When I first heard the new DigitalLife event, Innovation Camp, I thought to myself this should be two relaxing days at the Brickyard to do some beginner level brainstorming. Little did I know, my enthusiastic colleagues have planned an intense full ideation process for us to come up with the next generation of ideas for Mercedes-Benz.
I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into the Beijing Mercedes Me store on the morning of Nov. 22nd 2016 and was pleasantly surprised to find our passionate trainers already well set up for receiving our group. After a motivating introduction of the trainers and planned events for the next two days, we split up into our color teams with different focus areas and their contagious enthusiasm soon caught on.
Electronic Vehicles in Beijing
We started our knowledge accumulation with customer interviews where we had the chance to talk to current Electronic Vehicle (EV) owners in Beijing and ask questions pertaining to our focus area. Then, we conducted some field research in Sanlitun, Beijing’s most international neighborhood in terms of entertainment and new store establishments. Walking around and visiting new pop-up stores such as Beijing Electric Vehicle (BJEV)’s ArcFox Space and Amazon’s pop-up store was eye opening. I was impressed how many traditionally large companies are digitalizing and innovating themselves.
After the morning market research and lunch, we travelled to the Brickyard retreat center by the Great Wall. Set in a quiet corner of the Great wall, the location was perfect for us to explore the limits of our creativity.
With a quick intro and some insight into Chinese customer and market trends, we were ready to bring it all together within our teams. Our idea creation process started with the definition of “personas” – generic definitions of our future customers. We imagined a near future when electric vehicles, connect cars and shared services become a part of everyday life for the general population.
Intense ideation phase
Then came the intense ideation phase. Through several brainstorming stages utilizing different methods, we came up with ideas ranging from “social charging” to “providing unique individual experiences through VR stations.” This was the most interesting phase for me as we got to see how everyone perceives innovation slightly different. We also had different focus points when it came to convenience and how we think people would want to experience EV charging. After several rounds of narrowing down and combining over 50 ideas, the last session of day one was to pitch our final idea to the trainers and Mentors.
The next day, we brought our idea into the real world by creating a 3D prototype and preparing our pitch. I must say this was the best part of the camp as I love making things with my hands. Before leaving the tranquility of the Brickyard, each of us selected a role we would like to play in the pitch preparation (author, filmmaker, or actor). As we transported back to Beijing with our precious prototypes, our brains were mush but our ideas were sparkly. This was the end of our innovation camp, but not the end of our innovative ideas. By pitch day to the judges, each team had prepared a short catchy video and integrated it into their pitch.
Selling our idea on pitch day was a unique experience in and of itself. Each pitch was creatively prepared and presented. Winning teams as well as other promising ideas were invited to develop and back their concepts with research data and form them into more concrete actions and patents.
Overall, I would say everyone enjoyed their participation in this first China Innovation Camp. And also the opportunity to exercise their right brain to try and catch a glimpse of the future. A future where we maximized our convenience and minimized our waste. We will work hard for the day when we can feel healthy and productive even when we are stuck in traffic, when we can share without hesitation, and when we can drive green without worry.
We look forward to the next exciting event from DigitalLife as we continue on our path toward ever increasing creativity and innovation from everyone in Daimler!