Regardless of How Much Data is Generated, it Won’t Generate the Future

Interview with Yumi Otsuka, General Manager of MIRAI Project Dept. ~Vol. 2

OPEN ROAD INNOVATION REVIEW

A full year has already gone by since the OPEN ROAD PROJECT was launched.
This period has witnessed the emergence of “Small Space Parking,” the “Dokodemo Station” (literally, “Anywhere Station”)
and other creative new services in support of sure and steady shifts in the lifestyle patterns of our i-ROAD Test Drive Pilots.
On the occasion of the first anniversary of this undertaking, we spoke with Yumi Otsuka, Director of the Toyota Future Project Office.
The idea was to get her take on the “here and now” – a point in time shaping up as a major turning point toward a brighter and more mobile future.
A full year has already gone by since the OPEN ROAD PROJECT was launched. This period has witnessed the emergence of “Small Space Parking,” the “Dokodemo Station” (literally, “Anywhere Station”) and other creative new services in support of sure and steady shifts in the lifestyle patterns of our i-ROAD Test Drive Pilots. On the occasion of the first anniversary of this undertaking, we spoke with Yumi Otsuka, Director of the Toyota Future Project Office. The idea was to get her take on the “here and now” – a point in time shaping up as a major turning point toward a brighter and more mobile future.

Moving to the next action stage, to prevent any uncertainties from remaining in mind

– Over the course of the OPEN ROAD PROJECT so far, we imagine that many observers have been more than just a little surprised by the decision to allow customers to drive the i-ROAD – a vehicle that has yet to be marketed. It is a bit mystifying to consider just how Toyota managed to pull that off.

 When we considered how best to go about bringing a vehicle like i-ROAD onto the marketplace as a viable product, we realized that the only practical approach was to actually have customers test ride the car and then benefit from their feedback. Proceeding solely on the basis of PowerPoint materials would be of
little if any use in clearing up questions and uncertainties. For that matter, we figured that it would also clearly prevent us from making any further progress. In other words, we became strongly convinced that coming up with the next action stage was the key to moving ahead, which I feel instilled us with the confidence to do just that. It is also true, however, that we received an unexpected degree of encouragement from the Head Office to go ahead and “give it a shot.” We carried out surveys, monitoring and other efforts on a step-by-step basis, and I firmly believe that the information generated from those programs was also a key force in paving the way to fruitful results, and effectively winning recognition for the potential of the i-ROAD itself.

profile_flow_otuka_pcYumi Otsuka
General Manager
MIRAI Project Dept. Product & Business Planning Div.
profile_flow_otuka_spYumi Otsuka
General Manager
MIRAI Project Dept.
Product & Business Planning Div.

Moving to the next action stage, to prevent any uncertainties from remaining in mind

– Over the course of the OPEN ROAD PROJECT so far, we imagine that many observers have been more than just a little surprised by the decision to allow customers to drive the i-ROAD – a vehicle that has yet to be marketed. It is a bit mystifying to consider just how Toyota managed to pull that off.

 When we considered how best to go about bringing a vehicle like i-ROAD onto the marketplace as a viable product, we realized that the only practical approach was to actually have customers test ride the car and then benefit from their feedback. Proceeding solely on the basis of PowerPoint materials would be of
little if any use in clearing up questions and uncertainties. For that matter, we figured that it would also clearly prevent us from making any further progress. In other words, we became strongly convinced that coming up with the next action stage was the key to moving ahead, which I feel instilled us with the confidence to do just that. It is also true, however, that we received an unexpected degree of encouragement from the Head Office to go ahead and “give it a shot.” We carried out surveys, monitoring and other efforts on a step-by-step basis, and I firmly believe that the information generated from those programs was also a key force in paving the way to fruitful results, and effectively winning recognition for the potential of the i-ROAD itself.

 

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Forging new ties with customers
through the i-ROAD

Forging new ties with customers through the i-ROAD

– All of the customers who became Test Drive Pilots for the i-ROAD appear to be really enjoying themselves! There would appear to a different atmosphere surrounding this component of your project – as opposed to the general “test drive monitor” phase.

