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The Elegant Solution: Toyota's Formula for Mastering Innovation Hardcover – October 10, 2006

23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Toyota is now one of the top three car companies in the U.S. according to the New York Times--a fact that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago. May, a senior advisor with the University of Toyota, reveals how Toyota's philosophy of team-based innovation and creative business practices has made this -postindustrial manufacturing company a winner. A formula of three principles and 10 practices drives Toyota's creativity, with a reported one million ideas from its employees being implemented each year. May was challenged to translate the Toyota Production System into a company-wide process to cultivate creative ideas at every level of the company and convert those ideas to solid value for customers buying a Toyota automobile. May outlines his journey with dozens of compelling real-life examples of creative thinking while weaving in the history and Japanese culture that has made Toyota the well-respected and profitable company it is today. Gail Whitcomb
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


'This book has business and management lessons that are transferable to virtually any industry...I strongly recommend it... To succeed in the modern world requires new skills, and this book provides one guide in an easily affordable, readable and understandable format' Personnel Today 10/4 --This text refers to the Digital edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (October 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743290178
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743290173
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,005,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

MATTHEW E. MAY is is the author of THE LAWS OF SUBTRACTION: 6 Simple Rules for Winning in the Age of Excess Everything, as well as three previous, award-winning books: The Elegant Solution, In Pursuit of Elegance, and The Shibumi Strategy. A popular speaker, executive coach, and close advisor on strategy, innovation, and lean to companies such as ADP, Edmunds, Intuit, and Toyota, his articles have appeared in national publications such as The New York Times, Harvard Business Review blogs, 99U, The Rotman Magazine, Fast Company, Design Mind, MIT/Sloan Management Review, USA Today, Strategy+Business, and Quality Progress. He has appeared in The Wall Street Journal and on National Public Radio. A graduate of the Wharton School of Business and Johns Hopkins University, he lives in Southern California. A published songwriter, Matt considers winning the New Yorker Magazine cartoon caption contest among his most creative achievements.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Randy Herring on January 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I highly recommend his book to all who want to practice innovation as a way of doing business. In the foreword, Kevin Roberts writes that Toyota is "the quintessential postindustrial organization" which has "a highly structured and systematized culture that is also a hotbed of individual creativity." Matthew May was hired by Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. to design and deliver education for the University of Toyota that would translate the innovative methods of the Toyota Production System into something that could be used by knowledge workers. It took May five years to accomplish the process. According to May, at Toyota it is the quest for the elegant solution the shapes true innovation. In his book, May not only defines the elegant solution but also tells the reader how to achieve innovation in his or her own work.

In addition to Kevin Roberts' foreword The Elegant Solution contains the following chapter divisions:

Backstory: One Million Ideas

Introduction: In Search of Elegance

Part 1: Principles

1. The Art of Ingenuity

2. The Pursuit of Perfection

3. The Rhythm of Fit

Part 2: Practices

4. Let Learning Lead

5. Learn to See

6. Design for Today

7. Think in Pictures

8. Capture the Intangible

9. Leverage the Limits

10. Master the Tension

11. Run the Numbers

12. Make Kaizen Mandatory

13. Keep it Lean

Part 3. Protocol

14. The Clamshell Strategy

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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Craig Matteson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Toyota certainly deserves its high reputation for manufacturing excellence. When I was studying for my MBA we looked at some Toyota cases and processes and they compared favorably to those of the once highly regarded American manufacturers. What happened? How did a company rise from the ashes of World War II to become what will be the largest manufacturer of automobiles in the world? Not only will Toyota lead in volume, but in consistently high quality as well.

The Toyota Production System has been studied in detail. Some have tried to copy it in whole or in part with varying degrees of success. Others have rejected it as hype. In this book, Matthew May shares with readers the core of this powerful system and what makes it work for Toyota. Mr. May has worked within Toyota and has been a senior advisor at Toyota University. He has found a way to explain the essence of the system in a way that can be beneficial to everyone who is interested in understanding the principles that make TPS work. However, while this book teaches many principles it is not a book about making cars. It is about making things better by becoming simpler and, well, more elegant.

While I certainly cannot recount everything in this book here, the opening quote the author supplies from Thomas Edison encapsulates things quite well, "There's a way to do it better - find it". The whole notion of elegance is to find a better way to do things than you are today. Standards aren't for saying what is good enough and for creating a kind of going through the motions. No. They are for summarizing the best known way for doing things today so one can begin thinking about how to improve things.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ben Garen on November 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Since first learning of W. Edwards Deming in a Japanese Society class I took in college, I've been an eager student of Japanese culture and management practices. In my job interview with Canon executives in Tokyo back in 1992, I expressed my view that America had much to learn from Japan in this regard. The experience proved to be extraordinarily enlightening for me. Unfortunately, after all these years it seems that I am still among only a hand-full eager young American "Samurai," as the majority of companies in my homeland seem to stubbornly continue down their determined "Lemming's March" to extinction. On occasion, my hope is rekindled when a book like this comes out. Toyota has proven itself to be a world leader in both quality and innovation. As an instructor at Toyota University, Matthew May was provided a rare insider's perspective into the management principles and practices that have consistently enabled Toyota to remain at the cutting-edge of the world's automotive industry. Thankfully, Mr. May is sharing this "profound knowledge" in his new book "The Elegant Solution: Toyota's Formula for Mastering Innovation." In the book, Mr. May outlines a number of management principles and practices employed at Toyota to leverage the creative knowledge assets of its workforce, leading to "delighted" customers and ever-higher benchmarks for the industry. A bonus is provided by way of Mr. May's own "IDEA" methodology for promoting innovation within any organization. I believe it was the late Peter F. Drucker who said that the mantra of the new age in business is "Innovate or Die." If you want for your company to survive in the Darwinian business world of today, you would do well to take up the student's seat, get this book, and set a course of innovation for the future.
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