Make people HAPPY through communication! ~The 1st WIT Partner Gathering

WIT continues to drive sustainable and scalable social impact by helping social entrepreneurs (Investees) with management support provided by professionals with diverse expertise and backgrounds (WIT Partners). In November 2014, WIT organized a Partner Gathering as one of programs (Issue Discussion) to connect investees and WIT Partners.

WIT believes in the occurrence of the social innovation process visually described here. The goal of this Partner Gathering is to embrace the Diversity of WIT Partners and move onto the Appreciation phase. The next step is to create a dynamic for the Involvement phase. Here, we would like to share part of the presentation by WIT Partner Yuko Sasahara and following conversation with WIT Investees.


About Yuko

Since joining NTT Docomo in 1995, Yuko has been in charge of the design and development of User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) for mobile and websites. She was also a part of the development of i-mode services, and led the initiative to create a new brand for 90X series. Starting last fall, she works for NTT Docomo Ventures developing new businesses with entrepreneurs. “User Interface is an important communication tool between the user and the service provider. My work lies in-between the user and technology,” says Yuko. Besides work, she teamed up with seven other women with different industry backgrounds, and did some consulting projects for products and services targeting women such as a make-up brush or late night TV program.


Learning from launching i-mode service

What Yuko learned from the founder of i-mode, Mari Matsunaga, while working with her developing i-mode: The importance of nuance of the language, the importance of words, and equal partnership.

When I just started working with Mari, I nervously asked, “Can I call you Mari-san instead of Matsunaga-bucho (Manager)?” as everyone was calling her Mari-san, which is a rare case in the corporate environment in a large Japanese company. Mari told me, “My personal aesthetic sense does not allow the sound of “ga-bu” in Matsunaga-bucho.” I was really impressed how she values the nuance of words and the sounds they make. – Yuko


Conversation with a sheep concierge

She shared her experience in launching i-Concierge Services in 2008.

We founded i-Concierge Services in 2008. This service sends customized information to the user, but the experience of “cellphone recommending something to a user” itself was new so we paid attention to how the user would react.
Instead of displaying text on the screen, we decided to use the design using the character of sheep (or hitsuji in Japanese which sounds like Shituji which means concierge in Japanese) that talks to the user. By doing so, we wanted users not to judge the received information as “right or wrong” but rather to have conversation-like experiences. – Yuko


I want to make people HAPPY through communication!

At NTT Docomo Ventures, Yuko is now in charge of 39Works that involves everything from planning to finding seed/early stage ventures.
“Requirements are to be able to collaborate with R&D assets in Docomo, and we develop business models working with a range of entrepreneurs.” Asked what’s her value in her work,

Words have the strong power to touch people’s heart. We should not compromise the choice of words. And don’t be afraid of conflicts. When you overcome the conflicts, you can be closer to your partner. My dream is to make people happy through communication. – Yuko


Why did you become a WIT Partner?

Yuko answers to the above question from WIT Investee;

As I work for a large corporation, it has been difficult to have a feeling that I make contributions to the society. I want to deliver the right message to the society so I really want to give back to the society but I also want to have a good balance between my work and doing social good. In any companies, we often talk about things that are not fundamental to providing better products and services like budget-cutting. (By joining WIT), I want to maintain a good balance between my work and contribution to the society.
We are starting our collaboration with a WIT investee! At a seminar for Docomo employees who are on maternity leave, we distributed the brochure about post-maternal health created by Madre Bonita while sharing information on our website.
I appreciate this opportunity to look back my experience and see what people in the different fields think interesting and applicable. I felt energized and a bit more proud of myself today! – Yuko

THoughts share by WIT Investees include;

We often get caught up with our short-term tasks, but hearing from (the perspective of) the large company Docomo, gave us an opportunity to think about what we can do and what society as a whole can do. – Investee
I was inspired by Yuko’s words. Those words can drive the motivation toward my daily work. I definitely want to consult with her regarding our ongoing new project. – Investee


Mio’s reflection

Yuko’s considerate way of using words is applicable not only in tele-communication but also in any business. This is all the more true to social entrepreneurs, as they face various stakeholders including clients, donors, staff, volunteers, the public sector, and business partners.
By cross-pollinating wisdoms from different fields, I wish there emerges more insights and inspiration for our Investees’ activities and Partners’ work.

In our next blog, we will feature our 2nd Partner gathering in December. Stay tuned!
Written by Mio Yamamoto, Translation by WIT Fellow Maki Nakata (Thank you Maki!) and Mio


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