Experiencing Innovation Methods in 150 minutes--Working Adults and Students Take on the Challenge of Co-creation

[Fujitsu Forum 2016 Workshop Report]

Hackathons and ideathons have been attracting attention as methods for different industries to partner, work together and create new business. Fujitsu also has accumulated knowledge for a variety of players with different backgrounds to generate innovations through ideathons with customers in a variety of fields and the biggest hackathons in Japan. At Fujitsu Forum 2016 (which took place on May 19 and 20 at the Tokyo International Forum in Yurakucho, Tokyo), Fujitsu conducted a hands-on workshop for providing an opportunity to experience part of this technical knowledge in a short time.

A workshop for condensing innovation methods

<Moderator> Tetsuya Sasaki, Chief Senior Consultant, Manufacturing Industry/Energy Division, Fujitsu Research Institute

In 2014, Ashita Lab UNIVERSITY was launched as a project for promoting co-creation with students responsible for creating the future. In Fujitsu Forum 2015 last year, Fujitsu held an ideathon named "edu & toy" under the theme of children learning and playing, which was well received as a hands-on workshop for participants. Fujitsu is also working on new value creation involving university students from all over Japan and working adults by holding co-creation projects with universities throughout Japan as well as DAIGAKKOTHON!, an ideathon under the theme Future Universities.

At Fujitsu Forum 2016, Fujitsu held a workshop that allowed participants to experience methods for generating innovation which Ashita Lab UNIVERSITY accumulated in only 150 minutes. In a general hackathon or ideathon, ideas are tweaked and a prototype for demonstrating an application or model is created, taking up to a few days. That being the case, this is a challenging experiment that condensed all these processes into the framework of a general seminar.
"We want participants to incorporate what they learned at this workshop in their workplaces and places of learning and further develop it into a large movement, not just leave it behind as a fleeting experience," said Sasaki of Fujitsu Research Institute, who served as moderator for this workshop. Students and business people from various fields who participated in the workshop, what awareness have you gained through this workshop?

Understanding target users by observing them

Developing a specific persona's image and writing it down on paper with other members

Creating a specific image of a target user and clarifying the user's issues and awareness of problems in daily life are effective methods to use when considering a new service. At first, participants saw the photo and read the character profile of Kazuhiro Kani, a fictitious user, and then they imagined his values and what he wants to experience and wrote them down on paper.

In actual business, this process is carried out as fieldworks, such as interviewing users and observing behaviors (ethnography). Few users are able to clearly respond to the requirements they seek, including features they want, for the new service, and there are many users who identify needs and issues that they have never recognized for the first time through observations or analysis by a third party. At Fujitsu, specialists called Field Innovators are supporting these activities to discover issues at customer sites throughout the country.

Creating a space where participants can easily suggest ideas by praising each other's ideas

Speed-storming in pairs

Once the image of users has solidified, participants start generating ideas. Under the theme of Culture Scramble—Visit and Start New Experiences of International Cultural Exchange, each participant considers a totally new form of international cultural exchanges that is most appropriate for the fictitious user Kazuhiro Kani.

Here the moderator, Sasaki, gave the following advice:
"The best way for users to gain new experiences and awareness is to put themselves in a different environment than usual. There are mainly three factors that change the environment: changing activity time, changing activity locations, and changing the people to interact with. By combining these factors with the values and issues of the target user discussed previously, it may be possible to provide the user with unexpected experiences that go beyond their imagination."

In the next phase, participants share ideas generated with others. Here, participants also tweak their ideas together using "speed-storming," a technique for generating ideas developed at the University of California, Berkeley. Speed-storming involves having people work in pairs, and the pairs keep changing while giving comments on their counterparts' ideas. The rule here is to first evaluate by focusing on what is good about the idea (Praise First). It has been psychologically recognized as effective for creating an atmosphere that encourages people to suggest ideas and stimulate their creativity.

Act first for co-creation

Prototyping ideas using tools

Students, working adults, and Fujitsu employees were assigned to nine tables in the hall in a well-balanced manner, each of which formed a group. Participants in groups sitting around each table were encouraged to give shape to their ideas. They needed to express their ideas with group members within 30 minutes, without taking sufficient time for self-introductions or ice-breaking activities. The key to successful rapid prototyping is thinking while creating, and obtaining early feedback from group members by showing the process.

Papers, sticky notes, prototyping tools and toys, such as Lego blocks, which were prepared on each table, were available on a first-come first-served basis. Each team used these tools in various ways. For example, a team illustrated a service model in the form of a diagram and another team reproduced users' behavior using blocks. There was even a team that acted out a usage scenario, wearing wigs and glasses.

A team presenting their idea

After finishing prototyping, a representative team presented their idea, which was about a matching service that facilitates encounters among people who have something in common that would have never occurred in their normal daily lives. What was unique about this service was that the higher the rarity of the common attribute between matched users, such as birthplace or unique hobby, the higher the discount rate for the coupon was.

Endless steps toward creating value

Students and working adults who participated in the ideathon workshop commented that they gained a better understanding and awareness from an operational aspect, saying, "We have incorporated workshops at our operations, but I have recognized that we tended to focus only on developing ideas," and "I understand the importance of enjoying and amusing ourselves during the thinking process." Participants also commented that they were encouraged to take on new challenges: "We would like to see sites after sharing our vision" and "We want to start a business related to ideathon and hackathon next year."

At the end of the ideathon workshop, Moderator Sasaki talked about the principle to be kept in mind in starting co-creation from scratch. Methods for creating businesses widely recognized in the world, including this ideathon held today, put focus on "giving shape to ideas," but the steps we take to reach that point are also important and cannot be neglected. It is important to create a future vision based on users' potential issues and have unique questions.
"The same applies to Ashita Lab UNIVERSITY, which planned this ideathon," said Sasaki. This project has been developed as an answer to the question, "What can Fujitsu do?" while solving complicated social issues with many stakeholders. Fujitsu will continue co-creation together with students and people from different industries going forward, including further improving ideas developed through various activities and conducting field verifications, so please keep paying attention to Fujitsu.

Outside the seminar venue, co-creation services currently available were exhibited.

Omotenashi Platform to promote food globalization: This platform checks if there is any inedible food materials or ingredients in Japanese food for reasons of religion or health in view of the 2020 Olympic Games.

Kurakara application to enjoy tourism in the Tohoku region, centered on Japanese sake: This application has been developed at the Sakura Hackathon 2014 put on by Fujitsu.

Electronic Choreography provides a new way of cheering, uniting the team and its fans into one: This service easily and flexibly creates human letters by combining tablets held by spectators in their seats.

Interactive Shoes Hub for sharing sensor information from shoes: This platform allows users and companies to share foot data that clearly represent the users' health conditions. The Interactive Shoes Hub was exhibited at the SXSW 2016.