How would you describe COVER's policies and the culture of the team?
COVER Corporation is an IT entertainment company that utilizes VR/AR technology to create a new culture of world-class virtual talent and develop and deploy metaverse services, including the operation of hololive production, one of the world's largest VTuber offices. In addition to producing content in-house that makes full use of the latest technology, we are working to spread Japanese pop culture, including VTubers, throughout the world by collaborating with creators in a variety of genres to provide unprecedented 2D entertainment. In this interview, we asked Ikko Fukuda, who serves as director and CTO and is involved in the development of VTuber distribution apps and other technologies, about COVER's policies, his ideal engineering team, and much more! * The interview will be in two parts, so stay tuned for the next post!
How would you describe COVER's policies and the culture of the team?
Since you joined COVER, is there anything that you are absolutely determined to adhere to above all else?
It is about creating a system that offers something new; new experiences and surprises. It is not yet complete, though.
For example, we are always thinking about whether it would be possible to create a system in which engineers take the initiative in creating plans together with directors and planners, rather than a style in which only directors and planners are at the helm.
Although there are not many yet, we are actually beginning to see cases where projects are initiated by engineers.
You want engineers to have more sway in the planning process. How did you come up with this idea?
This is because I believe we need to be in the know about new technologies if we are to plan projects that create new experiences.
I know this may sound extreme, but in the era when horse-drawn carriages were the norm, did anyone know what an automobile was? Of course they didn't. They couldn't possibly imagine such a thing.
I think planners and directors are better at pure planning, but new expressions and content that are not yet known to the world are often born from new technologies, and in this sense, I feel that engineers are important.
The other thing is that engineers are not afraid of trial and error. I believe that the strength of engineers lies in their ability to try things out for the time being.
Do you do anything special to help engineers come up with a plan?
Simply put, many members are major VTuber fans, so everyone keeps their ears peeled on a personal level, for information on people who have been doing interesting things, or promising kinds of technology that may be used in projects.
Is there anything that you tell your members as a guideline for action?
There are three main things I tell them.
The first is to make sure that the performers enjoy delivering the content. If the performers are enjoying themselves, that excitement will reach the users, so I tell the members to think about how they can ensure that the performers enjoy themselves and what kind of environment will allow them to enjoy delivering the content.
The second is to create content that offers a new experience. Even if it is virtual, there are still performers behind it. In other words, it is the sense that the performers are right in front of you. I tell them to use existing and new technologies to provide this sensation. We want to provide users with emotions such as excitement and wonder.
The third is to make content together. Since we deliver content on a daily basis, we need to keep increasing the number of things we can do.
There are many areas that cannot be covered by the engineers' skills alone, so I tell them that we should all work together to create, including management and planning.
Have there been any positive effects that have come from this?
There has certainly been a shift in attitude and perspective among more members. Specifically, instead of thinking of the way they have always done things, they now think of the way COVER expects them to do things. As a matter of course, our engineers now talk about how they will plan things next time round.
That's wonderful. Can you tell us what makes your engineering team unique?
They are hard workers, and many of them are VTuber fans. This means they are dead set on giving their all for the sake of the performers. That is of course a good thing, but I also want them to come out of their shells more.
I want them to remain serious, but I also want them to take on various challenges with an even greater spirit of challenge. We are currently planning to do a number of new things, including using HOLOEARTH, and I want our members to keep breaking out of their shells.
Are there any areas that you feel are lacking at this time for COVER to achieve its mission?
At the moment, we have team members as players; however, as COVER continues to expand rapidly, we also need manager-oriented people who can work across the organization to push forward with projects.
Our future goal is to strengthen the organization so that we can think and act not only passively but also on our own initiative, so that we can perceive what is happening in projects as "our own business" and cooperate with other members, rather than focusing solely on our own area to make it a success.
Do you have some sort of communication policy?
I tell everyone about our policy of respecting others.
Since each department is involved in different areas, it is difficult to understand everything that is going on, but I think that by understanding each other's work and the various approaches being taken, members can gain a sense of how they are covering for each other in areas that they themselves cannot handle.
If we do not proceed with respect for each other in this way, miscommunications will occur and lead to conflict. As such, I tell them to proceed with mutual understanding of what the other party is doing and to look out for each other.
COVER has a strong culture of mutual praise, and it is common to hear creators compliment one another when they pull off something really impressive.
