Core77: Design 2.0 | Discussions on Design, Strategy & Innovation

March 8th, 2006


On February, 28th 2006 CORE77 invited designers and non-designers into the Union Square Ballroom, to discuss how design-thinking can help to reduce complexity. The location was a very stylish room 12 feet under the Union Square in New York. Even it’s almost one week ago I recall the many very interesting people on stage and in the auditorium.

After an introduction by Bruce Nussbaum, Managing Editor of the BusinessWeek Innovation and Design Blog the first Speaker Kevin Farnham, CEO of Method presented his amazing know-how in just 20 minutes. His answer to the complexity question is people with different skills, starting their strategic work with a firm understanding of the users. They have to go and talk to the people to discover how the product effect their lives. There are new channels to reach customers. Especially for interface innovation there is a new relationship between consumer electronics, networks and process power. Their need is a sustainable innovation approach. The communication via the interfaces has to be consistent as there are more and more companies like - Google and Yahoo- who contact their customer just using them. Creating value and experience for customers through interfaces lead to brand loyalty! After the speech I talked with to Kevin and it was very interesting to hear he did not just see chances of design-thinking but also threats. Design-thinking is a very good approach to discover the customers lives but it is not the only and lonely tool for every company and industry. For him, designers should be very careful, with what they promise!

Marissa Mayer - Vice President, Search Products & User Experience from Google - presented the “Chi of Google“. Their everyday challenge is to provide a simple interface to their customers to help them managing all the data in world wide web. The design of the interface has to help users developing themselves from novices to experts (1st rule of Google’s design principles). It is a learning process because you cannot label everything. Further rules are: Don’t make users think. Focus on ease and speed. The goal is not to overwhelming customers with thousands of features. What really impressed me was the point that 300 - 700 machines are involved from the moment you punch in your search until you get your hits in 0.2 seconds! That’s a lot of equipment to reach Google’s Chi: Simplicity.

Jeneanne Rae, Co-founder of Peer Insight, followed. For her nothing is real until it is experienced and the “ongoing relationship defined by multiple touchpoints” is the goal for innovative companies. These touchpoints have to engage the senses, evolve over time, and include functional and emotional elements. The challenge is to identify and win the moment of truth. There is the 1st moment of truth (e.g. at the point of sale) and the 2nd moment of truth (when the customer is using the product). I think that is very important. For me, it is an authentic way of behaviour. Just with a good insight of what your customer really needs, in which way you configure your value chain and a good selection of partners, you will have success. She proposed to entrust the customers to co-create their own experience!

Last speaker was Andrew Zolli - Founder of Z-Plus Partners. He is really a comedian with a clear opinion of the today’s and tomorrow after tomorrow’s challenges. These challenges are about to be experienced right now. For him, every company has a competitor in the world. They all offer the same. He called this “the tyranny of choice“. An example for this tyranny is the products in a grocery store. There are  about 40.000 products but as a customer you just can pay attention to 160. Or there are e.g. 100 of search engines in the web - but we just know 3 (or?). For me, the point concerning the search engines really makes the importance of why brand matters clear. It is all about customers orientation by the brand. The third example of too many choices was his last jeans-buying-experience at the GAP-Store. He just wanted to have the jeans he used to have  - and not the 6.000 other models. If creating experiences is the most extreme companies can go right now - what would be he next big value after experiences? For Andrew Zolli it’s culture. Brand is culture and the customer will mix and remix them all at one time. For me it is the question: Could be there an open-source brand in the future?

After these very interesting hours, the conversation between panelists and audience was relatively short. Here some statements:

“Designers are becoming a tool for identification of problems”
“You cannot just have to look at the end-user - you have to look at the stakeholder. It’s important to identify the stakeholder”
“This is not the big innovation model - it’s about 100 consistent innovations”
“What is design thinking? Becoming a child again!”
“Prototyping - designers used to prototype”
“Ask questions”. “Design-thinking has to grow”
“It is not important from whom the innovation comes in the company - maybe from the designer, maybe from the technologist”

After that, everybody was moving into the bar. It was very interesting that the audience was a nice mixture of people who work as designers and other who work as engineers or managers in companies you would not expect to meet at “design discussion”, like big pharma companies. For me it was really an experience. Many thanks to the CORE77 Team and especially to Allan Chochinov. I think we are on the right track at the Zollverein School, but here in Germany we have a lot of things to do, that “design thinking” will be noticed in the same way like it is, noticed in the U.S.

Students at the Zollverein School …

March 6th, 2006

If you’ve ever wondered who’s actually earning hard his/her MBA title thanks to Annekatrin Sonn (Corporate Communications) current students portraits and info bits of the first MBA class are online at the Zollverein School Website >>>. I trust that information about the 2nd MBA class will soon be available online as well.

