APMF 2014: Kentaro Kimura and the Creative Alchemy

Kentaro Kimura was one of the highlights at Asia Pacific Media Forum this year. The highly decorated co-CEO of Hakuhodo Kettle presented his theory on creative alchemy and the two contrasting ways of thinking through impressive story telling and fascinating visuals.

In his view, there are two kinds of thinking, the city kind and the forest kind. One involves logic and structure while the other is full of wild imaginations and risk. While both have their purposes, going to the forest, he says, will bring far more brilliant ideas, although for those looking to match a client brief and provide a solution, the wild ideas need to be taken back to the city for some dose of reality.

In any case, he theorizes that there are five ways that people can use to come up with new ideas when going to the unknown, which he calls the creative alchemy.

The first of the five methods is combine. This is where a new idea is borne out of the combination of existing ideas. For example, mixing a robot and a police will give you Robocop, while love and contract gives you marriage. One of Kimura’s creations was the Hibiki Glass, a microchip-embedded whiskey glass, to create a new drinking experience in which bar patrons will trigger visual and aural feedback in the bar based on which kind of whiskey they took and how they move the glass.

The second method is mimic. This involves implementing an existing idea but not necessarily a copy, rather taking the basis of one idea and applying it to a different situation, such as the sushi train, the idea of which apparently came from a bottling plant where bottles in a production line are placed on a conveyor belt or on rails for filling and capping.

The third method is upside down or doing the reverse of what is expected. We have been taught to avoid catching virus infections for example, but the cure for an infection is to inject a virus into the body. In the movie Planet of the Apes, it’s the apes who rule the world while humans are the slaves or animals. In September last year, Yahoo Japan launched Hands on Search which turns spoken words into physical objects by using 3D printers in an effort to help visually impaired children to learn about objects around them.

The fourth one is what if, which challenges how people perceive reality, like the creation of the dog door which allows dogs to go in and out of the house through a specially built door within a regular door. In Kimura’s example he showed a series of ads for Toyota which puts forward the kaizen principle of continuous improvement by showing damaged cars in hospitals being cared for as if they were living beings.

The last one is the truth behind. Through this method creative professionals are asked to discover the reasons behind actions, behaviors, decisions, occurrences, or other activities to generate deeper and more emotionally connected ideas.

Following the devastating tsunami in Japan’s Tohoku region in 2011, many families lost more than just their properties and belongings but also memories in photos. Google Japan and Hakuhodo Kettle arranged to facilitate the collection of those old memories by crowdsourcing requests for pictures from all over Japan to assist those who have lost those mementos in a project called Memories for the Future.

At the end of the day, these five methods for creative alchemy and the contrasting ways of thinking can easily be discovered through the regular ideation and creative processes but it was Kimura’s way in conveying those elements which made the entire concept very compelling and fascinating to learn.