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Exploring Novel Paradigms for Work Creativity: Inside Ricoh’s Innovative New Employee Workshop Approach

Ricoh formulated its Mission & Vision of Fulfillment through Work because it believes that this stance empowers worker creativity.

But what exactly is working creatively, and how can Ricoh support creative workstyles? The company initiated workshops for new employees to explore ways to tackle that challenge. The workshops are at BOX, which the company set up by renovating a gymnasium at the RICOH 3L lab in Tokyo. The events feature upbeat background music, which is somewhat unorthodox for corporate workshops. Jun Inada and Yukari Ezoe from the Brand Strategy Office of the Communication Strategy Center inaugurated the workshops. They explained to us why they did so and shared their vision for the future.


Making workshops more memorable than training programs

Workshop design was one of Mr. Inada’s first tasks after he became head of the Brand Strategy Office in April 2023. Mr. Inada recalls his thoughts when planning workshops. “Ricoh is hardly alone among corporations in educating new employees about the brand. But I was somewhat dubious about using only conventional classroom curricula for such efforts. I wondered whether merely understanding the logic was enough for new employees to embrace the company’s brand aspirations. I was convinced that aligning employees with Ricoh’s trajectory would be crucial. So, I was determined to avoid devising a half-baked program.”

Jun Inada

Ms. Ezoe, who helped devise the program, had similar concerns. She says, “We planned and debuted workshops for new parent company hires in fiscal 2022. People were generally teleworking at the time, so the workshops were online. That was OK, but I wondered whether these remote gatherings would really change participant perceptions. Jun Inada took charge of the Brand Strategy Office just as we were brainstorming the next steps for fiscal 2023. He pushed us to think big. That’s when we decided to make workshops unforgettable for participants. We started from scratch without leaning on outside partners.”

Yukari Ezoe

Quality did not suffer from formulating the program in-house. From event planning and facilitation through filming and content creation, the team brought together the varying specialties of each member to bring creativity to bear in creating new workshops.

Workshop secretariat members chatting during a break

The central workshop theme resulting from repeated discussions was the challenge of working creatively and the ideas for resolving them. In other words, workshops would explore how to materialize Ricoh’s vision of the world. The idea was that immersing employees in pseudo-managerial roles might be the most effective way to ensure that they grasp, internalize, and own Ricoh’s Mission & Vision. Establishing a theme, however, was not enough to make workshop experiences unforgettable for participants. The team’s breakthrough idea was to harness the RICOH 3L lab, a hands-on facility for work-related research.

Pursuing practical research into the future of work

Mr. Inada says that, “The company constructed RICOH 3L to pursue practical research into the future of work. I actually oversaw renovations for that building. Since the workshops we envisaged would delve into that very topic, I sense that we were destined to use that facility for such an endeavor.”

Exterior of RICOH 3L

The chosen workshop setting was RICOH 3L’s BOX, a former gymnasium. As a result of remodeling, the gym occupies half of the floor space, while the other half is a carpeted grand staircase. Whiteboards cover the walls next to the stairs so people can conveniently take notes. Large cushions and stools are scattered all over that area. There is also a small stage and sound and lighting equipment, which would all be overkill for a mere gymnasium.

The BOX area within RICOH 3L

Ms. Ezoe says that, “We saw BOX as the perfect place for workshops on how to work creatively. We don’t even designate where workshop teams should locate themselves. They are free to discuss things standing up, reclining on the floor, or sitting on stools. It doesn’t matter. We chose this location and minimized the rules because we hoped that workshops would be as creative as possible. Things turned out exactly as we envisaged.”

A workshop team using the main staircase

Whiteboards encourage workshop team members to record their thoughts spontaneously

Ms. Ezoe notes that workshop participants have taken all sorts of approaches. She says that, “We saw teams using normal desks and chairs. Others gathered near the whiteboards. We also saw groups lying down to chat. I was delighted to see participants using the venue far more freely than I envisaged. They liberated themselves from conventional notions, engaging in profound discussions beyond conventional training frameworks.”

