* This article is as of writing in March 2021
Click here for "【Part 1】 15 Years of Hitachi’s Internal Employee Network"
Click here for "【Part 2】 The Logic of Transforming an Organization"
Click here for "【Part 3】 Making a Fresh Start from Stagnation"
Click here for "【Part 4】 Challenging the Pandemic by DX of Innovation"
Click here for "【Part 5】 Secret behind the Longevity of Team Sunrise"
Click here for "【Part 6】 Drivers of Innovation"
Click here for "【Part 7】 The Man Who Brought the US Bestseller “The Human Element” to Japan"
Click here for "【Part 8】 Global Mindset and English"
Click here for "【Part 9】 Organization Where Innovation Occurs from the Bottom Up"
The 100th Commemorative Cultural Festival Ends in Illusion
Under the leadership of Hitachi's Masahiko Sato, the number of registered members for the internal study group "Team Sunrise" quickly exceeded 1,000. Around 300 members actively participated in the study sessions even on weekdays. In 2019, during the new employee welcome ceremony, Masahiko Sato took the stage to introduce Team Sunrise's activities, steadily increasing their presence within the company.
In 2019, with the establishment of the open innovation base "Kyoso no Mori" within Hitachi's Research and Development Group, a company-wide momentum toward innovation was on the rise. Team Sunrise, aligning with this spirit, organized idea-thon and hackathon events at a rapid pace of twice a month, fostering excitement. The number of members grew steadily, reaching 2,000. However, in March 2020, as they approached their 100th study session (counting from the predecessor, Global Wakata-kai), preparations were underway for a commemorative event, with Hitachi's CEO scheduled to participate.
The event was titled the "100th Commemorative Cultural Festival" to ensure that members could enjoy it casually. The CEO, executives, and alumni who resonated with the enthusiasm and achievements of Team Sunrise were invited to participate as individuals. The plan included a reflection on past activities and presentation of the activities at various companies to which the members belonged.
However, around this time, the COVID-19 pandemic hit Japan. Sato and his team explored every possible avenue to hold the event until the last minute. Yet, they deemed it impractical to organize an event with hundreds of employees in the same physical space. This decision was made just one week before the scheduled event.
"In the midst of adapting to the new normal, where avoiding the three Cs and remote work became a norm, we realized for the first time that our activities with Team Sunrise had been centered around face-to-face interactions. The frequent and lively idea-thon and hackathon sessions we used to host were no longer feasible. We were compelled to initiate new innovation activities."
Overcoming Constraints of Distance, Time, and Information Volume
In an effort to resume activities during the pandemic, Sato and the team proposed a new direction for Team Sunrise: "Let's venture into a 'Virtual Team Sunrise' that transcends constraints of distance, time, and information by leveraging online and digital platforms."
They started by hosting the 101st study session online with Norio Masuda, who leads Hitachi's sustainability strategy, as a guest speaker. Subsequently, they organized the 102nd study session online, featuring an external UX design expert. In the meantime, Team Sunrise diversified their activities through the use of videos. Study sessions streamed via video conferencing apps were recorded and archived on Microsoft Teams, the platform used by Team Sunrise for information sharing. This not only allowed members who couldn't attend the live sessions to watch later but also enabled participants to review. Sato expressed satisfaction, stating, "The volume of information that can be shared among members has significantly increased."
Additionally, they broadcast the online program "Good Morning Sunrise!" on the internal video site. The 15-minute show features notable figures related to Team Sunrise as guests, with Sato conducting interviews himself. Since it's accessible to all Hitachi Group employees, there are occasional accesses even from top-level executives.
Approximately 1,000 individuals are registered on the community within Microsoft Teams, facilitating casual discussions such as gathering collaborators for new business ideas and organizing events. Moreover, since the shift to online activities, the support channel for ‘gemstones’ of ideas has expanded, reaching 18 locations globally, including the United States and China.
"More People, Voices, and Ideas Gather than Real-world Events"
From a situation where its existence was in jeopardy, Team Sunrise regained momentum, and a significant revival was marked by the 103rd study session held in October 2020.
