Jun 23, 2023


One step forward through “Life Talk”

― what is “Life Talk”, a volunteer activity born out of production workplace?

In Injection Components Manufacturing Management Div. of DENSO, there is an activity called “LifeTalk” that creates opportunities to change the way of living and working through listening to diverse experiences from people inside and outside the company. We asked Natsumi Watanabe, the originator, and Shota Nakayama, the member of the operation, to talk about the background of which Watanabe initiated the activity with bottom-up approach and the outlook of the future.

Contents of this article

    Words from others become the “essence” to change my awareness and actions

    Watanabe:“I started the “Life Talk” when I thought I could give a kind of realization to people who wanted to change themselves, find opportunities to be active, or people in the preliminary stage toward awareness of self-transformation. I believe you can get a chance to change your way of thinking and even your vision of life listening to the people you have little opportunities to meet inside and outside a company.”

    The originator of “Life Talk,” Natsumi Watanabe, talks to us as above. While she promotes digital transformation to the worksite where products are actually produced (hereinafter referred to as production site) in the Manufacturing DX Sect., Global Manufacturing Strategy Dept., Injection Components Manufacturing Management Div., she launched the “Life Talk,” a community activity managed primarily by volunteers. Lecturers with experiences of trying various tasks are invited from inside and outside of the company and the lectures are held every three months.

    Watanabe:“I used to work in the production site before starting this activity, and I had always wanted to express my individuality when working. At the production site, we have to work following manuals and instructions in order to improve the efficiency and safety of the work, but we are also required to propose improvements to more improve the efficiency and safety of the work.

    While I was also proposing various improvements, I felt strongly that I wanted to improve myself by gaining experience not only to propose improvements but also to make new ideas in order to realize them. At that time, I was transferred to my current workplace, Manufacturing DX Sect. I had a high expectation that I could work on the job I would originate by myself there. But due to the packed work schedule, I could not touch those jobs, and I was bothered about it.”

    And a lecture held in the company was her turning point. She could clear up her mind when she heard the experience of a businessperson outside the company who had launched many businesses.

    Watanabe:”What came to my mind during this lecture was this phrase; “When you decide to start a new thing, your feeling or motivation is certainly important, but the most important thing is to add a drop of ‘essence of experienced persons’.”

    The exact phrase was the essence itself for me at that time. With a drop of essence, I was able to organize my thoughts and able to work on my job positively with my own will. At the same time, I thought I wanted other people to have those experiences as well.”

    A month after this lecture, Watanabe talked to her boss about the launch of “Life Talk” and began this activity as part of her job.

    Meeting new people brings another opportunity of meeting---- Activity gained momentum with new team members

    At the beginning of launch of “Life Talk” , Watanabe gave an online lecture by herself to the employees who developed or designed production processes or production engineering. At that time, she invited management team members to run the “Life Talk”, and six members soon joined it. One of them is Shota Nakayama, who worked on the new business creation that utilizes precise manufacturing in the New Field Promotion Sect., Global Manufacturing Strategy Dept.

    Nakayama:“Listening to the lecture of Life Talk made me realize that my ideas which I have accumulated since I started working was a kind of stereotype. I had been involved in the improvement of operation process and the development of equipment and processing method since I joined the company, but I was transferred to the section which develops business in new business fields in January 2022.

    I had not even thought that I would be in the position where I had to think of new business. I knew that it was necessary to have a different way of working or mindset, but I was totally at a loss about what to do for a while at the beginning because I could not change myself.”

    It was a lecture in “LifeTalk” by an employee with experiences of new business that encouraged Nakayama to take a first step.

    Nakayama:”I leant from the lecture that you must jump into the unknown field when you start a new thing, or nothing is going to move forward. This was exactly what I should do. So, after the lecture, I summoned up the courage to randomly contact all the people concerned in the company, and I also addressed and made appointment with people outside the company who didn’t even know the name of DENSO. I did the same thing over and over.

    Thanks to this action, I could pave the way to a new business, and I realized the true meaning of “Action is everything”. I am also amazed at the change from myself who couldn’t really take action in the past to who I am now.”

    In addition, Nakayama reflects on his experience of participating in the entrepreneurial events he had never been involved in before in order to deepen his knowledge.

    Nakayama:”Even if other business persons look similar to you, the more you learn about them who work and live in different ways from yours, the more you can gain the insights and thoughts that you have never known before. What you gain from these experiences can be returned to your job, and furthermore, it is something that can make your life upward.

    I want other members in DENSO to have the similar experience. I want to create a place like that by myself. That is why I’ve decided to join “Life Talk” as one of the operation members.”

    The growth of the operation members makes the activity better

    As each “LifeTalk” was going smoothly and gave the realization to audience, it also led to the growth of the operation members.

    Watanabe:”Actually, at first, the motivations and goals towards the activity of each member were different. Some had assumed to participate in a business contest with this team members before joining, while others expected to be lifted from not being able to take a step forward. So, we could not move closely together.”

    Although they had different motivations, they all had strong will that they want to do something beyond the prescribed flamework, and that they want to change the current situation.

    Nakayama:”To begin with, I thought we needed to change our way of working or living in order to have same mindset among our operation team members. We wanted to change ourselves all the time. In other words, I thought we could make this “LifeTalk” activity better even further through updating ourselves.”

    Watanabe:”We thought we also needed to understand one another more in order to continue this activity while updating ourselves. That’s why we all participated in self-analysis events or talked each other about our own career or problems.

    After that, some members actively express their opinions in the team though they were so sensitive that they could not talk very much there at the beginning of this activity, and I think it made our activity more active. More importantly, I could find my own strength and change my awareness by running the “Life Talk.”

    “LifeTalk” continues to expand its activities from providing information to supporting actions

    “Life Talk” has been continuing its activities for over a year, and it intends to expand its initiative further along with the growth of the members of the operation team.

    Watanabe:“Currently, there are lots of groups doing volunteer activities in the company, but actually, there are not any activities that associates of the production sites can casually participate in. We would like to plan some events such people will get interested in.”

    Nakayama:“There are about four thousand employees working in the production site only in Injection Components Business Unit. I would like to work on the activity that could enrich their lives by changing the awareness of as many employees as possible.”

    Watanabe:”I want to continue telling people how important taking a step forward is. I believe if we lower the hurdle for participation in the activity to encourage people to take a first step, it’s possible to connect with people who otherwise would never have involved one after another. I think it is never so difficult to expand your own world and to have various choices in how to work or live. I want people to know that it is up to your own actions that could create a new way of working.”

    Actually, many of the employees who participated in the past lectures have told that they were inspired. But operation members want to do more things looking ahead of it. So, they are not just holding lectures but about to start a new initiative.

    Nakayama:“In our lectures, we cannot do any more things than introducing role models. We feel it is not enough just to provide information in order to solve the feeling of uncertainty that each of us have in ourselves. We want to help realizing the potential of people who are willing to give a try. I want them to know the various ways of working and think about their career that perfectly fit the ways.”

    Watanabe:”I ultimately envision the organization that could provide a specific support in order to take a step forward. And I also want to be the person who could add the essence to as many employees as possible.”

    The “LifeTalk” activity has just begun. We will continue to challenge ourselves in creating a positive cycle of meeting new people and realization.


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