Prof. Oliver Szasz initiated first Design Management Institute (DMI) innovation symposium in Munich. Smart Innovation: Connecting Design to Strategy

Prof. Oliver Szasz, Vice Head Graduate School Munich, is responsible for the M.A. Design Management and M.A Design Thinking program at Macromedia University of Applied Sciences in Munich and is well known for the international design-driven innovation conferences he personally initiated and organized in recent years. He approached Carole Bilson, president DMI, at the 2016 DMI conference in Amsterdam in order to propose an innovation symposium as part of Munich Creative Business Week 2017. The aim: Facilitating a profound conversation about design thinking as a driver for innovation, particularly with a focus on Bavarian SME’s. Prof. Oliver Szasz is focussing his research activities as part of the Graduate School at Macromedia University on design thinking and methodologies to support innovation culture and processes for private and public sector organizations in Germany.

#dmiMunich #MacromediaUniversity #MCBW #youchange #OliverSzasz

Since 2012, Prof. Oliver Szasz, has invited renowned international design organisations such as a the UK Design Council, NESTA, Design for Europe, MindLab Denmark, Danish Design Council, La 27e Région and Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University, to Munich to present their approaches and best case studies to local and international businesses and public sector representatives. For the DMI Munich symposium at MCBW 2017 Prof. Oliver Szasz successfully secured major sponsorship and partnership e.g. from Bayern Design, the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Media, Energy and Technology, frog design and Macromedia University in Munich to be able to host the dmi symposium at the prestigious BMW Welt Business Center. Moreover, since DMI is located in Boston, USA, he volunteered to part of the organisation team to support DMI’s preparation for the symposium in Munich.

For more than 40 years, DMI has brought together educators, researchers, designers, and leaders from every design discipline, every industry, and every corner of the planet to facilitate transformational organizational change and design driven innovation. The Design Management Institute (DMI) is an international membership organization that connects design to business, to culture, to customers—and to the changing world. More about DMI and the symposium Smart Innovation: Connecting Design to Strategy here.

The theme of the Munich symposium Smart Innovation: Connecting Design to Strategy highlights the fact that companies today are confronted with unprecedented technological and business complexities and are turning to design to simplify and humanize complex systems, clarify business strategy, and create a roadmap to innovation. The symposium focused therefore on design as a building block of innovation in large organizations, small and medium enterprises, start-ups, and the public sector. The DMI Munich symposium was divided into a half-day workshop and a full day of keynotes and breakout sessions with renowned international speakers.

Carole Bilson, president DMI and Prof. Oliver Szasz,Vice Head Graduate School Macromedia University and initiator of the DMI symposium in Munich giving an interview at BMW Welt.
DMI President Carole Bilson (center) and new DMI chairman and General Manager of GE Healthcare Bob Schwartz (right) expressing DMI’s gratitude to Dr. Silke Claus, Managing Director of bayern design (left) for their sponsorship of the event and and Prof. Oliver Szasz from Macromedia University for his initiative to bring the symposium to Munich and for his personal support to secure local sponsorship to make the event possible.
DMI symposium: Smart Innovation: Connecting Design to Strategy at BMW Welt Business Center Munich
The DMI symposium in Munich at the prestigious BMW Welt Business Center, kindly sponsored by bayern design and the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Media, Energy and Technology.
More than 100 business leaders and managers attended the first DMI event in Munich.
Design and Design Thinking as drivers for innovation at the core of the DMI Munich symposium.
Prof. Oliver Szasz from Macromedia University in conversation with Jerry Kathman, chairman emeritus of the DMI board about the opportunities for design thinking during a break at the DMI Munich symposium.

Day 1 - 8 March 2017

The first day was filled with an engaging and inspiring 4-hour workshop was hosted by author and trainer Dr. Nelson Soken, from Minneapolis, USA. More than 110 business leaders, managers and designers from diverse private and public organizations dove deeply into design thinking innovation methods and learned how to enhance their organizational abilities to address customers’ and users’ needs. He not only provided insights into cognitive biases in decision-making and organizational interactions, but also simple, actionable tools and processes to support innovation activities.

Dr. Nelson Soken in conversation

Day 2 - 8 March 2017 - Keynote Speaker Sessions

Experts from the US and Europe dicussed challenges and opportunities facing today's design and innovation leaders:

Chris Pacione: CEO, The LUMA Institute

Key Factors That Influence your Organization's Ability to Innovate

Based on research LUMA conducted in 2015, this session gave organizational leaders a model for how to define what a culture of innovation looks like, then explain what they should assess and measure when trying to change their organization's culture. This was a fun, practical and interactive talk to understand the framework for building a culture of innovation.

