When Bandai Namco recruited me in 2011, I had experience with Japanese content from both Capcom and Crunchyroll. I was in the US for Capcom and primarily in Japan for Crunchyroll, but I had never worked in Japan for a Japanese company before. So when I got to Bandai Namco, it’s no surprise that I was completely outside of my comfort zone, and it honestly took a while to acclimate.
At first, I tried to fit in — learning the systems, following the business customs, and just trying to be like everyone else. I remember one day, maybe a month after joining, I was in a brainstorm (in Japanese) and a colleague asked why I was being so quiet. I told them that things didn’t really make sense — not the language, but actually what we were trying to do. It dawned on me that I had never actually brainstormed ideas in Japanese before, and that irrespective of language, the way things were structured was throwing me off.
It was after this moment that I realized I wasn’t contributing enough because I was trying to contribute in the exact same way as everyone else. So what did I do? While I still respected the more important traditions, I opened up and was myself. Understanding what I could bring to the table later led me to create Bandai Namco’s first IP incubator, and this skill is what I call doing what only you can do.
DOING WHAT ONLY YOU CAN DO:
When you join an organization for a business development, strategy, growth, or similar role, you’re joining to somehow transform the business. What I’ve found over my career, but particularly applicable to launching the IP incubator at Bandai Namco, was that embracing these following three areas really helped me achieve a doing what only you can do outcome:
- Leveraging Diverse Experience: Once I came to realize that being from another country and having wildly different experience than everyone else at Bandai Namco was a selling point and not a deficiency, it supercharged my participation in the company. After all, why hire me in the first place?
- Using Infectious Passion: As I started realizing that people actually liked how passionate I was about anime and games, I brought it to the forefront instead of holding back, taking advantage of it in presentations and meetings. Again, why leave it on the table?
- Leading Own Innovations: After getting settled in and really feeling empowered to come up with new ideas, I noticed that it wasn’t just coming up with ideas that mattered, but being able to have a hand in making them happen that set you apart. What’s better than suggesting a good idea? Suggesting one you can make happen!
Putting all three of these together is where things get really fun…
CREATING THE IP INCUBATOR:
When it came time to exploring new businesses and internal startup ideas, I saw an opportunity with Bandai Namco’s huge library of classic video game properties. Lots of them were just sitting on the shelf, so if we could reawaken them, it would be a huge win for the company.
Enter ShiftyLook, a consumer-facing platform that would use webcomics, animation, games, music, and events to reimagine properties like Galaga, Dig Dug, Katamari, Bravoman, Wonder Momo, and more.
It might sound like a wild idea, but let’s look at how I was in a position to make this happen:
- Leveraging Diverse Experience: I drew on experience across comics (working with licensees like UDON while at Capcom), communities (building and experimenting while at Crunchyroll), and events (staffing anime conventions for years) to inform my perspectives at Bandai Namco.
- Using Infectious Passion: As a big fan of classic video game characters and believer that they still had potential, I used my passion to get people both internally and externally on board with the mission of bringing them back through webcomics, something else I also believed in.
- Leading Own Innovations: It wasn’t just putting a plan together, but actually being able to lead the plan as an “internal startup founder” that made launching it viable.
Doing what only you can do (not to be confused with doing only what you want to do!) is really about finding those unique things you can bring to the team to drive the transformation the company needs.
Whether you’re just getting settled in somewhere or have been in a role a while, thinking about those unique elements which brought you somewhere in the first place might just help you come up with something so unapologetically you it becomes undeniable.