Brandenburg Gate at night. (Emi Kolawole)
Berlin-Tegel Airport is humming at 5:45AM. The coffee in my cup is hot and strong (visit Marché, should you ever find yourself at Gate D72). The rocket fuel helps me to clarify the last 72 hours, which have taken me from San Francisco to Paris, from Paris to Berlin and now back to Paris.
I have a very good reason to be in Paris. The French-American Foundation has a remarkable Young Leaders program, which makes possible a regular cultural exchange between French and American professionals over the course of two years. I was fortunate enough to be named a Young Leader in 2014, making me eligible to take part in this year’s gathering in Paris and Bordeaux.
I decided, however, that while I was here, I should take care of some other important business: experiencing Berlin after having heard much of its startup energy and its continued emergence nearly 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In fact, I arrived very close to the Nov. 9 anniversary of the fall. While I took some time to reflect on the important and difficult history of the city and visit its key landmarks, I kept reminding myself that I wasn’t there just to look back. Rather, I was there to see glimpses of Berlin’s future and places where design thinking’s seeds had been planted and started to take root.
The entrance to the Creation Center in Berlin at The Telekom Innovation Center. (Emi Kolawole)
I stayed in Potsdamer Platz between Checkpoint Charlie and Brandenburg Gate, but I found the sparks I was looking for at the Telekom Innovation Arena in Winterfeldstraße, specifically I went to visit the Creation Center there. I walked into the bright, open space and immediately felt at home. There were toys, objects the team used to help inspire those new to design thinking to reach new prototype ideas. There were lamps adorned with pink sticky notes, and multi-level seating and wide-open tables. But, most importantly, there was evidence of strong storytelling and methods that I hadn’t yet tried to employ, including flip books and card boxes to help distill process and outcome on a project. Continue Reading