June 3, 2021Blog

Discuss the Bigger Idea - Replicating the Dojo Concept at Other Companies

Share Article

Note: Woven Planet became Woven by Toyota on April 1, 2023.

The Problem

Talent is a physics problem.

All companies have talent. All companies want more of it. A certain amount of talent is needed to accomplish a company’s mission. We can quantify this — call it x. The present amount of talent the company has we can call y. Thus minus y — let’s call that z — is the delta — the gap between what talent a company has and what it needs. What’s worse is that these values are continually changing.

So how companies go about reducing that z value — how do they close that gap and get the talent they need? Most companies do one of two things. They either recruit and try to hire the best people, or they outsource to some other company or contractors. Generally speaking, both of these approaches bring their own tradeoffs. Hiring the best talent is very hard because, well, everyone wants the best talent. High-value workers have a lot of options and winning them over is not easy. Recruiting is slow and expensive. It can take several months to get one high-value engineer or manager. This problem is even more apparent within large companies, where they may need to recruit thousands of new employees, even tens of thousands in some cases.

Outsourcing can also be risky. Sure a good vendor might be able to build what you need, but this is often a Faustian bargain. Outsourcing can create external dependencies and reduces a company’s ability to maintain control of its standards and product development. It’s also very expensive. For large companies often outsourcing begets outsourcing. You get one vendor to build a backend system, another vendor to create smartphone apps, another vendor for data analysis, and on and on and on until kingdom come. You end up at a point where you don’t have enough internal development expertise to even evaluate the necessary contractors.

While recruiting and outsourcing are necessary functions of most growing companies, both recruiting and outsourcing are imperfect solutions to the talent physics problem. Is there perhaps another option? At Woven Planet Group (Woven Planet) we think so.

Enter The Dojo

So let me take a step back and give some more context.

Software is eating the world. In the past, it was all about hardware. In the 70’s and 80’s Japanese companies dominated and were defining the market for things like cars, VCRs, and CD players. Then along came the internet and the smartphone, and suddenly it was all about apps and cloud services. Suddenly Japanese industries realized they were falling behind Silicon Valley both in terms of technology and development culture. We, as a subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota), one of Japan’s flagship companies, are trying to lead the way in the effort to keep up with the innovators out in California.

Woven Planet’s high-level mission is to “create world-class technology and build the safest mobility in the world.” It’s an ambitious goal, and the company is filled with ambitious people. Toyota is seen as the gold standard for manufacturing, and we want to be the gold standard for technology and agile development. In a sense, the goal for Woven Planet is to transform how people live, work, and travel through innovations in automated driving, robotics, smart cities, and education. To do all that Woven will need to become a software company that can stand toe-to-toe with the western big tech titans.

For all the talented people we have though, Woven Planet is not unlike other companies in that we also want more talent. However when you are competing against the titans of Silicon Valley, it is no easy task to attract the world’s top engineers. You also need to ensure that you have a culture conducive to both attracting and nurturing that talent for people from a wide variety of backgrounds.

This is the challenge the Dojo was created to solve.

The Dojo was created to be a third path — a way to get the talent we need without relying on outsourcing or a recruiting pipeline.

The Dojo was created to be a self-generating engine of talent for the company. If we have all these talented people working here, why not leverage them to help expand and cultivate the talent already here?

We believe that by re-prioritizing our time and resources, Woven Planet will be able to shrink our talent gap. As a bonus, having access to so many resources for self-improvement should improve worker motivation as well.

The Bigger Idea

The future is coming along faster than we all think. When we see the speed of technological innovation we may be inclined to react fearfully. “Robots are coming to steal our jobs!” say some. Indeed, artificial intelligence (AI) will present many complex new challenges for the global economy. We will soon need to deal with vast numbers of displaced workers. While some believe that universal basic income or some form of technology restriction are the only possible solutions, we believe that the real hope lies in training.

What if we could get really really good at educating employees so that they could do new stuff? All those new robots and AI are not going to run themselves; all kinds of new opportunities and industries will come along with them. We’re going to need millions of new roboticists, programmers, analysts, engineers, and managers. A large portion of those workers will have to come from the existing pool of workers.

This is where the Dojo and our “self-generating engine of talent” comes into play. It lets us drive and enjoy the benefits of advanced technologies while minimizing the downsides. Lifetime employability was the norm, not a pipedream. We believe that by cultivating talent from within, companies can have highly motivated, highly skilled employees that they want to retain long-term, and employees can have the security that comes with being highly valued within the company.

Our dream is to achieve this not only at Woven Planet, but to spread this concept across Japan. Imagine if every company invested in employee education to the same degree. Employees are rewarded for their loyalty with strong job security and continuous education. Employers are rewarded for their loyalty by getting dedicated, highly engaged workers with relevant skills.

It’s a win-win so obvious that we think it merits a serious investment. We look forward to letting you know how it works out.

Join us! 👋

We are actively hiring exceptional talent for the Dojo. If you are interested in working with us in our brand-new office in Nihonbashi, Tokyo, please have a look at our current open positions!