In imagining the future for both society and the company, the Lion Corporation joined forces with the YouFab Global Creative Awards to tap into a vast network of creative communities, ideas and strategies.
How does a century-old company, best known for manufacturing age-old products like toothpaste and detergent, stay fresh and innovative?
Since 1918, Lion Corporation has been a leading manufacturer of everyday products, making them a Japanese household name. Keenly aware that the ways in which we work and live are changing – and that tried-and-true household products of today may be no longer be relevant tomorrow – Lion has ushered in a new era of business innovation by leaning into the creative community and economy with help from Loftwork (FabCafe parent’s company).
Through collaboration with Loftwork, Lion Corporation was able to establish ‘Innovation Lab’, a research unit that conducts research on the businesses of tomorrow, rather than the development of new products. In doing so, Lion take a bold step forward and away from the industry standard – to identify new opportunities for future living.
The Future of Living – the blurring and merging of boundary lines
The lifestyle blueprint of the 20th century will soon become a relic of the past. The clear-cut boundaries of years before – between company and individual, work and life, study and play, public and private, digital and physical, and so on – have already begun to merge. It’s clear that work and life will never be as they once were, and will continue to evolve in both the near and distant future. For this “merged” way of living, what kind of lives will be led, and what kind of experiences will we seek?
These are the big questions that underpin Innovation Lab’s project concept, “MERGE – a future where work and life merge together”. It was with this in mind that the Lion Award was created, as part of YouFab Global Creative Awards 2018. Through the award, the Lion Corporation was able to invite entries from artists around the world to explore the theme. In conjunction with the award, FabCafe organized an event to promote the theme, as well as a joint research effort in Bangkok, with local participants and artists.
Every year, creators from all over the world enter the YouFab Global Creative Awards to showcase their brilliance in fabrication technology. Hosted by FabCafe, the global award invites makers and movers and shakers to challenge the traditional relationship between the manufacturing industry and individuals – and to ‘hack’ common sense. The theme for 2018 was Polémica! (Spanish for “controversy” or “debate”), a polemic against the status quo. The theme called for entrants to present alternatives, one befitting of Lion’s own quest to redesign the norm.
Calling for ideas for new business from artists all over the world through the global award
Having first cemented the keyword and concept of ‘MERGE’, the project began in June, 2018. As the project kicked off, the call for entries was sent out, and the award criteria and plans for future cooperation with the winning entrant were prepared. This part of the process was streamlined by using ‘AWRD’ system, an online evaluation platform that administers awards, competitions and hackathons.
Facilitating the exchange of ideas through events
Ahead of the YouFab Lion Award, FabCafe organized talks and workshops as a way to explore Lion Corporation’s keyword and theme of ‘MERGE’. Through open discussions with the 2018 judges of YouFab, participants reflected on the near future, in both personal and abstract contexts.
Conducting field research in a global context with FabCafe oversea location
To further explore the concept of ‘MERGE’, FabCafe designed and executed a market research field trip for the Innovation Lab team. Utilizing vast global network of FabCafe locations, the team headed to Bangkok. The overseas location allowed Lion’s Innovation Lab to step outside of a Japanese context, and gain a more objective and globalist understanding. With FabCafe Bangkok as a base, the team were able to link up with local artists and creative clusters quickly, and conduct field research with ease.
The research effort entailed covering the day-to-day lives of three Bangkok residents, as well as working with local artists to devise product ideas. There were two main objectives for the research – first, to discover overseas trends reflective of the anticipated future scenario of ‘merged’ living; and second, to complete the groundwork necessary for future collaborations between Innovation Lab and artists.
After being in close contact with the local personalities for one full day, the team re-discovered the idea of MERGE in Bangkok. By utilizing FabCafe’s global network, the team is able to team up with local creative talents to run projects and research with no hassle. This is also the most valuable selling point of FabCafe, a creative community with 10 locations in the world.
It soon became apparent that, with different lived experiences of the participants, the research findings in Bangkok differed from that of Japan. It was a good opportunity to stop and rethink the theme of ‘MERGE’.
“Initially, our research involved interviewing Japanese people, and gaining insight into their thoughts on the potential future of a ‘merged’ lifestyle. However, the presumptions underlying this research had become the norm amongst the team members. In selecting a theme and giving it shape, it’s easy for one to presume that their own interpretations are shared by everyone else. By gathering views from outside Japan, we were pleased to find that we were able to gain a more objective outlook on our research theme.”
— Lion Innovation Lab, Chief Researcher Officer, Shohei Fujimura
Discovering opportunities through new perspectives
Works from all over the world were submitted for the Lion Award, sparking not only new ideas but valuable discussions for the judging panel, which included Innovation Lab members. As part of the award evaluation process, the respective teams from Lion and YouFab were able to imagine the future of ‘merged’ living in a personal way, as well as engage in critical discussion – over the selection criteria and outlook. For Lion, it was an opportunity to take on newfound perspectives external to the company.
Let’s see the works selected by Lion team.
Hack the Natural Objects.
The 2018 YouFab Lion Award was awarded to ‘Hack the Natural Object’ by Gadara. The work, comprising of a natural stone interface, puts artificial functions (such as sensors) in ‘natural objects’, thereby ‘merging’ the natural and artificial. By changing the position of the object, users can control functions such as volume and brightness.
Akihiro Kato’s ‘Trustless Life’ received a Lion Honorable Mention. Kato’s work is a player vs player board game that imagines a blockchain technology-based society in the near-future – and the opportunities and challenges inherent in such a future.
Meeting in person with the creators at the Award Ceremony
An award ceremony and an award-winning work exhibition was held to conclude the project. The winners from overseas also came and artists from all over the world met in one hall. The venue was a 91-year-old historic Western-style building, “Kudan House”. At the award ceremony, artists were asked about their interpretation of the future. Through the artists’ works and their interpretations of the theme, attendees got little glimpse into the future – a ‘merged’ future.
“In imagining Lion’s future or how people may be living in 100 years’ time, it is necessary to make long-term, rather than short-term, commitments. Such a vision will provide a firm foundation for the company. When questioning the function of Innovation Lab within the larger organization of Lion, I felt that in and of itself was a very meaningful question.
Furthermore, I believe that in promoting our research theme “MERGE” through YouFab and other related events, we were able to hold several meaningful, open discussions with with various people – a process that was valuable in its own right.”
— Lion, Innovation Lab, Chief Researcher Officer, Shohei Fujimura