In Search of the Real Thing

As a result of NHK's "Project X," the dramatic story of the development of VHS by Victor Company of Japan (JVC) became widely known. The story is made into a movie and is appearing soon to a theater. The principal figure was Shizuo Takano, known as "Mr. VHS." The VHS format that he developed in 1976 has seen sales of over 700 million decks and more than 20 billion tapes, and has become the de facto standard truly representative of the twentieth century. Moreover, the technology that was accumulated is continuing to be used in a wide variety of ways.

It was in this period, the dawn of the age of electronics, that Hiroki Shimizu entered the company in March 1963. Naturally, Mr. Shimizu absorbed the enthusiasm of his truly great seniors in technological development and was involved in developing audio recorders, as well as audio, video, and television technology. Mr. Shimizu was appointed senior managing director, as well as president of the AV and Multimedia Company, in April 2000 and senior corporate advisor, his current post, in June 2001.

It was from Mr. Shimizu that I received a book titled "In Search of the Real Thing-Successful Product Development" About 50 pages long, the book opens with the remark that "thinking is life, effort is our teacher." In this chapter Mr. Shimizu writes:

"If you devote yourself to development, it is as though that development work comes alive and breathes life into you. First of all, if you are not dedicated to development, you cannot expect great results. Leaders in development have to get across the dedication they put into their work. Then enthusiastic members will gather and create a wonderful energy.

"They can overcome any obstacle. The greatest effort is the shortest route to success. If you put your all into it, the answer will inevitably come to you from the very depths. It is the effort that makes you a teacher, a master.... Real development changes the world, and it changes corporations. Development themes that are born out of the product growth process change, but the state of mind that is required for true development never changes.

"...In the latter part of JVC's development history, I had a hand in many developments as the person in charge. That was where I was able to sum up the essence that points to successful development."

Mr. Shimizu says that he wanted to make a present of the book to the development people at JVC. However, I saw it also as a message to Japan's development technicians.

The contents of the book are as follows: Chapter 1- Manufacturing and Development; Chapter 2 - The Key Words of Development; Chapter 3 - Promoting Development; Chapter 4 - In Search of the Real Thing; Chapter 5 - Putting a Date on Your Dreams with Dedication and Enthusiasm; and Chapter 6 - Personal History and Achievements.

The chapter on "In Search of the Real Thing" has sections on "The Real Thing," "The Essence," "Pros," "Core Technology," "People Friendly," "Marketing," and "World Firsts." A deep affection for people flows through it all.

If you look at why technological development exists, it is to contribute to humankind. People are at the center of technology, from which products are born. "The real thing is never born only from high-level research," Mr. Shimizu states. "The first process is to determine the theme. You have to put yourself completely in the user's position and dig up the needs that are lying dormant. There must be no compromise."

I was deeply impressed by Mr. Shimizu's emphasis on Japan's great skill in planning, in addition to Japanese companies' technological and product quality strength. This book is a treasure not only for technological developers but for all business people.

(With permission from the author, Hiroki Shimizu, excepts from this book (in Japan) will appear in Senka 21from the next issue.)