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“Innovation is messy, crazy and sometimes frustrating”

IMD MBAs document their intensive innovation module
April 2018

From April 23-28, IMD ran its intensive MBA innovation module. IMD MBAs with participation from students from ECAL, the renowned design university, and EPFL, the leading technology university, participate in the Debiopharm-Inartis challenge to improve the lives of healthcare patients, in which the winners of the challenge receive funding for their ideas to become further developed.

Here IMD MBAS discuss their journey:

The experience – Piyush Rawat

The week has emerged us in design thinking. Design is so much more than interface aesthetics. In essence, ‘design thinking’ it is a mind-set that bridges users’ needs with a solution in the most frictionless, human and intuitive way. As far as working in teams, we discovered that diversity is key to innovation; a variety of thinking hats are needed to make the spectrum of ideas and solutions wide. In collaborating with EPFL and ECAL, we experienced the very vibrant and self-sufficient ecosystem that the Lausanne region has to offer with an abundance of talented and passionate people who like to build things. Innovation is not like hitting a home run. A try fast, fail fast attitude is paramount to ‘arrive’ to an innovative state of mind.

Day 1 – The whole is greater than the sum of its parts: Neharika Agarwal

Eureka means “I found it!” and was the phrase that Archimedes exclaimed after discovering that the volume of water that ascends is equal to the volume of the submerged body.

While Archimedes may have single-handedly discovered the principle of buoyancy, the same cannot be said for innovations from the wheel to the iPhone. These inventions and innovations were led by collective thinking and group dynamics rather than any individual effort.

The IMD “Innovation Lab” is a testimonial to this same fundamental of group work and interdisciplinary approach to drive creativity and innovation. This weeklong lab is about discovery, problem solving & learning. The overall objective of this lab is to help us gain experience with design thinking, learn the habits of successful innovators and find solutions to critical problems in the field of healthcare, with a focus towards untapped patient engagement with physicians and hospitals.  In this journey, IMD is collaborating with Ecal and EPFL to create mixed teams of students who will together combine their business, design & technology dimensions to jointly crack the 2018 Debiopharm-Inartis Challenge.

According to IMD Professor Cyril Bouquet, leader of the Innovation Week: “What we are going through this week is some sort of organized mess. We need structure and freedom. And it’s a tough balancing act. Too much structure and you become like the army. Too much freedom and you’re like the club med. You need autonomy within the frame”.

Day 2 – Connect, explore & nail down!: Martina Skodova

On the second exploration day of our innovation week adventure, we were “deployed in the field”. In our teams, we split to look for innovations across the entire value chain of the healthcare system. We consulted professors, nurses, researchers, medical doctors, specialists, and owners of testing laboratories. We visited an array of different sites in the Lausanne healthcare ecosystem: the main Lausanne hospital CHUV, specialty lab Unilabs, biomedical research workplace CLE – Centre Laboratoire d’Epalinges, firefighters and Brain Mind Institute at EPFL.

The mind-set we brought with us was to look at existing problems with fresh eyes, not encumbered by any previous improvement attempts.

At the end of the day, we got back to the main base at IMD to convey our testimonies to the team members and brainstorm around the many ideas we had generated. On Monday, my team gained another valuable member: Oub, a student of luxury design at Ecal. We smoothly integrated Oub into the team yesterday and discussed our main motivation and expectations from the Debiopharm-Inartis challenge. This allowed us to articulate the common goal of our team:

“Employ as much curiosity as possible to look for as concrete patient’s pain points in the healthcare ecosystem as possible. Based on that, design a viable, functional product making an impact on patient’s quality of life.”

Day 3 – Ideate: be wild, weird, absurd!: Joyce Tsuchiya Melo

On the first two days of the challenge, my colleagues and I had met new teammates, explored the healthcare scenario in Lausanne and finally found a problem we wanted to solve. So, day three took us to the ideation stage. In a single day we had to come up with a solution for a problem we were passionate about, for Team Misfits (us!) that was helping elderly people to have more autonomy and move more freely. And if the two first days were all blue skies, making friends and exploring, day three is where things go crazy.

I learned that innovation requires a good deal of resilience because at this point I was frustrated, tired and I started to question myself. Is this the right solution? Is this a good model? Does this problem even matter? So what you do is you gather some courage and a lot of humility and you ask for help and guidance (thank you Eric, for coming to our rescue!).

Truth is, coming up with innovation is messy, crazy and sometimes frustrating. And that’s how it is supposed to be, ideas need to collide before they can build upon each other. People need to fail in order to learn and succeed… Well at least that’s what we are told by Cyril Bouquet and Peter Vogel, our professors for this challenge.

Day 4 – Prototype!: Hassan Abdel Fattah

On day four we spent time at Univercité, a unique building space where designers, engineers, students and makers come together from all over Switzerland to develop projects and startups in an incredible incubator-like setting that included mechanical workshops, electrical labs, software development spaces, and so much more.

Over the course of the day, teams dispersed into the 2000 m² crevices of the Univercité building, collaborating together to probe their designs and gradually build prototypes from wannabe mock-ups

The variety of designs and the creativity of the teams were genuinely impressive, but then again when you consider the depth of experience and diversity of background from our class of 90, it’s hard to be surprised.

The task has been nothing short of daunting. But this is the point. Nothing great ever came out of a comfort zone. We’ll keep pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, and we know, as a class of 90, that incredible things are just around the corner.

The Final day- Idea | Prototype | Pitch: Parth Reddy

Innovation week was one of the unique elements that had attracted me to IMD last year. Building a prototype and bringing small innovations to healthcare is a very exciting idea on paper. What actually transpired was something so much more impactful. I will count this as one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in the program so far. Of course, the way the week was structured, the gravity of the challenge and the competitiveness in the MBA group were all essential elements for meaningful impact. But what actually made this week so special was the team that I was working with. Theoretically, diverse teams lie on either extremes of the bell curve in terms of outcome. Luckily for us, we were on the right side of the curve and by the end of week had converted a viable solution into one of the best prototypes in the challenge.

We had an extremely enjoyable experience and thanks to IMD, Cyril Bouquet and Peter Vogel for creating this fantastic one week experience. This taught us more than we could ever have gained from classroom lectures.

Discover more about innovation week 2018:

Video: IMD MBA Innovation challenge 2018

MBA Innovation Week: IMD faculty on how to innovate

IMD MBAs join forces with EPFL and ECAL to innovate healthcare

Follow the journey on the IMD MBA Blog