- IMD Business School
Alumni Stories · Leadership

How OWP Singapore helped one participant take on his next challenge

Akihito Otombe works for cosmetics giant Shiseido and after working in its global headquarters in Tokyo, he was posted to the company’s travel retail business head office in Singapore. IMD's OWP program provided him with a solid foundation for his new role
April 2018

Travelling to Singapore for Orchestrating Winning Performance (OWP) in November 2017 was, for Akihito, the first time he had experienced such a learning opportunity outside of Japan. Knowing that he would soon start his new role as Corporate Strategy Manager for the company’s travel retail business, which looks at sales of cosmetics in duty free stores all over the world, he set about tackling two challenges. Firstly, he wanted to learn how to collaborate with multinational people effectively and, secondly, how best to implement the kind of strategy that would help perpetuate and boost growth in his sector.

“For me OWP was the best choice to address these challenges and I think it was a good opportunity to identify areas to improve myself,” he says. The program’s workshops, networking events – even the meditation sessions – made it an experience that he describes as “beyond my expectations.”

Starting the program, Akihito says he immediately noticed that other participants were high-level business people, made up of many nationalities and from several industries. This made it easier for him to express his opinion in a multinational environment more effectively. “English is my second language but during the discussions, I learned that I didn’t have to care about the speed I spoke so much, as long as I conveyed my opinion. This kind of skill is very useful to have when you work outside of Japan.”

Akihito was also able to tailor the program according to his business challenges and therefore selected modules pertaining to marketing and strategy. He also attended sessions on understanding digital influence on the business environment and used the new knowledge to look at the implications of this within Shiseido.

As a result of analyzing many case studies and exchanging ideas with his peers, the executive learned some important lessons. “I learned that a company should follow the consumers’ point of view and in order to do that, it needs to have the courage to constantly redefine itself,” he says. He also realized the importance of looking at the big picture and understanding the importance of being more humble towards consumers’ needs.

Since starting his new job in January, he has applied the tools he learned at OWP. “Usually when we consider something new, we tend to think about constraints unintentionally, but I learned at OWP that it is best to turn this the other way around, to escape from constraints to achieve big visions.” As a result, Akihito says he now intentionally tries to think about this perspective in his work, which he finds “very effective”.

Shiseido’s travel retail business head office in Singapore, where Akihito is based, is experiencing high growth given a hike in demand due to increases in the amount of travelers. “During OWP, I learned to be aware that the business environment is constantly changing and new players are constantly coming in, who can threaten the existing market,” he says. “Trying new things is therefore very important to deliver a good result and my specific challenge now is to think about new plans and new areas.”

Akihito looks back fondly on his time at IMD, saying he really appreciated the learning environment, quality of teaching and the drive and enthusiasm of other participants. With this in mind, he would like to attend another of IMD’s programs in the future.