Orchestrating Social Innovation: A Discussion with Japanese Tech Corporations

Written by Conchita Galdón, Director of Social Innovation Center@IE

Social Innovation can become a strategic tool for tech companies to engage in a different and higher value added conversation with various stakeholders, and convey a different value to the market. This is especially relevant for companies who strive to remain relevant in the long run. Japanese corporations, with a tradition of several generations, know this well. Last month I was invited to teach in Japan for leading tech corporates with diverse audiences ranging from their digital transformation teams to senior leadership.

In advancing their strategies they run into prevalent social concerns about potential negative impact of technology. As much as clients feel attracted by their technology, the emotional detachment raises concerns about potential commoditization. Is technology taking away key elements from our humanity? Are we losing our empathic touch to the efficiency and reliability of algorithms? Many people struggle with these questions while, on the very contrary, technology has the potential to make as more humane than ever. When technology firms put people at the center of technical advances, we can enhance people’s ability to focus on creativity, compassion and innovation; core human values. Actually, the unprecedented technological progress we are experimenting is an invaluable tool to confront prevalent issues such as poverty, lack of access to health care and education or climate change. In Japan, we discussed the role of human core elements in coordination with technology and shared examples of how technology is being used to enhance people skills rather than eliminate them. Technology corporations have immense potential to create massive social impact, thus advancing their ability to innovate and engage in a long-term value creation conversations.

In addition, social issues are getting more complicated and it is getting hard for one entity to confront social or environmental issues. However, technological progress enables us to cooperate together on social innovation in new ways. Cooperation across organizations brings greater impact to society and, at the same time, increases these corporations’ reach and ability to innovate leveraging more powerful and dense networks. These intense relationships nurture the deep roots that Japanese corporations who aim to play a critical role in the future greatly value.

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