"At the suggestion of a female member, we invited external experts on the theme of 'Customer Success.' With support from her business division, Team Sunrise co-hosted the event online, leveraging the resources of group companies. Despite the full-scale implementation of remote work, thorough preparation, from planning to creating promotional materials and operation, allowed us to attract 368 participants from 48 group companies. We even had participants from as far as Europe and other overseas locations."
The availability of the event for members to participate from overseas is a unique advantage of online events. During this event, Sato came to appreciate the merits of online activities.
"We can easily gather real-time feedback through surveys. Members can respond to opinion surveys on the topic discussed during the event or express their requests for future activities at their preferred times using Microsoft Teams. The reactions from members have increased, and communication has, in fact, become more vibrant."
Sato and the team have transformed the accumulated operational know-how from their tentative steps in online activities into templates for use in subsequent endeavors. Interestingly, the postponed 100th Commemorative Cultural Festival has been treated not as a cancellation but as a deliberate postponement.
"When the situation allows for in-person events, we'd like to celebrate it grandly. I think we'll reserve the 100th celebration for that occasion whenever it becomes possible."
Ikue Osawa at Hitachi, Ltd.
I joined Hitachi in 2016. While I belong to the Social Innovation Business Promotion Division, I've been actively working on promoting the internal adoption of "Customer Success (CS)" initiatives. This includes launching the community "Success Lounge" on Microsoft SharePoint as an internal portal, aiming to accelerate CS activities within the company. The traditional business goal was to sell products, but with the shift from "making things" to "creating experiences" (exemplified by subscription services), the emphasis has now turned to ensuring customers use products and services comfortably and renew contracts. The focus is on contributing to customers' success experiences, where their use of the service helps achieve sales targets, for example. In essence, it's about contributing to the customer's success and, in turn, realizing revenue growth for the company – that's what CS is about.
In trying to get everyone in the company on board with CS, we thought about different approaches such as e-learning, internal training, and spreading info online. But we were worried it might take a while for all of that to really sink in across the whole organization. So, I had this thought – what if we teamed up with Team Sunrise? Team Sunrise is a group I'm part of, and the members are super enthusiastic. They are influential within their organization, especially since they have a keen interest in things beyond their regular jobs. It seemed they would be the perfect target audience to show why CS is so important. Furthermore, with online events, it is easier for everyone to join in. So, I took on the planning and hosting responsibilities for the event.
Online study session hosted by Osawa (right) with Genshin Maruta of Abeja Inc. (center) and Kaoru Watanabe who leads promotion of customer success at Hitachi (left)
"We had Mr. Genshin Maruta, who leads CS in Japan, as a guest speaker for this event. Members from various roles, including sales, research, planning, and SE, watched the session. We received so many questions within the allocated time that we couldn't answer them all. Moreover, after the event, we received inquiries, such as, 'We definitely want to work on Customer Success in our project.' The response exceeded our expectations, and it has been very rewarding. Some projects received positive feedback from customers, actively engaged in CS activities. We're gradually making progress in internal adoption of CS.
I joined Team Sunrise back in 2019. It all started when I decided to participate in the internal idea-thon that Team Sunrise had organized. Until then, my interactions with other departments and group companies were limited. But working with Team Sunrise members to brainstorm business ideas made it so much easier to communicate with people from different organizations. Thanks to that, I have become more comfortable building new networks. Looking ahead, I want to make the most of Team Sunrise's network to spread the word about CS. Through Team Sunrise, I'm hoping to casually connect with various people and generate insights that can be applied to my work.
Before joining Hitachi, Ltd. in 2001, he worked at non-governmental organization as system engineer. He earned MBA while working for system engineering of information & telecommunication, incorporation of a company, and M&A projects. He also worked at IT Strategy Division at Hitachi Headquarters and currently works at Global Center for Social Innovation at R&D Group as Chief Researcher. Head of Team Sunrise (formerly known as Global Wakate-kai founded in 2006), a network of employees across Hitachi.
Currently enrolled at Doctoral Degree Program at Tokyo Institute of Technology in Innovation Science. *
* As of the writing of this article