Mar 29 Arttu Närhi
IDEO Partner Tom Kelley is big in Japan. He’s been busy at IDEO Tokyo for a while, helping realize their mission of refreshing Japan’s creative and economic leadership in the world.
“Survey data says Japan is the most creative country in the world,” Tom said to his large and enthusiastic crowd. He feels the potential for Japan to be the world leader economically and creatively is there. It just needs to be realized.
“Economic success in Japan was built by Japanese [corporations]… offering steady employment,” Kelley told Slush Tokyo CEO Antti Sonninen on stage. “Entrepreneurship used to be really quiet in Japan.”
Tom highlighted a few examples of how storytelling is one way to achieve this goal. As we are in Japan, he referred to the story of Hachiko the loyal dog. Turns out, it’s not a story of a dog at all!
“Japanese mothers and teachers are not retelling this story because they are all dog lovers. They are telling it because it is a tale of loyalty,” Kelley explained. “You can’t tell your story based on data alone. You can’t tell a four-year-old a story about faithfulness, but tell them a story about a dog, and they will remember it for the rest of their lives.”
Tom was also a speaker at Slush Asia back in 2015, when the event first came to Japan. In fact, his experience at Slush influenced the founding of the D4V (Design for Ventures) VC fund. It operates in Japan in partnership with IDEO, helping startups succeed on a global scale.
“The energy [at Slush Asia, in 2015] was amazing,” Tom recalls. “There are a lot of entrepreneurs searching for right kind of support. Slush 2015 changed my point of view on entrepreneurship here. There are many who haven’t changed their mind yet, so it is our job to make that change happen.”
Tom’s energy on stage was contagious. None more made that apparent than a visibly moved Antti during the fireside chat. Tom extended further praise to Japan’s entrepreneurial community too.
“There was a time in Japan when entrepreneurship was not respected. That time is over,” Tom proclaimed. “In the future, big economic growth in Japan will come from you, the entrepreneurs. The leaders of tomorrow are in this room. They are here at Slush every year.”
Photo: Petri Anttila
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