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  • Support activity
    - Determining collaborative project strategy for new business creation
    - Project management of the "Play-a-thon" collaborative program
    - Collaboration with the YouFab Global Creative Awards
  • Project schedule
    - March and November 2014: Project management of the "Play-a-thon" hack-a-thon
    - January to March 2015: "Play-a-thon" incubation program
    - January 2016 to March 2017: Implementing the collaborative program

Project Overview

- The future society, people, and sounds created by Yamaha

Yamaha Co., Ltd. works with a wide range of products and services not limited to musical instruments and audio equipment. Yamaha, with its corporate slogan "Sharing Passion & Performance," aims for new value creation. It continues to challenge itself in various ways to create a "heat source" not only touching on the "joy" or "fun" aspect of passion, but truly inspiring and stirring up people's hearts.

Beginning in 2014, it started a new business project as a company from the Yamaha perspective of "Sharing Passion & Performance," aiming to collaborate on creating new business (i.e., new value) along with Loftwork Inc., which also takes a creative approach to yet unseen value creation. What kind of project was envisioned by Yamaha new enterprise representatives Mr. Hata and Mr. Kamiya, and Loftwork Inc. Producer Matsui and Director Suzuki?

Project Process

— A challenge of value creation through the design process

The collaborative project between Yamaha and Loftwork Inc. dates back to 2014. Two "Play-a-thon" hack-a-thon events were held with the theme of "redesigning musical performance."

Going beyond the current concept framework while exploring user insight through the design process (design consideration), we worked on design and prototyping beyond organization and company frameworks, as well as experimental efforts based on how the instrument and performance experience might change with regard to the senses of hearing, sight, and touch.

- Moving from problem-solving to raising questions, value creation possibilities for companies

Based on the 2014 "Play-a-thon" initiative and the prototypes produced there, several paths came to light in connection with the 2016 YouFab collaboration.

One of these was taking a new look at the impact of value creation through the design process. Another was to return to the core concepts of the project also found in Yamaha's slogan of "Sharing Passion & Performance," and once again determine the true aim of the members.

Production through the design process promotes design of services, products, and the accompanying experience in keeping with user needs and issues. Ultimately, design is something that approaches users and their lifestyles, and is not a means of self-expression or showing the originality of the designer, but is done to solve issues currently being faced. At the same time, after the 2014 project, one big question from members was whether there was truly a need for the new value Yamaha wanted to create to solve problems.

Accordingly, the project members once again returned to the essential questions of the meaning of aiming for the "Sharing Passion & Performance" slogan, and what passion is to begin with, and carefully verbalized what kind of future they would like to create.

Through this process, which seems like a detour at first glance, the project members defined the new value creation desired by Yamaha as "social value that produces an overwhelming amount of passion to stir up people's hearts and social impact and sensation which raises big questions in the world."

In addition, attention is also given to an approach which creates new value from an artistic viewpoint as part of raising questions for society, in keeping with the design process. Through the power of artistic consideration, which can perceive social issues, and the viewpoint of essential questions about an uncertain future, such as what society will be like in the future and why we (or our companies) exist, Yamaha conceived of a collaborative platform project with artists to create the beginnings of new value.

By not problem-solving, but posing questions, completely new value born from an artistic viewpoint will be produced together with artists and creators. For this reason, the project members once again created a collaborative platform.

- Yasushi Kamiya, Research and Development Supervisory Department, New Business Development section VA group, YAMAHA CORPORATION

"As design consideration was adopted by many companies, one issue started to become clear. It is the fact that because the human-centered design process has the goal of solving problems, the solutions derived from it tend to be made for solving immediate issues in the current public systems, and as a result, it is difficult for innovative solutions that impact culture and society to emerge.

When thinking about what kind of new business Yamaha ought to create for "Sharing Performance & Passion," we did not take this kind of problem-solving approach, but considered that the meaning of Yamaha's existence in society was to present to the world the value discovered through the viewpoint of posing questions.

