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RCA Innovation Workshop in Kyoto, Japan, explores design thinking for an aging society

The RCA has developed and delivered a two-day innovation workshop for Dentsu Inc. which explored how design thinking can be applied to innovation for an ageing society. Dentsu Inc. is a Japanese international advertising and public relations joint stock company headquartered in Tokyo and currently the fifth largest advertising agency network in the world in terms of worldwide revenue.

Keynote lecture, Professor Jeremy Myerson at Kyoto Art & Design University
Keynote lecture, Jeremy Myerson at Kyoto Art & Design University
Working closely with Dentsu Inc. the overall concept and planning of the workshop was led by Helen Hamlyn Professor of Design Professor Jeremy Myerson and the RCA’s Executive Education team. Through a keynote and panel discussion, as well as group activities, participants explored what design thinking is, how it can be applied to the challenges of an ageing society and its benefits as a creative framework for innovation in business.

Alongside Professor Myerson, the workshop was led by RCA staff Bahbak Hashemi-Nezhad Tutor in Design Products, Professor Julia Cassim KYOTO Design Lab and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the HHCD and Peter Christian, Head of Executive Education, as well as RCA graduate from MA Information Experience Design, Hangna Koh

Dentsu workshop
Dentsu workshop
© Fusako Yabuki / Dentsu 2019
Over 300 of Dentsu’s major clients attended the keynote lecture by Professor Myerson at Kyoto University of Art and Design, which was followed by a panel discussion with guest speakers Mr Shu Yamaguchi, Mr Osamu Ogasawara and Mr Yoshiki Ishikawa. Professor Myerson’s presentation introduced the concept of inclusive design and the need for human centred innovation, and discussed the relationships between creativity, innovation and design. 

This was followed by an innovation workshop, in which 60 participants worked in 10 teams on themed challenges: identity, home, connectivity, mobility, and working. The participants included: house design and construction company Sekisui House, toiletry and cosmetics company Mandom, JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy, start-up founders, Kyoto Municipal officers, Tokyo Cabinet Secretariat, traditional craftsmen, Buddhist monks and design-major university students. Drawing from experience and expertise across these diverse backgrounds, participants considered ways to apply design thinking to the particular challenges and opportunities offered by an ageing society within their industry.

'As a result of the workshop, the Japanese companies used the design thinking framework to add a new dimension to process of solving problems by negotiating the relationship between the real world (concrete) and the world of ideas (abstract), thus freeing up innovation potential.' 
– Yoshihiro Kudo, Dentsu Inc., Kansai Japan 

Dentsu workshop
Dentsu workshop
© Fusako Yabuki / Dentsu 2019

The workshop was organised and delivered by the RCA’s Executive Education team, which for several years has been running bespoke executive education courses for multinational companies, including Fujitsu, Ford and GlaxoSmithKline. Bespoke workshops – such as the one developed for Dentsu – are tailored to the particular context and needs of a business, industry, region or country. Companies value the RCA’s practical approach to problem solving, using techniques usually taught to design and engineering students.

'We received very positive feedback, the impact has been that participants want to keep practicing back in their organisations and are using what they have learned at work with colleagues.' 
Yoshihiro Kudo, Dentsu Inc., Kansai Japan 

Mrs Akie Abe, First Lady of Japan at the Art Kyoto private view
Mrs Akie Abe, First Lady of Japan at the Art Kyoto private view

Find out more about custom executive education at the RCA.

Upcoming Executive Education masterclasses at the RCA:

Service Design Masterclass 25–26 November 2019 

Creative Leadership 28–29 November 2019

Design Thinking & Innovation 19–20 March 2020

The workshop took place at engawa Kyoto, a members-only co-working and shared office space targeted at individuals and corporations as a platform, it is a facility that connects the people that gather there and supports the co-creation of businesses that will one day bring vitality to Japan's economy.