So, if you’re interested in becoming part of the 3rd Class of MBA contact the Zollverein School administration anytime, leave your mark with a comment on any posting of this blog and challenge our thinking or just drop me a note .

On Design, Management & Anthropology

March 3rd, 2006

I recall some early conversations I’ve had last year with the President of the Zollverein School, Prof. Ralph Bruder about the intentions and goals of the Zollverein School Blog.

In contrast to other recently founded schools at the intersection of business & design like Stanford’s (Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford), the Zollverein School of management and design has no big backup organization like Stanford University from which it could directly leverage in terms of teaching methods, models or reputation. In some ways everything is fresh from staff over lecturers to the new Zollverein School building to be opened this summer. This situation is challenging & charming and at the same time loaded with many elements of evolution.

No surprise that we see the development of the Zollverein School Blog as a central means to discuss, reflect and communicate this evolution in an authentic way. Part of the concept is that over time you will see the various stakeholder groups of the Zollverein School (Students, Alumni, Lecturers, Staff, Management, etc.) being involved in this blog as well. However one of the central elements of the School are its students and the way their business & design thinking is developing throughout the 2–year MBA programme.

In order to reflect and share this development one of the next projects or add-ons for this blog is a sort of library where our current MBA students present their favourite books as well as edited postings about their projects just like the BuddyGuide project Martin Mangold has written about recently. In the course of these developments Zollverein MBA student Hannes Hofmann from Italy (Südtirol) contacted me earlier this week with two challenging questions or statements:

  • Design has such a broad scope of definitions. Among them is the perspective that design is reflecting social and cultural developments. However by the same token design has always been trying to anticipate developments as well. So where do we pass the line from design as (current) problem solving to Design as trend anticipating?
  • Consequently: If and how can we achieve to address and anticipate future problems by design in contrast to using design as tool for solving current problems?

While these two statements read quite broad and maybe blurry at first sight, they pose some serious questions about the future qualifications of designers and somehow address a paradox designers have get acquainted with as well.

Call it serendipity, but this week NextD (NextDesign Leadership Institute) has released a highly recommendable interview with Peter Merholz, Director of Practice Development and Founding Partner of Adaptive Path, San Francisco. In this conversation Merholz is somehow addressing Hannes’ statements from a variety of perspectives. GK van Patter and Peter Merholz are not explicitly addressing the question how and if design is manageable (in terms of present and future), but far more interestingly they discuss how the discipline of anthropology might stimulate the design discipline to form a more coherent “body of knowledge” than “body of practice”. By the same token management is referring to management theories Design needs to be able to refer to theories as well (which it actually already does). Maybe the field of anthropology is able to serve as a “boundary object” in order to understand design both as a means to “re-act” as well as a tool to “pro-act” in the context of problem solving. Here’s a related quote from the interview:

“…Design is much more a body of practice than it is knowledge, and as such, it lacks the depth of a field like anthropology. I mean, compare the number of Ph.D. programs in design and anthropology. Unlike anthropology, design is not a research discipline. I also don’t think design is nuanced the way anthropology is. By nuanced, I mean that in anthropology there are many different shades and perspectives that revolve around a central core. The distinct sub-fields of cultural anthropology -medical anthropology, applied anthropology, visual anthropology, folklore - all draw from a core appreciation of “anthropology.” Whereas, I think our discussion has demonstrated there’s nothing nearly as coherent in the field of design. Interaction design, industrial design, graphic design, fashion design, environmental design, architecture, etc., etc. are not tied together by a recognised core. Instead, each is learned and practiced pretty much distinct from the others, and often are set in competition to one another.”

While there are many other quotable paragraphs about the purpose and usefulness of anthropology (more to be found here) in the light of Hannes’ second statement from above I would like to formulate the following hypothesis:

“Design Management is a meta concept and not a theory in itself. If you understand “management” in the sense of early twentieth-century management writer Mary Parker Follett then management is the “the art of getting things done through people” (quoted from Wikipedia). In addition if Design is more closely connected to Socio-Cultural Anthropology then it will better understand why people in different cultures do things differently. Consequently the notion of Design Management seen from these two poles enables a Design Manager both managing current problems (-> getting things done …) as well as understanding current phenomena and extrapolating future issues (-> Design in the context of anthropology)”

 So, Hannes or anyone else interested in this (OK, I admit it it’s quite meta thinking ;-) hypothesis what are your views? Any comments?

Ever heard of EURAM? - Maybe a good Dissertation Resource!

February 27th, 2006

EURAMlogo200If you scan the content of any internationally accredited MBA programme you will notice that “Strategy” or “Strategic Management” are central modules in each of these programmes.

While in particular for many marketing driven programmes “Strategy” equals “Positioning” in the context of design and management the scope of the discipline touches far more areas as one might think of: General Management, Corporate Governance, Organisational Theory, Organisational Behaviour & Decision-making.

