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Corporate InformationResearch & Development

TSUJI Satomi (Center for Exploratory Research, Senior Researcher)
SASAKI Mami (Global Center for Social Innovation – Tokyo, Service Design & Engineering Dept., Designer)
He Xiaolin (Global Center for Social Innovation – Tokyo, Service Design & Engineering Dept., Planner)

The Happiness Application helps individuals to enjoy their work. A technology that can easily compute the happiness level of a workplace (organizational activation level) using accelerometers built into smartphones, was developed based on human behavior measurement techniques established using wearable sensors. Using the app, each individual sets their workstyle challenge for the day and by checking the happiness level, is able to identify workstyles suitable to their individual characteristics and strengths. An online event called "Workstyle Festival" was held in September 2018 to conduct an intensive training on workstyle reforms using the app with colleagues from around the world.
We interviewed three members involved in the development of this app.

(April 2, 2019)

A collaborative project to evolve the technology of our superiors

TSUJIThe project began with Dr. Yano, a semiconductor researcher (currently, Hitachi Fellow) who looked at the various technologies developed at the Central Research Laboratory such as sensors and electric circuits, to identify a new area of research. It was born from the idea that "it would be interesting use wearable name-tag sensors to measure face-to-face communication and acceleration levels" was born. I joined the company around this time.

Although the hardware was complete, we needed to think about how it could be used, and so staff who were interested in sociopsychology gathered together whether they were software researchers or those with a background in mechanical engineering like myself. Next, we held workshops and conducted trial and error with clients wearing sensors in the form of name tags from which we collected workplace communication data and contemplated how to visualize the data, what kind of tasks teams accomplish, and how to improve the product.

SASAKIStarting with user interface (UI) design and advanced design proposals of mobile phones and on-board automotive information systems at the design headquarters at Kokubunji and Aoyama, I have been in charge of UI design for storage and server management products and products related to big data since around the time when the headquarters was moved to Akasaka. From around 2015, it was decided that we would create an app with the aim of providing workstyle advice that raises happiness levels through artificial intelligence (AI) using our current team members. We believe we have reached beyond conventional design concepts and stepped into the realm of service design or even institutional design. Although it was difficult to understand the technology at first, we learned relatively quickly that it was an extremely smooth project. While some of our team members’ roles overlap, this has actually made our jobs easier.

People do not change their behavior simply because an AI system tells a user that they should alter their actions. This is seen in dieting and quitting smoking. Even though people may know that a given action might benefit them, they make excuses saying, "I cannot quit," or "I just can’t start." This was our largest barrier to success. Simply providing a beautiful UI does not solve this problem either. This is the reason we have delved into researching the ideal UI that would stimulate human behavior change. Just as I was put in charge of designing a UI for the happiness project, Hitachi started using the phrase "collaborative creation" around April 2015. Thus, for this project I have been working with researchers and various people from inside and outside of the company.

HEI studied design science in university and this year marks my fourth year since joining Hitachi. I have been long interested in the visualization of information. Presently, I am pursuing doctoral studies at university and of course my research remains focused on visualizing information.

Personally, I think of myself as an intermediary between the researchers and the end users. Even if researchers want to communicate a lot of things to their users, users cannot understand all of this information. This is where we come in and contribute to the design and mediate between researchers and users by saying things such as "If you explained it like this, users would probably understand," or "We don’t think you have to provide this much explanation here."

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Speedy decision-making despite hodgepodge of members

TSUJITo realize the vision of the project owner (Yano) of creating technologies that enhance the world’s happiness, the current group's members were assigned to the project after we reached out to various departments. I believe that the almost simultaneous convergence of the design headquarters and a portion of the research laboratories at the Global Center for Social Innovation – Tokyo had a large impact on this project. To say the least, our meetings are very casual. This also makes establishing relationships with other cooperating companies somewhat easy.

