I attended a Design Thinking event hosted by the Keizai Silicon Valley association in Mountain View. It was a fascinating discussion about how design thinking can (and should be) used as a engine to spark innovation with Japanese companies. During his presentation, Aki Koto-san (a Partner at WiL), talked about Suzuki Motors as a use case who recently embraced this way of thinking.
Many know Suzuki as the makers of motor bikes but they also manufacturer wheel chairs. In an effort to ignite creative thinking and innovation, Suzuki sent a few of their engineers to the Valley to embrace Design Thinking as a way to reimagine wheelchairs. There approach included the following:
- Interviewing 150 Elders
- Volunteering at a Wheelchair Store
- Using a Wheelchair in Real Life Situations
The 3 engineers also lived together and ultimately came up with new ideas that were empathetic to wheelchair users. We do not know exactly what the team conceptualized but, as Koto-san shared, Suzuki Motors approved their idea.
I look forward to seeing what Suzuki will be bringing to market. But, more importantly, I hope that other companies in Japan will take notice. Design Thinking is all about thinking in the right way to not only solve problems but to FIND problems that we did not know were there.
Michael Campbell is the Founder and CEO of FullEffect International, Inc. and Managing Director of FullEffecting Marketing, a boutique consulting firm that provides small and medium size businesses advising services focused on product marketing, and global business development.