"Promoting subjectivity" as a way of adding a narrative to a vision
Let's move on to the second question. "How do you connect a vision with business locations?" In other words, how do you connect the ideal with the real? I think this is a question many leaders are eager to learn about.
A vision itself doesn't have value. Value is born once a vision moves people to act. The "Sensemaking Theory" will help us explore the mechanism behind this action.
We live in a time where our environment is changing dramatically. Nowadays, it has become extremely difficult for an individual to grasp in detail what is happening inside an organization. Each of us needs to feel in our own way what is happening around us and act according to our own interpretation. In addition to this, we need to visualize the whole picture by using tools such as dashboards and simulations to break them down into employee action. The fact that this process continuously revolves is important for organizations.
Also, another element that is essential to create a sense of unity within an organization is a "story." A vision needs to be "something visible." But simultaneously, a "story" is extremely important and I think what lies beneath this is its "subjectivity." In businesses, it's common sense to eliminate subjectivity as much as possible and act correctly according to objectivity. But the driving force behind creating new value is whether you are moved or not. In short, it is subjectivity.
It's essential for each employee to turn the large story of a vision into a story with themselves as the protagonist — that is the narrative. Someone involved in an event once proudly said, "At the time, I had a feeling. That's why I wanted to do something like this." How you spread this narrative to the everyday work done within a business is key.
When executives talk about their vision within the mid-term management plan, they tend to use guideline-like phrases. Start your presentation by simply stating "At that time, I felt like this. That's why I started this project." This is all it takes for the meaning of a vision to change, with the recipient interpreting it as "subjectivity" and not an "order." "So, this is what the CEO thinks. In that case, I will do it like this." This creates new actions through emotions and the subjectivity of the recipient.
A vision is the literal aggregation of narratives. If an executive or manager actively shares their subjective views, it will create subjectivity among the people in the business. This will lead to individual actions and become a new story for the employees as well. This is the important point in connecting a vision with the actual business.
Expansion of a narrative that started from a researcher
There is one thing I value when I am deciding my research theme. Rather than saying to myself "This is the global trend, for now, so this research is necessary," I try to go for ideas such as "I saw someone who was having difficulty in such and such situation so I wanted to help them." Because the latter idea is certain to strike a chord. I believe that cherishing these individual emotions will lead to visions being created as the aggregations of narratives.
Once, something I won't forget happened at an R&D center in Europe where I was working. A researcher, and co-worker of mine, was working on the creation of a platform supporting sustainable finance (*) all by himself. But a network of people connecting with his idea was born both inside and outside the company. Eventually, it led to a situation where managers and executives from an investment firm started to visit him. I was surprised to see so many people supporting him. I realized that the strong will of a researcher who seeks to "move the world of finance in order to create a sustainable society" could create such incredible momentum if their idea empathized with the people.
*A method or activity that supports the creation of a sustainable society through finance.
This means that a yardstick didn't exist then, but there were many people who thought that it was necessary for society. The important thing is whether you can create the first community that connects people who empathize with it. In order to do so, you'll need a narrative. People will gather by thinking like this: "The ideal future this person is talking about may be the same as mine." I think that from now on, communities created in this way will be the source of new value.
What is an organization that promotes sensemaking?
Lastly, please show us the key points for promoting sensemaking through a narrative.
Interpreting a narrative in your own way and finding your own meaning. I think this resembles religion in a sense. Religion always has an ideology and a clear view of the values that are important to it. Religion tells us to act in a certain manner within society. Communities are born with this as a base and things like customs and experiences emerge. There are places where the religion can involve those who strongly empathize with its value and those who don't. If you think like this, you can easily replace the word "religion" with "company."
Deliver a vision, create a community with those who empathize with it, and let the people of the community experience the idea born from it. In other words, there is a place where you can embody the narrative that shares the whole plan of what the company is trying to do. I think this kind of organization will attract interesting people, and the number of young people who want to work while searching for their own meaning will increase.
Your story has made me realize the importance of continuously sharing our ideas. I think more people will come if Hitachi's R&D hub, Kyōsō-no-Mori, becomes a place where people think they can hear all kinds of interesting stories. So we hope to continue sharing our content through this platform and have people realize that they can find many questions here.
If this series becomes a "place of many questions," each member of our audience can express their own view towards these questions. It will be wonderful if we could create such a community. Mr. Saso and Mr. Mori, thank you very much.
CEO/Chief Strategic Designer, BIOTOPE co., ltd.
Graduate of the University of Tokyo Faculty of Law.
Master of Design Methods from the Illinois Institute of Technology Institute of Design.
Mr. Kunitake Saso worked at P&G, marketing hit products such as Febreze and Lenor, before becoming the brand manager of Gillette. He joined Human Value, Inc. and took part in the launch of Sony Corporation’s Sony Seed Acceleration Program, before becoming independent. He specializes in the brand design of B to C consumer goods, and in the concept design and service design of high-tech R&D projects. He is the author of various publications including “Lesson in Design Thinking Taught at the World’s Top Design Schools” (Nikkei BP Publishing, 2020), “Vision Driven” (Diamond Publishing, 2019), “Vision Driven Innovation” (Nikkei BP Publishing, 2019).
General Manager, Global Center for Social Innovation
Research & Development Group, Hitachi, Ltd.
Masakatsu Mori joined Hitachi, Ltd. after obtaining his master’s degree from the Graduate School of Engineering at Kyoto University in 1994. As a researcher in the Systems Development Laboratory, he worked on new services and solutions using cutting-edge digital technologies. He was also a visiting scholar at University of California, San Diego from 2003 to 2004. After leading the Planning Office at the Yokohama Research Laboratory and Production Engineering R&D, he was appointed to lead European R&D as Corporate CTO as well as General Manager of the European R&D Centre of Hitachi Europe, Ltd. in 2018. He was appointed to his current position in April 2020. He has a PhD in Information Science and Technology.
Yukinobu Maruyama, host
Head of Design, Global Center for Social Innovation – Tokyo
Research & Development Group, Hitachi, Ltd.
After joining Hitachi, Yukinobu Maruyama built his career as a product designer. He was involved in the foundation of Hitachi Human Interaction Laboratory in 2001 and launched the field of vision design research in 2010 before becoming laboratory manager of the Experience Design Lab UK Office in 2016. After returning to Japan, he worked in robotics, AI, and digital city service design before being dispatched to Hitachi Global Life Solutions, Inc. to promote a vision-driven product development strategy. He is also involved in developing design methodology and human resource education plan. He took up his current position in 2020.