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B R E A K T H R O U G H T H I N K I N G T H E TOYOTA WAY
by Matthew E. May
Behind each of the over one million
ideas implemented at Toyota every
year is a mindful approach to innova-
tive work driven by a companywide
war on imperfection coupled with a
disciplined creative methodology.
That’s how many ideas Toyota implements each year. Do the math: 3000 ideas a day. That
number, more than anything else, explains why Toyota appears to be in a league all their
own, playing offense on a field of innovation, while their competitors remain caught in a
crossfire of cost-cutting.
Here’s the thing: it’s not about the cars. It’s about ideas. And the people with those ideas. But
not just any ideas. Mostly tiny ones, but effective ones nonetheless—elegant solutions to real
world problems. Not grand slam homeruns, but groundball singles implemented all across
the company by associates that view their role not to be simply doing the work, but taking it
to the next level…every day, in some little way. Good enough never is. When an entire
organization thinks like that, it becomes unstoppable.
Like a number of other market leaders, Toyota recognizes that companywide innovation is a
matter of assembling a group of talented people in an environment where innovation is
required by everyone at every level. To create that environment, Toyota employs systems and
structures that neutralize the typical barriers to ingenuity and release individuals to realize
significance through their work.
The cumulative effect is astounding: Toyota has a market value worth nearly as much as all
the other carmakers combined. What’s difficult to understand, though, is what Toyota
associates have known all along: their vaunted automobiles and assembly techniques are
simply visible outcomes, the direct result of a hi