In this article, a Moon Mate shares her experience and learning from an ILLUMINATE event.
In August, I visited Moon Creative Lab’s Tokyo studio for the very first time for ILLUMINATE, an event by Moon that shines a light on the next generation of business creators. The ILLUMINATE event series is an opportunity for Moon to engage with those interested in building new businesses and getting first-hand experience with our incubation process. The focus of the events will change over time, but this was our first time engaging with Organizations, Business Units, and task forces from our parent company.
During this ILLUMINATE, selected teams took part in a Make-a-thon – an event to help develop novel ideas into potential businesses, and in this case, expand on existing organizations and business units. Participants spent two full days building on ideas, working through the design process from ideation to concept creation, and developing their storytelling skills to present their ideas and prototypes at a final showcase event.
During two days of Make-a-thon, Moon members help Idea Owners polish their ideas by pushing them to ask the right questions, experiment fast, and better explain their hypotheses through quick prototypes. Design thinking is a non-linear and iterative process involving five phases: emphasize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. In these five stages, ideas can form, shape, and shift multiple times, and that’s how a team refines their idea.
During the lunch break on the first day, I had a chance to talk to one of our participants, Shiho Hayashi from the Nutrition & Agriculture Business Unit who is new in her industry. Shiho confided that she felt completely lost in her team's discussions. “My lack of general understanding of the industry coupled with my poor English skills caused general confusion for me in our group discussions. I'm not sure if I should come back tomorrow if I can't even contribute” she told me.
Shiho’s reluctance is understandable. The design process forces you to stretch your comfort zone, a value that lies at Moon’s core. In fact, the design process can be messy, and confusing, especially for those who have never experienced it before. I explained to Shiho that it was okay and normal to feel these struggles and not have all the answers, and assured her I would try to help her however I could.
Shiho seemed to be different from the first day. Even though she was still nervous, she continued to participate in the discussions. If there was anything she didn't understand, she always asked questions, and even during the fast-paced discussions in English, she waited for the right time and shared her opinion by receiving Moon members’ support. She was creating her own opportunities to get involved. Eventually, the whole team starts to change as well. As Shiho continued to ask questions with a positive attitude, the members began to deepen their mutual understanding of the discussion, and the discussion became more active and more questions arose. As a result, team members started asking Shiho’s opinion.
This event is a great example of one of the Moon’s values "Stretch your comfort zone", and how anyone can practice this value.
After ILLUMINATE, she shared her experience with me.
”On the first day, I was trying to contribute with my knowledge. I messaged my manager on the first day when I was struggling, and he told me to enjoy the process because everything has its own value. Of course, it's important to think about what I can offer to the team. However, my manager's words made me realize I wasn't thinking about what I can learn by participating in this experience. Coming into the second day, I participated with a different mindset. I made sure to ask questions if there was anything I didn't understand. It was really difficult to keep up with the high-speed discussions conducted in English, so I tried to share my opinions and understandings individually with Moon team members at my own pace. I made my own opportunities to be involved. Eventually, the members started throwing balls at me. Through those two days, I think I was able to learn how not to be too scared of making mistakes.”
Shiho taught me that stretching your comfort zone doesn't have to mean forcing yourself to take a huge dive into the unknown. It can also mean changing your mindset, taking baby steps, and showing up. By doing so, not only can you give yourself more opportunities, but you can also create an environment that encourages others to try and challenge themselves.
To generate innovative ideas, we need an environment where everyone can speak up and ask questions and feel psychologically safe. If you can create that environment, you can give yourself confidence. From the story of Shiho who continued to challenge herself to contribute to the team despite the difference in experience and the language barrier, I think there are important lessons that we all can learn.
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