What do you think is necessary in order to achieve innovation? According to Akie Iriyama of the Waseda Business School, who has previously given a lecture for Game Changer Catapult (GCCatapult), one of the prominent topics in order to generate innovations is "Ambidexterity". In one of his books*1, Mr. Iriyama introduces the basic concept of Ambidexterity as "Management that is balanced on a high plane between 'Exploration' and 'Exploitation,' just like a person who is able to use both left and right hands equally well."
Exploration: Always broadening the "range of knowledge"
Exploitation: Continued "deepening" of knowledge in a single field
(Excerpt from his book)
But for most people who are busy with their daily work and have restraints on their time, Exploitation gives us enough to do already and it can be extremely difficult to find time and opportunity for Exploration.
Since I started to work for GCCatapult, I have strongly felt the importance of Ambidexterity yet if I try to apply it to my own daily schedule, I find myself overwhelmed with the things I need to do immediately (Exploitation) and worried that I only have very little time for Exploration. Entering into a different stage of my life, I might end up with limited time and resources to devote to work. But within this limited time I want to gradually broaden the range of my work and challenge myself to higher levels of work, and in order to do this, I feel that Exploration could be essential.
So I decided to speak to our GCCatapult members, who always make sure to find opportunities for Exploration even while busy with their business commercialization (Exploitation) work. How do they manage to create this time for Exploration? Presented below are eight tips for Exploration, together with images from the members' typical working days.
1. Don't take everything on yourself; use the power of your team
One thing that surprised me when I started my GCCatapult work was the incessant chat alerts. The team members are constantly sharing their various discoveries. It may not quite be the same as actually seeing things for yourself, but you can explore more this way than if you are just working hard alone.
2. Make effective use of "places" for Exploration
Several GCCatapult members have said to make effective use of "places" where many people will gather. I too like to occasionally visit Wonder Lab Osaka (WLO, a co-creation space operated by Panasonic in Osaka). The good thing about places like this is that it is easy to get involved regardless of the topic, and you can engage with various different people.
At WLO, this large space is used freely for a variety of different events
Just the other day, I went to a "handmade miso night" here. I had approached this with a very casual mindset -- thinking that making miso would give me the sense of a "proper, organic and traditional lifestyle." But I actually came away having experience a whole new world -- the power of fermentation and the richness of time spent making non-perishable food.
3. Make use of exhibitions
This is similar to making use of "places," but exhibitions bring together the latest technologies, trends, and people who are interested in them, so GCCatapult members often visit a variety of exhibitions. This is not even necessarily limited to electrical or innovation exhibitions. For example...
"Wild: Untamed Mind" was held from late last year to early this year. It was incredible.
SCAJ 2018, Asia's largest specialty coffee event. Immediately impressive is the overall smartness of the venue, and the prominence of the Brazil booth in the background.
Tokyo Motorcycle Show. Well, it looks very cool!
4. Establish your own project management methods and create time for "Exploration"
One way is to cut down on time spent on Exploitation and create more time for Exploration. Some GCCatapult members have their own imaginative ways of doing this, including regular project progress management. Incidentally, my boss often tells me that "simply finishing off all the remaining work yourself is not project management"...!
5. Don't miss opportunities for communication with other companies
When I first heard this, I checked GCCatapult members' schedules, and many of them make appointments with five or six other companies every week. This, by the way, is our director Masa Fukata's schedule from a single day in June.
Even among the ideas we exhibited at South by Southwest (SXSW) last year, there were many things we had gained through collaborations with other companies. Adopting this approach as part of our regular routine might lead to success on a regular basis as well.
6. Go to new places and events whenever you are "stuck"
Even when you are working hard and focused on Exploitation, there come times where you end up feeling stuck. Some GCCatapult members say that such times should instead be seen as opportunities to go and talk to people not involved, or engage with your hobbies, or go travelling.
7. Get hints from your family and friends
Your friends and family are people who can teach you about worlds you do not know. You can find new discoveries from the sight of children playing, or from your partners and the communities around them. You can exchange opinions with friends involved in different work to you. By the way,
the GCCatapult membership is very diverse in terms of age, sex, and family composition, and so naturally they are each able to discover quite different things.
8. Travel to faraway places
Actually, Masa Fukata recently went on a trip to Yamagata. (I wonder what he did there...) He says "I heard it is important to physically travel to faraway places from Professor Iriyama."
So, these are the various efforts we make for Exploration in our daily lives. What do you think? We plan to keep on trying different things and try to achieve "Ambidexterity" for further innovation going forwards.
*1 Akie Iriyama, "World Class Business Studies You Don't Learn at Business School," Nikkei Business Publications, Inc., 2015