Noboru Konno, Professor at Tama Graduate School of Business / Masakatsu Mori, Research & Development Group, Hitachi, Ltd.
Nowadays, corporate activities and businesses are required to have a raison d'être, or a "purpose." In such a climate, how can we use "questions" concerning society and business to create a vision and relate it to our business? Hitachi R&D (Research & Development) Group has launched a periodical event titled the "Kyōsō-no-Mori Webinar" as a new forum for co-creation and to think about these questions through dialogues with researchers and designers. For our first webinar—"Innovation Starting with a Question"—which was live streamed on June 8, 2021, we welcomed a leading expert in design thinking, Dr. Noboru Konno, a professor at Tama Graduate School of Business who has been advocating for innovation through purpose engineering. Dr. Konno discussed with Masakatsu Mori from Hitachi about "Purpose and Social Innovation Business." In this feature, we bring you the content of the webinar in four parts.


Questioning the importance of a "purpose"

— My name is Yukinobu Maruyama, Head of Design at Global Center for Social Innovation - Tokyo, Research & Development Group in Hitachi, Ltd. I will be the host of this webinar. In today's feature titled "Purpose and Social Innovation Business," we bring you a dialogue between an expert and a researcher from Hitachi on the topic of "purpose." Our expert guest is Dr. Noboru Konno, professor of the Department of Management and Information Sciences at the Tama Graduate School of Business. Dr. Konno has been the adviser of Hitachi's design activities since the publication of the book "Social Innovation Design; Hitachi's Challenge" in 2007. Dr. Konno, thank you for being with us today.

画像: (from left) business scholar Dr. Noboru Konno, Masakatsu Mori from Hitachi, and host Yukinobu Maruyama from Hitachi.

(from left) business scholar Dr. Noboru Konno, Masakatsu Mori from Hitachi, and host Yukinobu Maruyama from Hitachi.

Dr. Konno
Thank you for inviting me. I believe business people around the world are already talking about the importance of a "purpose" in business. Nowadays, you often hear about shifts towards focusing on social issues, a prime example of which are the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), steering management in a way that emphasizes customer-employee relationships, such as the stakeholder economy, and open innovation. However, these rarely go well. This is because a great number of these innovations do not have a clear purpose in mind. To tackle these problems, I am advocating and practicing a concept called "Purpose Engineering." Today, I would like to explain what it is.

画像: Dr. Noboru Konno, professor at Tama Graduate School of Business

Dr. Noboru Konno, professor at Tama Graduate School of Business

— Thank you very much. We also have a speaker from Hitachi R&D Group; Masakatsu Mori, General Manager of the Global Center for Social Innovation (CSI).

Dr. Konno, thank you for coming. As a researcher, I take part in creating new solutions with our customers to put social innovation into action. Originally, I was engaged in the study of creating solutions to solve customer issues through so-called "digital technologies." What I felt as I was looking into ways to deliver value to our customers was that technology is merely a measure and what's important is the purpose. In addition, it is extremely important to have the same R&D goal with researchers and designers whose purpose is to innovate at Hitachi. I am looking forward to learning more about these topics today.

画像: Masakatsu Mori, Research & Development Group, Hitachi, Ltd.

Masakatsu Mori, Research & Development Group, Hitachi, Ltd.

"Social" and "societal" as the two wheels of innovation

— Now, let's begin with our first question. "What is the social innovation concept?" Dr. Konno, could you give us your answer please?

Dr. Konno
Social innovation is an extremely vast concept, but I am beginning to understand that it consists of primarily two elements; "social" and "societal."

Let's take the problem of poverty as an example. Social innovation aims to change the world by focusing on things that are visible, like lack of clothing or food. Initiatives taken by social entrepreneurs are good examples of social innovation. On the other hand, societal innovation focuses on the social systems and infrastructure that lie beneath these problems. The goal of a societal innovation is to create a system where poverty does not occur. Social innovation is accomplished through the interaction between these two elements.

As a typical example of societal innovation, there is the idea of an "agile city," where you see a city as one large field. Rather than having experts do rigid urban planning from the very beginning, residents and experts collaborate to create an urban design and make societal innovations happen. I believe companies like Hitachi would be the ones best suited to take on those roles.

Dr. Konno, what you have just said makes complete sense to me. As a researcher, we put energy into solving modern day societal issues by collaborating with customers. But every day, I feel the importance of fixing the roots of the problems and not just solving what is visible. This is where, for example, Digital Transformation (DX), a trend that can change how the world operates, becomes useful. I can see that action through the combination of social and societal is extremely important.

Also, speaking of agile cities, we are currently working on a social innovation where we collaborate with local residents to shape the future of their communities. It's called "Future Living Lab (FLL)." While working on this project, I was often reminded of the importance of understanding our goal and understanding what we were doing.

Click here for "[Part 2] What is Social Innovation? (Second half)"

画像1: Innovation Starting with a Question - Vol.1 Purpose and Social Innovation Business
[Part 1] What is Social Innovation? (First half)

Noboru Konno
Professor of the Department of Management and Information Sciences at Tama Graduate School of Business

Chairperson and Director of Japan Innovation Network, President of the Future Center Alliance Japan (FCAJ), and Managing Director of ECOSYX LAB, INC. After receiving his B.A. from the Department of Architecture, School of Science and Engineering, Waseda University, he gained a PhD in Management Information Science. In addition to popularizing the concepts of design management, knowledge creation management, purpose engineering, and innovation management, he is also involved in practical activities, such as leadership education, organizational transformation, workplace design, and urban development projects all based on organizational and societal knowledge ecology. He is also heavily involved in creating innovation opportunities and networking activities with the world’s top intellectuals through the FCAJ and Topos Conferences. He served as a juror for the Good Design Award in the design management field from 2004 to 2012. His multiple publications include: Innovate by Design-based Management; Art Company; and The Grammar of Knowledge Creating Management for Prudent Capitalism (co-authored with Japanese organizational theorist Ikujiro Nonaka).

画像2: Innovation Starting with a Question - Vol.1 Purpose and Social Innovation Business
[Part 1] What is Social Innovation? (First half)

Masakatsu Mori
General Manager, Global Center for Social Innovation
Research & Development Group, Hitachi, Ltd.

Masakatsu Mori joined Hitachi, Ltd. after obtaining his master’s degree from the Graduate School of Engineering at Kyoto University in 1994. As a researcher in the Systems Development Laboratory, he worked on new services and solutions using cutting-edge digital technologies. He was also a visiting scholar at University of California, San Diego from 2003 to 2004. After leading the Planning Office at the Yokohama Research Laboratory and Production Engineering R&D, he was appointed to lead European R&D as Corporate CTO as well as General Manager of the European R&D Centre of Hitachi Europe, Ltd. in 2018. He was appointed to his current position in April 2020. He has a PhD in Information Science and Technology.

画像3: Innovation Starting with a Question - Vol.1 Purpose and Social Innovation Business
[Part 1] What is Social Innovation? (First half)

Yukinobu Maruyama, host
Head of Design, Global Center for Social Innovation – Tokyo
Research & Development Group, Hitachi, Ltd.

After joining Hitachi, Yukinobu Maruyama built his career as a product designer. He was involved in the foundation of Hitachi Human Interaction Laboratory in 2001 and launched the field of vision design research in 2010 before becoming laboratory manager of the Experience Design Lab UK Office in 2016. After returning to Japan, he worked in robotics, AI, and digital city service design before being dispatched to Hitachi Global Life Solutions, Inc. to promote a vision-driven product development strategy. He is also involved in developing design methodology and human resource education plan. He took up his current position in 2020.

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