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loftwork COOOP 10

What are the 7 times which drive a new project!?

A new business, new product development, web renewal, etc., project design aimed at the creation of a "new value" is one of the challenges faced by many businesses and organizations. While focusing attention on the techniques of "design mentality", "customer experience design", and "open collaboration", Loftwork Inc. has shared their technique of "project design", formalized through past achievements and know-how, at the event "How to Design a Project to Create the Future".

The beginnings of innovation are birthed from attention to "points" and "community".

The event began with an opening talk from Mitsuhiro Suwa, CEO of Loftwork Inc., on the theme of "The Points Necessary to Create Innovation".

Loftwork Inc. has been involved in various projects connected to the creation of innovation, such as the creation of a "place" for innovation, design mentality, and the industrialization of ideas. Based on these experiences, two points were discovered regarding how to find the seeds of a new business, "finding points", and "community creation".

"Points" refers to the points of solving a problem. For example, "Solving the problem of an aging population with IoT", is too broad a point, says Suwa, no matter what "it tends to produce the general answer of building a nursing robot."

Instead, if you break the problem down, for example, "How to deal with a living environment where the body has become impaired and unable to stand", it gradually broadens your way of thinking, increasing the likelihood that you will be able to conceive a unique method of improvement.

Regarding the importance of "community creation", there is a limit to the creation of innovation that can be accomplished self-sufficiently. Before the launch of the Apple Watch, Apple released the "WatchKit" as information for developers. This created an ecosystem where external businesses were free to develop applications. Suwa calls for close attention to be paid to these two points.

FabCafe x Isetan Mitsukoshi Open Innovation Endeavors within Malaysia.

Next, Toshimasa Kawai of Loftwork Ltd. FabCafe LLP COO spoke of creating a "place" of innovation through FabCafe.

Toshimasa Kawai of Loftwork Ltd. FabCafe LLP COO

FabCafe is a "cafe of creation", owing its name to the ideas of "FABrication" (creation), and "FABulous" (wonderful, pleasurable). Produced by Loftwork Ltd. and creative director Toshiya Fukuda, it started off in Tokyo in March of 2012, and now has seven locations in countries around the world.

The current main role of the business is collaboration projects with companies such as application development of a company's new product, and joint development of products from prototypes. Kawai reminisces that there was "around three years of trial and error" in the forming of the business.

The point is the creation of a community, "Forming micro-communities of between 50 to 200 people, and turning them into a creative hub.". For example, projects such as "THE OYATSU", a collaboration project with 301, which fused "food" and "creation" to create a new culinary concept, and the fusion of "cars" and "creation" to produce customized mini 4-wheel-drive have been created.

Some of the micro-communities that have developed around FabCafe.

Also, in product development, we assisted in the development of the "foop" hydroponics machine in an open collaboration with Taiwan's Delta Electronics.

A new example of this corporate collaboration is "FabSpace", produced by Loftwork Ltd. at Isetan Mitsukoshi which has expanded into Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Regarding this venture, Ms. Akiyoshi from Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings' Overseas Headquarters took the stage to offer commentary on the new space.

With the declining labor force, and especially after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the retail industry has seen a steady decline in sales, and has sought expansion overseas for its survival. According to Ms. Akiyoshi, "sales of items has declined, with the trend of the consumer to prioritize times [experiences] over things [items] continuing.".

That is why the concept of the new expansion location in Malaysia was set as "offering good items from Japan with Japanese resources", and as a "proposition for enriching local lives", she says.

Within this idea of "enriching lives", Ms. Akiyoshi was put in charge of the creation of a floor centered around the theme of "learning". At first, she seemed to encounter difficulty, getting stuck by "always thinking from the perspective of the 'educator'". However, after thoroughly re-examining the concept of "learning" she came to the conclusion that the group which practices "learning" the most is children.

Fab Space in Isetan The Japan Store

The floor's theme was set as "the experience of feeling", "the experience of making", "the experience of knowing", with hints from education, and in this way, the concept of a "Floor to Experience Learning of Japanese Culture" became clear.

FabCafe oversees the production of "Fab Space", located within the "experience of making" section. Ms. Akiyoshi offered three points as to why she chose FabCafe as a partner, its status as an "industry leader", its "reputation and achievements in the world", and its "people who accept challenges", saying that the most important point when choosing people was to find those who "break through when hitting the wall".

After opening, collaborations with other departments such as the cafe and books have emerged naturally on the "learning" floor as a whole, and Ms. Akiyoshi expressed her hope to continue to grow the floor in cooperation with her partners.

Clarifying the impact desired to be created from "questions", and the "time axis".

Continuing, Loftwork Inc. producer Hajime Matsui took the stage to discuss the method of Loftwork's project design with specific examples.

Hajime Matsui, Producer, Loftwork Inc.

When thinking about a new project, it used to be normal to take an approach to maximize values on the business value, and user value axes.

However, recently there is another, the social value axis. Aiming to maximize these three axes, including this "social value", is where the impact one should aim for resides.

