© Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation

30 Nov 2017

Going to Munich for Leadership Lessons

40 local speakers & a visit to 19 local businesses and programs including the IBM Watson Lab brought learning up close and personal for delegates

For the first time in its 28-year history the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation’s city-to-city leadership exchange (LEX) program traveled across the ocean to Munich, Germany in 2017. This program helps connect a group of diverse Colorado business, government and non-profit leaders and provides concrete examples of how to address difficult issues by seeing what’s possible and what has been accomplished in other cities. It also inspires this group of leaders to drive progress when they return home.

Joerg Bauler, Director of the Munich Convention Bureau recently sat down with Dan Lewis, Executive Director, Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation to discuss this innovative program and their recent event in Munich. The Leadership Foundation, an affiliate of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, works to educate and inspire people to make a difference as leaders in their community. A key component of its programming is behind-the-scenes, on the ground experiences.

© Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation
© Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation

Q. What made you select Munich for this event? And how did hosting this event Internationally enrich the LEX experience? 

A. Munich and Denver, as regions, have quite a lot in common in terms of our population sizes, industry sectors, innovation economies, cultural engagement and the relatively new direct Lufthansa flight connecting us more easily. We also share similar challenges related to accommodating growing populations with affordable housing, advanced mobility strategies and sustainable infrastructure investment. Exploring new approaches to these challenges with thought leaders in Munich through many interesting speakers and exciting site visits expanded our delegation’s perspective on possible solutions but also heightened our commitment to solving these issues with fresh insights. Overall, delegates noted throughout our visit that they were benefiting from thinking differently, and innovations happening in Munich inspired them to look at our own local challenges, priorities and resource allocation in a whole new way. 

© Nils-Schwarz
© Nils-Schwarz

Q. Can you share what some of the leadership topics were and a few of the program highlights?

A. Absolutely, there were three main program themes. 

  1. Talent Development: We explored the apprenticeship model, specifically talking about how employers benefit from this investment and looking at how apprenticeships can be employed in a variety of industries, including creative industries.
  2. Urban Development Strategies: We looked at issues including mobility, affordable housing, creative campuses and pedestrian zones.
  3. Economic Development: As our region grows, we’re focused on advancing global cities and how they’ve taken on connectivity, research and innovation and inclusivity – attributes that we know matter as we step onto the global stage. 

The delegation of 133 Colorado business and civic leaders learned from over 40 Munich-based speakers and visited 19 business and community sites over five days. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock also attended. 

© Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation
© Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation

While the sessions were held at the Sofitel Hotel the neat thing about the LEX was that the whole city of Munich was the real host of this event. Attendees learned about German innovation first hand from industry experts during the morning sessions and then saw it in action on location. For example, attendees had discussions on global cities with executives from the Munich Airport, Denver International Airport, Lufthansa and economic development policy makers from Munich on fostering connectivity through direct air service between our regions, allowing for bilateral tourism and bilateral business development opportunities. Then they were then transported to the BMW Welt where Dr. Carl Friedrich Eckhardt the Head of Competence Urban Mobility at BMW gave a keynote speech on the Future of Mobility. Next the delegates saw German innovation first hand by going on excursions to the following locations:

  • The Technical University of Munich (TUM) to learn about the latest in public-private partnerships advancing entrepreneurship and patent development and to visit the MakerSpace - a 1,500 square-foot, high-tech prototype workshop for inventors and researchers, beginners and professionals, startups and industry. 
  • Fraunhofer Institute IVV and learned about their innovative food, sensory analytics and recycling research labs.
  • IBM Watson IoT Headquarters to learn about cognitive IoT and cross-industry applications ranging from airline logistics to building energy management

Q. How did you make connections with all these industry and government leaders in Munich for the Leadership Exchange to be able to plan and host such a hands on, rich program?

Our colleagues in Munich were very helpful in making introductions to local leaders and industry experts. Over several months, we met with individuals from the City of Munich’s Office of Labor and Economic Development, the City of Munich’s Department of Urban Planning, Invest in Bavaria, the IHK, U.S. Consulate General Office, Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, as well as many Colorado business and civic leaders with existing partnerships in Munich.  

© Nils-Schwarz
© Nils-Schwarz

Q. Any concrete plans to copy a solution that was seen in Germany or any solutions that were seen as very creative and innovative that inspired attendees?

A. Apprenticeships were a topic that delegates were particularly excited about. In Munich, apprenticeships are the rule, not the exception. At IWIS -- a timing chain manufacturer that provides materials for every BMW engine -- for example, 10 percent of its workforce is made up of apprentices. And those apprentices have a 100 percent job-placement rate. From hotels to banks to office services to manufacturing facilities, delegates saw apprenticeship programs that combined formal education, technical degrees and on-the-job training. In Munich, there is a clear understanding of the value of direct experience. It’s a model Colorado continues to move toward. Building talent to meet our workforce needs is key to our future economic success and if we get it right will continue to provide Colorado with a competitive advantage. Once again, attendees were able to get out into Munich and see these models in action at local companies including: 

  • ARRI
  • Deutsche Bahn AG
  • HypoVereinsbank
  • IWIS
  • MTU Aero
  • Engines AG 
  • Sofitel
  • Stadtwerke München

What did Attendees like best about being in Munich?

Delegates enjoyed the opportunity to experience Munich’s incredibly high quality of life – the walkability, public transportation infrastructure and, of course, the spirited beer halls as a backdrop to learning about the many innovations driving the region’s economy.

The program also spurred new international partnerships, business development opportunities and future cultural exchanges between our regions that have lived on beyond the event.

Get a first hand impression of the event with this video!