A characteristic of this project is that we make decisions quickly. This is enabled by the leadership that Yano provides as the project owner and the staff that support this vision behind the scenes. First, Yano creates a vision for the project with an outlook towards the future. Then, staff who are good at project management come in and steadily execute the required tasks.

A project system itself is relatively rare at Hitachi. Fundamentally, this project has been conducted by an assortment of members who engage in the project intensively when they can budget the time, but then disperse almost immediately afterwards.

When the project owner decides to launch a new idea, we allot 2 months to each preparation, creation, and putting the project into practice. In this way, we work in 2-month segments (though this is an extremely short amount of time).

Until now, all visualization of data for feedback was conducted by us. Because researchers are tasked with writing articles, we have a habit of explaining every detail so that our logic flows without gaps in knowledge. However, this also seems to be a never-ending task. This is where designers stepped in and helped us grasp an overall feel for the project. As it is extremely important to communicate a feeling of excitement through visuals and experiences with the Happiness Application, the insight of the designers has helped a lot in communicating messages to a broader range of people. We certainly benefit from having designers in our research department.

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Devoted to helping people find their happiness – featuring "workstyle challenges"

TSUJIIn this project, everything hinges on measuring happiness levels with the name-tag sensor. People who conduct a variety of movements are often energetic. In fact, some people move to intentionally try to boost the values generated by the sensor, but in most cases, we recognize that this does not actually lead to happiness. This is precisely a case of "honest signaling."

For example, if you teach math to a child who is uninterested, they are unlikely to study. Instead, one should wait for a point where they express interest and then suggest, "would you like to study addition or multiplication?" How one captures this timing is key. In this way, an innovation we made for this version of the Happiness Application is that we value the desires of the individual the most. We believe that everyone already has these desires.

The Happiness Application is not a tool to engineer happiness. Rather, we have simply created a measuring instrument like a thermometer. How one uses this instrument to express their character to become happy varies from person to person. We would like for people to understand that we are not offering a singular unique answer. The hope of this version of the Happiness Application is that users can find answers themselves through trial and error.

In their daily tasks, people often work with a sense of purpose saying things such as, "I should make sure I finish this on time because I have a lot of meetings today," "I should think of an action plan," "Because I am writing a report today, I should make an effort to write in a way that makes it an easy read," or "I am going to try and write this so that it moves the heart of the reader." However, companies often do not take note of these efforts. Here, we thought that we might make use of some of these efforts.

This is what we call the "workstyle challenge." All we offer are fixed phrases that allow people to select different challenges. However, on this occasion we have included lighter phrases to choose from such as "Use positive words in conversations," "Have a conversation with my colleagues at lunch," "Stretch during my breaks," or "Drink black coffee and concentrate."

Every morning, users can select these and declare their challenges for the day. Even if these tasks are not executed, I believe that the act of "declaring" your own challenges carries weight. It is important that people engage in their work while being aware of the challenges they have declared. As a result, data begins to accumulate which says that "When you select this challenge, your happiness level is likely to increase more than on a normal day." You can even think of the Happiness Application as a cloud service that can help raise happiness levels of teams, not just individuals.

As we have compiled data from the previous workstyle festival (1,475 people from 62 companies participated in February 2018), we hope to be able to establish correlations between individual characteristics and challenges people select at this workstyle festival. Our desire is to have 1,000 people or more participate again.

Happiness Planet

What is the Happiness Application?

The Happiness Application is a service that supports enjoyable, self-directed workstyle reform, in a game-like context where users compete in level of activity at workplace. When workers register workstyle goals (workstyle challenges) for the day every morning on their smartphone apps, feedback on the effects is provided as level of organizational activity (happiness level).

  1. Respond to short daily questionnaires
  2. Measure happiness level by placing your smartphone in your pocket for 3 hours a day

Through this simple process, the Happiness Application can provide workstyle analyses (analyses of the characteristics and strengths of the workstyle of a user) and happiness level rankings (only teams who participate in the workstyle festival), allowing people to continue experimenting on how they can enjoy their work.

