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Creating new value with a play of the future


Are we not supposed to turn crisis into opportunity? Triggered by COVID-19, we had plans to accelerate drastic reforms during and after the pandemic. The hard fact of the matter, however, is that all of our hands became tied due to the surge in the number of infections. This reality forced us to address more pressing matters, such as re-shifting to telework.

Looking beyond the specific circumstances of the pandemic, the future of our world in general remains highly uncertain. The changes brought about by COVID-19 will result in a new normal, and the existence of a perpetually uncertain future will be one aspect of this new normal. As a result, a chasm will widen between two types of companies--those that grapple with reforms and new challenges in the face of a hazy future, and those that merely treat the symptoms of each new malady. And this difference will expand in the future. No immediate remedial measures will give rise to new value.

Under such circumstances, I propose that we think about the creation of new value for the future by comparing the matter to putting on a play. What this entails is to write a scenario for a play about reforms and challenges, recruit the cast of the play, and perform it. Refine the scenario according to the response of the audience and perform it again. The more people you can involve in your play of the future, the easier it will become to turn it into a reality.

The steps are simple but not easy to actually implement, so here are some tips on the dos and don'ts.

Overall presentation

In your scenario, describe the future using imagery that would make many people happy if this or that came to pass, and shed light on the path towards a desired conclusion. In a play, there will be multiple scenes, each of which is interrelated. Let's take COVID-19 as an example in which the final scene will be everyone over 70 being completely vaccinated. Scenes in the play will include procurement of the vaccine, contact with all those over 70 and acceptance of vaccination applications in a fair and neutral manner, both regionally and nationally.

Your play will not reach the final scene if the vaccination application phase includes a mix-up, despite the hard work of somehow procuring the vaccine. No symptomatic treatment of any problem can be a part of a proper play. In the new reality of product development and business transformation, these cannot be short acts--the play will require numerous scenes. It may not be possible to envision everything from the very beginning, but you can at least assume and imagine some very important scenes.

Character profiling

Who (including yourself) will play which roles and speak which lines will also be important to decide. If the plan is to work on MaaS (Mobility as a Service), you will first need to determine whether you are a traditional automaker or whether you will make a foray into the service business. Of course, there is not a single possible answer, so you can stick to being a manufacturer because that is where your company's strength lies in the end. In such case, you may want to consider writing a scenario in which your customers will want to buy your products for higher prices. This should be more fun than the dreary theme of cost reduction that you have contended with for many years.

Recruiting the cast

Communicate and explain your scenario to the people you think should be part of it. Build a cooperative relationship with them to achieve mutual empathy. If your scenario is a good one, good actors will come to you wanting to play a part. Your actors may not necessarily be close to you; they may be from other sections of your company or possibly from outside the company. They may be people with whom you have never worked in the past or even competitors--but in any case, you should be willing to take chances.

Performing the first manuscript

Once your first scenario is reasonably complete, start the performance without hesitation. You can make corrections as you go, depending on your customers' responses and/or changes in the market. While it is reckless to perform without a scenario, it is nonsensical to wait until your scenario has been perfectly drawn up in every detail. Waiting for the right team to be organized? Waiting for sufficient funds to be procured? Waiting for every single risk to be identified and neutralized? Waiting for the necessary technologies to advance to the practical usage stage? How many more things do you need to wait for before you can put your play on the stage? You should note that there is a greater risk to adopting a leisurely attitude amidst an emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Having both subjective and objective viewpoints

If possible, write your scenario together with people from other divisions who may be even more conscious of the salient issues than you. When you hold discussions with them, the topics can be about challenges faced by society today, challenges impacting your customers or even challenges within your company. It would be good to first try to build a common understanding before starting your discussions, because knowledge and ways of thinking will differ from division to division even within the same company.

The view from above

In order to write a good scenario, you should try to learn various lessons through your day-to-day experiences. If someone has already developed a technology that you wish to use as part of the stage set, ask if you can borrow it. To do this, you need to know where and what technologies are under development and when they will become available for use. It is not sufficient to just look within your company or within your own industry. For example, a military technology may be used in the private sector, creating innovation and changing the rules of the game. Or there may be a case in which a mobile app familiar to consumers will change the world. Mobile devices and the internet are now a form of social infrastructure for linking consumers with other consumers, or consumers with sellers. The exchanged data will be stored for analysis and intelligence.

Listening with respect

This may not seem to be particularly noteworthy, but listen carefully to what other people have to say and respect their experiences and views. For your play to be successful, not only actors but also many others engaged in stage production, directing, lighting, publicity and so forth must feel empathy with your scenario and be motivated to cooperate towards the final scene. Coercing people to do things or asking for instructions on what to do next will lead you and your play nowhere. Never underestimate the outside world and software. Listen with respect to bring your play to life.

This report was compiled by Nobuyuki Yajima, Senior Fellow, Nikkei BP Intelligence Group.



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