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Exquisitely fusing two seemingly opposite values
The new growth strategy in Shiseido’s R&D

January 17, 2022

Exquisitely fusing two seemingly opposite values into a “DYNAMIC HARMONY”. The new growth strategy in Shiseido’s R&D

Shiseido’s corporate mission “BEAUTY INNOVATIONS FOR A BETTER WORLD” upholds the continuous generation of innovation with the aim of creating physical and mental health and happiness for the people through the power of “beauty” as well as the realization of sustainable society. As a part of this, a unique philosophy “DYNAMIC HARMONY” was formulated in the research and development (hereinafter referred to as R&D) in November 2021. In the “Reiwa” age nearly 150 years after the foundation of the company, we returned to the “fusion of different values”, Western science and Eastern wisdom, as the origin of Shiseido to identify the core of our R&D strategy. We have visualized the strength and uniqueness of Shiseido’s R&D using the five research approaches which have the “fusion of different values” as theircore. We aim to provide new products and services with our vision for the creation of unprecedented innovative beauty. We interviewed Yoshiaki Okabe, the leader of Shiseido’s R&D who had previously been involved in the marketing as the brand manager of “SHISEIDO” and “Clé de Peau Beauté” and was appointed as the R&D manager “Chief Brand Innovation Officer” (hereinafter referred to as CBIO) in January 2021, about his thoughts at the time of initiation and the visions for the future.

Further strengthening the creation of innovation at R&D, the core principle of the skin beauty company

―Please tell us your thoughts and passion for the formulation of “DYNAMIC HARMONY”.

Okabe: As a brand manager looking in from the outside, I used to believe that Shiseido’s R&D had more strength and capacity to provide the consumers with products and services with potential for added values. Shiseido has had fantastic researchers since the time of its foundation and has accumulated countless achievements, however the details of these achievements were difficult to understand and hard to reach for the consumers, which was always an issue. In order to keep a close relationship between the R&D personnel and the consumer, we first needed to put our mission into words to build a common sense of understanding, which led to the formulation of “DYNAMIC HARMONY”. It will be interesting if the researchers and staff across the company are able to talk about the strength of Shiseido in the same words. Because we did not have this concept before, I believe it is highly significant that we create this one phrase.

Yoshiaki Okabe

―The idea of “research and development” may sound difficult indeed. This is the reason why you, as a person who have been involved closely with the consumer through marketing, were appointed as the CBIO, isn’t it?

Okabe: I was surprised when I was first appointed. I also had doubts as to whether I, having come from marketing, will be able to be the leader of R&D, and to be able to support our researchers. However, I came to think that my experiences in marketing will be a major advantage in incorporating the diversifying consumer needs into research. My foremost mission is to bring the researchers and consumers closer and form a relationship between them.

―What are the specific measures you are taking to form this relationship?


Okabe: The measures can be broadly divided into three aspects. One is to have researchers keep track of the marketing perspectives, such as consumer insights and the trends of the times. For a recent example, the researchers need to be closely aware of the lifestyle of consumers affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The second aspect is timeliness. Basic research takes time, even decades in some cases. However, we need to cultivate the sense of timeliness so that the research results can be delivered to the consumer as soon as possible.

The third aspect is expression in words. The challenge is in expressing difficult details of research into words that are easy to understand and making these details known to the people. In order to achieve this, it is important that the researchers themselves are communicating the details and results of the research in their own words, in a way that is understandable. This aspect is linked to the formulation of “DYNAMIC HARMONY”.

―What is your focus in the R&D strategies?

Okabe: Shiseido has established “Win 2023 and Beyond” as a mid- to long-term global strategy aiming to be the world’s No. 1 company in the skin beauty field by 2030. In order to realize this, we are strengthening the skincare category with skin research, material science, and psychological research as the foundation, while also laying the framework for new inner beauty categories such as ingestible products. These efforts are supported by Shiseido’s basic research and development, which have been accumulated by R&D over many years. We have materialized the innovation so that the frontline personnel involved in these research efforts do not doubt themselves regarding the purpose of the research they are conducting or whether the research is contributing to the business or consumers. The results of this materialization are (i) pursuit of eternal skin consciousness, (ii) evolution of brand core value, (iii) game changers, (iv) expansion of existing tech values, (v) attempt at new category creation, and (vi) agile action for early development, as well as “basic research and development” which serve as the foundation for all of these concepts. An example of agile action for early development that is fresh in my memory is “the development of lipsticks that do not stain masks”. We will continue to strengthen the foundation for our research while constantly foreseeing the changes that will occur in the future and the insights that become available.

―I imagine this type of materialization is helpful to motivate the researchers.

Okabe: That is correct. This is truly in line with the idea of Shiseido’s value of “PEOPLE FIRST”. The word innovation on its own tends to suggest game-changing innovations, and there is a trend that only those involved in game-changing innovations should be praised. However, innovation requires the combined forces of about 1200 researchers involved in R&D at Shiseido. I believe that innovation not only refers to those breakthrough changes but all those that exceed the expectation of the consumers, however little it may be. This is the reason why I believe that a close relationship should be formed between researchers and consumers.

What “DYNAMIC HARMONY” provides to the people and society

―Please tell us about the five research approaches in “DYNAMIC HARMONY”.

Okabe: The strengths of Shiseido were materialized by incorporating the opinions of not only the researchers but all kinds of people, including marketers, sales personnel, beauty consultants, OB’s, and external creators. As a result of this, a unique philosophy was formulated under the phrase “DYNAMIC HARMONY”. This phrase suggests that the approaches taken by Shiseido’s R&D cannot be defined by a single value alone, and a unique “DYNAMIC HARMONY” is created through the exquisite fusion of multiple values that are seemingly opposite, oil-and-water.

