Ten faces of innovation at IdeasPark

May 29th, 2006

NA_day7_klein2From an overall perspective tThe ThyssenKrupp IdeaPark was a real success story for ThyssenKrupp. More than 200.000 visitors joined the exhibition, talks and workshops in Hanover. ThyssenKruppp invested a total of 10 Million Euro in encouraging curiosity for technical development and creativity. They are conceiving this as an important investment in the future of engineering. As posted on the blog before, the awareness for design in this context is not yet in the focus.

In that way Zollverein School’s Design Workshop “Nomadic Academy” was very distinct from the other exhibits in the IdeasPark. The Nomadic Academy was probably the one and only exhibition stand which constantly changed its appearance and status. In the beginning the setting was very open for the audience as the design students included the audience in their discussions and design approaches, a very concentrated working atmosphere was observed the two days before the final presentation.

During the days of the workshop in my role of being Zollverein School’s project co-ordinator I’ve explained the audience the different conceptual approaches of the students. Seeing the results from today’s perspective I would relate the outcome of the developed projects to the idea of Design Thinking. Although most student groups focused on products, the results illustrate very well the approach towards innovation by design. Especially one project, that included the children’s creativity into customised products shows how “Design Thinking” is linking current situations and needs with the technical opportunities at hand and transforms them into a product strategy.

For the participating students the workshop turned out to be an excellent experience to explore the importance of strategic communication as a core competence for designers. Being asked for their most important experience during this week, most students mentioned that first of all the capability to explain and communicate ideas and processes to a team as well as to a critical audience. For the stages of concept development and execution open-mindedness and honesty in the conversation were important. As one of the students summarizes the overall experience:

“The best ideas developed through discussion. Even misunderstandings led to important inspiration.”

For me regarding their personal career development students explored some of roles/personas described by Tom Kelley in the “Ten Faces of Innovation“. While some are rather ‘experimenters’ few are ‘collaborators’ and only one demonstrated the characteristics of a ‘director’. In this context Chinese student Lu Zouh who graduated in China and who is currently continuing her studies in Sweden and Holland, reflects that she is now able to oversee the various dimensions of a project much better and that in the near future she would like to direct a similar project in order to assure it’s overall qualities.

Finally, even though Zollverein School’s key areas of post-graduate education clearly do not include hands-on design still the Nomadic Academy addressed some of the key areas of business and design thinking namely maintaining the potential of collaborative creation while integrating a business awareness into concept development!

Bookshelfs, Clever Knives and “Steeled” Kids Sketches at IdeasPark

May 25th, 2006

NA_day8_klein9It’s day 5 of the Nomadic Academy today, and the atmosphere is busy. Ten innovative products for office or house work, made of stainless steel are to be created, developed, produced, presented to the public and marketed to potential customers within 9 days only. The group of 12 design students from the Netherlands, Finland and Germany are working hard on their projects, as Ed Annink and Ronald Lewerissa have established a tough time schedule: The scenario with the “client” ThyssenKrupp” is a real world setting and they expect high end products to be presented during the last day of the IdeasPark, on Sunday afternoon.

The Nomadic Academy is a live-experiment: The public of the IdeasPark can learn, how new ideas are born and elaborated into new products, in brief, how creativity leads to innovation. But the so called “Stainless Steel Workshop”, realized as a collaborative project by Zollverein School, Initiativkreis Ruhrgebiet and ThyssenKrupp together, is far more than a mere “product creation” workshop. The participants are asked to approach their specific projects in a quite comprehensive way. The process of establishing a link to the particular industry as well as to the competitive setting of the product and the careful integration of prospective customers, is an essential part of Ed Annink’s workshop concept. Accordingly the four creative teams do not only have to deal with the transformation of a good idea into a stainless steel product. Far more they are also asked to establish a marketing concept - including websites and other means of corporate communication - and to prepare a presentation of the whole project for ThyssenKrupp as well as for Zollverein School.

And best of all: The experiment is working! Visitors of the IdeasPark drop in, discuss with the participants, make suggestions - “you need a cheese knife as well” - and in particular children are keen joining the designers. Spotting out a piece of paper, a pen and someone helping them sketching the kids immediately start their own little drawings.

Furthermore the IdeasPark attracts enormous attention: Almost every school class in and near Hanover seems to visit the event. Young kids, teenagers, teachers, the ThyssenKrupp staff, and other interested people - it is a great opportunity for the participants and the Zollverein School to present their combination of design, business and consumer thinking to a broad audience.