In the group interviews conducted with our general monitors, we primarily heard about their dissatisfactions with the test drive cars. Compared to that, our i-ROAD Test Drive Pilots have all been extremely upbeat. I was quite moved, for example, by comments to the effect that: “After helping to cultivate the i-ROAD as a product, we’re really looking forward to encountering it again somewhere down the road.” In the long history of Toyota, I just have to believe that this is the first time that customers have taken part in such efforts with the spirit of collaborating to truly create a new product. In that sense, I would say that my single greatest joy in the OPEN ROAD PROJECT has been our ongoing success in forging new ties with customers.

Service as a medium for elevating
the joys of product use

Service as a medium for elevating the joys of product use

– In advancing the OPEN ROAD PROJECT to this point, what areas resonated the most?

Attaining the conviction that expanding our perspective from the product as a separate entity to the accompanying services ultimately holds the key to raising the sense of joy and satisfaction with the product itself. Up to now, it has generally been said that product planning took place within a closed and isolated process. With the OPEN ROAD PROJECT, however, we felt empowered to tear down the barriers that had been arbitrarily built up over the years to date. That opened our eyes to the expanding business opportunities on the horizon.

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~ If you don’t mind, please let us in on the next development phase in the OPEN ROAD RPOJECT.

That’s a good question, and I say that because we are realizing that it’s just about time to move to the next phase. I’m pleased to report that most everyone around has given high marks to the prototyping work being advanced at present. We are also keenly aware, however, that simply carrying on in that vein is not the way to be successful. Clearly, we will be looking to shift gears and perspective in making the transition to the next chapter, rising to take on new challenges. Having said that, though, I must also admit that I’m not at all sure about what will transpire in that process. For myself, as General Manager, I firmly hope that the next stage of this evolution will turn out to be the source of even greater joy and fulfillment!

Paving the way for diversity
to help generate greater value

Paving the way for diversity to help generate greater value

– Finally, just what do you envision for the MIRAI Project Dept. from here on?

While the environment surrounding our work is in a state of constant flux, the value of the automobile as a means of free and enlightened mobility remains extremely high. Going forward, we naturally want to furnish our customers with stellar automotive value in various different formats, and will not hesitate to adopt whatever means we can to move in that direction. To present my own pet theory, as our next move, it is my gut feeling that turning to diversity – perhaps more accurately describable as the perspective and power of persons removed from the “conservative mainstream” – is destined to emerge as a major driving force.
The ideal scenario, therefore, is for the MIRAI Project Dept. to continue to contribute as an organization with the potential for such explosive power onboard, generating lasting ramifications for our industry at large. The members of this Department comprise a truly rich and varied mix of  characters, while there is also the diversity engendered from engaging with persons from the outside via the open innovation mode. My vision for the MIRAI Project Dept., therefore, is to continue to push boldly ahead in the quest to link up and further enhance the characteristics of this diversity and the new value being generated.

Though speaking in a soft and gentle tone, the passion and determination that General Manager Otsuka brings to her job was clearly reflected in her careful choice of words. Speaking with her on these topics, it suddenly came to mind that the automobile, as such, is far more than a simple product. Rather, it can be seen as a “vehicle,” in the true and extended sense of the word, blessed with the potential to carry and convey the stories of the individuals behind the wheel.

TEXT BY Ryoko Sugimoto (contributor)
PHOTOGRAPHS BY Tomoyuki Kato

ISSUED : 22 January 2016

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Article Index

Interview with Yumi Otsuka, General Manager of MIRAI Project Dept. ~Vol. 2 Regardless of How Much Data is Generated, it Won’t Generate the Future22 January 2016

Interview with Yumi Otsuka, General Manager of MIRAI Project Dept. ~ Vol. 1 Joining Hands to Map Out the Future of Automobiles Together 20 January 2016

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Article Index

22 January 2016

Interview with Yumi Otsuka, General Manager of MIRAI Project Dept. ~Vol. 2 Regardless of How Much Data is Generated, it Won’t Generate the Future

20 January 2016

Interview with Yumi Otsuka, General Manager of MIRAI Project Dept. ~ Vol. 1 Joining Hands to Map Out the Future of Automobiles Together

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