Consequently a comprehensive understanding of the concept of “Strategy” is essential in order to be able to integrate the design discipline with all of its subspecies into a corporate context. (I will write a more comprehensive posting about the intersection of Strategy and Design on my blog Vol. 2: soon)

Interestingly once you’ve left the academic university context your concentration on academic organisations and conferences gets lost: You’re in business now! ;-) Consequently many of us do not know that there exist some academic societies out there who are holding quite interesting and informative conference each year. In the field of Strategic Management these are the Academy of Management, the Academy of Strategic Management and the European Academy of Management.

Last year’s European Academy of Management conference (EURAM 2005) took place at the TUM Business School in Munich and it addressed the topic “Responsible Management in an Uncertain World”. Interestingly track 18 of the conference is dedicated to “Innovation, Creativity & Design”. (Special thanks go to MITD from the Managing Innovative Thinking + Design blog for digging that deep into the galaxies of the net ;-)

If we’re honest we all know that “Innovation, Creativity & Design” are the three most used, but quite less understood buzzwords these days. Fortunately there are blogs out there like who are aiming to lift the fog and stimulate a dialogue about this particular intersection. On the other hand the track of conference papers from the above mentioned EURAM 2005 conference is showing how academia is addressing these issues. Here’s a snippet from the track description:

“Innovation remains a key topic for a manager’s agenda - and therefore an important topic for academics around the world. There has been much research, primarily from the fields of economics, operations management and marketing, and increasingly also from fields of organizational behavior, strategy and design/design management, but there remains a wide gulf between the acknowledgement of the need to become more innovative, and the ability to translate that need into action and reality. For example, in a survey undertaken by the innovation and creativity consultancy Synectics in 2003, 80% of participants declared innovation to be of high importance to their organization, but only 4% feel their organizations to be superior at it. While creativity is a long-established topic in management research and an acknowledged first step for innovation, the role of design and designers in the context of innovation is much less understood and explored.
The disconnect between need and ability to meet that need poses important challenges for academia and practitioners alike,

  • First, understand what prevents companies from translating intent to reality,
  • Secondly, develop insights, tools, techniques, approaches that enable managers to improve their company’s innovation performance
  • And finally, to find ways to disseminate existing knowledge better”

Among the members of the steering committee for this track you will also find Zollverein School MBA lecturer Bettina von Stamm. Unfortunately her paper abstract can’t be downloaded from the website. However paper titles like “External Forces for Design Innovation - Research in Progress to Inform a regional Strategy for Design Support Interventions” by Dr Philippa Ashton and Mr Jon Ayling or”Managing Design for Innovation: a Comparison of French and British Practices” by Professor Margaret Bruce, Christine Kratz, Stephen Glennon read quite promising as well.

After all the complete list of tracks at EURAM 2005 seems to be a very helpful resource while doing research for your creative MBA dissertation as well ;-)

P.S.: While the EURAM 2005 site and content looked as we might expect it from an academic context, the organisers the EURAM 2006 conference seem to have understood that visual communication is a essential element of success as well ;-)

Zollverein School joins World MBA Tour

February 27th, 2006

wmt_transparantAfter successfully introducing and running the first two cohorts at the Zollverein School MBA the school is taking its next step towards becoming an international player on the global MBA market.

With over 380 of the worlds top business schools having participated in the World MBA Tour in 2005 the Zollverein School of management and design is clearly taking a so far unmatched position in the segment for an MBA with a focus on the creative industries and design in particular.

On 7 and 9 March 2006, the Zollverein School will present its innovative range of courses on the first leg of its MBA World Tour in Amsterdam and London. Anyone who’s interested in taking an MBA can join the info sessions and explore the Zollverein School, its aims, visions, course content, and teaching staff. For closer information look at the Zollverein School Hompage.

On the other hand spreading the news about the Zollverein School and visiting this Blog regularly is highly appreciated as well as a good way to learn about Zollverein School contentwise.

BuddyGuide - your travelling companion

February 22nd, 2006

buddyguide_logoThe first Zollverein School spin-off is on its way: with the innovative Buddy Guide concept, a couple of the Zollverein School’s first MBA students set off their own business.

BuddyGuide is a new, international, personal and unique guiding system. The idea for this system was born at the Zollverein School of Management and Design within the first Trimester of the first class in July 2005. Thinking about the complexity of the Ruhrgebiet and triggered by the possibilities to develop a unique orientation system for the Kulturhauptstadt 2010, the Zollverein Students Anja Soeder, Norwin Kandera, Martin Mangold, Ole Schilling and Robert Tyborsky designed a concept for a specific business model, which allows a tourist or visitor to get to know to the city via a second person, an insider, a local. In reality at best picked up at the train station or at the airport, two people meet, that have upgraded their interest already via internet. Then they can start a tour for an hour or more to adventure the interesting things in every day life.