You respect them, which means you can also praise them.
That's right. We can praise each other because we respect each other.
A side effect of an environment where we can praise each other is that positive speech and behavior increases, such that members are motivated to attempt something newer next time. Moreover, after receiving praise, the amount of positive words and actions increases noticeably.
So, is there anything you tell leaders and management?
I have them share an awareness of goals and objectives throughout their entire teams. I have leaders tell members about the kinds of challenges we are up against, or the kinds of goals we should work toward.
Why is it necessary to ensure that members are working toward the same goals and objectives?
I believe that if members of the team proceed with their work without a consensus in terms of goals and objectives, the result will be that the members will become passive and will not spontaneously offer their opinions and suggestions.
There were times in the past when I didn't give a clear enough picture to members as to what they were actually supposed to be doing, which resulted in poor outcomes.
When I investigated the reason for the lack of results, I found that the team members did not understand the purpose of their work, but were simply given work orders and proceeded with their work in accordance with those orders. I found out that this was the situation in our team.
Because of this experience, at COVER, I encourage my team members to have their own goals so that they can think and act on their own, and as a result, they are able to achieve results.
I get the impression that COVER is undertaking ventures in new fields that are without precedent, even from a global perspective. This got me thinking that if there is no precedent, surely it would be more efficient to take a top-down approach to things...
I think the general framework of management and business policies is top-down, but I believe that a relatively bottom-up approach is better when it comes to detailed policies.
One might say that this is the difference between strategy and tactics.
It is also the case that a fine attention to detail is not easily created from the top down, so something is more likely to create buzz if the person in charge of the project thinks of it on his or her own initiative. There are many cases where buzz is generated because users appreciate the attention to detail that goes into it. Another effect, other than the particulars, is that it increases the sense of speed. Because of our bottom-up culture, there have been cases where members have made decisions on their own initiative and moved with a kind of momentum, resulting in a release by COVER even when other companies are still in the process of getting things moving.
The ideal engineering team of the future
Based on what you have said so far, can you tell us again what you consider to be a formidable engineering team?
I believe that the ideal team is one that has the will to produce high quality things, and is flexible.
By will, I mean that they are particular about what they do.
By flexible, I mean that they are able to respond quickly to changes.
That is how I see it.
And I have the impression that a team which has people who are particular about things and can respond quickly to change, and who work with respect for their counterparts, is doing well.
Why do you feel that it is good to be particular about things?
To illustrate, let me tell you about a company that is aiming to become number one in the world in online games. The company is highly rated by users for its superior quality, and each employee is very particular about what he or she does. I believe that this strong commitment is what sets them apart from other companies in terms of quality.
At COVER, I would also like to see us become a company where the overall attention to detail is felt, not only in the appearance but also in the quality of the system.
I think the engineering team will continue to expand in the future. What kind of engineering team do you hope to create?
Ideally, we would like to gather more and more people who are all-rounders, full-stack engineers, and people who are strong in their respective fields, and make them into a group of specialists. If I had my way, I would say that I would be happy if we could hire people who are a one-of-a-kind in their field.
As the number of people increases, I think the way we do things and the areas of individual work will change. On the other hand, I think that each individual's level of devotion to detail will become stronger in the future.
Do you have a message for those who have joined COVER as to what you would like them to create?
Since I am CTO, I would like to share my message for engineers.
Here at COVER, we are currently creating a Metaverse.
This is because we at COVER want to provide an experience that will wow the world: a world where virtual VTubers and real users can exist in the same space.
We believe that amazing experiences involve not only planning, but also new technology. Where do new technologies come from? They come from engineers. It is also the engineers who are the first to know about new technologies, and the first to tell people how to use them.
Engineers at COVER not only develop, they also plan. Our goal is not only to create a bottom-up organization. To create experiences that wow the world, the power and vision of engineers are essential.
At COVER, we are looking for such engineers. If you are interested in creating experiences that wow the world with us, we would be happy to talk to you about what we do.
Let's work together to give the whole world a one-of-a-kind new experience that everyone will be amazed at, something that can only be done at COVER! I look forward to working with you soon.
COVER Corporation is currently looking for both full-time and outsourced employees to join our team!
As you can see, we are always challenging ourselves with new things, and we are always looking for a variety of people, not just engineers, who can work with us to create experiences that will wow the world.
We look forward to hearing from you!