Designing for Kindness: How Japanese culture can inspire the next generation of Technology with Mike Peng | Techsauce

Designing for Kindness: How Japanese culture can inspire the next generation of Technology with Mike Peng

At this year's Techsauce Global Summit 2018 in Bangkok, one of the opening Keynote speeches from the very talented and innovative Mike Peng opens our minds to the emotional connection that technology can bring to our lives.

'Businesses should start and finish with people' 

Mike poses the question of what are the things that should be powering our technology in the future?

The 3 principles of design: Feasibility, Desirability and Visibility

We should be leading with our hearts. Opening our eyes and minds to the experiences that we have daily can really inspire us. Tokyo is such a magical place with enhanced technology in the most unexpected but useful places.

Taxis in Japan have automatically opened doors which is a nifty invention. . The elevators in Japan allow you to unselect the floor and the elevator tells you the weather predictions so you are equipt for the day. There are 'Turtle taxis' which can take you the long and gentle way if you want to get your baby to sleep for example.

This attention to detail shows the heart and emotion in the Tokyo technology design.

The restrooms in Japan are an example of world-class innovation. They have music to disguise the sounds and supply subtle privacy.

What is at the heart of all these different experiences? Kindness

How can we be generous?

How can you think of a time when someone was so kind to them?

Kindness isn't forced, it's about doing it out of the goodness of your heart. Kindness can be designed, participating in peoples unmet needs.

Japan has been incorporating 'Omotenashi' an ancient Japanese expression which is about treating others as generously as possible from the bottom of your heart without asking for anything in return.

The 3 key principles that showcase this ancient mantra are:

Subtle Automation

How might we create products and services which anticipate users' behavior thoughtfully & Discretely?'

How might we create, produce and provide a better service?

We at IDEO are resigning a 'voting booth' which we must take into consideration for people who are blind, deaf or shorter to accommodate everyone who needs assistance.

The booth is a core stakeholder that we need to take care of. We need to create a voting booth that is thoughtfully designed for the everyone involved.

We also have 'Willow' in our portfolio 'wearable breast pumps' - Pump on the go which is an innovative piece of technology for mothers with newborn babies as they can discreetly pump milk with privacy and convenience.

Hidden enhancement

How might we craft our products and services with an attention to detail that gives users the best quality experience?

We have crafted new ways that improve the way you feed your baby for example. These things are all generated with heart and emotion at the center of its creation.

Adaptive Interactions

How might we orchestrate delight at exactly the right moments? 

We have the invention now of Wearable Technology that is woven into the clothes, blended into your Levis or jackets. Wearable tech is woven into the fabric design that enhances your experiences as you go about your day.

At IDEO we have 'Toy Lab' at IDEO, this is an incubator and accelerator for innovation of technology.  Toys are becoming more interactive. Getting your kid to do things like brushing your teeth can be difficult, however with this interactive app using Elmo to connect and talk to your child it is more likely to do the menial tasks like brushing teeth.

How might we hardness IOT to better learn and produce performance?

Artificial intelligence is useful  'How might we bring warmth to artificially - generated interactions? This is something that we want to make sure we incorporate into design and technology.

Social Media - How might we enhance our experiences with surprise and delight? This is the future of technology and the way we should all focus and incorporate emotion into technology.

Mike Peng leaves us with a pondering and inspiring question:

How might we create small acts of kindness which come from a place of generosity and love, instead of a place of conversations, KPIs or ROI's?


We are a global design company committed to creating positive impact.

From designing the first manufacturable mouse for Apple to advancing the practice of human-centered design, IDEO has long been at the forefront of creating change through design. See some of the highlights from our decades of history.


Mike Peng: 

I have a passion for inspiration—both finding ways to inspire others as well as being inspired myself. Japan is my current canvas and muse. I co-founded our Tokyo office, and am leading the team to work on different challenges that can help unlock Japan’s creative confidence and push the country to be at its economic and creative best.


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