Synopses & Reviews
"Toyota is becoming a double threat: the world's finest manufacturer and a truly great innovator . . . that formula, a combination of production prowess and technical innovation, is an unbeatable recipe for success."
-- Fortune, February 2006
For the first time, an insider reveals the formula behind Toyota's unceasing quest to innovate and do more with less, a philosophy that has made it one of the ten most profitable companies in the world (and worth more than GM, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, and Honda combined). In a rare look into Toyota's ability to consistently achieve breakthroughs that outperform the competition, The Elegant Solution explains what Toyota associates have known all along: it's not about the cars. Rather, Toyota's astounding success is just the visible result of a hidden creative process that begins with a seven-digit number.
One million. That's how many new ideas the Toyota organization implements every year. These ideas come from every level of the organization -- from the factory floors to the corporate suites. And organizations all over the world want to learn how it's done. Now senior University of Toyota advisor Matthew May shows how any company can achieve an environment of everyday innovation and discover the kinds of elegant solutions that hold the power to change the game forever. World-class benchmarks like Lexus, Prius, Scion -- even Toyota's vaunted production system -- are simply shining examples of elegant solutions.
A tactical playbook for team-based innovation, The Elegant Solution delivers powerful lessons in breakthrough thinking in a provocative yet practical guide to the three core principles and ten key practices that shape successful business innovation. Innovation isn't just about technology -- it's about value, opportunity, and impact. When a company embeds a real discipline around tapping ingenuity in the pursuit of perfection, the sky is the limit. Dozens of case studies (from Toyota and other companies) illustrate the universal power and applicability of these concepts. A unique "clamshell strategy" prepares managers to successfully lead and sustain the innovation effort.
At once a thought-starter and a taskmaster, The Elegant Solution is a vital prescription for anyone wanting to truly master business innovation.
"Whether you are a home builder, an automaker, or you're just trying to find a way to disrupt your competition, this under-the-hood look at Toyota's innovative engine exposes the blind spots we all share in making innovation too complex. Matt May delivers an elegant solution for creating the highest perceived value for associates and customers!"-- Ken Krivanec, Senior Vice President, Quadrant Homes (a Division of Weyerhaeuser Company)
"This is an amazing insider's peek at an amazing company that has done amazing things. Elegance and perfection are elusive targets, but if ever a book showed how to score a double bull's-eye, this is it."-- Guy Kawasaki, author of The Art of the Start
"Using Toyota as the exemplar, Matt May shows us the power of elegance in thinking . . . how to tame the tough problems and craft the optimal solutions that make for great innovation. A must-read book!"-- Linda Hirneise, Partner and Executive Director, JD Power and Associates
"Clear, insightful, and practical . . . The Elegant Solution is a fresh take on innovation ready-made for mounting a tactical assault on what keeps leaders up at night -- complacency, competition, and change."-- An DeVooght, Chief Financial Officer, Red Bull
"The lessons in Matt May's The Elegant Solution are fast becoming the Los Angeles Police Department's road map to both innovation and efficiency, something that is rare in many city governments. The ideas are unique and essential for any successful manager."-- Patrick K. Findley, Captain and Commanding Officer, Jail Division, Los Angeles Police Department
Reveals the business philosophies of the Toyota corporation that have rendered it one of the ten most profitable companies in the world, explaining how its innovations have been culled from employees at every level of its organization and how their team-based examples can be successfully implemented by today's managers. 40,000 first printing.
An insider reveals the principles that have guided Toyota's unceasing quest to innovate and do more with less, a philosophy that has made them one of the ten most profitable companies in the world. Charts & diagrams. Index.
About the Author
Matthew E. May is a longtime Toyota business partner, holding a key advisory role with the University of Toyota for more than eight years. As a master Toyota instructor and founder of L.A.-based Aevitas, he partners with management teams to achieve excellence in innovation, working with a number of well-known organizations, including Wells Fargo, Sprint Nextel, Quadrant Homes, and the Los Angeles Police Department. A graduate of The Wharton School and Johns Hopkins University, he lives with his wife and daughters in Southern California, where he is an avid cyclist.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Kevin Roberts
Backstory: One Million Ideas
Introduction: In Search of Elegance
PART 1: PRINCIPLES
1 The Art of Ingenuity
Business meets art and science in an emerging view of work.
2 The Pursuit of Perfection
Conventional wisdom forcing a choice between small steps and big leaps misses the point.
3 The Rhythm of Fit
What distinguishes great innovation is its ability to serve the changing needs of society.
PART 2: PRACTICES
4 Let Learning Lead
Learning and innovation go hand in hand, but learning comes first.
5 Learn to See
Elegant solutions often come from customers -- get out more and live in their world.
6 Design for Today
Focus on clear and present needs, or your great ideas remain just that.
7 Think in Pictures
Make your intentions visual -- you'll surprise yourself with the image.
8 Capture the Intangible
The most compelling solutions are often perceptual and emotional.
9 Leverage the Limits
Restraining forces rule -- resource constraints can spur ingenuity.
10 Master the Tension
Breakthrough thinking demands something to break through.
11 Run the Numbers
Think for yourself -- temper instinct with insight, focus on facts, and do the math.
12 Make Kaizen Mandatory
Pursuing perfection requires great discipline -- create a standard, follow it, and find a better way.
13 Keep It Lean
Complexity kills -- scale it back, make it simple, and let it flow.
PART 3: PROTOCOL
14 The Clamshell Strategy
Management plays a key role in releasing the power of front-line innovation.
15 The Elegant Solution
A team in pursuit of the elegant solution taps the full formula in one session.
Afterword -- Words of Encouragement