As often happens, the best strategy is the combination of different strategies. In innovation and design, this is essential. This is the case of the Japanese terms “kodawari” and “kansei“.
“Kodawari” could be translated as the quality of being sensitive to the details. Applied to design and, in general, to the way people carries out any activity, kodawari refers to the pursuit of perfection to the minor things.
It is telling that, traditionally, the term was used mainly in psychiatry to describe obsessive attitudes or with a connotation of prejudice. However, in recent years, kodawari is being used increasingly from its positive side, relative to the attention to details typical of the Japanese.
This transmutation of values, referred to kodawari, denotes, from my point of view, a much more profound change in the way design and innovation are conceived.
It is no coincidence, for example, that one of the best-selling books by Tom Peters is dedicated to “The Little Big Things”, referring to the importance of details. According to Peters, the neglect of the small details sends to customers the message “We do not care.”
However, although the concept kodawari, viewed in this way, has great strength, I believe that it has neither purpose nor soul.
At this point, I introduce the term “kansei“.
Unlike kodawari, kansei is a much more elaborated concept. Kansei is used to denote the qualities possessed by an object to convey pleasant emotions in its usage. This concept was developed by Mitsuo Nagamachi into industrial design processes and it is the origin of the Kansei Engineering System.
Beyond this, I want to emphasize the idea of the human-centered design, which transmits the term kansei. Kansei provides the warmth and the purpose the concept kodawari lacks.
Thus, the combination of the terms kansei and kodawari results in a 360 degree design which takes into account all aspects of a product or service in order to offer an amazing experience from start to finish. Gary Hamel explains it greatly when he says that “the great design has more to do with empathy than with genius, and often are the smallest things that make the biggest difference for consumers” (The Ten Faces of Innovation).
This combination of kodawari and kansei can be seen more and more in how companies design their products and services. Apple is the most obvious example, but the rise of master degrees in packaging design, for example, is a very significant indicator of the implementation of 360 degree design.
Until recently, most companies adopted a myopic strategy in the way they designed products and services. Thus, the purpose of an airline company was only moving people from one place to another, the target of a car manufacturer was only making cars, and the goal of a coffeehouse was only to make coffee.
However, in a market full of competitors with much cheaper products, this strategy is doomed to failure. The client seeks an experience and, as explained by Tom Kelley, general manager of IDEO, the purchase of a product is just one of the stages of the journey.
Companies must ensure that all stages of the customer journey are extraordinary. Through the kodawari-kansei design, the company accompanies clients since they decide to buy a product after they use it.
When I enter a coffeehouse I want to be treated kindly, I do not want to queue, I want a good coffee, with foamed milk and I will love it if they offer me a little chocolate. I want to sit in a comfortable chair and to have a quick look to the newspaper while I watch people through the window and a relaxing music sounds. When I go to the bathroom, I want a clean toilet with toilet paper, a latch that does not run aground, soap to wash my hands and to avoid touching faucets and doors. As I left, I’d rather not have to worry about the cup and just go. Did any of you, through this walk in the coffeehouse, think about the price of coffee?