Two Fruits: “Miracle Apples” and “Business Renovation Project”

Mar 13th, 2009 | Posted by

This week, Celent is pleased to feature an article from guest contributor, Hiroshi Yokotsuka, Managing Director, Member of the Board and CIO of the Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd.

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Hiroshi Yokotsuka

Hiroshi Yokotsuka

Today, I’d like to share with you a story that happened in Japan called “Miracle Apples” and Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire’s project called “Business Renovation Project.”

Adam and Eve, the discovery of gravity, William Tell, and the iPod. have brought various challenges, discoveries, emotions, and pleasures to human beings. Another miracle was created by apple trees and an old man at the north end of Japan.

Today’s apples are different from the one Newton saw. With generations of breeding improvement and sophisticated anti-pest methods, apple trees can bear big, sweet fruits. High-end apples in Japan are twice as big as the ones you see in the hotel lobby.

But apples became very vulnerable. They can’t live a year without a substantial amount of agrichemicals, fertilizers, and careful weeding. There was a strong belief that it was impossible to grow apple trees without agrichemicals and other artificial materials until Mr. Kimura challenged it.

Mr, Kimura, age 60, began his attempt of pesticide-free apple production 20 years ago. Kimura-san knew it wouldn’t be easy. But the hardship was far beyond his imagination. Eliminating thousands of worms by hand and disinfecting with vinegar or Wasabi water did not work, and apple leaves were devoured by insects. Kimura-san tried everything he could think of, but despite six years of effort, apple trees were weakened and dying even without flowering, and needless to say bearing not a single apple.

Out of ideas and exhausted physically, mentally, and economically, he finally decided to conclude his unsuccessful life by killing himself. He walked deep into the mountains to find his final place. What he saw there were vital forests full of life. Trees spread their leaves and roots vividly, without any help from humans.

Apples are made by apple trees, not by human beings. Kimura-san spent six years realizing that obvious truth. A human being cannot live alone; neither can an apple tree. Trees in a forest live with harmful insects and beneficial insects (and these are the human definitions of them), weed and fungus, worms, frogs, snakes, and animals in harmony.

Completely forgetting what he had come to the place for, he rushed back and began to reconstruct his field to make apple trees comfortable. In that field, various plants sprouted and various insects, reptiles, and animals lived with the trees. The field became a very comfortable place for both apple trees and humans. The apples grown there are incredibly flavorful and nutritious. It became very hard to get the apples. A restaurant that serves apple soup using those apples is booked for a year in advance.

Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire sells insurance 100% through its agencies. But it was just recently that TMNF realized the obvious fact that it is agencies who face customers and sell insurance products. Before that, agencies were compelled to sell the complicated insurance products designed for company’s sake, following the cumbersome processes designed by the company, not agency-friendly computer systems.

The “Business Renovation Project,” started in 2004, focuses on how to make agencies feel comfortable through the business process. We cut insurance products and special clauses by half, refined and simplified the business process thoroughly, and rebuilt the computer systems, from the agencies’ point of view, from scratch.

Now, a harmony of renewed insurance products, business processes, computer systems, support from TMNF’s employees, and above all agencies’ autonomous efforts create a very comfortable business environment. That, no doubt, results in comfortable experiences for their customers.

In this way, TMNF’s “Business Renovation Project” bears fruit as delicious as Kimura-san’s Apples.

About the author, Hiroshi Yokotsuka:

Mr. Hiroshi Yokotsuka joined Tokio Marine & Fire Insurance Co.,Ltd. on 1973, after graduating Hitotsubashi University. He has spent most of his carrier in IT department, leading a number of big projects to success.

As a CIO and a member of the board, he is now in charge of IT Strategy and Business Process Strategy. He has just led one of the biggest reform project in the company’s history, “Business Renovation Project” to hit the first milestone with success. The project is an artistic harmony of Business Process Renovation and Information Technology, which is the fruit of his deep insights of technology, holistic view of business processes, and love for customers and agencies.

Also he is a President of Tokio Marine & Nichido Systems, a systems subsidiary for Tokio Marine & Nichido. As a “big-father” of 1,300 IT engineers, he always tries to encourage and empower his “sons” by regular e-mails ,speeches and events.

Because of his unparalleled carrier as an engineer and a board member, he is invited to various governmental committees, industrial associations and committees in Japan Business Federation dealing with the issues such as e-Government, fostering IT talents, IT strategy & Business strategy.
He is a popular speaker at Information Society of Japan, Japan Society on System Audit, The Non-life institute of Japan, Hitotsubashi University and various seminars.