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The Toyota Jump & Power of Objective-Based Leadership

Updated: Jan 23, 2023

This is a photograph of my father, Steve Vengrove. He wrote the “Oh What a Feeling!” campaign for Toyota back in the 1980s. The story of the campaign and the famous “Toyota Jump” is an inspiring one and actually involves my late dog Kelley and yours truly. I share this story often with colleagues to teach the importance of objective-based communication.

My father was a creative director at Dancer Fitzgerald Sample in New York City—now part of the Saatchi & Saatchi advertising agency and part of the creative team that flew out to California to present to Toyota’s U.S. leadership team. One of the several campaigns they pitched was “Oh What a Feeling!” However, that campaign in its infancy did not include the iconic leap into the air. The presentation went great. Everyone instantly fell in love with the “Oh What a Feeling!” campaign and wanted to proceed. Except…one senior executive had an issue with the closing shot.

The executive said, “I love the campaign; however the final shot is really dull. You’re ending the spot on a static shot of the car with a super [the superimposed onscreen words] that reads ‘Oh what a feeling!’ It would be great if there was a visual way to convey what ‘Oh what a feeling!’ actually feels like.”

“That’s a great objective!” my father jumped in. “I really get what you’re asking for. I don’t have a solution off the top of my head, but we’ll think about it and get back to you.”

Back home in Connecticut, our family had just taken in a stray puppy; we suspected she was a mix of Whippet and Black Lab. After failing to find her owner, we eventually adopted her and named her Kelley. She looked fast and was fast! I was determined to train her to become the next great champion Frisbee dog!

On a Saturday afternoon after lunch, I took Kelley outside to start training. Long story short—I failed miserably. What began as training, quickly turned to teasing—I held the Frisbee high up in the air, just out of her reach. I was amused as Kelley enthusiastically kept leaping for it.

Meanwhile, my father, who was at the kitchen sink washing dishes, peered out the window and saw Kelley eagerly jumping for the Frisbee. Aha! Connection made: a leap into the air was the perfect way to visualize “Oh what a feeling!” The rest is advertising Legend.

Lessons for objective-based communication:

  1. Ask for solutions in the form of objectives, rather than simply requesting a specific solution. Had the Toyota executive tried to solve the problem himself, it’s safe to say the Toyota Jump would never have been realized. Asking for creative ideas using objectives encourages teams to think of innovative solutions. Most often the ideas will be above and beyond what the client would have come up with on his own.

  2. Avoid the same old routine. Get out of the office and create diverse experiences, which allow you to see the world differently. Creativity often entails making connections from unexpected or unrelated concepts, thoughts, or experiences. These trigger curiosity, imagination and create the conditions for serendipity.

  3. Don’t fall into the trap that you must solve problems on the spot. It’s okay to admit you don’t have a brilliant solution at the moment. Ask for some time to think it over. “We’ll get back to you” is a perfectly acceptable response.

  4. Objective-based communication is a great way to lead teams and manage direct reports. Providing team members with clear objectives empowers them to think on their own, develop solutions to problems, and grow. It may be tempting to take the easy approach and simply ask for what you want. But I’ve found life gets a lot easier when your team becomes adept at generating creative solutions that are better than your own.

I encourage you to think of ways to apply these insights to your organization. If you do, you may find yourself jumping for joy at the quality of ideas your team brings to the table.

Miles Finch Innovation helps companies navigate the messy territory of corporate innovation.  We’re strategic thinking partners who can help you get unstuck and identify creative solutions to your toughest challenges.  We also love to train and speak on the subject of Creative Leadership.  Email us or call us at 203-788-2665 to learn how we can help you unlock the creative potential of your employees.

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