Artists quickly sense things that are beginning to happen in the world and present them to the world in the form of works of art, but we thought we could make use of that point of view in business development as well.

Believing that we were clearing new ground not yet covered, through not problem-solving but value creation in the form of posing questions through artistic thinking, we conducted the Play-a-thon initiative and planned for this YouFab Yamaha Award."

- Hajime Matsui, Producer, Loftwork Inc.

"It is a difficult time for production companies, being generally said that even by creating a persona and searching out user needs (seeds) and issues for product development, said users do not respond, and that even if problems are solved, the idea is not always a source of value creation unrecognized even by users.

Seeking to discover new value (new seeds) in more universal and essential areas for humans, innovative companies beginning with Yamaha are starting to not only solve problems, but also pose questions to society. In doing so, it is by no means special to use "sensitivity" or "passion" as a challenge theme for company value creation, but may be a quite natural experiment. Working together with artists, who constantly deal with the opposition of universality and realistic themes, in pursuit of new value, is also an established tactic in planning projects.

On the other hand, art (the creative field) and new business creation (the business field) can also be thought to be in opposition. Even saying that it is not speculative design as a trend, but the business domain according to Yamaha itself, there was somewhat of a gap in the logic connecting corporate activity between the creative and business fields.

Feeling that the YouFab arrangement was the proper catalyst or bridge to contribute to filling this gap was a major reason that this project came together. We have been working with Mr. Kamiya over the past three years and more, adopting the corporate slogan of Sharing Passion & Performance on a collaborative platform, continually conducting discussion, implementation, and proof of effectiveness. In that way, it might be said that the collaboration with YouFab was inevitable."

- Collaboration between Yamaha and YouFab

Illustration: Yukihiro Takeda

The final goal of the collaborative platform project was to create new business (i.e., new value) for Yamaha. In doing so, we particularly emphasized maintaining resilience in the business by developing a wide variety of business beginnings together with external members to produce "seeds," and making those future company resources.

Furthermore, how many of what should be called "cells," which organize the seeds that will become a source of resilience for the company, can be found within the raw material of the new viewpoints and ideas is a major factor in whether the company can produce new "seeds" and develop them into successful new businesses.

Accordingly, as the first step in new business creation, the focus is on encountering more of the ideas which will become the raw material. To provide structure for that purpose, we implemented a collaboration with the globally developed creative platform YouFab.

What Is YouFab?

YouFab is a collaborative platform launched by FabCafe Global and Mr. Fukuda of 777 Interactive. In the form of awards, it promotes the creative aspect of stimulating value improvement in new production in the field of digital fabrication using leather cutters, 3D printers, etc.

- YouFab Global Creative Awards

FabCafe Global Network

his network is expanding through the world with its parent organization FabCafe, building a network with creators active in the cutting-edge art and creative scene.

- What do you fab? ─ What is FabCafe?

Special Prize Yamaha Award in YouFab Global Creative Awards

- Collaborative theme design / Creative awards event

Yamaha and Loftwork Inc. have implemented the collaborative endeavor with YouFab since 2014 to work toward new value creation for businesses from an artistic viewpoint. First of all, what kind of value would we collaborate on with the creators of the world? We investigated that theme.

"Switch on the feels for
someone with your creatives

As human beings, our days are filled with a whole range of emotions.
For instance, the joy that we get when we see a delicate little flower that has popped up on the roadside,
or the excitement we feel when we are about to embark on a new challenge or milestone in our lives.
If there was a switch that could turn on people’s emotions and touch their hearts,
what would this switch be and what would it look like?"

Discussions led to the core concept of "emotion" that also comes through in Yamaha's slogan, and the efforts to express the moment of inspiration through works of art, calling the moment a person's heart is moved a "switch."

