9 Jan: Hybrid Innovation Workshop Taster

13:30-15:30 @S5-407A Workshop Room.

The “Hybrid Innovation: A Vision-Building Workshop” was held on 9th January 2020 at Tokyo Institute of Technology. The event resulted from the collaboration of Professor Kayoko Nohara and two WRHI Specially Appointed professors from Central Saint Martins (UK), Dr. Ulrike Oberlack and Dr. Betti Marenko. The 2-hour workshop was primarily attended by experts from the technology industry, as well as a few students and in-house scientists. Students from Tokyo Tech’s Nohara lab assisted with the organization and running of the workshop. Two interpreters provided simultaneous translations of content delivered in English.

The activities were designed to think creatively and collaboratively to imagine alternate futures for 21st century challenges. To amplify their capacity for innovation, participants were engaged in visual thinking, material engagement and media-translation exercises. At the start, a quick drawing exercise helped break the ice and make everyone connect with others in the room. Then, each of the 16 participants was asked to share their visions of possible futures and write related key words on bright post-it notes. Once these filled up a large wall, key themes were identified through group discussion. This offered the opportunity to clarify concepts, translate terms in English or Japanese, and come up with new concerns with future scenarios.

Four key areas emerged from the conversations, namely issues related to family and private life, mobility and space technology, climate change, and circular economy. Participants then joined one of the four discussion groups and, back at their tables, were asked to interpret their theme of choice by producing a small LEGO work each.

Once the rationale for their designs was explained to other members of each group, they collectively assembled all pieces into a single composition. Again, the simple practicality of this unusual exercise facilitated a critical discussion on the social and environmental consequences of technological innovation, in which all voices were heard and alternative viewpoints had to be considered. A representative of each group then presented the results of their collective work to the room, enabling further discussion by directly engaging in Q&A. In facilitating the discussions and practical activities, the organizers constantly enhanced the interactions by summing up key points, comparing emerging positions and challenging assumptions. While the workshop maintained a convivial atmosphere all along, some friction between personal positions emerged, highlighting concerns with priorities set out by distinct fields of expertise and pointing out material for further consideration.

In only 2 hours, the workshop produced a vibrant discussion on some salient issues facing the future of technological innovation. The implementation of this Hybrid Methodology by Professor Nohara, Dr. Oberlack and Dr. Marenko produced a refreshing discussion on complex themes that, almost by definition, cannot be tackled by engineering alone. The event exposed the potential of future collaborations between Science and Technology, Art and Design and the private sector to rethink the future of innovation in ways purposefully designed to address the limitations of conventional exchanges.