See below for details on the Happiness Application.

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Declaring workstyle challenges is fun

SASAKIPreviously we tried a type of gamification.

There are heaps of apps in the world such as management apps of to-do lists for businesses as well as training and dieting apps for health purposes. However, most of these apps are not made for the purpose of improving teamwork. As we wanted to give the impression of the ability to accomplish something when you get together as a team, we decided upon using a planetary exploration unit. Our story goes: "Your team is made of members who are on a spaceship that is traveling towards a new planet. You have just touched down on a small planet covered with rocks. Using your team’s strengths, make this planet shine and grow big." As measurement of happiness level continues, the planet on the home screen gradually exhibits growth, its color changes depending on the characteristics of the team, and one can collect gems based on how hard one works to accomplish the workstyle challenges. In this way we have created mechanisms that make the app enjoyable on a daily basis and were extremely particular about the visuals.

TSUJIAlthough this was just an auxiliary function in the previous version of "workstyle challenges," we figured out that this was a surprisingly popular aspect of the app. It is important that users do not receive criticism, no matter the type of challenge they set for themselves. This app never says things such as, "You are not allowed to do this." Moreover, we made it so that users can create their own workstyle challenges and share it with others. Organizing by industry or occupation is a common notion. However, it is likely the case that different settings and practices may be effective even within the same industry and occupation and could lead to mutual stimulation.

SASAKIThe fact that other members from the same team can take a look at how you are planning on approaching work on a given day is fascinating. People tend to cheer on other peoples’ declarations and their ideas. This decisively improves a team’s atmosphere. That is, you can create an atmosphere of mutual support even without explicitly mentioning this. These feelings are reflected into real life through simple actions such as pouring your colleague a coffee while telling them, "great job."

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A development style where users cultivate

TSUJIIn short, the Happiness Application is a project that requires venture-like movements. Conventionally, Hitachi is filled with "perfect" products that overflow with a sense of profundity. The royal road that Hitachi takes is that it does not provide customers with products unless it has been perfectly planned, perfectly created, and perfectly tested. Although we are also concerned with "accuracy," we care even more about starting proof of concepts (PoC). We ask, "Will this method of thinking be accepted by our clients?" Thus, even if we sacrifice completeness to a degree, we must communicate to our clients what we are trying to accomplish. In other words, it is a development style (rare for Hitachi) that utilizes client feedback to repeatedly create prototypes with an emphasis on speed. "Collaborative creation" itself leads to development, between people from various occupations inside and outside of the company, including users.

Happiness level computed based on physical rhythms is akin to team energy level. We believe that happiness level represents reciprocal actions such as going to the intersection at Shibuya and getting excited as people wearing blue uniforms erupt to cheer for the Japanese national football team, or going to a live concert and getting excited because of the energy in the air. We hope to dig deeper and conduct scientific research on this phenomenon.

For example, if I was eating cake alone and acted mean to the other two sitting here (SASAKI and HE), no matter how good my cake tasted, my happiness level would not rise. In fact, we can surmise that this could easily have a negative effect on me. Based on analyses of real data related to happiness level, we have found that when people occupy the same space, they mutually impact each other in some way. If we can demonstrate further evidence for this phenomenon, we would like to present our findings in an article.

In developing new concepts such as the Happiness Application, various opinions that users offer us at offsite meetings, etc., are extremely beneficial and very encouraging. We were able to meet these users precisely because this app exists. We are convinced that we will be able to cultivate these continual relationships. This project will arrive at its greatest success when users believe that they contributed to the development of the service.

Moreover, the Happiness Application incorporates the idea that workstyle reform does not mean simply reducing the hours that people work, but also incorporates an element of adding creativity and activity to lifestyles. In this way, this project may encroach upon the realm of art (in the sense that it leverages individual characteristics). We hope to present this vision and how to achieve it in the near future.

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  • Publication: April 2, 2019
  • Professional affiliation and official position are at the time of publication.