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This afternoon I was given the opportunity to run workshop with the students of KJSP (Keio Short-Term Japanese Studies Program.) There were  20 students from overseas and 11 Keio students.  My topic was “Innovation-Key to Competitiveness. Who leads the effort?”

I prepared 1-page outline and some slides for 3-hour spot.  I wanted to make the session as interactive as possible, so I began with the question. “Is Japan an innovative country?”  It was my attempt to engage the students from the beginning and to get their reactions from their stay in Japan. (They have been in Japan since the end of January, and have visited several places in addition to some lectures.)

The question brought some discussion as to how we define “being innovative” etc.  It turned out to be quite interesting discussion.  As I got students somewhat engaged, I began my prepared presentation.  As we were about 1/3 way, I realized that I needed to engage them more. (It was after lunch time and quite boring just to listen to the lecture.)

So I decided to go right into the group work. It was intended to get the message across that innovation often comes from combination of different things.  I also tried to make it relevant to the students.

After about 45 minute of group discussion, I asked each group to present their story.  The question was to develop some idea/concept combining what they saw in Japan and what they could apply to their own countries.  The six groups presented very interesting ideas such as Cashmo (a kind of Pasmo), bicycle tree where you can park bicycles, public transportation system, universal traffic system that can work in any country, mascot/character (such as KUMAMON) for the country and small-sized apartment for students.  After each presentation, we asked for comments and questions.  It seemed that students enjoyed thinking of new ideas/concepts and so did I.  It definitely beat the lecture!

At the end, I introduced #12 of “Davos Experience in Tokyo” to be held on Friday, as the topic is “Branding Japan as a safe country” and we will develop sales pitch using toys and gadgets.  I hope many students of KJSP will join us on Friday.

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