Yamaha and YouFab established the special prize "YAMAHA Prize: The switch to your emotions". We searched the world for free concepts (social questions) that did not adhere to current value systems and representative works.

- Noriyuki Hatake, Research and Development Supervisory Department, New Business Development section VA group, YAMAHA CORPORATION

"All of the project members analyzed "passion," following the stem of passion down to its deep roots in the heart, verbalizing various realizations along the way, a new experience of self-understanding. Focusing on the theme of the emotional switch, the moment of thinking "this is interesting," or "I want to try this," we could imagine someone being more positive than they had been mere fractions of a second earlier, and then feeling more proactive.

These kinds of moments that become switches are actually quite common in ordinary life, but we probably fail to notice the majority of them, and pass by without looking. We established this theme based on the thought that if we could create these causes of inspiration to people which are scattered throughout the world, the world would be a more enjoyable place.

Through this project, we felt that there are limits to what companies can accomplish on their own. This is due to being unconsciously trapped within a "thinking cage" rooted in culture and corporate culture, a fate not readily escaped even when aware of it. YouFab is one strategy for breaking free of that cage. By drawing on the strength of artists, who have plenty of power to set thought free, we hoped to see continuous interesting value creation that we could not even imagine."

- Creating a community both domestically and abroad

While presenting the awards, we also held a creative community meetup including people from all over the world, not just in the country. Through FabCafe's foreign bases managed by Loftwork Inc., we conveyed the message of the future Yamaha aims for to the creative cluster hoping for social value creation, expanding the ring of collaboration and understanding of Yamaha's vision overseas through these interactions.

Meetup at FabCafe Tokyo

A meetup event was held over two occasions at FabCafe Tokyo to delve deeper into the collaborative theme of "emotional switches." This created a place for designers, artists, engineers, and others with a variety of backgrounds to gather and think deeply about the collaborative theme.

Promotion of four overseas bases

Through the FabCafe global network of four overseas locations (Taipei, Bangkok, Barcelona, and Toulouse), Yamaha's future vision was conveyed to the overseas creative scene as well, expanding the community.

- Mariko Suzuki, Public Relations, Loftwork Inc. / """YouFab" Coordinator

"Creators from Japan and the world participate in the YouFab Global Awards. In 2016, we received 196 submissions from 31 countries. The participating creators have increased each time, and the level of artwork has also risen; with the maturing of digital production culture, we feel that YouFab itself has also grown as an award.

This time, while inviting applicants for the Yamaha Award, we thoroughly explained the story of why Yamaha is exploring new value creation from an artistic viewpoint. There are few people who do not know Yamaha's brand and products. At events held by FabCafe in Tokyo and its four overseas locations, we conveyed the message that we would like to interact with creators freely being creative, not constrained by Yamaha's current products or brand image. The overseas FabCafe locations have their own unique creator communities, such as designers and startups in Barcelona and engineers in Toulouse, and by meeting them in person, Mr. Kamiya of Yamaha was soon able to get them to understand what he was thinking.

In addition, only one piece is chosen for the Yamaha Award, but the YouFab team gave commentary on each of the 147 applications from a creative and technical standpoint, informing judges Mr. Kawada and Mr. Hata. In addition to the appeal from creators, since we can show value unnoticed by the creators, we have been given ideas which will become the raw material for new value (new seeds)."

Project Impact

- Raw material for new value creation gathered from around the world

During the three months (August to the end of October) that applications were open for the Yamaha Award, 147 works were entered from 27 countries around the world. Based on the collaborative concept that was Yamaha's aim, works were gathered that expressed that original viewpoint. The emerging viewpoint and ideas of the submitted works are having an irreplaceable impact as a precious resource for the purpose of Yamaha's future new business creation endeavors. In addition, the network of creators expanding through the world has also become an important asset for future projects.