Just in case you stick around until Sunday, 28 May, we invite you cordially to visit our workshop during its last days in Hanover. After brainstorming, forming the creative teams, developing the ideas, sketching with the kids and building the first paper model, everybody is eager to see the first models in stainless steel. Prototypes have been fabricated today and on Sunday, all products will be presented within an exhibition. Come and meet us there!

Exploring the unknown territory

May 24th, 2006

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.

By the same token Roger Martin has challenged the Business School side by integrating a design curriculum into a business administration programme Zollverein School is challenging the classical MBA landscape by setting up a complete new MBA programme integrating design thinking and business thinking into one curriculum.

However it was Design Management veteran Peter Gorb who installed the first design (management) curriculum at the London Business School in the late 1970’s who said:

“And what designers need to learn, and this is the most important thing, is the language of the business world. Only by learning that language can you effectively voice the arguments for design.”

And this is clearly something what students will learn at Zollverein School. Part of this learning is entering what Roger Martin recently called “Hostile Territory” in his lecture at the “strategy06” conference of the IIT Institute of Design.

Even though I’ve listened to the podcast of Martin’s speech (10:53 | 5,2 MB) a while ago I finally got inspired to write this posting by a statement of a designer at last weekend’s KISD conference in Cologne. He told the audience that he has recently attended a major German management conference and he felt quite shocked to see that he was the only designer among business managers! –

And according to my perspective he’s right since still, too often I see designers being quite busy with defining their field and complaining about not being recognized by the business side instead of taking the “unknown territory” of business as a challenge. Clearly there is a need that managers need to learn how to think like designers in terms of (wicked) problem solving, but since (almost) every design decision in the end is a business decision the first step needs to be done by the design side.

Fortunately the organizers of the strategy06 conference set up a comprehensive website with lots of resources like presentation files, podcasts and (you bet!) a blog. However you might want to start reading the blog posting by Carol Coletta where she summarizes her thoughts on Roger’s talk. Or you want to listen to Roger Martin’s speech from here and afterwards read his interview on “Designing Decisions”.

After all if you’d like to share your view on “Designing in Hostile Territory” please drop a comment here on this blog, send me an email: zschool (at) design-management (dot) de or write a guest posting (pls. contact me by email as well).

Innovation = Engineering?

May 23rd, 2006

NA_werkstatt_klein11While searching for some up-to-date information on Ed Annink’s workshop “Innovation by nature” which takes place in the course of the “Ideas Park Hannover” event I’ve stumbled across a ThyssenKrupp press release (PDF ~ 51 KB) today titled: “Technology center Germany in search of a new identity”.

A key issue the press release addresses is that a recent “Study reveals image problems for engineering professions and criticizes role of schools.”

“The study by the Association of German Engineers VDI has revealed an industry shortfall of some 15,000 engineers. The number of students enrolling on key engineering courses in the winter semester 2005/2006 fell by a further 8.3%. In addition, the PISA studies highlighted serious knowledge deficits among German school pupils.”

and later on:

“Engineers are seen as hands-on implementers with too little regard for ecological and social aspects. Accordingly, the innovative abilities of engineers are not regarded as setting new trends. Given these image problems, it is perhaps no surprise that Germany now has a shortage of engineers.”

Just in case you’ve thought that the design is mentioned in the context even once I have to disappoint you. However the more you will be surprised to read that a trained engineer and Zollverein School student, Hannes Hofmann, will graduate later this year. In his recent blog posting Hannes Hofmann discussed the question “What is Design?”. Even though he did not end in a final answer some of his quotations could have clearly added invaluable dimensions to the engineering profession. Here is a snippet from his quotation of Zollverein School lecturer Bettina von Stamm:

“In the context of Innovation, three relevant interpretations of design can be found:
- Design is the tangible outcome, i.e. the end product of design such as cameras, cars, etc.
- Design is a creative activity.
- Design is the process by which information is transformed into a tangible outcome.”

Adding some even stronger argument for the integration of design (management) thinking into interdisciplinary (say engineering) contexts I’d like to note that design management has always been has been aiming to link different disciplines like engineering, marketing and design. A good example on how these disciplines can work together can be found in the DMI/Harvard Business School Case study: Braun AG: The KF 40 Coffee Machine. Interestingly the case study has made its way to several publications and more importantly into one of the primers on “Strategic Management of Technology and Innovation” by Burgelman, Christensen & Wheelwright.

