I used to work long hours in my early twenties. This experience helped me to discover that we all get tired and sick eventually, productivity as well as clarity of our thoughts decrease. We are not robots after all.

Having experienced the above, I have learnt to find a work-life balance and remain focused on given tasks throughout the day.

How would you describe your objectives and the way you work?

They have evolved over time nevertheless I have always taken users’ side in my work. Digital experiences need to be transformed into simpler and less confusing engagements. If users love your product/service, it will likely become successful.

Work never ends. We may keep ourselves occupied for 24 hours/day, 365 days/year. There are always new ideas and new projects. Working style is one’s personal decision. I prefer to focus on vital parts of design process these days, while making space for inspirations outside the studio.

Tell me about your work methods...

I manage my calendar carefully and prioritize everything. I care about rhythm of a day and avoid engagements that I find fruitless. Moreover, I focus on tasks that can utilize personal strengths and skillset. I would ask for assistance with the remaining ones. If a task takes 2-minutes I clear it immediately, so it does not pile up. This simple productivity hack leaves plenty of time for more essential activities. I google answers when needed and search for help in the field I am unfamiliar with.

I used to run my own design studio in my mid-twenties. I recall using my desktop PC and getting email notifications every 10-minutes. Its impact on productivity was tremendous. The situation improved as I decided to check my mailbox manually each morning, lunchtime, and evening time. No more than that. Nowadays, I keep all notifications disabled throughout the day to avoid distractions. Setting rules/folders for incoming emails helps as well.

I learnt benefits of prioritization when working with Dutch colleagues in Amsterdam. They were unavailable for any side requests, when focused on their task. Doing one thing at a time was the way. “I am occupied with my duties at the moment. I will be able to help you in three hours.” – they used to say.

Prior experience and fluency of design process helps in effective planning. We often rely on WBS sheets that are unrealistic. The workload/scope itself tends to expand as we progress. Some decisions may become a threat to project deadlines and the budget. It is critical to keep the communication open and honest, discuss/explain implications of partner’s decisions.

What is the difference between Japan and the West?

Work performance is rather low here. Local companies engage their team members in numerous tasks that are not necessarily aligned with a one’s skillset. People are transferred between divisions before they have a chance to specialize or master a skill.

My girlfriend is in charge of international students at one of the universities in Tokyo. A new boss joined the unit a few months ago. The organization moved him from a finance department. No prior experience with international affairs. No skill of any foreign language. He will be posted elsewhere after a year or so. Above model might have worked in the past; it remains of a major challenge for industries nowadays as they require critical thinking, creativity and making decisions autonomously.

Companies in Japan cherish processes. Meetings, group discussion, shared responsibility and elaborate approval workflows take over. Debating over 400 rows of Excel sheets (one by one) seems to be a norm during team gatherings. Proactive attitudes are rare. It applies for both partner work as well as for internal operations.

Western companies would focus on results while leaving more space for spontaneity and improvisation. Teams are interdisciplinary, leadership is defined. We benefit from crew specialty and listen to each other despite of hierarchy. It allows for more collaborative and inclusive approach, dynamic pace and immediate results (that can be tested and improved rapidly).

While in Singapore, our global design team of five has developed the entire Lincoln (Ford Motor Company) experience in just 3-months. It included architectural design of two car showrooms in China, Business Design with multiple digital touchpoints (Personalization Studio, Diagnostic Table) and training materials for various teams at the top of it. 

What do you expect from ZEPPELIN?

I would love to see our Crew as future creative leaders of Japan. Autonomous thinking and decision making is key for the country. Most of daily challenges can be resolved during 15-minutes one-to-one sessions. Open and sincere conversation with partners can only help. It applies for constructive critique and feedback sessions as well. As soon as we start taking an initiative, ideas get materialized and projects will bloom.

Why did you choose ZEPPELIN?

There is a great potential among the Crew members. ZEPPELIN strengths are between Design Thinking, User-centered approach and state of the art creation. This makes a good prospect for a company to have. We have our unique way of helping our partners and we constantly refine it. I would like to be a part of an organization where everyone is satisfied with their work, shares common goals and enthusiasm. Joyful studio environment, polished superpowers of each Crew, direct communication and effective design process are critical for company growth and staying ahead of the competition.  

Zeppelin Inc.