These five approaches are:

  1. (i) Inside/Outside
  2. (ii) Functionality/Japan Quality
  3. (iii) Science/Creativity
  4. (iv) Premium/Sustainability
  5. (v) Individual/Universal
Okabe CBIO talking about DYNAMIC HARMONY

Okabe CBIO talking about DYNAMIC HARMONY

―Please explain the aim of each of these approaches.

Okabe: “Inside/Outside” is a phrase referring to the inside and outside of the skin, as a simple expression of the relationship between the skin and holistic beauty. This approach aims to conduct researchers to draw out the beauty on the inside and outside of the skin.
“Functionality/Japan Quality” aims to deliver undeniable functionality and reliable Japanese quality. This includes the texture of the content, or the sensation of closing the container lid. We pursue functional beauty with Japanese craftsmanship to the fine details.
“Science/Creativity” is the approach where the latent and subjective sensitivities and feelings of the customers are elucidated through objective science to satisfy a greater number of customers. As a beauty company, we must not only make great considerations for objective scientific data but also for the aspects relating to sensitivities, including subjective experiences and sense.
“Premium/Sustainability” aims to create products and services that provide exciting premium experiences while also valuing the idea of sustainability necessary for the modern society. Sustainability is an idea that resonates with the origin of the company name, “Praise the virtues of the Earth, which nurtures new life and brings forth significant values*”, and the premium value is associated with the words of the first CEO Shinzo Fukuhara, who stated that “Let the product speak for itself” and “all things must be rich”, esthetics that are passed down to the modern-day creations.
“Individual/Universal” refers to the creation of the best personalized solution for individual customers through the utilization of an enormous wealth of customer data accumulated around the world for many years. This also includes the creation of unique value that satisfies the needs of customers with diverse values and the formation of a partnership to pursue healthy beauty in people throughout their life.
These five research approaches not only incorporate the uniqueness of technology but also provide consideration for the consumer benefit at all times. The research approaches will undergo continuous changes according to the trends of the time while evolving with the creation of sixth and seventh approaches.
  • *A phrase from Chinese classic literature Yi Jing, the Book of Changes from the Four Books and Five Classics of Confucianism.

―What are some examples of the efforts implemented?

Okabe: We have implemented various projects based on the philosophy of “DYNAMIC HARMONY” and have been actively engaging in collaboration with external organizations. This includes signing of the advisory agreement with Professor Masaru Tomita, Director General of the Institute for Advanced Biosciences, Keio University, as well as with neuroscientist Nobuko Nakano, and joint development with external research institutions in Japan and overseas, such as the research on stress assessment using facial expressions through participation in the space development project promoted by Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Innovation requires efforts of various people to bring changes. These efforts can be seen as being associated with “DYNAMIC HARMONY”.

Yoshiaki Okabe

―Also, please explain the innovative technology which converts UV rays to lights that are beneficial to the skin. This seem to be an example of turning something negative such as UV rays into something positive.

Okabe: I think it is important to create solutions by taking strengths from the undesirable elements in the world. The factors around us that are perceived as negative, such as UV rays, humidity, and temperature can be changed into positives through reverse thinking while learning to live with them, and my aim is to realize this concept through R&D. Also, we are continually trying to link the visible elements with invisible elements. This includes “blood and skin”, “lymph duct and skin”, “stress and skin” and many other combinations of elements. Exploration of the relationship between invisible elements and the skin will lead to the creation of new solutions.
I believe that prevention and improvement are the universal themes in basic research and development. Although we tend to focus on improvement, the aim is to express some form of alerts to realize prevention in the earlier stage and to provide solution to the alerts expressed. As a beauty company, research needs to be conducted not only from the improvement stage but from the prevention stage, and I believe our role is to closely consider the feelings of modern-day people who have increased interest in health and pre-symptomatic conditions.

―What is the secret to continually realize innovation in R&D?

Okabe: In order to maintain a flexible way of thinking that is not uniform... having a group of diverse people with global strategies acts as our strength. While seniority systems and male-dominant environments remain in the academia, which leads to hesitant a attitude in women in some cases, Shiseido has eliminated the ranks relating to gender, age, work position, and nationalities. Valuing diversity is our culture. I was a marketer before, but I am now working in R&D. Shiseido’s R&D is characterized by the combination of various people and utilization of diverse human resources.

Vision for Shiseido’s R&D for the future

―What is the benefit of “DYNAMIC HARMONY” to the researchers?

Okabe: It is difficult to explain simply, but it may be expressed as a feeling of contribution to the business and the brand through science. I believe the common value across all of about 1200 researchers at Shiseido is to create a future where basic research and development leads to real profits and eventually contributes to the happiness in people’s lives. The researchers at Shiseido have inherited an unchanging DNA from the time of our foundation to not think about what can’t be done but how it can be done. My aim is to establish approaches based on the R&D philosophy of “DYNAMIC HARMONY” so that all the researchers are proceeding in the same direction and building further strength. Furthermore, innovation cannot be achieved by researchers alone. I believe there is importance for marketers, sales personnel, beauty consultants, and every other role involved in forming a single team and creating values while expressing the strength of Shiseido R&D in words.

―Lastly, please tell us your future prospects.

We aim to use the strengths of Shiseido R&D to provide solutions to the human lifestyles and social issues that are becoming more diverse over time through our products and services. Shiseido R&D team will continue to act in resonance with the value of creating a better world through beauty.