Exploring the secret to innovation with Kaospilot

May 17, 2017
  • Viewpoints

From left: Kaospilot Program Director David Storkholm, Hakuhodo Brand Design’s Satoshi Yamada, Laere co-founder Aya Omoto, Hakuhodo Brand Design’s Setsuko Hara, and Kaospilot Principal and CEO Christer Windeløv-Lidzélius.

The Creative Relationship Program, which incorporates the latest techniques for developing truly creative, innovative individuals and teams, is now off to a start. The program is jointly run by Hakuhodo Brand Design in partnership with educational design consulting firm Laere, specialists in Scandinavian-style education, and the hybrid business and design school Kaospilot, described by America’s Ode Magazine as the “most unusual college in the world.”
For further information see the press release of March 21 (in Japanese):
Kaospilot Principal and CEO Christer Windeløv-Lidzéliu, Kaospilot Program Director David Storkholm, Laere co-founder Aya Omoto, and Satoshi Yamada and Setsuko Hara of Hakuhodo Brand Design talk about the program’s origins, background, advantages, and future.

Kaospilot, incubator of young entrepreneurs

CHRISTER: Kaospilot has educated many entrepreneurs since being founded in Denmark in 1991. First we made a name for ourselves in Europe with our highly unusual methods of leadership and entrepreneurship training, then we gained recognition in the United States and Asia. Today we run programs worldwide. There are thirty-six students enrolled in each year of the three-year program. We now have some eight hundred alumni across the globe, including Aya here, of whom 35 percent have started their own business and 50 percent occupy positions of responsibility.

DAVID: The school’s establishment was originally inspired by a question: how can we develop young minds capable of actively creating the future, not just passively responding to it? Denmark, Sweden, and Norway were in a serious recession at the time, and creating jobs was one of the big challenges facing society. Kaospilot was founded to provide an alternative education that was practical rather than academic. It was designed to train young people for a career in society by empowering them to exercise active leadership, whatever the circumstances.

CHRISTER: One of the services we’ve developed to make our educational methods available to companies and public institutions worldwide, not just our students, is the Creative Leadership Program. When, say, thirty-six students learn together as a group and collaborate on innovating something, an important question is who will lead and how. The Creative Leadership Program trains team leaders who organize the educational setting, coordinate the group, and play an interpretive role between instructor and students. These principles are reflected in the Creative Relationship Program we’ve just established with Hakuhodo and Laere.

OMOTO: Each year of the Kaospilot program consists of thirty-six students whose backgrounds are as varied as can be; thus diversity is guaranteed. Not only are they of different nationalities; they include artists, athletes, entrepreneurs, and even people with no formal education whatsoever. The idea is that one person’s background and knowledge could be of educational benefit to someone else. Thus diverse learning opportunities arise that wouldn’t be possible with a homogeneous student body. That kind of diversity isn’t particularly unusual; it’s found in virtually every organization, whether in Japan or anywhere else in the world. Diversity is intrinsic to any organization in that it consists of a great variety of individuals. That’s why you need to possess the skills and mindset to harness their many differing perspectives and ways of thinking as creative assets.

What the Creative Relationship Program offers

HARA: We at Hakuhodo Brand Design first got to know Kaospilot three years ago. We’d launched a program called the Future Education Conference to develop people capable of actively creating the future even in the most complex times. Denmark has been described as the world’s happiest country, and it consistently ranks near the top in the United Nations’ World Happiness Report. It’s also known for its unusual approach to education. We initially made contact with Kaospilot and Laere in the course of organizing a study tour to the country.

YAMADA: We actually took part in their workshop, and it gave us a lot of insights. In branding and innovation the how is of course important, but even more important is the what, and having a clear vision of why you’re doing what you’re doing in the first place. These are principles we already valued, but their workshop focused chiefly on an even more fundamental question: who. What kind of person are you? What are you passionate about? What do you want out of life? We explored our inner selves through dialog, then went on from there to consider ideas and initiatives. It was an eye-opening task.

