stuck somewhere in-between

April 7th, 2006

it is rainy and foggy here in cleveland. it was great to visit Zollverein School last month and had a chance to interact with the students. as i was reflecting on the conversation, one question that ringers with me was the comments that i heard after the talk. that was how i resolve the tension between the modernistic idea of vision and identity and the post-modernistic idea of becoming, the emphasis on verbs, and the multiplicity of meanings. then i realized that i am perfectly happy to be stuck somewhere between the two positions. the modernistic top-down idea of vision and organizational identity denies the vibrant life from diversity and richness of practices. at the same time, a complete post-modern position on becoming may lead to despair. i think it is the movement between the two positions that generates the life and energy in our lives. we always want to strive to be someone. we think we know what we are doing. we think we gather ourselves. we think we have a vision — kind of. then, we realize we are not. we act out of the stream of our consciousness. we then rationalize and make sense of our actions in the Weickian sense. that type of existential struggle is what management is about in real life. for a long time, management discourse has been dominated by only one side of story. a mountain-top experience of vision and identity. yet, the real world is in the town. we need to come down from the mountain top. that is where the real problems are. but we should not forget what is possible up there.

Blog Posting Debut | MBA student: Hannes Hofmann

April 7th, 2006

This week it’s a pleasure to introduce a posting MBA student Hannes Hofmann has submitted some days ago. In some sort of response to an earlier posting of mine here on this blog Hannes shares his recent musings on the meaning and definition of design with us.

I find his views of particular interest since in contrast to students of similar programmes (even though the Zollverein School MBA currently is the only creative MBA on the market at the moment) he holds a Diploma in Engineering and by definition he is not a trained designer (see this forum entry on “differences between a designer and an engineer to learn more about stereotypes and reality).

Accordingly I experience his view as far more open and less biased than what you usually hear among “designers only” communities. In any case I’m looking forward to see more guest postings from other 1st class MBA students since there are several of them who do not originate from the core design domain. Where are the brand experts … ;-)

What is Design? | Student perspective: Hannes Hofmann, Italy

April 7th, 2006

I’m impressed, what you, Ralf, made out of my questions or observations regarding to the different approaches to design. I clearly like the way of meta-thinking, just to challenge the pragmatic way to think and act as we practise it in every days work life. So thanks for your posting Ralf.

Now my comments and contribution to the argument: As I’m coming from an engineering background, since the beginning of the MBA program at the Zollverein School I’m in search of the definition of design. However more and more I recognise that this ultimate definition does not exist. Today I see design very much located between the two ends: engineering and anthropology.

At the beginning of the MBA program I perceived design from the perspective of my designer colleagues as more linked to engineering. During the MBA very quickly my understanding moved towards the direction of anthropology and to the role of design as a more “cultural” discipline. This aspect opened a lot of new perspectives to me and I think this is also where design can create the best benefit for management as well.

For me useful ideas for better understanding the design discipline were the insights provided by Ruedi Baur and Christoph Böninger during the MBA program. While I found their approaches in some aspects very different: more “cultural” from the side of Ruedi Baur and more “methodological” from the side of Christoph Böninger and designafairs.

However while thinking and writing about innovation and brands recently, I found some other good statements about design which I would like to share with you:

Bettina von Stamm in her book “Managing Innovation, Design & Creativity”, (Wiley, 2003; page 12 and 13):

“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.”

For me it seems that the last item, “Design as a process”, is the most commonly used one, and this is how I understand the design as well. Design is the act of conscious decision making so I would vary the definition slightly and add the word ‘conscious’. Accordingly my definition reads:

“Design is the conscious decision-making process by which information (an idea) is transformed into an outcome, be it tangible (product) or intangible (service).

Extending this definition into the area of design and design education Bettina von Stamm writes:

“Whereas managers’ education and training tends to focus on analytical studies such as accounting and finance, designers are educated and trained to deal with projects that involve unfamiliar concepts, are predominantly visual than verbal, involve fuzzy problems and high levels of ambiguity, and assessments which are ‘Variously, subjective, personal, emotional and outside quantification’.”

Furthermore Adrian Forty in this book: Objects of Desire. Design and Society 1750-1980, London 1986 (p.93); quoted by Wolfgang Ullrich ( states:

“Through the designs of knives, watches, clothes and furniture to suit every rank and station in life, one can read the shape of society as manufacturers saw it, and as their customers learned to see it. For, like any representation, be it in the form of painting, literature or film, this strange and cumbersome masterpiece created by manufacturing industry nor only correspond to that what was seen to exist, but, without recourse to language, metaphor or symbolism, also showed people social boundaries and distinctions that might otherwise have been invisible to them, or to which the might have been indifferent. Yet, unlike the audience for the works of art, which is generally only a minority, that for manufactured artifacts in the nineteenth century was enormous: even though people might have possessed only a few of them, or even none, the range of designs would have been familiar to them. And to know the range of different designs was to know an image of society.”

Last but not least in their article “Brand Design of the long term” to be found in “Design Management Journal” 14(1) (p. 34), Marco Bevolo and Reon Brand (2003) write about Stefano Marzano and Philips Design:

“Beginning in 1991, Stefano Marzano, CEO and chief creative director of Philips Design, has been developing a new role for design, based on the simple but challenging ideal - to anticipate and create preferable and sustainable future through design. This thinking matured into the notion of High Design. According to High Design principle, design is multidisciplinary synthesis enriched by diverse and complementary bodies of knowledge - from human sciences, technology, and materials expertise to aesthetics and communication sciences.”