Fabio Sergio: VP Design, frog

Culture Eats Design for Breakfast: Thinking and Doing in the Age of Always-On Transformation

The unyielding march of technology has locked business and society into a complex cycle of mutual influence, redefined expectations and asynchronous evolution. As the internet of things, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics and virtual reality populate the dreams of futurists, they also become the stuff of nightmares for CEOs. Recognizing the need to build innovation-savvy organizations capable of winning both hearts and markets; executives are increasingly turning to designers to help reshape their organizations and mediate the space between technology and humanity. What can design do to help organizations reconcile the slow evolution of human culture with the relentless pace of technological innovation?

Mark Ciesko: Global Director Design Thinking, GE Healthcare
Lawrence Murphy: Chief Designer, GE Healthcare

Designing Great Customer Experiences by Leveraging Design Thinking

Design Thinking has gained much notoriety in the last decade and it seems at times that every major company or start-up is practicing it. That said, it has its detractors too. Can Design Thinking help make a meaningful impact with your customer? GE Healthcare has embraced Design Thinking to not only creatively design new products, but also to engage a large portion of its employees using the tools of empathy to craft better solutions across a wide range of external and internal challenges.

More recently GE has gone further, engaging with customers to use these powerful tools so they can solve the challenges of healthcare together. In this session, the speakers shared stories of their journey and how it has given purpose and meaning to their solutions, putting the 'human' back in healthcare.

Ferdy Gilsing: Associate Director, Designworks, A BMW Group Company

Creative Transformation – by People, with People, for People

For companies to be relevant and successful in the digital age, they must be receptive to constant change and capable of producing pertinent answers. Design with its natural ability to transform can be a key partner in this process. It can act as an integrator and facilitator to release the full potential of creativity to devise new strategies and engender groundbreaking innovations. Ferdy Gilsing shared insights from his experience at Designworks, Mars and Philips, revealing how Creative Transformation can impact organizations.

Christof Mees: President, CEO, Ziba Design

Navigating the Disruption - Leading a Design Firm through the Changing Landscape of our Industry

At a time when the design business and the business of design are rapidly changing, where are the opportunities to remain relevant; to demonstrate where design drives business value? From deepening your transactional client relationships to engaging different models of talent engagement - disrupt yourself, before you get disrupted.

Amy Steinmetz: Vice President, Managing Director Europe, LPK Europe
David Beard: Vice President, Executive Creative Director, LPK Europe

Connecting Design to Brand Strategy

Sometimes, the smartest moves are the subtlest. In a world where a brand’s progress (and a marketer’s career) is measured by obvious change—the more drastic, the better—Amy Steinmetz and David Beard of LPK Europe challenge the norm, making room for a wider range of brand work, from the understated to the overhauled. Examining the intersection of winning strategy and stirring design, Steinmetz and Beard lay ground rules for smarter brand behavior: when to be reactive, when to be proactive, and when to simply stand still.

Interactive Breakout Discussions

Experienced leaders lead interactive discussion sessions with small groups to discuss real-world challenges and opportunities. Participants had the opportunity to learn best practices from your peers as you review current business cases, and debate models and frameworks that address topics across innovation, design management and design strategy challenges. Breakout Discussions were led by global thought leaders:

Iain Aitchison: Program Director, Institute of Design Innovation Glasgow School of Art; Chair, DMI Advisors, Board Member Creative Scotland

From SMEs to Large Corporates: Building Design Capability at the Right Scale

Much media attention has been focused on then growth of specialized design teams in large global corporations. But not all organizational needs or resources are created equal. This workshop focused on the opportunities and challenges of building design capability in organizations large and small, through practical models, examples and group discussion.

Christiane Riefler: Project Manager Design Strategy, BMW Group

What has made many German products and companies so successful, and what can they still get better at?

Can Design Thinking enhance the 'German way' in a way that works with the working culture and attitude, not against it?

Oliver Szasz: Professor of Digital Media & Communications, Macromedia University of Applied Sciences

Being Human in Times of Digital Transformation: The Power of Design-Driven Innovation

The objective of this breakout session was to understand digital transformation and how human-centered research and design-driven innovation can support “out-of-the-box” thinking and positive change in organizations. Professor Szasz presented insights how to successfully utilize Design Thinking tools and methods as part of research and innovation processes. Attendees were divided into small groups to apply Design Thinking tools to the challenge.

Markus Hohl: CEO, Hellon, London
Laura Franck: Client Service Director, Hellon

For SME's, Corporations and Consultants: 7 Lessons in Buying and Selling Design.

