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One of the great things about coming to the conference such as Global Agenda Council is to get-together with some friends.  Yesterday, I met with many of those with whom I worked together, whether in Davos, Palo Alto or Dalian.  One of them is Tim Brown of IDEO. We started talking about the recent interest in design in Japan and I talked about the Design lunch I moderated in Tokyo this past Monday.

I recall Design lunch, very  interesting session with Naoki Sakai and Ken Okuyama during the Global Entrepreneurship Week in Tokyo. Sakai san said that design is creating value and thus design is one of the important management resources.   He talked about three things he designed which changed the traditional paradigm.  The first was designing Tatoo T shirt in the 1970s  when Tatoo was perceived as something that regular people will not touch.  The second was design of BE-1, Nissan car, in changing the then trend of “square” cars to “round” cars in the 1980s.  The third was the design of O product for Olympus, using the aluminum materials, away from the black plastic body for camera.  Each of them achieved business success, which he considers critical.

Okuyama san talked about the process of design starting from ideation, visualization and communication. He said that design is creating something with materials available, and in that sense, similar to cooking.  His emphasis was to make sure that trial takes place.  In that sense, he shared the importance of commercialization.

It was quite interesting to note that both designers are leaning toward the social system, city and infrastructure design, whether they are designing the new city in Abu Dhabi or designing the city where mobility is ensured for a variety of  people including the elderly and the handicapped.

I was also quite struck by the importance they emphasized on commercialization and the need for coordinator/producer role.  They also echoed the absence and the need for the effort to set up standard so that the effort for innovation can bring about more value to the world and more people can benefit from the innovation.

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