Well, it seems I have to go on in the search for the ultimate definition of design.

Lectures in Zurich |

April 4th, 2006

Just in case you should be in the Zurich area once in a while and in case you’re interested in Corporate Identity and Corporate Design you should visit one of the lectures of the “Institut für Designforschung der Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst Zürich (hgkz)”.

Since last year the hgkz is organizing a series of lectures held by professionals from across Europe. The “Design2context” institute has been founded back in April 2004 by one of Zollverein School’s guest lecturers and Corporate Identity icons, Prof. Ruedi Baur.

The next lecture will take place on Friday, April 7th 2006 and is dedicated to the topic: “Musik und Identität: Klang-Raum-Stationen”, by Andres Bosshard, Sound-scape Designer, Zürich.

Zollverein School student conference-hopping …

April 3rd, 2006

After a busy week/weekend I’ve returned from the latest DMI European Conference in Amsterdam lately. Since you will clearly be interested in the essentials discussed there I think it will be a good idea to share reporting about the experiences between this blog and mine since a student from Zollverein School, Peter Schreck, has also been in Amsterdam.

I love the idea that the closer the first class of Zollverein MBAs comes towards the end of their studies later this year the more we will see them appearing in various design management contexts promoting the school. After all I’m looking forward to reading about Peter’s impressions here on this blog.

While talking about attending conferences, you might recall that some weeks ago another Zollverein School student, Rolf Mehnert, visited the Core77/BusinessWeek forum “Design 2.0: Discussions on Design, Strategy & Innovation” in New York. Kudos to Core77 since in the meantime Allan Chochinov and his folks created a dedicated space for this and the upcoming conferences and has assembled a nice de-briefing area about the New York conference with podcasts, photos and conference reviews (Rolf’s among them ;-)

According to Core77/BusinessWeek’s “Monday Morning Must Read” Editor Niti Bhan “Jeneanne Rae’s (podcast) is worth a listen - she compared the ROI perfomance of customer focused firms against S&P averages and emphasized the need to look at topline growth via design principles over short term profits.”

In any case sign up for their weekly newsletter here and stay up-to-date >>>

The worlds greatest innovation lab

March 25th, 2006

On December 1 and 2 last year at the Fortune Forum on Innovation, Stone Yamashita Partners teamed up with GE to present what they have learned together about innovation—and the fusion of ideas that lead to truly breakthrough thinking.

If you missed that event (like i did) you shouldn´t hesitate to go to Stone Yamashita Partners website now. There you will find some very interesting PDF files about their understanding of real business model innovation. Especially the Prototyping Puzzle looks like a good game to get started or unstucked on your innovation journey. Have fun playing.

Addendum to Sources on Anthropology & Design

March 16th, 2006

Kudos to the “Master of Resources” Blogger Mark Vanderbeeken (Putting People First Blog) I’d like to add the following links to top off my previous two postings on Anthropology:


Thanks for pointing, Mark!

More Sources on Anthropology & Design from Nico Beucker

March 16th, 2006

In the context of my posting from last week titled “On Design, Management & Anthropology” Nicolas Beucker a new colleague at the Zollverein School and a Professor for public & social Design at the Hochschule Niederrhein in Krefeld/Germany contacted me recently.

Prior to his appointment as a professor Nico has been working at the Institute for Ergonomics and Design research IED in Essen. At the IED which Zollverein School’s President Ralph Bruder founded at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Nico says “… ethnography is a common tool for investigation and innovation!”

With kind permission to publish his comment here on the blog Nico furthermore stated:

“… for more anthropology in design it might be interesting to have a closer look at the academic discussions of the PHD-Design List where the topic comes up every now and than. There are also interesting discussions about anthropology in design going on at the anthrodesign newsgroup.
Concerning design as an innovative discipline the curiosity of the consciously observing anthropologist is acknowledged as the key competence. This is currently realised in the business world, too. Definitely IDEO raised the awareness for the topic, publishing books like “Thoughtless Acts” from their Anthropologist Jane Fulton Suri, about which Andrew Blum reported in BusinessWeek online last summer. In his book “The Ten Faces of Innovation” Tom Kelley even gives the anthropologist the lead of the innovative characters. Without them IDEO would not be what they are.”

Thanks for sharing, Nico! Anyone else willing to share some more resources?!

Blog Posting Debut

March 9th, 2006

nussbaumIsn’t this a nice start for a first time posting by being liked by BusinessWeek’s Innovation & Design Blog edited by Bruce Nussbaum! Thanks go to Bruce Nussbaum for the posting and congratulations to Rolf Mehnert for his blogging debut ;-)

MBA Student Report | Core77: Design 2.0 Conference

March 8th, 2006

Integration of other editors than myself is gaining momentum here on the Zollverein School Blog ;-)

This week MBA student Rolf Mehnert has sent his first sketch of his conference report from the Design 2.0 conference organised by Core77 and BusinessWeek in New York last week. I’ve simply added some more links, placed a trackbak and: Congratulations to Rolf for his first Zollverein School Blog posting ;-)

Special thanks also go to Allan Chochinov founding partner of Core77 for supporting Zollverein School’s attendee Rolf Mehnert ;-) After all enjoy Rolf’s report below and if you might want to read what Bruce Nussbaum thought about the conference, well: Browse his blog.