Summarizing Davos 2006

May 1st, 2006

News are spreading like crazy around the globe. The news that written summaries, photos and workshop visualizations from the World Economic Forum in Davos from January 2006 are finally online now first came to my attention via Core77’s: “Monday Morning Must Read” edited by Niti Bhan.

While the original information can be found at Financial Times Online edited by John Thornhill, in the course of my personal “Monday Morning (Must) Reading” I’ve stumbled across several other design, business and innovation blogs which report about it as well. Among them are: Putting People First, bplusd, as well as the WorkSpace site which contains a nice list of links to articles about creativity and the creative economy (Niti’s recent BW article among them).

Interview with new DMI President: Tom Lockwood

April 28th, 2006

While I know that most students at the Zollverein School are members of the Design Management Institute (DMI), Boston you might have noticed that DMI has a new President since the beginning of 2006.

This month Tom Lockwood who introduced himself in person to the design management community at the recent European DMI Conference in Amsterdam has been interviewed by Brigitte Borja de Mozota (DMI Lifetime Fellow) on his new role and the future direction of DMI.

You can read the interview online at the DMI website >>>. What would interest me in particular is your perspective on how Zollverein School could respond to the issue of “varied needs from design management” Tom Lockwood mentions:

“ … So there will be an ever more important online component to information dissemination, and likely more of our members will take up leadership roles in regional venues. There are varied needs for design management in different regions of the world, so perhaps our greatest challenge will be to address these needs with localized content. …”

So, what do you think are the information needs and structures regarding design management for the German context as well as the opportunities for Zollverein School to become an “international authority, resource, and advocate on design & business education”.

Progress of Zollverein School Building

April 25th, 2006

Spring has finally arrived here in Germany and I estimate there remain some 3 months until the new Zollverein School building will be opened!

Regular visitors will have noticed the Flickr! bar at the right hand side of this blog showing a selection of visual impressions from Zollverein School and the construction site of the new building. As the weather gets better I assume that the construction progress will gain momentum as well. If you’re interested see my selection of recent favorites >>>

Thanks to professional photographer Thomas Mayer the complete construction process is documented in detail on his website where you can see a selection of his other works as well

Overlap | Non-profit conference on business and innovation

April 25th, 2006

Some good news comes from California about an upcoming event/initiative on the intersection of Business and Design called: Overlap. From simply browsing the list of organizers it seems that again the forefront of business and design thinkers/bloggers is based in the US and California in particular. Just to name a few session hosts: Clement Mok, Lorraine Justice, Richard Farson, …

Both Steve Portigal as well as Victor Lombardi are promoting this event via their blogs as well as through “The Overlap conference blog”. Rather than re-wrapping information about the event in my own words I’ll cite from the conference website (nicely “overlapping” text and visuals) Victor Lombardi and Jess McMullin have assembled:

“Overlap offers a unique opportunity to join other curious, deep thinking professionals in a spirited discourse on the relationship between business and design and the implications both that may have on our companies and careers. We have reserved only 41 rooms and expect less than 50 participants in order to enable active participation by all.

Overlap is a completely non-profit, volunteer effort. This means that all participants will be able to attend for only the cost of their rooms. The venue is the Asilomar Conference Center in Northern California, setting our journey along the scenic Pacific coast, within easy driving distance of both the San Francisco and San Jose international airports.”

The conference is taking place from May 26th – 28th and it seems the mode for being eligible to attend the event is to contact Victor Lombardi (via his blog) and getting invited. If anyone has the chance to join the event any sort of reporting or (guest) blogging is highly appreciated.

Interview Prof. Bruder | NextD Journal

April 20th, 2006

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 :-)

Redesign at Putting People First Blog

April 19th, 2006

Congratulations go to Marc Vanderbeeken and his colleagues at the “Putting People First (PPF)-Blog” to their recent re-organization and re-design of their website and accordingly blog! PPF understands itself as a “non-commercial experience design gateway … developed as a public service to all those interested in the broader field of experience design and user-centred design.”

As we tend live in the “experience economy” the range of topics PPF addresses is somehow enormous and a look at their comprehensive list of blog categories gives you a good idea what Marc and his colleagues have addressed in the past.