So, how do we specifically go about designing a project? First off, it is important to "create a question", in "what sort of impact do I want to make, and why?", says Matsui.

For example, in the case of a new undertaking by DENSO CORPORATION, a general maker of automotive parts, where the company wished to "engage in new activities in the agriculture field". In order to find questions and impact, Matsui checked if the following seven times could be prepared before the project began.

(1) Site: Head to the local production site and meet the farmers.
(2) Experience: Actually eat the agricultural products.
(3) Dialogue: Have a thorough conversation, including with the producers.
(4) Board Together: In order to better understand each other, when possible, dine and lodge with fellow members.
(5) Summarize: After the dialogue (boarding together), organize, and summarize.
(6) Sharing: Share your summarized findings with people in external departments at real events, etc.
(7) Viewpoint: Discuss the perspective (point of view) of the idea.

The "questions" allow you to visualize and put into words the impact you wish to create.

Next, after "questions", you must "comprehend the time axis" of the impact you wish to create. For example, if you are working under the assumption of having a goal completed four years from now, in 2020, you take the viewpoint of a time slightly in the future, say, 2045, and calculate backwards from that point.

This viewpoint is also known as "back-casting". In August 2016, during the event series "Designing the Future" held in conjunction with AXA Life Insurance Co. Ltd., participants formed groups and employed the "back-casting" technique to come up with new ideas regarding the "creation of a new insurance service".

Rapid repetition of "input", "planning", and "output" which cause a project to spiral up.

After "questions" and "comprehension of the time axis" have been completed, it is time for actual project management. An important point here is to "begin with what you can do". Matsui spoke of the importance of rapid repetition of "input", "planning", and "output" in the following way.

Furthermore, it is imperative for these processes to be repeated at a high speed, in a short phase. In this way, we can verify small values and results in an expedient manner, leading to further improvement.

A typical example of this is the "OLYMPUS AIR". A camera concept that fuses mirrorless single-lens technology with that of the smartphone, with all the photographic settings being conducted through a smartphone app. Another strong point of this project was the concept of an "Open Platform Camera (OPC)", where a software development kit, 3D external models, and telecommunications standards were released publicly to allow developers and creators to freely develop applications and accessories.

"In fact, the concept of OPC Hack & Make did not exist from the beginning", says Matsui. During the project's first phase, an "ideathon" was held on ideas for future cameras at a media lab at MIT. The design was created within Olympus Corporation, and the first prototype was made.

However, some competing companies announced similar cameras, and in the project's second phase, planning of the product was revisited.

Through repeating this phase quickly, the OPC prototype was completed, and with designers and engineers selected as candidates, its first users were able to experience it. The project progressed to phase 4, with workshops and other real events being held, along with the release of the aforementioned standards and SDK. In this way, while a standard product lifecycle follows a pattern of "business value gradually decreases as time passes post-release", the OPC was successful in following a path of "establishing a certain number of sales and communication pre-release which does not decrease over time".

The "Four Ps" Important when Advancing a Project

As the closing event, a panel discussion regarding project development and a question and answer session was held with Matsui, producer Kazuhiko Asami, and producer Mari Ishida.

They exchanged opinions regarding the nine keywords that are "important in project design". For example, regarding the keyword "identity", Asami spoke of the importance of looking not only at "problems your company faces", but also at "your company's greatest strength", and re-examining the strengths of your own, and other, companies, before undertaking a project.

Ishida also pointed out that "in many cases, in fields where there are several competing services, areas in which you are aware of your company's strength can often be difficult to discern from an external viewpoint", and says that she tries to consider "if it is possible to differentiate yourself and offer up value" from the user's point of view.

Mari Ishida, Producer, Loftwork Inc.

A hint for this way of thinking is the "winning pattern". Asami spoke of how important it becomes, when designing a project, to discuss and clarify your company's strengths, to seek out the areas where the company performs well which you can maximize in the future. For example, know-how that only exists within the company, such as its core technology, or the "actions of a particularly skillful salesperson within the firm".

Also, Matsui spoke of placing importance on the "Four P's" when progressing on a project. They stand for, having "Passion", "Peers", "Play", and advancing the "Project".

During the Q and A period with participants, in response to the problem "While attempting to create a new seasoning, during the trial and error process, I lost sight of what sort of product I should make.", Asami advised, "One doesn't want a drill, one wants to create a hole.", to recognize the true problem you must think on the basis of the "experience of eating". This way you can gain a different perspective on the product and sales method.

Also, Ishida advised that thinking backwards from "how you want users to think of a new product" can lead to a breakthrough.

On the wall of the venue, a summary of the session was graphically recorded. Problems entered by participants were grouped with post-its, and after the session participants looked back on the knowledge they had each gained while deepening their conversation.

Event Coverage/Article: Kinichi Abe (KITHOOK)
Photography/Editor: Kennosuke Yamaguchi (Loftwork Inc.)

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