The idea of the BuddyGuide system fascinated already various people and newspapers throughout Germany. It won the Future Design Award of NRW, nominated with 10 000 €. And now, what seemed to be just a good idea is slowly becoming reality.

Today it is the business start-up BuddyGuide GbR located on the Zollverein Campus. Buddy Guide will officially start in Summer 2006: At minimum five real Buddies will be at service for the FIFA World Cup, the design event ENTRY 2006 in Essen and for the Zollverein School (fee about 50 € an hour) throughout this year. And this action will serve as a proof whether the system BuddyGuide can work in Europe and globally.

More information

Cheers! - Topping Out Ceremony at the Zollverein School

February 16th, 2006

200FJ20060215D2617.jpg“When in Rome do as the Romans do …” – today I was wondering how and if “Builder’s rites” are being celebrated across the world? This is what I have found at Wikipedia (which seems to become one of my top information sites these days) under the keyword “topping out”:

“Topping out is a ceremony done when the erection of the skin and roof of a building is completed. Its origins are obscure and is common in Germany and America. In America, when a sky scraper was completed the last girder to be hoisted was painted white and signed by all the workmen involved. A leafy tree branch and the US flag were tied to it. Toasts were drunk and sometimes the workmen were treated to a meal. In other buildings the ceremony focussed on the bedding of the last block of masonry or brick. The ceremony is akin to the practice of placing a newspaper, coins etc under the foundation stone of a building.

It is similar to ship naming and launching ceremonies, is probably of similar antiquity, and was perhaps done to placate the Gods, and shield the building from harm.”

A similar ceremony has been celebrated at the new Zollverein School of management and design building yesterday in Essen/Germany. While I couldn’t attend the ceremony physically (blame it on the flu) professional photographer Thomas Mayer documented the event extensively. You can see some shots he’s made on the right hand Flickr-badge I’ve installed on this blog as well as on his photo website.

Many officials attended among them Dr. Wolfgang Reiniger, the Major of the City of Essen, Prof. Ralph Bruder, the President of the Zollverein School as well as members of the Advisory Board like Klaus Jürgen Maack (MP3 statement, 2,9 MB), Former President of ERCO and finally representatives of the architectural planning team SANAA/Böll.

While there are clearly some great design schools around the world with great buildings as well (I still remember my Art Center College visit in Pasadena/CA) I think the Zollverein School building will become one of the most stimulating places to learn about the intersection of design, management and business. Only four months to go …

About Blogs, Flying Peanuts & Design

February 16th, 2006

snickersIf you should have ever been interested in the difference between blogs, public relations and the questions why Peanuts seem to be mainly interesting for men then read this PR note about the new “Snickers” candy bar.

Unfortunately the note is written in German, but I’m thankful for pointers to similar examples where (packaging) design is mainly the outcome of focus group number crunchers … Keep me posted via the comment link below this posting!

MBA in Right Brain Thinking!

February 13th, 2006

It’s been a while since Dan Pink released his latest book titled “A Whole New Mind”. Among his various writing engagements Dan has been a White House speechwriter during the years of Bill Clinton as well as a contributing editor at Wired.

In the course of my lecture on Design Thinking and Blog Collaboration at the WorldBlu Forum in Washington, D.C. last fall I’ve had the pleasure to meet Dan Pink as well and listen to his ideas about right brain thinking. The basic story of his book is to discuss the new challenges in problem solving individuals will be confronted with within in the next couple of years. Dan clearly predicts a shift from left brain to right brain thinking. Among the six requisite skills which serve as the enablers of this change “design” plays a major role. From my perspective the awareness of the scope of this contribution is essential for students enrolled in programmes as the (right brain) MBA at Zollverein School.

While the hype about Design Thinking has slowed down a little bit (yes, we’ve had Davos & India & China & etc … on the agenda) I still think his book is a primer when it comes to the fundamentals of Design Thinking. Via “The Innovation Insider” I’ve came across a site with an interactive online mindmap about “A Whole New Mind” which provides a good idea about the basic concept of the book.

Give it a try and afterwards share your views on Design & Right Brain Thinking on this blog :-)

Introducing: Mark Vanderbeeken

February 9th, 2006

experientia_logoMark Vanderbeeken, our first guest blogger did not disappoint me :-) In his typical Putting People First style Mark has been so kind to write a short note on the workshop he organised with Richard Eisermann and Roberto Verganti on how to foster the climate for regional innovation by user-centred design approaches.

While this description makes me even more curious ;-) I find that this is a fine example on how to apply design principles as a means to address business problems. Actually this approach is one facet of what has been emerged as “Design Thinking” in the last couple of months and to which I’ve dedicated a separate blog at the: (more activity on this frontier to be expected this spring; promised).

For now: Welcome, Mark Vanderbeeken!