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TEDxTokyo

Shimpei Takahashi: Play this game to come up with original ideas

May 31, 2013

Shimpei Takahashi always dreamed of designing toys. But when he started work as a toy developer, he found that the pressure to use data as a starting point for design quashed his creativity. In this short, funny talk, Takahashi describes how he got his ideas flowing again, and shares a simple game anyone can play to generate new ideas. (In Japanese with English subtitles.)

Shimpei Takahashi - Toy designer
Shimpei Takahashi thinks we should forget about analyzing data or sales figures and just come up with ideas -- lots and lots of ideas. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
Hello.
00:14
I'm a toy developer.
00:15
With a dream of creating new toys
that have never been seen before,
00:18
I began working at a toy company
nine years ago.
00:22
When I first started working there,
00:25
I proposed many new ideas
to my boss every day.
00:27
However, my boss always asked
00:31
if I had the data to prove it would sell,
00:34
and asked me to think of product
development after analyzing market data.
00:37
Data, data, data.
00:40
So I analyzed the market data
before thinking of a product.
00:42
However, I was unable to think
of anything new at that moment.
00:46
(Laughter)
00:50
My ideas were unoriginal.
00:52
I wasn't getting any new ideas
and I grew tired of thinking.
00:54
It was so hard that I became this skinny.
00:58
(Laughter)
01:03
It's true.
(Applause)
01:05
You've all probably had
similar experiences and felt this way too.
01:08
Your boss was being difficult.
The data was difficult.
01:12
You become sick of thinking.
01:14
Now, I throw out the data.
01:16
It's my dream to create new toys.
01:19
And now, instead of data,
01:22
I'm using a game called Shiritori
to come up with new ideas.
01:24
I would like to introduce
this method today.
01:28
What is Shiritori?
01:32
Take apple, elephant
and trumpet, for example.
01:34
It's a game where
you take turns saying words
01:36
that start with the last letter
of the previous word.
01:39
It's the same in Japanese and English.
01:41
You can play Shiritori as you like:
01:43
"neko, kora, raibu, burashi," etc, etc.
[Cat, cola, concert, brush]
01:45
Many random words will come out.
01:49
You force those words to connect to what
you want to think of and form ideas.
01:51
In my case, for example,
since I want to think of toys,
01:56
what could a toy cat be?
02:00
A cat that lands after doing
a somersault from a high place?
02:03
How about a toy with cola?
02:07
A toy gun where you shoot cola
and get someone soaking wet?
02:09
(Laughter)
02:12
Ridiculous ideas are okay.
The key is to keep them flowing.
02:13
The more ideas you produce, you're sure
to come up with some good ones, too.
02:16
A brush, for example.
Can we make a toothbrush into a toy?
02:21
We could combine
a toothbrush with a guitar and --
02:26
(Music noises) --
02:30
you've got a toy you can play with
while brushing your teeth.
02:32
(Laughter) (Applause)
02:35
Kids who don't like to brush
their teeth might begin to like it.
02:37
Can we make a hat into a toy?
02:41
How about something like a roulette game,
where you try the hat on one by one,
02:44
and then, when someone puts it on,
a scary alien breaks through the top
02:48
screaming, "Ahh!"
02:53
I wonder if there would be
a demand for this at parties?
02:55
Ideas that didn't come out while you stare
at the data will start to come out.
02:58
Actually, this bubble wrap,
which is used to pack fragile objects,
03:03
combined with a toy,
made Mugen Pop Pop,
03:09
a toy where you can pop
the bubbles as much as you like.
03:14
It was a big hit when it reached stores.
03:17
Data had nothing to do with its success.
03:19
Although it's only popping bubbles,
03:22
it's a great way to kill time,
03:25
so please pass this around
03:27
amongst yourselves today and play with it.
03:29
(Applause)
03:32
Anyway, you continue to come up with
useless ideas.
03:36
Think up many trivial ideas, everyone.
03:39
If you base your ideas on data analysis
and know what you're aiming for,
03:41
you'll end up trying too hard,
03:45
and you can't produce new ideas.
03:47
Even if you know what your aim is,
03:49
think of ideas as freely as if you were
throwing darts with your eyes closed.
03:52
If you do this, you surely will hit
somewhere near the center.
03:55
At least one will.
03:59
That's the one you should choose.
04:00
If you do so, that idea will be in demand
04:02
and, moreover, it will be brand new.
04:05
That is how I think of new ideas.
04:08
It doesn't have to be Shiritori;
there are many different methods.
04:10
You just have to choose words at random.
04:13
You can flip through a dictionary
and choose words at random.
04:15
For example, you could look up two
random letters and gather the results
04:18
or go to the store
and connect product names
04:22
with what you want to think of.
04:26
The point is to gather random words,
04:29
not information from the category
you're thinking for.
04:32
If you do this, the ingredients for
the association of ideas are collected
04:36
and form connections
that will produce many ideas.
04:42
The greatest advantage to this method
is the continuous flow of images.
04:45
Because you're thinking
of one word after another,
04:49
the image of the previous word
is still with you.
04:52
That image will automatically
be related with future words.
04:54
Unconsciously, a concert will
be connected to a brush
04:57
and a roulette game
will be connected to a hat.
04:59
You wouldn't even realize it.
05:02
You can come up with ideas that
you wouldn't have thought of otherwise.
05:03
This method is, of course,
not just for toys.
05:06
You can collect ideas for books, apps,
events, and many other projects.
05:09
I hope you all try this method.
05:13
There are futures that are born from data.
05:17
However, using this silly game
called Shiritori,
05:20
I look forward to
the exciting future you will create,
05:25
a future you couldn't even imagine.
05:28
Thank you very much.
05:32
(Applause)
05:34

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Shimpei Takahashi - Toy designer
Shimpei Takahashi thinks we should forget about analyzing data or sales figures and just come up with ideas -- lots and lots of ideas.

Why you should listen

Shimpei Takahashi has developed many toys for Bandai, including the popular Mugen Puchi Puchi, a game that exploits the universal love of popping bubble wrap. The toy received the Grand Prize "Trendy Toy" Award from the Japan Toy Association.

In 2005, Takahashi invented a board game called Simpei, while he also works in the digital realm, having designed the social gaming app, Onedari Wanko (Fawning Puppy).

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