Creating a momentum for corporate transformation at Hitachi
Takato Kusama, who joined Hitachi in 1999, has been involved in the development of IT system operation management software used in social infrastructure for over 20 years. Subsequently, he responded to an internal recruitment call and is currently in charge of business planning in the Social Systems Business Division, including new business creation in the field of communication infrastructure. Meanwhile, he continued his activities with Team Sunrise driven by his awareness of a certain issue.
"In the past, many Japanese companies had established a business model of mass-producing and mass-selling high-quality products with excellent technology. However, in the 2000s, startups began to emerge that could expand services globally without having a product. Looking at successful startups worldwide, it's more often the case that they formed a company as a result of innovation that had occurred, rather than they started a company specifically to innovate. So, I thought that, at Hitachi, innovation could occur as a result of employees actively engaging in new initiatives from the bottom up. That sort of thinking led me to join Team Sunrise."
The theme of study sessions organized and run by Kusama consistently revolves around "innovation." In 2020, when remote work was abruptly introduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he quickly organized a study session, discussing the way internal communication could generate more ideas than face-to-face interaction even online. Also, he has conducted workshops on topics such as "creating an organization with high psychological safety" and "learning the design thinking method" not only with Team Sunrise but also in various internal communities.
Kusama has an extraordinary commitment to generating innovation. His business card bears the title of "FORTH Innovation Method Certified Facilitator,” which may sound uncommon to ears of many.
"In a conservative organization, typically a large corporation, it's important to systematically bring about innovation. At the same time, it's essential to cultivate talents who can create innovation. The 'FORTH Innovation Method’ is a methodology intended exactly for that goal. I took a certification course about five years ago to change my career perspective. The course gave me insights and a moment of truth, and I started organizing various study sessions to create momentum for innovation at Hitachi."
Organizational innovation unraveled by high school physics
In April of this year, Kusama had a chance meeting with a business book - the Japanese translation of "The Human Element" - whose editorial translator was Hitachi's Kenichi Funaki. "I had no idea that a Hitachi employee was involved in its translation. The book's theme resonated with my own awareness of the challenges (concerning innovation at a conservative organization) so I purchased it immediately. I used this book as the topic for a 'book club' meeting I organized within Team Sunrise on a later date. As Tatsuya Goke happened to be one of the participants, I was later asked to be a part of Mr. Schonthal’s talk event to give a presentation."
The book club meeting was actually more like a workshop: All participants skimmed through "The Human Element" and then discussed concrete measures to deal with "resistance from stakeholders to change" they face in their day-to-day work. Each participant shared with others what they realized and how they felt.
"My main objective was to make participants realize that 'outputting is not as scary as it seems.' I wanted each participant to feel that, by freely expressing their thoughts and sharing them with others, they could understand the essence of this book. I also hoped to spark a mindset shift towards becoming the talents who can create innovation."
After this book club meeting, Kusama presented his own interpretation and analysis of Prof. Schonthal's ideas in another internal community. The presentation was entitled "Organizational Innovation Unraveled by High School Physics." Here is a portion of the logic he constructed:
"To move an object with the mass 'm,' a force 'F' must be greater than the frictional force 'f.' When this law of physics is applied to an organization, the larger the organization ('m'), the larger the frictional force ('f') to move it, and therefore, the force to move the organization ('F') must also be proportionally large. This frictional force is what Mr. Schonthal refers to as 'resistance,' or ‘the cost of communication’ in other words —this is my interpretation anyway." (Kusama)
'Feeling’ before ‘Logic'
After completing his presentation at Prof. Schonthal's talk event, Kusama reflected on his experience:
"Keep communicating, and new connections will be formed with those who have common aspirations. I realized how fascinating those encounters that Team Sunrise brings are. I would be delighted if, by seeing me actively reaching out, more employees start to think that it’s OK to do or say things they like and that they themselves could do something.”
Lastly, we asked how he intends to utilize Team Sunrise in the future.
"I have a belief that depending too much on methodologies could hamper innovation. Remember the moment when you first learned to ride a bicycle? Wasn’t it all about ‘feeling it’ rather than theory? ‘I thought daddy was holding the rear of my bicycle while I was pedaling, but when I looked back, he was gone!’ – That kind of thing. If you try to learn the logic of physics so that you won't fall, you may become too afraid to even start pedaling. This may be true for creating innovation. Trust your intuition, and feel free to express your own thoughts. Through Team Sunrise, I want to keep providing opportunities for colleagues to try this out."
We interviewed the four members of Team Sunrise who actively engage themselves as a "producer" and "supporter." More and more employees at Hitachi are inspired by these members to start organizing events themselves. Of course, innovation doesn't happen overnight. Initiatives from individual employees based on their own ideas, starting from the bottom up, will eventually create a wave of change, contributing to solving major societal challenges through innovations.
Senior Engineer at Telecom Utility Planning Department, Telecom Utility Solution Division, Social Infrastructure Systems Business Unit, Hitachi, Ltd.
Certified FORTH Innovation facilitator and Certified BMIA consultant
After joining Hitachi, Ltd. in 1999, Kusama was involved in the development of IT system operation management software in the field of social infrastructure. Since being appointed to the current position in 2023, he has been in charge of business planning including new business creation in the area of telecommunication infrastructure.