How do you build stronger design relationships and better design management outcomes? In this session, learn best practices in how to buy, or sell design. Many organizations that buy design from outside agencies can tell design firms how to improve their approach. Equally, agencies have much to share with corporate buyers about how to get more out of their firms. In-house creative teams benefit from both ends of the discussion.

Dr. Nelson Soken: CEO Soken Consulting, Author, Trainer

DMI Design Value System: A Measure of the Value of Design in Business

As a designer, have you ever been asked the question: “We appreciate what you do but what’s the “real value” of design? While there is evidence that design adds value in organizations of any size, the design profession continues to face the challenge of quantifying and communicating design value. To address the ever-present question of design value, DMI developed a system of universal tools and frameworks called The Design Value System (DVS). This workshop provided a framework for assessing design organization’s current capabilities and how to create a plan that takes design to the next level of value creation for a company.

Steffi Marty: Senior Brand Identity Manager, Wrigley

Beyond Empathy: Crossing Cultures with Design Insight and Foresight

Designers are feted for their powers of empathy and observation, but recent events reveal the beliefs of citizens and consumers, and cultural values of societies to be in flux. How can designers help bring deep understanding of cultural changes to organizations – from businesses to governments – and is empathy alone enough? Join the discussion and debate to explore these topics and identify learnings for your organization.

Chris Pacione: CEO, The LUMA Institute

Are You Solving the Right Problem? Innovation and The Art of Problem Framing

Every organization faces big challenges. Finding innovative solutions begins with a first step that teams often overlook – identifying the real problem that needs to be solved. Effective problem framing is a key behavior that sets truly innovative organizations and people apart from the rest. Innovative solutions are more likely to emerge when teams correctly characterize the opportunity at hand. In this breakout session, participants learned two indispensable Design Thinking methods to use with internal teams or clients, and a practical understanding of how and when teams should use these methods.

Amy Steinmetz: Vice President, Managing Director Europe, LPK Europe
David Beard: Vice President, Executive Creative Director, LPK Europe

Connecting Design to Brand Strategy

Jim Kraimer: Director of Industrial Design (EMEA), Crown Equipment Corporation

Smart Connections: New Ways to Drive Your Innovation

In this fast-changing digital age, creating roadmaps and long-range strategy plans is harder than ever before. Today’s problems are becoming more complex, fuzzy and interdependent, which is changing the way that designers must act to solve those complex problems. This interactive session will explore how Design can re-think interdependencies and connections to identify new innovation opportunities and influence company or client business strategy.

Fabio Sergio: VP Design, frog
Lawrence Murphy: Chief Designer, GE Healthcare
Prof. Oliver Szasz, Macromedia University
Prof. Oliver Szasz, Macromedia University
Steffi Marty: Senior Brand Identity Manager, Wrigley
Iain Aitchison: Program Director, Institute of Design Innovation Glasgow School of Art; Chair, DMI Advisors, Board Member Creative Scotland

Thank You Note:

I wish to express my gratitude to DMI, in particular Carole Bilson (DMI President) and Patricia Olshan (Program Manager at DMI) for accepting my invitation to bring a DMI symposium to Munich. I would like to thank also everybody involved at bayern design and Munich Creative Business Week, in particular Dr. Silke Claus, Managing Director at bayern design and Sabine Unger, Head of MCBW, and furthermore Julia Schwarz from the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Media, Energy and Technology for their generous support and sponsorship of the event.

Furthermore, I would like to thank everybody supporting the symposium at Macromedia University of Applied Sciences, Campus Munich, particular Dr. Inga Heins (Senior Manager Corporate Communications), Dr. Birgit Winterberg (Head of Career Service) and Dagmar Holst (Head Local marketing, Campus Munich), Doris Wedemeier (Head of Production, Film & TV Department, Campus Munich). Also my thank you goes to all my students from the M.A. Design Management and M.A. Design Thinking master program at Macromedia University Campus Munich who volunteered to support the DMI organizers at location, and all other students who filmed and photographed the event (All photos shown from Susanne Neumair, alumni BA Media and Communication Design, Macromedia University, Campus Munich).

Prof. Oliver Szasz

Please don't hesitate to get in touch with us:


  • Phone numbers:
  • Munich +49 89 544151-0
  • Stuttgart +49 711 280738-0
  • Cologne +49 221 31082-0
  • Hamburg +49 40 3003089-0
  • Berlin +49 30 2021512-0

    Every Tuesday and Thursday, we organise a webinar for interested applicants. Sign up to join the next session.

Contact us by using WhatsApp

This is how it works:
1. Enter +49 176 15098602
2. Save as contact
3. Text us your questions on WhatsApp

Please contact us Monday to Friday from 10 am to 6 pm.