- Prototype program for cultivating seeds

The piece chosen by the judges was called OTON GLASS, smart glasses which support the act of reading for those who have difficulty reading letters by converting visual character information into speech. From March 8th to the 19th, a prototype called "emoglass" based on OTON GLASS will be displayed by Yamaha staff together with the OTON GLASS team at the YouFab Awards Winning Works Exhibition at the Shibuya Hikarie. In the future, they will challenge themselves with incubation and development for the purpose of full-scale new value creation.

OTON GLASS was originally developed as a problem-solving product. However, the product's idea source, thought invested by the project team, and new experience created for the senses of sight and sound triggered an emotional switch for the project members. While being a problem-solving product, OTON GLASS, which has many possibilities for creating further new value and experiences, was a work which greatly puzzled the judges.

>>See YouFab YAMAHA prize judges' comments here
>>See details of the YouFab Awards Winning Works Exhibition here

- What emotional switch was made by the creator of OTON GLASS?

- Keisuke Shimakage, Representative Director, OTON GLASS

"My father's dyslexia prompted me to develop OTON GLASS. In 2012 my father suffered a stroke, leaving damage in the language area of the brain which caused only his reading ability to decline. Because of my father's illness, I decided to develop a device to support reading. That is OTON GLASS. Even after my father's rehabilitation and complete recovery, I have continued working as hard as possible to develop and implement better support for people with dyslexia or visual impairment and foreign visitors to Japan.

While the problem this product seeks to solve is clear, there is a hidden fascination in the expansion of perception that comes with the experience itself that this is based on, that of having something that one is looking at converted into sound. When submitting it for the Yamaha Award, I hoped that Yamaha would be able to join in that as well.

OTON GLASS makes a world where everyone can read words a reality. At the same time, I think that it is possible to realize a society in which we can hear the sounds of a parallel world which differ from the actual sounds of society. By improving people's perception, I would be happy if OTON GLASS can take even one step forward to further improve the reality before us as humans, in cooperation with Yamaha through the YouFab Creative Award.

Both Yamaha and we at OTON GLASS are working daily with important missions in mind. Through the chaos, in a good way, from this YouFab opportunity, we anticipate that these will head for development that is impossible to predict. Not settling for a simple award, or for carefully designed open innovation, I want to work to develop new examples as a venture toward these unpredictable possibilities that can happen because of YouFab".

Voice of Customer

YAMAHA CORPORATION Research and Development Supervisory Department, New Business Development section VA group
Yasushi Kamiya

In developing new business for a company, the distance from company context while approaching company culture is important, so a collaborative approach connecting inside and outside the company is indispensable. On the other hand, with this project, because it was difficult to know in advance what kind of works would be submitted and what possibilities there would be to interact with the works and creators after the Awards, this point became a challenge.

Accordingly, we spent a lot of time carefully eliminating initiatives based on the previous design process, and creating a framework and process incorporating an artistic viewpoint. The expertise and network of Loftwork Inc. were extremely helpful with that.

Collaborative business development initiatives have only just begun, but we believe that these endeavors will produce businesses that can impact society.

YAMAHA CORPORATION Research and Development Supervisory Department, New Business Development section VA group
Noriyuki Hatake

The most difficult part of this project was getting a deep understanding of these works from around the world, breaking them down into business-related "seeds," and then putting them together again. Because we did not know beforehand what kind of ideas and works would be submitted, we gathered interesting people from within the company to search for collaborative seeds, and through their high power and reflexes, worked hard to choose partners who would create new value with Yamaha.

The real joy of this project was being able to encounter the sparkle of "raw materials" that did not exist within ourselves. However, it is difficult to understand those materials in one's own way, and we considered it important to have respect for those that we ourselves could not understand.

The people of Loftwork Inc. are pure and bright, with a forward-facing perspective, so we feel that it will go smoothly. That is a really amazing thing. Of course, we can have a very fulfilling experience with all of the various expertise and ideas coming up. We will work even harder in the future to create more emotional switches, aiming to make everyday life in the world more enjoyable.