Interview Prof. Bruder | NextD Journal

In one of my recent postings I’ve reported about the growing interest in Zollverein School’s MBA programme. While the whole project and concept of Zollverein School started back in 1999 ever since 2002 the Zollverein areal as a whole has been given an investment of a total of 110 Million Euro by a joint forces alliance of the European Union, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the city of Essen. With currently two cohorts studying the MBA (the first cohort to be graduated later this year) and the impressive school building to be inaugurated this summer the outlook is quite promising.

As said above these facts seem to be recognized more and more on an international level as well and I’m happy to see Zollverein School’s president Prof. Dr. Ralph Bruder being interviewed by GK van Patter in the latest online issue of NextD Journal.

“GK VanPatter is an internationally recognized understanding designer, innovation architect, and visionary thinker. He specializes in the creation of strategies, tools, and organizations that enhance adaptability and innovation. As Co-Founder of Understanding Lab Inc in New York he has pioneered the application of understanding as an instrument to drive growth, change, and innovation in knowledge creating companies. … Concerned about the future of design leadership GK co-founded the NextDesign Leadership Institute with Elizabeth Pastor in the spring of 2002. NextD was created for the purpose of raising awareness regarding how the challenges of design leadership have radically changed at the leading edge of the marketplace. Its mission includes helping design educators and practicing professionals prepare to meet the challenges of cross-disciplinary design and innovation leadership in the 21st century.”

A while ago GK has been interviewed by Chris Gee (actually his interview with me is listed right after GK’s ;-) and you can listen to the according podcast #4 here >>>. If you’re a regular reader of the Zollverein School blog you might have noticed an earlier referencing to NextD’s interview series at that time with Peter Merholz. It is also worth noting that another Zollverein School lecturer Bettina von Stamm has been interviewed by NextD Journal as well in 2005. In any case from reading the interviews you will have experienced GK’s curious, insightful as well as deep digging interview style which easily results in a 20 pages interview transcript ;-) However they are always worth a reading!

While you can read or download the interview online I’ve thought you’d like to read my subjective selection of noteworthy quotes from the conversation. After all my selection is aimed to inform those of you who might not be completely familiar with the basic ideas of Zollverein School. So here comes my imagined set of questions prospective students might have (followed by snipets from Prof. Bruder’s answers) :

In this paragraph Bruder refers to what is being called “wicked problem solving” in the context of “design thinking”. This clearly is a new direction in management education:

“Traditional economic theory assumes that every management task can be summed up in a problem that can be clearly defined and for which an optimal solution can be found. As a result of the increasing global competition on deregulated markets, this theory (which works on stable, growing markets) has long reached its limitations …. Existing methods of business management must therefore be developed in order to establish new rules of competition, draft new business models, and create new markets. And that is what we call a design task. Design is all about finding solutions for abstract, vague problems, and making decisions - and not just analyzing situations.”

Accordingly some of you might ask: “Which programmes are on Zollverein School’s list?”:

“We are offering only post-graduate and doctoral programs. That means we are looking for students who already have some years of professional experience. They should also have a first academic degree even though the course of study for this degree is of less importance. We are looking for diversity in the disciplinary background and actual professions of our students. … Besides the diversity in disciplines and professional activities, we also want to attract students with different cultural backgrounds. That is one of the reasons why the Zollverein School has an international orientation. Bringing together management and design is a topic which is not only of interest for certain local economies, but has a global relevance as well. … We will have further programs that focus on finding new solutions for existing problems (or even asking the right questions), and where we will have opportunities to be more open to experiments in teaching. There will be a methodological orientation within such programs in which a Master of Innovation Methods would be a suitable degree. Those programs have some commonalities with the MBA program, and we will have courses and projects where students from the different programs can meet and exchange their perspectives.”

And what “kind of colleagues will I meet at Zollverein School?”:

“We bring together students with disciplinary backgrounds in the economies and in different creative disciplines and also with different professional experiences. Just by sharing their respective previous problem solving strategies, they come up with new approaches for solving complex problems.”

“What kind of learning environment will be offered by Zollverein School? What do they expect from me?”:

“Furthermore, we offer the interpenetration of management and design in different types of courses. Within the lecture-type courses we have joint courses of teachers with different backgrounds. So, for example, the professors for strategic marketing and culture/society are doing some lectures together about the relationship between actual cultural studies and strategy formulation.

In seminar-type courses (like Bettina von Stamm’s “Innovation” module), the students have to apply theoretical findings to real case studies. A sample case study would be to look at the innovation level of the companies they are working for (or running themselves) and come up with some ideas as to how to improve this innovation level.

Projects are another integrative part of the MBA program. They run over three months and are related to practical problems. The aim of the project is the implementation and validation of skills, concepts and methods the students have learned in different courses. The learning and working happens within interdisciplinary teams.

The projects are guided by different MBA tutors and, again, with their various disciplinary backgrounds they deliver different perspectives to the project. To be honest, to handle those different perspectives was and still is not very easy for the students, but we believe that the sometimes controversial discussions are the breeding ground for innovative and creative thinking.

Finally, when looking for a topic for their master thesis, we encourage our students to make use of the new skills and tools they learned at the Zollverein School. Therefore, we have several sessions with each student to discuss the topic of their master thesis and what their topics has to do with “business design.” We also discuss what methodological approaches they want to use within their master thesis, and how they intend to apply design innovation tools and skills.”

For further questions and comments feel free to drop a comment or contact me directly at . Otherwise feel free to apply and see you at the Class of Spring 2007 :-)

3 Responses to “Interview Prof. Bruder | NextD Journal”

  1. Putting people first » Think NewB+NewD - Understanding the new Zollverein School Says:

    […] - Read (and download) interview - Interview background by Ralf Beuker   One Response to “Think NewB+NewD - Understanding the new Zollverein School” 1 Zollverein School Blog says: April 20th, 2006 at 16:10 Interview Prof. Bruder | NextD Journal […]

  2. Zollverein School Blog » Blog Archive » Latest Rotman Magazine: The Creative Age Says:

    […] If you’ve read the recent interview with Prof. Bruder by GK Patter from NextD Journal you will notice that several aspects of this stream of thinking have inspired Prof. Bruder who is the President of the Zollverein School of management and design. […]

  3. Zollverein School Blog » Blog Archive » Exploring the unknown territory Says:

    […] In last month’s NextD interview with Zollverein School’s president Prof. Ralph Bruder you might have noticed Bruder’s reference to Roger Martin from the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management in Toronto. […]

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