My first touchpoint with the Design Management Institute (DMI) occurred in 2012, the same year that I met and teamed with the founders that would ultimately create BCG Digital Ventures (BCGDV).  DMI held an intimate DMI "NightOut" event at a local Los Angeles venue and I was invited by Karen Hoffman, Product & CMTEL Chair at the Art College Center of Design.  Upon arriving, Karen graciously introduced me to a number of design luminaries who were striving to expand design's influence in their sectors.  I remember her squeezing my arm, "DMI is YOUR home ... this is your community."  I considered the seed planted.

The next couple years were very busy to say the least, traveling the world helping global enterprises pursue growth opportunities through corporate venturing.  If you know anything about the BCGDV value proposition, design holds a clear runway in shaping ventures in partnership with experts in strategy, technology and product management.  In many ways, our designers have to pioneer the very definition of design's contribution to the multidisciplinary mix. By this year, our eventual scale afforded me a moment to remember DMI and that it would be a good thing to formally tap into this high-calibre organization.  I signed up and became a member.

Thankfully, my timing was just ahead of DMI's 40th Anniversary Leadership Conference in Boston, Massachusetts last Fall.  My former Art Center professor, Katherine Bennett, introduced me to Carole Bilson, DMI's President.  Carole gave some time to understand my story, share hers, and understand what we were driving at BCG Digital Ventures.  She reinforced that DMI was the place to gain objective insight and perspective on the opportunities facing the design discipline.  I guess you can say I was sold even before traveling to the conference.

On our first day, DMI arranged for us a walking tour of Cambridge's tech corridor.  Aided by perfect weather, many new acquaintances were made as we navigated the streets surrounding big technology, bio-pharma and thought leading departments at MIT.  We learned that Cambridge embraces a culture of sharing to make the world a better place, even at the expense of IP ownership and financial upside.  The tour ended with an intimate meeting among DMI members to openly discuss their goals and needs for the conference.  I got to meet Carole Bilson, President of DMI and quite a "design force" in her own right.  Similar to Karen, Carole went out of her way to introduce me to other DMI members, giving me another reinforcement of the hospitable and generous nature of this community.

The next 2 days immersed us in a series of engaging speakers, workshops and networking opportunities.  Here are just a few highlights that stood out to me.

  • Valerie Casey (Chief Product Officer, Samsung Global Innovation Center) presented “Redesigning the Innovator’s Dilemma" - “innovation emerges from a tangled mess of fresh starts, thinking awry, and disruptive technologies … not from following a linear path based on predictable outcomes” … “innovation myth:  there’s not a lone inventor … innovation is now open with many innovation archetypes” … "creativity is feared if the motivations are to reduce uncertainty” … “we need better communication of ideas versus more ideas” … “without it (diversity), there is less rigor in exploring the possibilities” … “unfortunately in Silicon Valley, design is subordinated … there are ‘line designers’ who are less conceptual."
  • Rob Girling (Co-Founder & Principal, Artefact), Aileen Dempsey (Principal, Designing Business) and Gulay Ozkan (Founder, GEDS & Instructor of Sabanci University) facilitated an interactive workshop on the “Value of Design” - “If the modern definition of design is increasingly moving towards 'formal creative techniques for problem solving', then measuring the value generated by design doesn’t need to be different than measuring the impact of anything else.“ … “Artefact’s Design Maturity Model gives organizations a toolset to measure their competencies across Mastery, Character, Performance, Impact and Empathy.” … “Multi-tasking tends to reduce efficiency & performance, confuses the brain and slows you down, impairs cognitive controls.” … “Leaders need the head-space if we are to be mindful” … “42% of startup failures cited lack of market or need” … “Design meets exponential tech” … “Design can help tech but its processes are too long and ambiguous for tech; a switch from tech to design-driven perspective not possible at the moment.” … “The Design Lens ( helps tech companies create desirable experiences especially for projects that have time and budget constraints”
  • John Maeda (Design Parter, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers) presented “Design in Tech” - “ego is an element of being a maker; I want to feel good by making.” … “dirty hands are a symbol of integrity” … “creatives make and it’s pure” … “maker = the creative, talker = the suit” … “makers diss the talkers, but the talkers don’t care.  They do a good job at networking and achieving scale”… “Moore’s Law no longer cuts it as the key path to a happier customer.” … “$2.75 billion (5 startups founded by designers raised more than $2.75 billion) = we (design) are at the table” … “Design in VC is not about pretty … it’s about relevance” … “go to where you are not loved” … “data helps create resilient design” … “future and the past cooperate to form excellent."
  • Doreen Lorenzo (Co-Founder, Vidlet; former President at Quirky and Frog Design) presented “The Art of Leadership” - “failure is a buzzword” … “the more failure you have, the closer you are to your hypothesis” … “allow for learning in your business” … “leadership = human connection” … “empathy is the other 50% to the data” … “empathy is power” … “innovation’s famous leaders are lousy to their people, and we accept it (bullying) as the way it is.” … “a toxic workplace is a frozen workplace"
  • Valerie Jacobs (VP & Managing Creative Director, LPK) presented “Brand REBIRTH” - “Re:imagine entails achieving a bigger vision for the platform {e.g. Google’s creation of a transparent platform called ALPHABET}” … “Re:boot involves starting over {e.g. Dominos Pizza leveraging digital; IT is the biggest department}” … “Re:invent involves finding a new direction {e.g. FujiFilm leveraged their core IP in chemicals to shift from film to cosmetics}” … “Re:focus brings us back to the core {e.g. Burberry was all over the place until Angela Ahrendts and Christopher Bailey galvanized the organization around the luxury trench coat and cohesive brand standards}”
  • Scott Nazarian (Executive Creative Director, Frog Design) presented “Big Design, Small World” - “In an era where technologies of presence and connection are increasingly sublimating into the very architecture around us, it’s incumbent on designers and planners to think big about the massive interdependencies these systems create – and the impact of a data-centric world view on human intuition and interaction.” … “Data creates the connected community {i.e. Infrastructure = Action, City = Interface, Neighborhoods = Platforms, Home = Functional Unit, Individual = Exponent}” … “User Experience, Principles = Fitness, Time & Polity” … “Fitness = humans must be able to decipher their own fitness, the ability to adapt and growth” … “Time = reconciling human, material and technological time scales is crucial; encouraging flow and diminishing disruption” … “Polity = self reflection can lead to the development of more thoughtful public policy”

Needless to say, DMI represents a community of like-minded thinkers and doers carving new avenues for design to deliver strategic value across the world.  DMI is a tremendous source of written thought leadership (DMI:Journal, DMI:Review and DMI:Case Studies), in-person events, education and community building opportunities.  I look forward to encouraging more of our Strategic Design community to becoming a part of DMI.  I believe we can learn a ton, but also can give a ton to DMI from our own learnings.  When we share our knowledge in the spirit of the Cambridge vibe, only great things can happen.   

The Design Management Institute (DMI) is an international membership organization that connects design to business, to culture, to customers—and to the changing world. Founded in 1975, DMI brings 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. DMI focuses it's mission in three areas: design valuation, education, and connection.