In order to provide you with quick access to what’s being posted at PPF in realtime I’ve created a separate headline on the right hand sidebar of this blog titled “Guest Feed |”. Under the headline you will find an updated list of the recent 10 topics being posted at PPF’s blog. Similar to experientia’s “Guesthouse” section I will switch the source RSS-Feed from time to time in order to mirror other interesting RSS Feeds as well.

In any case I’m open for any suggestions which news sources you would like to see on this blog in the future. Just drop me an email:

AIGA-Gain: How do you make your boss put his money where his mouth is”

April 19th, 2006

As reported earlier last week “AIGA-Gain: Journal of Business and Design” is running a lively discussion list fed by weekly topics. Each Monday Jeff Lash designs a different scenario most of us are familiar with ;-)

This week’s discussion is assembled around the question on “How do you make your boss put his money where his mouth is” and Jeff’s briefing reads as follows:

“You and your boss are new to the company. You are introducing the practice of user-centered design and building a design foundation. He is helping the company fix the broken processes that prevents innovation and good user advocacy during product design. He incentivates what you do and agrees with all your ideas, but doesn’t commit a budget to user research or testing, and always wants to “fast track” his projects (aka his design is good enough and doesn’t need to go through “the process”). You know this is preventing you from building a practice and his attitude doesn’t help you educate the company about designing based on factual user needs and using an iterative designing approach. You can also tell that his position is not going to help him fix the innovation and product development issues. You’ve confronted your boss on the issue and he keeps agreeing, but still not committing. How do you deal? How do you make him put his money where his mouth is? How do you transform his intention into a firm commitment?”

You can subscribe to AIGA-Gain mailing list at:

When Design, Manufacturing, and Marketing meet

April 18th, 2006

In late 2003 the press department of Rensselaer Polytechnic, Troy/NY announced the following line:

“Orca Gear: Taking Outdoor Safety Gear By Storm: The team, comprised of students with engineering and business backgrounds, designed a zip-in liner that self-inflates upon immersion. Under the umbrella of their newly formed company “Orca Gear,” the group is currently setting up international manufacturing capabilities and negotiating manufacturing and distribution agreements. …!

Only one year later this initiative resulted in a company called Float Tech® Inc. and on the company’s website you can read:

“Float Tech® Inc. (formally known as Orca Gear Inc), began as an M.B.A. class project at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in April 2002. The year long class project rapidly evolved into a company, which has recently been recognized as New York’s Capital Region’s “Most Promising New Enterprise.” (Awarded in November 2004)”

During the research stage of their project, the student team — Brian Arthur, Jeffrey Betz, Michael Farmer, Michael Lobsinger, and Cecilia Domingos — scouted out marinas near campus and in their hometowns. As a consequence part of their field research revealed that very often seamen refuse to use a life vest due to a) usability issues since you can hardly work comfortably with the traditional somehow bulky vests and b) due to the somehow non-appealing traditional design which reminds more on freshman equipment rather than professional gear.

Consequently the task for the MBA student group was “ … integrating the technology with the jacket’s physical design,” said Jeffrey Betz, a civil engineer who served as project manager. “We worked with the R&D department of a sports apparel company near campus to come up with models that blended technology with fashion, while still being cost-effective.” The resulting product was a “… nautically styled jacket, sans suspenders, with a liner that automatically inflates upon immersion in water. The jacket looks and feels like a regular windbreaker until called into use, and then it fully inflates within seconds.” and sells at a “price that won’t sink anyone’s boat: $250 to $300.”

For me one of the motivating aspects of this lively and inspiring story clearly is the combination of the various disciplines and mindsets involved in this joint forces project. With a quite similar variety of multi disciplinary professional background among Zollverein School MBAs I’m pretty sure we will soon hear about similar projects soon. The first class of Zollverein School MBAs will finish their master theses this summer and students will graduate in early fall 2006. Stay tuned!

