You need a pretty good reason to get students up at 2.30 am. Well, a flight to Milan, the European capital of design, definitely was. Sunday, 18th February 2018, 3.15 in the morning. 27 students of the Master in Innovation and Entrepreneurship (MIE) entered the bus to Brussels Airport in order to catch a flight to Malpensa, Milan, Italy. What might sound like chilled vacation, was in fact the start of a work-intense three weeks ‘Business Design Workshop’ in cooperation with students of POLI.design, the renowned design school of Politecnico di Milano.
After a short but rather unplanned ‘city tour’ on Monday morning, the MIE students eventually made it to the kick-off session at Presso, a trendy ‘co-cooking space’ in the heart of Milan, to get to know their peers from POLI.design. This first day was under the banner of team building, acclimation and the briefing of the projects:
“In ten mixed and interdisciplinary teams, we were assigned to one out of two company projects and had to create a new product through the design thinking methodology. The first project was about the future of payment and was allocated by Nexi, the Italian market leader of payment services. The second project was about designing a new product or service for the Belgian project management company Prosource. I had the opportunity to create a new product as part of the Nexi case. With our social-driven solution, it will be easier and more efficient for restaurants and their customers to book tables, order food in the restaurant and pay their orders”
... explains Margot Aerts, full-time master student at Antwerp Management School (Master in Innovation and Entrepreneurship).
So, what is design thinking?
Business innovation from a design perspective
Design thinking has its origin in the epicenter of innovation – the Stanford University in California and startup companies in the Silicon Valley. Design thinking is a methodology that helps businesses solve complex problems through an iterative process consisting of emphasizing and understanding a certain problem, identifying the underlying setting and ideating, prototyping and testing a proposed solution. Design thinking also means bringing interdisciplinary teams with different perspectives together and stepping deep into the role of the customer in order to fully understand his/her pains. Therefore, it is very often referred as a human-centered approach for innovation. If you want to learn more about Design Thinking, read those blog articles curated by the author:
- Design Thinking - Your next competitive advantage by Forbes Magazin
- How to lead a design-driven organization by IDEO
- Design Thinking Blog by Frogdesign
From Milan to Antwerp - 3 weeks to innovate
The business design workshop was organized in three phases. The first phase was set in Milan, where AMS and POLI.design students identified pain points of their potential customers and already started ideating possible solutions. In week two, the second phase was to build and design a product/service around the customer’s problem. In this week, Milan and Antwerp students were separated from each other, a fact that required online communication via Skype and other channels amongst the project teams. Even though this kind of communication was challenging, thanks to the devoted support and feedback of the coaches (Andries Reymer from AMS and Daniel Trabucchi, Yulya Besplemennova, Roberta Tassi from POLI.design), the students were still able to progress in order to be ready for the subsequent presentation week. In the third week, from 5th to 9th of March, Antwerp welcomed the POLI.design students in order to refine the proposed solutions and getting ready to present it to the companies.
On Friday, 9th of March, three weeks of intense work ended in the final presentation day. Ten teams who eagerly worked on their ideas for the past weeks presented their solutions to the jury consisting of company and academic representatives, coaches and the program managers. Several creative ideas were born, conceptualized and prototyped, meaningful customer insights were converted into applicable solutions for the project principals and once again it was shown that interdisciplinary collaboration plays an incremental role to innovate and think outside the box.
“Even though the past weeks were tough and quite intense, the business design workshop was a unique opportunity for us to apply knowledge on a real business case. Furthermore, the given setting was very much like what we will expect in our future professional life. Challenges, which in a certain moment might seem impossible to overcome, conflicts within a team that can only be solved through open communication and compromises, and the feeling when you eventually succeed in what you’ve been working hard on”
... summarizes Moritz Weischer (full-time master student Innovation and Entrepreneurship), who was working on an app-based solution that uses big data processing technology in order to help merchants predicting their sales.
Credits for the pictures:
Axelle Be Haegel, AMS
Pranay Gupta, POLI.design
Prasanna Bahirat, POLI.design