“New business development is “Sen-Mitsu”. It is Japanese saying which means 3 (Mits) out of 1,000 (Sen) will succeed. There are the researchers who continue to challenge in such world. They are the members of Toshiba TEC’s “Future Create Activity”. What method did they choose to keep coming up with countless ideas? How have they continued to keep motivated as they continue to challenge new business planning? Based on the skills and beliefs they have cultivated through their activities, what is the new frontier to aim for? We asked them about the trajectory of their activities and their future prospects, including the examples of the five approaches utilized.
Creating the “third business pillar” through Future Create Activity
In 1950, Toshiba TEC was spun off from Tokyo Shibaura Electric Co., Ltd. (now Toshiba Corporation), and initially the fluorescent lamps and Japanese type writers were their main businesses. Currently, the company is expanding widely in Japan and overseas, including auto-ID (automatic recognition) and inkjet heads with two pillars, 1: Retail business which deals with the solutions for wholesalers and retailers mainly with POS (Point Of Sales) systems and 2: Printing business which mainly deals with the office solutions such as digital multifunction devices.
The POS system is known as TEC brand in Japan and boasts the No. 1 share in both Japan and overseas. It is self-checkout that has been growing recently. The RFID reading self-checkout, developed for clothing stores in 2017, has attracted the attention for its innovative technology. In the previous self-checkout, the customers had to scan the barcodes by themselves, but with this self-checkout they do not have to di it. The wireless “RFID tag” can scan everything in bulk, so it automatically scans multiple items in the shopping cart. This new technology, which is expected to reduce cash register waiting times during busy periods and improve the turnover rate in stores, provides the solution that applies the automatic recognition technology of RFID to the retail business (self-checkout).
While advancing such pioneering development, the company was growing a sense of crisis due to the rapid changes in the business environment in recent years. In the retail business, POS terminals were decreasing due to the spread of the tablet terminals, and in the printing business, the market growth in the business was slowing, and it was no longer stable condition.
Based on these background, “Future Create Activity” began. The researchers with a sense of crisis about this situation launched it in 2011 with the aim of creating new businesses. Mr. Hiroki Kanno (Director of the Research & Development Center, Product and Technology Strategy Planning Department), who has led the activities, talks about his thoughts at that time. “As the market growth of the two main businesses slows, what can our R&D Center do to grow our business? I thought that would be the creation of new businesses and products centered on technology. I wanted to create new “third business pillar” that was not bound by existing businesses.”
The policy is “entrepreneurial mind”, thinking about the future all the time
In the Future Create Activity, they are working together with all members in parallel with the actual daily research and development work. The policy is “entrepreneurial mind”. It is said that entrepreneurs continue to look for new ideas 24 hours a day, however why should the researchers and everyone should have the “entrepreneurial mind”? Mr. Kanno said, “It is very important that the researchers are always thinking about the future, but the ideas will never come out if they just sit in front of their desks and growl. If they are always aware of this activity in a corner of their head, everyday casualness may lead to ideas. That’s why we’re all working with entrepreneurial mindset.”
Then, how did they proceed with the actual activities? At the beginning of the activities, they did not incorporate any methods. They all got together to come up with ideas, but “gradually new ideas disappeared, and we started the various efforts to devise methods”, says Mr. Kanno. Since then, they have been working on new business planning using a total of five approaches while changing the approaches every year.
The first (1) “Megatrend starting point” approach was to investigate the trends in growing business areas (food, energy, medical care, education) other than their own company, and explore the research themes based on that. In the second (2) “Future insight (scanning method)”, they collected news information with a strong impact, and from there they predicted the future social changes and came up with ideas. The first two of these were only worked on by internal members, but they could not create any research themes.
Mr. Kanno was looking for a new approach, and the turning point arrived in July 2014. In the seminar on “Transformation to a Research Institute that Can Continuously Create New Businesses” (sponsored by JMAC), new business planning approach starting from the external promising technology, which had not been worked on internally in the past, was introduced. JMAC consultant. Mr. Kanno was very interested in it, and decided to ask JMAC for support.
In August 2014, Toshiba TEC, with JMAC as its partner, embarked on new challenges.