Since Fall 2005 their life jacket received the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Approval as a Type V inflatable life jacket with Type III performance which passes “the Coast Guard’s turn-over test,” said Michael Lobsinger, Float Tech’s Chief Technology Officer. “This means an unconscious victim, face-down, will turn over so their nose and mouth are out of the water.”
(Story via: Handelsblatt MBA Newsletter)

The world is flat | Zollverein School at DMI Conference

April 13th, 2006

During my recent visit of the European DMI Conference I’ve recognized that the design management community is monitoring the development of the Zollverein School MBA with particular interest. While there are some other academic programmes at the intersection of design, business, management & innovation on the European market as well currently the post-graduate MBA at Zollverein School is a one-of-a-kind programme at least in the European market.

Consequently people are highly interested in the things which are going on at Zollverein School and one of the aims of this blog clearly is to establish some transparency on this. In Amsterdam I was happy to see some people who are involved with Zollverein School at the conference as well:

Beside 1st class MBA student Peter Schreck who recently started a blog as well (maybe mentioning his blog here will give his so far empty project a little push; sorry Peter ;-) Christoph Böninger. President “designafairs, Munich” and a lecturer at Zollverein School as well held a talk about “Design as a Process”. As noted in my blog Vol. 2: I’ve unfortunately missed his lecture, but fortunately we have the blogosphere ;-)

In his blog “” Erik Roscam Abbing (one of my former Master of Design Management students -> see his master thesis here) posted some of his DMI conference impressions in his recent posting “design leadership: a subjective summary” (I always admire people who are able to listen and write/memorize simultaneously ;-) Anyway, here’s his snippet about Christoph Böninger’s talk:

“Christoph Böninger of Designaffairs talked about horizontal workflow design: If you picture the different factions in the organization as vertical arrows (marketing, finance, operations, sales etc.) design leaders meander horizontally through these factions, playing the role of enabler, connector, integrator, translator, and motivator. Traditional strategic consultants are quickly picking up on this type of thinking; it is by no means owned by the design community. So if designers want to play a role as design leaders, they will have to ‘compete’ with these strategy savvy consultants. Strategists are learning to think like designers, designers should learn to think like strategists.”

While I know that Christoph has held a workshop at Zollverein School recently I’d love to see some comments or postings about Böninger’s key insights from our 1st class students here on this blog as well! Any volunteers …

How Blogs and Forums differ | AIGA-Gain Mailing list

April 12th, 2006

In the course of my daily search for “truffles” on the web I’ve stumbled across AIGA’s online journal “Gain: Journal of Business and Design”. While digging further into content offered on their website comprising topics like “Communicating design thinking”, “Design as Strategy” or “Design Leadership” I’ve also joined the “AIGA-Gain mailing list … an informal, open discussion on topics at the intersection of design and business. The list is a companion to Gain: AIGA Journal of Business and Design, and is intended to provide inspiration for need and desired topics for the journal.”

Each week list moderator Jeff Lash posts a new topic for discussion, and at the end of the week he summarizes the discussion which evolved around the topic. The following paragraph is quoted from his latest email he’s sent:

“First, less than 2 months from its creation, and this list is close to breaking 200 subscribers! It’s been a fantastic response so far, and thanks to everyone for joining. Please join in the discussion, as the list is only as valuable as your input into the topics.

Speaking of your input, if you have any suggestions for future topics, my pile is running low. Submit questions that you’d like the group to respond to, based on your real life experiences or things you’ve always wondered about. I can make up topics or synthesize ideas from other discussions or publications, but really it’s best if we’re all working on responding to real world questions and quandaries.

Lastly, in case you didn’t know, at the end of each week, I summarize the topic and the responses. These summaries are posted to the Gain site, and you (and others) are able to comment. It’s a great resource, whether you comment on past topics, link to a good discussion from your blog, or use it to catch up on what you may have missed.


So far I’ve been simply lurking around, but I’ve thought that this list might be a good means to get in touch with designer colleagues and professionals from overseas and share views and perspectives. I’ve even spotted some fellow bloggers from the US like user experience expert and Core77/Design 2.0 panelist Steve Portigal or Innovation consultant Victor Lombardi at the forum. Talk to you later at AIGA-Gain ;-)