WOVN and lateral thinking with withered technologies
WOVN Philosophy introduces ideas that are cherished within the company.
In this issue, CEO Mr. Hayashi explains what lateral thinking with withered technologies is.
What is lateral thinking with withered technologies?
It would not have been possible for us to create WOVN.io without lateral thinking with withered technologies.
Lateral thinking with withered technologies was the philosophy of Gunpei Yokoi, a Japanese video game designer who is accredited for much of Nintendo’s successful products including the Game Boy.
The phrase "withered technologies" has been used, not to mean ancient technologies that no longer serve a purpose, but technologies that have been used for a long time and consequently have matured, are reliable, and are now cheap.
“Lateral thinking" is the idea that things can be used differently in new ways and that this can give birth to new value.
So, the combination of the two gives us “lateral thinking with withered technologies,” which refers to taking cheap and reliable technologies established in one field and applying them in other fields.
For example, the Game & Watch, the predecessor to the Game Boy (handheld game console by Nintendo), was a toy created with technology found in calculators.
The inventor doesn’t always know how their invention is best used
So why are withered technologies deployed in other fields?
A hint to this lies in the idea that the inventor doesn’t always know how their invention is best used.
We can take the example of the phonograph. Most people would assume that a phonograph would be used for listening to music.
However, Edison, the inventor of the phonograph, initially invented the tool so that wills could be recorded. In practice, however, the phonograph was adopted as a tool for music.
As such, there is potential for all technologies to be used for purposes outside of the ones they were designed for.
Lateral thinking with withered technologies and the internet
So, what about the world of the internet?
A prime example is Facebook.
When Facebook was first developed, social networking services such as Myspace were booming. This is to say that even Facebook, a term that is used interchangeably when referring to social networking services, was not a cutting-edge technology or concept when it first was first introduced, but rather a late bloomer.
The secret to Facebook's success was not the use of the latest technology or innovation, but the application of social media, which is a "withered technology," in the untapped field of student directories.
What led to WOVN.io?
So how was the service that we provide, WOVN.io, developed?
I originally worked as an engineer in e-commerce.
One thing that I was particular about in terms of being creative was reverse engineering. When a new technology would come out, I would try it and then replicate it.
For example, I did this with AB testing tools. For readers who don’t know what these are, these are tools that you use to test things like how the color of a purchase button on an e-commerce website influences customer purchase. This is then achieved by showing a red button and a blue button to different groups of customers.
This was a tool that I worked to replicate on the weekends - it was entirely a hobby of mine.
In recreating AB testing tools, a thought popped into my mind:
what if the language of the text displayed on buttons changed depending on the audience?
Japanese for Japanese people and English for American people, for instance.
Inspired by this thought, I used Ajax, an outdated technology used as a foundation for AB testing tools, to create a new tool for displaying text in different languages depending on the language of the users.
And this later became WOVN.io. The software was created in 2013 and our company was established in March 2014.
At that time in Japan, a lot of importance was placed on communicating information in different languages on the internet. For example, the Japan Tourism Agency implemented various measures in 2012 to attract 40 million tourists from overseas, the number of Japanese companies expanding aboard was on the increase, and immigration was being promoted through the easing of visa requirements.
Lateral thinking with withered technologies and the future of WOVN
Lateral thinking with withered technologies - an idea cherished in WOVN
Technologies should be seen as methods for solving problems and we should not limit our field of view to the newest technologies.
In solving substantive issues, we need to employ the most appropriate technologies.
These are the notions that I would like to keep in mind as we develop our products and work toward making our vision a reality.