June 2023

Annette Diefenthaler from iF Design Foundation at the munich creative business week

This year's munich creative business week (mcbw) took place from 6-14 May and was entitled "Why disruption unleashes creativity“. Annette Diefenthaler hosted the talk format mcbw talk&connect with Sep Verboom, Sascha Friesike, and Leyla Acaroglu, who delivered the keynote on disruptive design.

Our world is in a state of disruption. Well-proven concepts and practices are being turned upside down and need to be challenged. But, the most profound disruption has also always provided the opportunity for something new to emerge. The building blocks of the present and future will have to be reconceived and rearranged. This requires courage and people who dare to change their perspective and view the situation as a challenge rather than an overwhelming task. Design as both a disruptive and preserving force plays a significant role in dealing with the major transformation issues of our time. In this respect, Why Disruption Unleashes Creativity, this year’s subject of munich creative business week, was highly topical: it placed the relationship between disruption and creativity at the center of the events and discussions. With events, exhibitions, lectures and initiatives throughout Munich, for one week, mcbw 2023 offered designers, architects, companies and the interested public a wide range of opportunities to exchange ideas and gather impulses on these topics. Sustainability provocateur and cultural protagonist Dr. Leyla Acaroglu, founder of The UnSchool of Disruptive Design, took on the newly created role of "creative explorer". As an internationally recognized expert in the field of disruptive design methods, she provides thought-provoking ideas and highlights the relevance of design and creativity.

A highlight of mcbw 2023: talk&connect on May 8th at Munich Urban Colab, hosted by Annette Diefenthaler

Can disruption unleash creativity? Annette Diefenthaler, Professor of Design and Transdisciplinarity at TUM and a board member of iFDF, centered this question during the mcbw talk format with internationally renowned speakers. How do we deal with radical change, how does something new emerge from past and present upheavals in our society, and what role does design play in this context? The afternoon and evening of May 8th were filled with statements from the mcbw advisory board on this year’s theme, followed by keynotes from Professor Dr. Sascha Friesike and Sep Verboom, before Leyla Acaroglu, this year's creative explorer, explained how design is driving social, economic and sustainable change for the better. A panel discussion with the three keynote speakers and host Annette Diefenthaler provided deeper insights into the topic. The panel proved to be a perfect mix of complementary perspectives: three very intelligent contributions from three different points of view served as starting points for a multifaceted discourse.

Often applied as a marketing label, the concept of disruption was considered in a nuanced way and in its entire scope

Dr. Sascha Friesike opened the event with his keynote address. A professor of Designing Digital Innovations at the Berlin University of the Arts, he heads the part-time master's program Leadership in Digital Innovation. He is also co-director of the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society, where around 150 researchers are working to understand the dynamics, mechanisms and implications of digitization. As an academic researcher, he investigates the relationship between science and society, exploring how new things emerge in a range of settings from scientific knowledge creation to innovation and creativity. Sascha is passionate about making science and the clarity it can create more accessible. Instead of brilliant insights being buried in articles that only a few will read, he wants us to have a societal dialogue. For this reason, he hosts the social science program Ding an sich in collaboration with Berlin-based national broadcaster rbb. In his keynote at mcbw, he took a nuanced look at the terminology and concept of "disruptive design." He discussed different types of disruption and pointed out that it is often difficult to identify what kind of disruption we are dealing with at the moment. "We need skeptical curiosity to be able to understand what kind of disruption is happening" – only then is it possible to come up with an adequate creative response.

Subtle interventions may prove to be radical over time: a call for creatives to work on shaping the context, not just the outcome

The second talk&connect keynote came from Sep Verboom, "an exceptional designer and social entrepreneur," according to Annette Diefenthaler’s introduction. "He practices what many designers aspire to these days: his work is less concerned with designing the objectification of a final result, but rather with shaping the context in which design takes place. In doing so, he focuses on human well-being and on the health of our environment." He teaches sustainable design at the K.A.S.K. School of Arts in Ghent and actively explores the balance between economic, social and environmental aspects of design. To this end, he created the Livable® platform, which brings together partners who are as diverse as the regions or fields they come from: from the Peruvian Amazon to Indonesia, and from local governments or commercial enterprises to NGOs. There is no big team or company behind his platform, as is often assumed. Rather, Sep brings together individual expert teams, depending on the specific requirements of a project. According to his bio, "he's skeptical of one-size-fits-all solutions and strives for a tailored approach to each cultural and societal challenge." In his keynote, Sep presented examples of collaborations in which designers take on the role of shaping such a context, rather than focusing solely on the design product. His work shows that subtle changes often have a fundamental impact over time. Sep argued for a framework that takes into account not only economic, but also societal and environmental benefits.

How will our present activities affect our future lives? Designers as cultural provocateurs who have the potential to bring about change

The final highlight was the presentation by Dr. Leyla Acaroglu: a designer and social scientist, entrepreneur and founder, she is also a sustainability provocateur, design disruptor and crossover creative. As a social entrepreneur, Leyla is the founder of the creative agency Disrupt Design and the developer of the disruptive design method. She is the founder of the award-winning experimental knowledge lab, The UnSchool of Disruptive Design, and of the business sustainability training platform, Swivel Skills. For her work in advancing research and innovation in sustainability, Leyla received the 2016 Champion of the Earth Award by the United Nations Environment Programme. She has delivered keynote speeches around the world on topics ranging from system redesign and the ethics of technology to the power of disruptive change.

In her compelling keynote, Leyla explained how urgent it is to take creative action in the face of the growing challenges we are confronted with, particularly those caused by climate change. She sees disruption as the responsibility of designers and emphasized the importance of becoming aware of one's own freedom of action: "Creativity is a form of hope", and designers can and must actively choose to change existing systems.

— All photos and copyright: mcbw/Lérot

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