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A recent panel discussion moderated by Yukiko Takizawa – Tokyo Head of TCS Pace Port™ -- explored the role of design-thinking and agility in innovation in technology in companies in Japan. The focus of the interaction was TCS’ approach to innovation, and its methodology.

Kurian Varughese, a TCS elite “Innovation Champion”, highlighted the various challenges in the innovation process that companies in Japan faced compared with their global competitors. Tomoka Asahi, TCS Service Design Lead at Pace Port Tokyo, shed light on the design-thinking process and its benefits towards innovation. TCS Pace Ports are experiential innovation hubs where innovation is accelerated at speed and scale towards tangible business-led outcomes.

Cultivating an Innovation Mindset

According to Kurian Varughese, many companies in Japan are not sure if their design thinking practice is appropriate or they still tend to struggle without getting positive results. This could be a result of company culture or mindset, he said. A typical mindset that is an inhibitor for innovation is the perception that “failures are not good”. Kurian explained that in the initial stages of design thinking, creativity and ideas are expanded as much as possible to extend thinking. A “fear of failure”, however, leads to a hesitation in the innovation process and “builds a wall” that prevents the exploration of possibilities and consequently, expanded thinking. He further added that mindset is one of the challenges that deter organizations from incorporating design thinking methodology.

Shedding more light on the role of design thinking, Tomoka Asahi said, “It is very important for Japanese organizations to understand that design thinking is not just about designing new products and services. In addition to enhancing brand value and customer experience, design thinking improves processes, procedures, and systems.”

Kurian explained that the role of fostering a culture of innovation is extremely important across TCS and engagements with all customers is crucial. “This is because the capability of the project teams can be improved by empathizing with customer needs and encouraging experimentation with creative thinking and ideas. These are all important elements of design thinking.”

Focus on Experience, Not Product

Tomoka, who focuses on creating and designing the user experience of products/services in an integrated manner from a holistic, comprehensive perspective at Pace Port Tokyo, underlined the importance of design-thinking in enhancing customer experience. “Design thinking encourages organizations to focus on user/customer experiences rather than products,” she explained.

Speaking on how the synergy between design thinking and innovation can be further enhanced, Tomoka said, “When a customer comes to the Tokyo Pace Port with issues that are not clear enough, the service design team helps them identify real challenges and uncover insights as the first step.”

Agile Innovation Center – Providing Innovation as a Service

Exploring innovation as an activity and a defined process, the panel explored what went into the making of a TCS Innovation Champion. Kurian explained that at TCS, an innovation champion is an internal qualification to certify people within the organization who further the process of innovation with customers. In other words, a TCS innovation champion plays the role of a master who has accumulated a wide range of his or her own company's technical knowledge and case studies. “Innovation champions work as evangelists of design thinking to encourage a creative journey of the project team,” Kurian said. He went to explain the model of the Agile Innovation Center (AIC) -- an important part in this activity. AIC is a unique and comprehensive TCS approach to bring several angles of innovation to customers, Kurian explained.

AIC uses the synergy within the TCS ecosystem, comprising a human resource pool, investment in cutting-edge digital solutions, technology partners, academic institutes and startups. The AIC model promotes customers’ innovation according to their scale by the application of a continuous and agile method. More specifically, an AIC model provides idea generation for customers, an immediate verification of tentative theories and a minimum viable product (MVP), cooperating with ecosystem/agile innovation platform to develop prototypes.

By adopting the AIC model within the environment of a Pace Port, TCS can provide “innovation-as-a-service” for customers, Kurian said. This service runs through four stages:

  • Awareness / discovery / innovation
  • Definition / ideation
  • Refinement / demonstration
  • Delivery / development / implementation


Putting things in further perspective, Yukiko rounded off the discussion saying, “One of the success factors at the Business Innovation Unit that we at Pace Port Tokyo belong to, is being able to provide capabilities in service design and rapid prototyping. The Innovation Champion leads AIC opportunities for customers.”

At TCS Pace Port Tokyo, a customer can expect creativity by way of the design-thinking process, agility for speed and scale, and contextual knowledge with the presence of innovation champions brought in by a project team. All of these are the key components that lay the groundwork for innovation. The methodical effort and drive towards planned innovation makes partnering with a Pace Port an important step in the digital transformation journey of a customer.

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