Innovative Thinking: The Graduate School of Media Design’s Creative Partnership Approach

Masa Inakage is dean of the Graduate School of Media Design at Keio University in Tokyo, also known as Keio Media Design or KMD. The Graduate School was the first Japanese institution to partner with Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women in 2009. Inakage spoke with Knowledge@Wharton about the program’s unique mission to increase the capacity of creative industry management around the world.

Knowledge@Wharton 10,000 Women: What was the impetus for your relationship with Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women?

Masa Inakage: Goldman Sachs was looking for a partner in Japan to provide experience for capacity building. They came to our graduate program because we focus on creative industries. We are not a business school, but we provide useful experience to educate business leaders in the creative industries. Core creative industries are the digital media–based content industry and the design industry. In general, these industries include design, fashion, crafts, food, music,

broadcasting, film and mobile services. The creative industry is a bit of a different animal than normal businesses. It involves intuition, inspiration, creativity and all those mysterious words that can’t be converted into numbers. Normal business schools have difficulty analyzing and understanding how creative businesses are conducted.

Knowledge@Wharton 10,000 Women: What is KMD’s approach?

Inakage: Keio Media Design started about two and a half years ago and is one of the youngest graduate schools at Keio University. Keio has been in existence for 150 years. We decided to focus on the creative society where every one of us is trying to place more value on creative activities. We are interested in good-looking design styling and the pleasure of interacting with products.

A good example is iPhone. This product is not the lightest, cheapest or smallest, but it is attracting many people because of its fancy look and how the consumer interacts with the device. This kind of creative component or emotional component is the driver for consumer decision-making. Our graduate program wants to train more creative leaders to design the kinds of products or services that will tap into consumers’ emotional behavior.

We also want to use advanced technology to create those new designs. We are looking at how society will change over time based on creative activities. The graduate program focuses on the four areas of design, technology, management and policy, and each student is expected to cover the basics of all four areas. Then he or she can pursue one area of interest to become a specialist. We are training leaders as generalists in the creative industries, but also as specialists in one area, like becoming a CTO if you’re interested in technology.

In addition, we promote the process of design thinking, which is becoming a worldwide trend in business. It involves looking at problem solving from a designer’s point of view. We adopted design thinking and added several additional components, such as how can we make use of advanced technology on top of the simple design thinking approach. 

Knowledge@Wharton 10,000 Women: How does design thinking relate to other types of business strategy?

Inakage: When a company has some kind of a problem — say product sales are declining or customers are not satisfied, the design thinking approach says to keep observing the users to understand the problem. Maybe the product is not well received because it’s hard to use or maybe the product is too big for smaller children. By observing, you can find out many things that are not appearing numerically. Design thinking looks at how users are interacting with products. You can then come up with a creative solution to overcome the hurdle.

Knowledge@Wharton 10,000 Women: How has the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women partnership taken shape?

Inakage: Goldman Sachs surveyed the existing partners about how many women entrepreneurs are in the broadly defined creative industries like, for instance, running a fashion boutique. It turns out that a big percentage of women are either already engaged or have great interest in looking into creative industries. Instead of partnering with one university, Goldman Sachs felt it was better for us to train the trainers. Many professors from the partner universities, some 25, came to us from Africa, the Philippines, China, Brazil and elsewhere.

We did one week of physical workshops in Tokyo in November of last year. Using design thinking, they were sent out for fieldwork in Tokyo to observe how people behaved and then asked to analyze their findings and propose a creative solution. We tried the two remaining weeks of training through video conferencing. We feel when women entrepreneurs are trying to grow their businesses they should leverage the power of the Internet. We had lecturing sessions over the Internet so that the professors around the globe could join us and post questions.

Knowledge@Wharton 10,000 Women:Was the video conferencing a success?

Inakage: There were a few big problems. Some of the African universities had a very difficult time getting connected and receiving video streams. The time difference with some countries didn’t work too well. We instead sent them archived video lectures. As soon as we found out about the difficulty connecting with Africa, we brought in several other connectivities, including text-based discussions. We also archived everything and sent DVDs to all the participants.

Knowledge@Wharton 10,000 Women:What specifically are the partners learning about creative industry management?

Inakage: The actual hands-on training in part tries to teach that although you are going to be the manager of a company, you still want to know about the basics of technology — how to design a better website and how you create compelling video storytelling and do better presentations. Those are the skill sets we wanted to give to professors so they could then train women entrepreneurs. We also talked about the emerging creative industry businesses, especially social media. Everyone should be very aware of Facebook and others and the technologies that will drive the next Facebook.

Knowledge@Wharton 10,000 Women:Are you preparing for the next training?

Inakage: Goldman Sachs decided not to continue the second path because they haven’t increased the number of partners. Also, the focus is shifting from capacity building investment to meeting the goal of educating 10,000 Women.

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