So if you want to overcome what the VDI study interviewees described as follows:

“… fascination for technology is linked with an understanding that goes far beyond purely practical aspects, a successful combination of ecology and the joy of living, of creative freedom and social justice. The bar is high when it comes to getting people in Germany enthusiastic about technology. Use of technology in the medical area unanimously receives the most positive ratings, and the Transrapid maglev train actually generates something akin to national pride.”

you should consider coming to one of the upcoming events at Zollverein School. Not only engineers are welcome even though Zollverein School’s President Prof. Ralph Bruder will be delighted to share his vision on design, business (and engineering) … P.S. He’s a trained engineer!

New Zoolverein School Website

May 22nd, 2006

screenshot_zschool_websiteWe have a saying in German which goes like this: “Alles neu macht der Mai” which refers to the effect of springtime (in this case the month of May) where everything in nature is built up fresh and flora is flourishing.

By the same token nature is renewing itself the the domain name of this blog recently changed to “http://blog.zollverein-school.de” and now the Zollverein School website has been relaunched with a new layout as well.

Kudos to Annekatrin Sonn (Corporate Communications) and Klickmeister (Interactive Design) for creating a fresh and prompting interface.

Please note: New Blog Domain

May 17th, 2006

Just a quick note today for those reading the Zollverein School Blog via an RSS Reader or might have (kindly) linked to one of our postings.

So from today please note that the Blog URL has changed from “https://zollverein-school.de/blog” to the NEW address >>> http://blog.zollverein-school.de

Thanks for your kind attention and sorry for the trouble!

International Scholarship Competition at Zollverein

May 11th, 2006

screenshot_universal home competitionRegular readers of this blog have become aware of the fact that the Zollverein area (where among others the Zollverein School of management and design is located) is a huge structural transformation project.

Once the workplace for generations of miners and coking workers today Zollverein is the symbol of structural change in the Ruhr-area towards a creative center with the Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen with its large collection of awarded products at the red dot design museum as well as the Zollverein School of management and design at the lead.

In May this year on behalf of the Zollverein Development Company (EGZ - Entwicklungsgesellschaft Zollverein) the Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen awards 10 one year scholarships in the course of the international scholarship competition with the topic “Universal Home” – living spaces for all stages of life. This quote from the red dot website gives you a good idea what this competition is about:

“Universal Home” is about creating a living space which accommodates all stages of life. This is an important topic in times of a constantly aging society. Thus, a “Universal Home” will provide space for the first wobbly steps of a toddler as well as for the trend conscious and prestige oriented life of a well-off bachelor and the late years in the life of an older couple that is reliant on orthopedic aides.”

Those eligible for the scholarships are students who are about to take their diploma as well as design and architecture graduates from international universities. So What does this include?

  • 10 scholarships with 1,000 Euros per month for the duration of one year
  • 10 workplaces on the Zollverein premises
  • 10 travel cost subsidies
  • 10 publication subsidies to document the results
  • The scholarship runs from 1st October 2006 to 30st September 2007

Well, if you’re interested in participating you should hurry since scholarship applications have to be in English and have to be submitted to the Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen by 1 June 2006. More Information on the competition and its purpose and goals can be found in this PDF (~ 90 KB) as well as at the competition website: www.universal-home.de

Good Luck!

Latest Rotman Magazine: The Creative Age

May 10th, 2006

Victor Lombardi from Noise Between Stations reports about it and Mark Vanderbeeken on Putting People First (PPF) as well. So what else is there to say that Rotman School of Management has dedicated the spring issue (PDF, ~ 5.5 MB) of their magazine to “The Creative Age”.

While I’ve just browsed this issue so far, beside Roger Martin’s brilliant analysis on the need of design thinking in business I’ve identified other well known protagonists of the “Business Design” school of thought as well among them Jeanne Liedtka who has published several articles about the intersection of business, management & design in the recent years.

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.

More snippets to be found at PPF and at the original source at Rotman.

Report: Briefing Workshop Nomadic Academy | Ideas Park

May 8th, 2006

Workshop_Annink_May_2006.jpgAs some of you know, I’m not a trained designer. My educational background is rooted in Business Administration. However working in the domain of design management for many years now has taught me a lot of things about dealing with (design) problems. In contrast according to the notion of the business world problems need to be to be a) addressed with the (single) right methodology/logic and b) to be solved as soon as possible. Accordingly the nature of problems and their solutions (from the perspective of business) are very often perceived as puzzles rather than paradoxes. Puzzles have one defined solution while a paradox offers two different, but at the same time equally helpful solutions.