HARA: This may be especially true of Japan, but whatever the project, the company or organization’s goals tend to come first and be pursued coolly and dispassionately. Participating in the workshop made me ask myself why I was doing this and whether I really wanted to. That alone, I felt, brought about a significant psychological change. Properly laying foundations first like that lets you get the most out of yourself and your highly diverse team, and in a sense lets you put your heart and soul into your planning and projects.

CHRISTER: That’s a good point. Say Company A asks Company B to develop something to make customers happy. Company B might tell Company A, “If you give us the perfect brief, we’ll give you the perfect answer.” But Company A and Company B, as well as the customer, inevitably see things through their own filter as a result of their differing assumptions, values, and experiences. So it’s difficult to come up with the perfect brief.

That makes it necessary to create a common language together you’ll all understand. You also need to develop a set of tools together and have shared experiences. Only then can you collectively produce something creative. When trying to innovate the conventional way, that fundamental need tends to get overlooked, since it’s assumed that you all share a common language and everything should go according to plan. You can only become aware of the filter through which you each view things, and see beyond it to do creative work together, if you start by laying the foundations in the form of a common language.

HARA: That’s why we developed the Creative Relationship Program. As the challenges facing businesses become more complex, building a strong brand and creating new products and services now takes more than just knowledge, methodology, and other forms of know-how. It’s also vital that the individuals involved consciously apply their creative powers. The program is divided into three main sessions. First, there’s an intensive workshop offered by Kaospilot, during which team members each master the basics of creative leadership under the guidance of two instructors who have come from Kaospilot. That’s followed by a value-building session and a relationship-building session. Actually these are both conducted concurrently, which is one of the program’s hallmarks. The value-building session, which involves producing specific output, deals with subjects like for example formulating a corporate vision and developing new products. It’s run by the Hakuhodo team, and we conduct it by applying the branding and innovation techniques we’ve developed to date. The relationship-building session, meanwhile, is run by Omoto-san and Laere. The varied team members are made aware of what traits and values they each possess, then learn of one another’s traits. They thus build high-quality relationships, that is, a strong team. Alternating between relationship building and vision formulation like this results in truly inspired output that shows personal initiative.

Organizations must create the right conditions for ideas and innovation.

OMOTO: Simply acknowledging that innovation is important and then creating a place for it isn’t going to spawn any ideas. Nurturing relationships through invisible synergies invariably requires a forum. That’s where this program is most effective. Innovation depends on no single person; it’s everybody’s job. Opportunities to think outside the box, and the relationships and teamwork necessary to doing so, don’t crop up spontaneously; to a certain extent it’s important to design them.

There’s a book called The Chaos Imperative, which argues that there are three key elements to producing ideas out of chaos: white space, renegades, and planned serendipity. “White space” means time to think. “Renegades” means people who don’t fit in. “Planned serendipity” means systematically creating the right conditions for ideas to emerge once the first two are in place. By skillfully developing these elements in organizations, teams, and individuals, this program provides a forum for learning actual theory and practice.

One of the tools used in the Creative Relationship Program. Nonverbal as well as verbal techniques are frequently used to help participants introspect and craft a vision.

HARA: This isn’t a how-to program that teaches how innovations are produced; it might better be described as a means for companies to develop their own unique methodology for making themselves truly innovative. We’d definitely encourage clients who are genuinely interested in working on innovation as a team to give it a try.

YAMADA: To be more specific, the program would be of great benefit to people in departments that pursue innovation on an ongoing basis, like business development and R&D; departments like HR development and human resources that examine how to make the organization more creative; and departments that consider how they can make the entire company more innovative, like corporate strategy and programs directly supervised by the CEO’s office. As well as businesses, we’d also urge public institutions and local governments to try out the program.

CHRISTER: Definitely. Most companies may have ideas and direction, but to become truly innovative they need to understand exactly what it is they’re after. This program makes it possible to bring such latent to light. Collaborating on the program has taught us a lot. We hope to continue building a relationship that lets our organizations learn from each other.

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