Tigerspike Tokyo recently held a seminar to discuss Design Thinking in Japan, its current state and the future. Here, Tokyo’s General Manager, Kei Negishi gives a run-down of what happened at the event. Special guests included speakers from Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd and Nissan Motors.

Though it is already a common practice in Europe and America, Design Thinking is still a new concept in Japanese corporations. It feels as though it has only started to be on people’s radars this year. If we look at the number of times the phrase Design Thinking appeared on the Nikkei newspaper (Japan’s best-known economic newspaper), the fact is quite apparent: in 2015 it appeared zero times while in 2017 it appeared 22 times by September.

The concept of Design Thinking itself is very simple; however, in order to put it into practice, it requires a lot of creativity and thinking outside-the-box. For these reasons, we haven’t heard of many success stories so far from big Japanese corporations in this field.

In this seminar, we invited speakers from two Japanese corporations who are making great strides to adopt this concept: Mr. Kuwahara from Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd and Ms. Anami from Nissan Motors. With help from these guests, we tried to get to the heart of Design Thinking and User Experience in Japan, its current state and the future.


The first speaker was Tigerspike Group CEO, Alex Burke. He shared examples from global  corporations and introduced five important steps for large corporations to be innovative and create digital transformation:

✓Recognize the reptile – understand that humans are inherently resistant to change

✓Assemble your heroes – identify ‘intrapreneurs’ within your business

✓Set the stage – empower your heroes with the right tools and freedom to be different

✓Ship it quick – ship products and use data to rapidly iterate upon them

✓Promote & Iterate – promoting your successes within your organisations is critical

Next, Shigeo Kuwahara, General Manager of Business Process Innovation Dept. at Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd took to the stage and spoke about actual steps he had taken in his company to put Design Thinking into practice:

  • In order for the Design Thinking approach to penetrate through the organization, it is important for the top management to understand and to drive it.
  • It is important to identify partners who can really drive it, especially those who excel in the following two areas:
  1.  Thinking through the users in-depth
  2.  Coming up with truly creative ideas

The last part of the seminar was a panel discussion between Mr. Kuwabara, Ms. Anami from Nissan Motors, Mr. Matsuzaka from Deloitte Digital and Mr. Muragishi, Head of Delivery & Design at Tigerspike Tokyo. They each shared mistakes and successes from their past, as well as their thoughts on future direction.

The discussion was very frank and the common themes were:

  • This is still a very new field and it is not straight-forward to make it common practice. You need strong passion to drive it forward.
  • It will take time for this concept to be recognized and accepted andou need to communicate well
  • The leaders of this initiative should not only have strong passion but also a flexible mindset.

The seminar was a great success and prompted much debate about the rise and importance of adopting Design Thinking within modern organisations today. Incredibly, we had an expected attendee list of 60 with 90 people actually attending on the day, indicating how much of an appetite there is to discuss Design Thinking in Japan corporations.


Want more info?

Contact us