"Honda: The man and his machines" by Sol Sanders
One-paragraph review: Sometimes biographies of the living are made much more interesting by the passage of time, and this book is no exception. Written in the mid-1970s when Soichiro Honda was still alive and his company only starting to enter the US auto market with the Civic (at the time, its only car in the American market), this book vividly portrays what might be called the "DNA" of the company -- the ideas, structures, and spirit of the firm that directed what it has become today. At the time of writing, Honda was still very much a scrappy upstart -- not one of the world's largest automakers and surely its dominant maker of small engines. Easy to read, sufficient but not overwhelming in detail, and ultimately quite fascinating to anyone familiar with the story of Honda as it has evolved since.
Verdict: Intriguing as a biography and instructive as a business text
Quotes from Soichiro Honda
- What I am trying to say is that a design, unlike a piece of art, has no value in terms of the past or the future -- that the importance of a design is whether it is appealing to people today, now.
- Nobody in the world is perfect. A good thing, and an important thing in any organization, is for the individual to seek assistance from others for what is missing in him and what he cannot do, and at the same time spare no effort for maximum utilization of what he has. I want all of you [employees of the company] to realize that without harmony among people, you cannot even maintain, let alone develop, a business enterprise.
- Although I made one mistake after another, my mistakes or failures were never due to the same reason. I never made the same mistake and I always tried my hardest and succeeded in improving my efforts.
- What insures the future of a company is not temporary profits, but the philosophy of manufacturing things in the interest of the people.
Other takeaway quotes
- (In England) A man with a red flag was required to walk ahead of any self-propelled machine on th eroads and byways until 1896, thus delaying any commercialization of the inventions.
- Honda wore the white jacket he had chosen as the company uniform -- a jacket that is kept spotlessly clean throughout the company through an elaborate laundry service, apparently a reminder of those early years when Honda himself was sometimes called Little Rat because of the filthy kimono he wore as a child.
- "I think the thing that has made Honda outstanding is that he concentrated on engines, as an engineer. This was the one thing on which he focused all his attention and his interest, whereas in other companies where there were strong personalities they may have innovative schemes for management practices or in other areas, but Honda concentrated on engines. He left the rest of the business to Fujisawa." -- Masaru Ibuka, chairman of Sony Corporation