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Just over a quarter (29%) of European workers said they don’t drink coffee at work because they don’t have time.

This is a sad reflection of working life. There’s no time for coffee. In fact for most of us there’s no time even to think.

But thinking is really good for us. Research suggests that people are more empathetic and creative when they are able to exercise their brains intensely – like when they are writing an essay.

The essay is a format that inspires contemplation. Both the reader and the writer have to engage with an idea in an extended and thorough way.

This is why essay competitions have historically been an important part of life at Fujitsu.

We run several competitions among ourselves and our partners, and our employees find success when they enter external competitions too.

In this blog post, I’m going to explore the culture of essay writing here at Fujitsu, and explain how you can get involved.

Co-creation through essay writing: the Future of Logistics Challenge

2018 marks the tenth anniversary of the Future of Logistics Challenge.

This is an annual competition run by Fujitsu in collaboration with the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport.

All MOD civil servants and serving Armed Forces personnel are eligible to enter.

Participants are invited to submit up to 3,500 words answering the question: ‘If you became the Head of Defence Logistics what initiatives would you invoke, and why?’.

Entries will be assessed on the originality of their ideas. This is the really important thing about the competition: it’s not an academic contest. Instead, it’s all about innovative thinking.

Commodore Aplin, a member of the judging panel, explains this further:

One of the reasons why essay writing competitions are so valuable is that they demonstrate that good ideas are democratic. Winning entries come from anywhere and everywhere.

Last year, joint third place was awarded to Niko Howai. As an Able Seaman he occupies the most junior rank in the Royal Navy, and yet the Future of Logistics Challenge gave him the opportunity to have his voice heard throughout the whole organization and network with some of the most senior commanders.

In this way essay competitions are a really effective way of unlocking innovation at every level of an organisation.

We know this from our own experience – and now we’re helping our partners, like the MOD, to carry out this process too.

It’s a perfect demonstration of co-creation at work – and it benefits the customer too.

Fostering links across the global organisation: the SSP Awards

The Global Solution and Service Professional (SSP) Awards kick-started the essay culture at Fujitsu.

This yearly competition asks entrants to demonstrate any outstanding technology, techniques or IT business know-how that they have learned during their daily role working with clients.

And it’s not just about writing essays for the sake of it – the ideas presented at the SSP Awards are put to use. The papers themselves are shared across the whole organisation so that anyone can read them and apply the ideas.

The competition it is open to all Fujitsu employees across the globe, and entries can be written by one person or by teams.

This encourages cooperation between colleagues in different Fujitsu divisions who may not normally work together.

Last year one of the winning papers was submitted by a pair who were based in different countries – so the competition is a great way of growing relationships across the business.

Participants in this year’s contest are currently writing their papers. They will be mentored through this by a Distinguished Engineer, a Fujitsu employee who has been recognised for their outstanding work in technology.

This means SSP participants have someone that they can bounce ideas off. The Distinguished Engineer can also provide guidance on the technical aspects of writing a paper.

Again this is a great way to foster connections across the business, and it empowers people entering the SSP who have great ideas but don’t know how to get them across.

Developing skills of self-expression for a practical purpose

The essay writing culture at Fujitsu runs so deep that employees win external competitions too!

Chihiro Otani, a rookie systems engineer in the Global Services Integration Business Group in Oita prefecture in Japan, recently won the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Prize in the Industrial Essay Contest.

Chihiro won the competition with her essay titled “How to Make Omelette-style Human Relationships”. She explained how to form strong workplace connections by likening the process to making an omelette: you start with self-disclosure, which is like breaking through your own shell like you crack the shell on an egg; communication, where you exchange thoughts just as you mix the eggs; and fostering a sense of place, where team members work together on tasks in the same way the mixed eggs are poured into a same pan.

What made Chihiro’s essay stand out was its accessibility. Anybody could read and understand her omelette analogy. Being able to make complex things simple is a very important skill for a programmer – particularly in today’s ever-more complex world.

Equally, Chihiro’s essay looked to change something that really causes problems in Japanese workplaces: competitive employee culture. Her ideas have a practical use that will improve business performance for Fujitsu and our partners – even the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry itself!

Providing an impetus for innovation, collaboration and deep thinking

Essay writing is something that Fujitsu is very good at. And it’s easy to see why: it encapsulates so many of our organisation’s key values.

The ability to express your thoughts and share them with others is one of our fundamental ideals, and essay writing encourages this.

It’s also a fab way of generating collaboration across the business, and with our partners too. Working with the MOD on their essay competition has been a natural extension of the essay writing practices which have been so useful in unlocking our own innovation.

And essay writing encourages us to take time to organise our thoughts – something which, in today’s busy world, we all need more of.

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