For me the latter perspective is an essential element of the foundation of Design Thinking, an approach to problem solving which is referred to and is used more and more in business these days. One of the key learnings from Design Thinking is to accept the notion that there is no single (best) answer to a fuzzy front-end (wicked) problem. Accordingly the outcome of this approach to problem solving is identifying and choosing the best answers and learn in iterations rather than focusing on enduring solutions. From my perspective this is an (optional) mode of thinking which has not been fully addressed in business education yet and I would have wished to see not only design students, but also business executives at such workshops.

Fortunately while attending the preparation workshop for the Ideas Park, Hannover last Saturday I’ve experienced exactly this kind of “Design Thinking” spirit described above. Clearly I will lay out why as well ;-) As reported in my previous posting this year’s Nomadic Academy (for a definition please read see my previous posting as well) is titled “Innovation by Nature” and is being lead by Ed Annink and Ronald Lewerissa at the Zollverein School of management and design in collaboration with ThyssenKrupp and funded by “Initiativkreis Ruhrgebiet”.

While the key workshop and accordingly the concepts, sketches and models will be developed publicly at the Ideas Park in Hannover the purpose of this pre-workshop has been to identify and discuss the conceptual boundaries of the project. Annink’s focus for the academy is on “creativity” and “curiosity” rather than actually “creating” things. Accordingly he has described his view on “Innovation by Nature” by the principles of:

  • “Mathematical Styling” as to be observed at Konstantin Grcic’ Miura bar stool for Kartell (2005)
  • “Story Telling” which he illustrated by the example of Hella Jongerius’ worker chair for Vitra (2006)
  • “Memories” (reminding on the past and not imitating the past like ‘retro’ does)
  • “Decoration” (to be found both in flora and fauna)
  • “Customization” (domestic vs. office use)

all of which he would like to be addressed by the students in their works on site in Hannover. For me the challenge from this briefing in terms of Design Thinking is to keep in mind that all of these principles create logic tensions:

  • Mathematics: Logic versus Comprehension
  • Stories: Mine or Yours?
  • Memories: Mine or Yours?
  • Decoration: Styling or Purpose?
  • Customization: Object or Context?

Working with these tensions rather than against them is the real impact of Design Thinking and Ed Annink lively illustrated this attitude by showing two examples of two real “Design Thinkers”: Ray and Charles Eames with their legendary films “The Powers of Ten” and “Design Q&A”. By simply reading this collection of quotes from “Design Q&A” film and the last quote in particular you might get an idea of the possible scope of issues to be addressed by the students in two weeks in Hannover:

Q. What are the boundaries of design?
A. What are the boundaries of problems?

Zollverein School at Ideas Park Hannover: Innovation by nature

May 5th, 2006

The attentive reader of the international press will have noticed that Germany is currently undergoing one of the most wicked structural changes both in society as well as in economics.

While the upcoming soccer world championships can only spend temporary relief many societal stakeholders are currently launching initiatives which are aiming to motivate and communicate Germany’s attitude to innovation.

One of these initiatives is the joint forces project of ThyssenKrupp and the state of Lower Saxony titled: “Discover technology. Shape the future.”

Here’s a snippet from one of their press releases:

“The highlight of the “Discovering future technology” initiative in 2006 will be one of the biggest ever events dedicated to ideas and innovations: the Ideas Park. Together with more than 50 partners from the worlds of science, society, business and the media, ThyssenKrupp invites you to take a look behind the scenes of research and development work, to take part in experiments, to be amazed, to make new discoveries. The Ideas Park is being staged from May 20 - 28 on and around the Expo Plaza in Hanover. For more information on this event, click on the Ideas Park menu item.”

Actually Zollverein School under project leadership of the Dutch Designers & Zollverein Lecturers Ed Annink and Ronald Lewerissa will host a so called “Nomadic Academy” in the course of this event in Hannover as well. According to Ed Annink one of the fathers of the Academy the idea originated out of the limitations of the classical government led (design) education. In particular the formation of academic & business project partnerships and afterwards the commercialisation of these projects into real concepts and products wasn’t facilitated in this classical context any longer. As a consequence Annink founded the so called “Nomadic Academy” which has no fixed physical presence and is being hosted each year at a different location dealing with a different topic.

This year the Nomadic Academy consists of 12 design students from the Netherlands, Finnland and Germany and the group will develop ideas, sketches and prototypes for future products made of steel (one of ThyssenKrupp’s core business activities).

While the core project will be held at the Ideas Park in Hannover from May 20 - 28 the briefing workshop takes place today and tomorrow at the Zollverein School of management and design.

Stay tuned as I will attend the workshop as well and I will certainly write a posting about it!