Some teams prefer the whiteboard next to the stairs

Workshops working out ways to be creative in a world free of mundane tasks

At this juncture, it seems worth overviewing workshop procedure. It is supposed to start with a preliminary assignment for participants to consider what working creatively means to them. The next step makes the workshop unique—teams share preliminary assignments using the futuristic RICOH PRISM meeting space at RICOH 3L. The company set up that space to enhance the creativity of working teams, which is in keeping with the focus of the workshops. Ms. Ezoe attended preliminary assignment gatherings. She notes, “We were able to give workshop participants hands-on experiences within RICOH PRISM as part of preliminary assignments exploring the value of unleashing unseen creativity. Engaging in team building and discussions in this context put people at ease and enhanced their interest in workshops.”

Participants discussing preliminary assignment within RICOH PRISM

The workshop gathering at BOX started at 1:00 p.m. The curtains closed, and a loud buzz filled the darkened room. A screen lit up with a three-and-a-half-minute video. It comprised a speech by Jake Yamashita, Ricoh’s previous CEO and current chairperson, followed by a segment by Akira Oyama, his successor. Mr. Inada then delivered a 30-minute presentation on Ricoh’s Mission & Vision. He says, “For the opening, I wanted to clearly articulate why Ricoh exists by presenting insights from the company’s two most senior executives.”

Mr. Inada adds, “Ricoh will focus away from highly functional and convenient products toward providing fulfilling emotional experiences. We emphasized the significance of that transition by tasking workshop participants to contemplate a value proposition that nurtures creativity.”

Video of Mr. Yamashita discussing Ricoh’s Mission & Vision

Mr. Inada asked workshop participants about Ricoh’s social significance

After the initial stage of the session, participants split into groups to look at the challenges of working creatively in a world free of mundane tasks, consider what sorts of things would be beneficial, and discuss specific ideas. Teams delivered their presentations after more than two hours of group work.

One presentation was like a short skit

People relaxed on the floor to listen to presentations

Observes Mr. Inada, “Participants ran out of ideas, but that’s natural because people don’t normally come up with ideas to foster creativity. We don’t usually think of a world in which there are no more mundane tasks. The time spent tackling such posers is truly an exercise in creativity. In tackling an abstract subject with no clear answers, people accepted diverse ideas, thought as teams, and engaged in complex discussions to share their thoughts and feelings with others. Workshops themselves are creative work simulations. It doesn’t matter if people don’t come up with great ideas in them. Workshop participants wanted to tackle challenges for which there were no clear answers. That’s exactly what Ricoh wants to do in coming years, so it’s very meaningful for participants to realize the need for such a mindset.”

Mr. Inada provided thoughtful feedback on each presentation. The workshop ended with groups dispersing for members to share their takeaways for the day with other attendees.

Mr. Inada provided feedback to all presenting teams

The experience helped participants reconsider Ricoh’s social significance

Feedback from workshop participants was very diverse. One upbeat view was that the day reconfirmed that joining Ricoh was the right decision. Another person found that the workshop made it possible to reflect on what that individual wanted to achieve when entering the company. A participant had mixed feelings, learning more about where Ricoh is heading but also losing confidence in whether that person was experiencing Fulfillment through Work or delivering it to customers. In another candid admission, a participant found the experience very challenging, expressing disappointment at not coming up with satisfactory ideas within the time limit.

In light of such feedback, the workshop secretariat has already started mulling improvements for future such gatherings.

Sharing his workshop program outlook, Mr. Inada comments, “To keep supporting the endeavors of its customers by delivering Fulfillment through Work, everyone in the Ricoh Group must understand the true meaning of that concept and translate it into action. The workshop was one of a range of steps to raise awareness among employees in their first year in the Ricoh Group and empower them to be go-getters. Ricoh operates in a rapidly changing business climate, so unleashing creativity will surely become even more vital in coming years. We will endeavor to materialize the Ricoh Group Fulfillment through Work stance through similar workshops that foster employee unity.”

Ms. Ezoe notes that, “Ricoh underscored its deep commitment to Fulfillment through Work by updating its Mission & Vision to include it. Fulfillment through Work embodies both our social significance and our business strategy. Can we truly unleash creativity by eliminating mundane tasks and fulfill that Mission & Vision? How can we support such efforts? We came up with the notion of conducting workshops to help employees understand the essence of Fulfillment through Work from their first year in our organization, ponder future business opportunities, and help embody our brand promise. Because of positive feedback from participants, we will pursue ongoing improvements to ensure that Ricoh’s workshops are uniquely valuable.

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