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How Japanese story-telling can drive innovation

If a friend calls and wants to meet up in Tokyo for some Pecha Kucha – don’t expect to be sipping an organic drink or being massaged with a hot rock. As DAVE WESTMAN of Flat Cat Marketing explores, the new art of Pecha Kucha has a lot to offer organisations wanting to develop high performing teams.

Today’s rabbit hole, if you are willing to dive down it, is a story-telling format that is changing the world 400 seconds at a time. Pecha Kucha, which means “chit chat” in Japanese, was developed by two architects (Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham) who wanted to see “more show and less tell”. In a nutshell, Pecha Kucha is a presentation of around 20 slides, each shown for 20 seconds. Originally designed to combat long death-by-Powerpoint presentations, the idea took off to produce entertaining Pecha Kucha social events and also has far-reaching implications for the workplace. In fact, businesses are now one of the main practitioners and regular meetings are set aside time for this kind of presentation – or many of these presentations (it’s only six minutes and 40 seconds each).

The benefits for an organisation incorporating Pecha Kucha into their workplace are many, but let’s focus on just three:

  • Personal connections;
  • Innovation; and
  • Personal growth.

Personal connections

Pecha Kucha is often used to connect the “silos” that tend to form in organisations. The larger an organisation gets, the less each department interacts with the others. When presenters from different departments do their Pecha Kucha, everyone learns more about the humans they work with and more about the work other departments do. When everyone goes through the same process, it also provides common ground for social bonds to be formed.


Research tells us Innovation thrives in psychologically safe environments. When people feel they can speak out and put forward ideas without negative consequences, the organisation produces more ideas. Pecha Kucha can turn speaking up and to put forward ideas into part of the working role. When it’s part of everyone’s working role, support and encouragement are offered because, in a social environment, there are swings and roundabouts. Investing in support for someone else will come back in the form of support when it’s your turn. Former New Inventors host, James O’Loughlin, suggests innovation should be made a KPI and part of everyone’s job. Pecha Kucha is an easy, structured, and fun way to do just that.

Personal growth

Standing up in front of other people is hard. When we do hard things we grow. Currently, there is a welcome trend in organisations toward managing the “whole person”. People who work in organisations are more than just the work they produce. Leaders who develop the whole person see the results expressed in both increased quantity and quality of work. Some organisations encourage both professional and personal growth by having their leaders read business-related books and then deliver a brief talk on a chapter or whole book to the team. Pecha Kucha would simply take this practice to the next level, making it more visual and entertaining. Also, information delivered in a story-telling format is more likely to stick in the audience’s memory.
What should the presentations be about?

Pecha Kucha sessions, either one at a time or several together, can be themed to achieve the outcomes you desire. If you want better team cohesion, they might be personal stories. If you want more innovation, they can be ideas to improve systems and processes. Or if you just want to create entertainment and support personal growth, leave it open-ended. Now, having read this article, consider how much easier it would have been to sit back and watch it in a 400-second video.

One Response

  1. Psychological safety is leading to trust and inclusion so give a chance to innovate and creativity

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