Business & Design: Insights From ‘DMI: Design Leadership Conference’

Ron speaking with Mauro Porcini, PepsiCo’s Chief Design Officer
Ron speaking with Mauro Porcini, PepsiCo’s Chief Design Officer

Business and design – opposing yet complementary forces – insights from ‘DMI: Design Leadership Conference’

Written by Ron Gabay (Israel), HHL full-time MBA

Each year, the Design Management Institute (DMI) hosts an essay contest for students to express their reflections on the topic of design and design management. This year, together with ten more students from around the world, I had the honor to represent HHL as one of the winners.

As a winner, I was invited to attend the ‘DMI: Design Leadership Conference’ in Minneapolis, USA. The conference is one of the biggest stages in the world for design and innovation, attracting leaders from companies such as 3M, PepsiCo, GE, Target, Honeywell and many more. From a student’s perspective, the conference allowed me not only to hear about best practices and the role of design in various organizations but also to have personal and insightful conversations with experienced professionals.

During the conference, speakers and interactive sessions enabled me to reflect on the last 12 months as an MBA student. I tried to connect the MBA’s theoretical knowledge to the challenges discussed by leaders like Mauro Porcini, PepsiCo’s Chief Design Officer. It was clear to me that being business savvy and being able to speak the business language is vital. At the same time it illustrated that becoming a good leader requires more than just business acumen, it requires a deeper understanding of humans.

“People don’t just buy products anymore… they search for holistic solutions, meaningful experiences and authentic stories” (Mauro Porcini).

As a designer, pursuing an MBA was not an easy decision because of the fundamental differences between business and design. Now, even before completing my studies, I look forward and know that I made the right choice because today’s market forces push for a deeper integration between business and design. Business and design are starting to be perceived as complementary approaches and the MBA studies demonstrated and helped me understand how to better link and leverage the power of design in the business context.

Tips for future HHL students: challenge yourselves, push your limits, try new things, make mistakes, and learn! I am sure that throughout your studies you will try to perfect your skills– do not perfect them to the point where you are not flexible anymore! The HHL community is diverse and brings together people from different places and backgrounds – cherish it and clash with it! As C.P Snow wrote: “The clashing point of two subjects, two disciplines, two cultures – of two galaxies, so far as that goes- ought to produce creative chances. In the history of mental activity that has been where some of the breakthroughs came”.


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This is a general article written by one of our HHL supporters.