Casual meetup providing a “Platform to foster innovation” - NRI Hackathon 2018 bit.Connect
Jan. 09, 2019
NRI has been holding the event “NRI Hackathon bit.Connect” every year since 2014, in which many people bring up various ideas and technologies to develop a new solution on the spot. On November 2018, this event was held for two days under the theme “Hack for Sports”, where more than 80 people including working adults and students participated. All participants were divided into 21 teams, who competed to realize new ideas to bring about transformation in sports. This event was planned and managed by the members of “ARUMON”, a voluntary group of NRI. Members of planning Mr. Takuya Hagimura and Mr. Makoto Mori said, “We want to create a platform where intelligent ideas can be generated,” and are seeking suggestions on how to create a platform where innovation can be fostered.
Theme – “Hack for Sports”
One of the features of “NRI Hackathon bit.Connect” 2018 was that it allowed all participating employees to first present their ideas, and permitted them to participate with a team whose idea they thought was more attractive than their own. The exchange of different opinions amongst participants who were meeting for the first time led to the generation of new and innovative services and mechanisms.
Three points emphasized as judging criteria were “Theme”, “Tech” and “Peak”. These refer to whether the topic matched the given theme and how far it was expanded, whether the challenge of using new technology was taken up and the degree of perfection, and how smart and extraordinary the idea was, respectively. “Team Pika☆Star!!”, who linked the movement and pulse rate of the audience to the lighting function in the stadium and developed a service that used not only the support of audience present in the stadium but also the audience cheering remotely to excite the field, won the grand prize.
Mori –Mori – “There were teams of mostly engineers, as well as teams of not only engineers but people engaged in various roles such designers and service planners. What makes NRI Hackathon unique is that a wide variety of people can participate in the event, including people in sports-related jobs who do not know much about it.”
Emphasis on intelligent ideas rather than their viability and business feasibility
NRI will hold its 6th hackathon this year since the inaugural event in 2013. Two members of the planning team said, “More than anything, we want participants to enjoy this event.” The change of theme from business-related topics such as “Work Design”, “Festival”, “Money and IoT”, “Share” and “Workstyle” to “Sports” was also intentional.
Hagimura –“Although hackathons are increasingly being hosted at various places to bring open innovation, I believe that excessive focus on creation of new services and profitability leads to ideas becoming rigid. We wanted to make NRI Hackathon a platform for generating intelligent ideas. That is why we decided to switch to a very unique theme this year and remove some previous items such as viability and business feasibility of ideas from the scope of evaluation.”
Platform for innovation
Hagimura and Mori used their past experience of participating in “NRI Hackathon bit.Connect” and organized a group called “ARUMON” with like-minded people to continue activities leading to innovation. They wanted participants to enjoy hackathon where “participants can freely think of big ideas and foster innovation” and have fun while generating innovative ideas.
Hagimura– “How Japanese companies should innovate is often discussed in ARUMON. ARUMON belongs to a community of voluntary groups of large companies called ONE JAPAN. In a ONE JAPAN event, Associate professor Takeshi Iriyama of Waseda Business School shared a very interesting fact – innovation is multiplication of knowledge with knowledge, and the multiplication is in two directions: “Expansion of knowledge” and “Search for knowledge”. Japanese companies are good at expanding knowledge, and the Hackathon may also lead in the direction of creating something small, firm, and precise. That is why I think it is important to follow the path of "Searching," where various ideas can be discussed and linked to generate completely novel ideas.”
Mori–"It is always being said that innovative ideas can be easily generated at random and casual locations, but I think there is no such place. For everyday work, I think many people tend to build upon things logically. However, attention should also be paid to those who link totally different things and think out-of-the-box. "NRI Hackathon bit.Connect" is a random, casual platform where complete strangers can share their ideas and build a team on the spot.”
The two objectives set by both of them at the time of planning and managing this year’s NRI Hackathon were to let the participants enjoy and make them feel that they are capable of fostering innovation. From the attitude of the participants and the questionnaire, the two of them feel that their goals are being achieved.
Another path towards innovation
The initiative of “NRI Hackathon bit.Connect” may suggest a new way of innovation to companies.
Mori – “I often hear people thinking that innovation is not possible when working with a company, and therefore they need to leave their jobs to launch their own startups. However, I want to prove to them that innovation is possible even while being associated with a company, and in fact bigger things can actually be achieved precisely because of this association, as various resources can be used.”
Hagimura –“I have heard of many cases where a person is unable to do what he/she actually wants to do due to various factors in starting a business such as fund raising and securing members, and is left with no choice than to do something else. In these cases, it would be interesting to move ahead as an in-house entrepreneur. For NRI, with its corporate policy of “Dream up the Future”, the search for knowledge is very important. That is why it is important that we continue the NRI Hackathon.”
NRI will continue to propose new value to society through such innovative activities.