Thinking Out of the Box: Booth Design Thinking Club Takes Home a Big Win

  First-year students Samantha Set, Michael Cheng, Lizzie Pine, Katarina Lackner, and Yoni Sarason took home the Rotman Design Challenge 1st Place.

First-year students Samantha Set, Michael Cheng, Lizzie Pine, Katarina Lackner, and Yoni Sarason took home the Rotman Design Challenge 1st Place.

Booth’s Design Thinking Club, in its first year of establishment, crushed the competition in the prestigious Rotman Design Challenge. Hosted at the University of Toronto's Business School, the Booth team consisting of Samantha Set, Michael Cheng, Lizzie Pine, Katarina Lackner, and Yoni Sarason were tasked with tackling a large and ambiguous problem using the design process. The challenge was to create a solution that is first desirable from the user perspective, then technologically feasible and financially viable. Despite competing against business programs that focus more on design, the Booth team held their ground and took home first place in this competition sponsored by Fidelity Investments.

 

The case for the challenge centered on issues around wealth inheritance, student loan debt, and financial opportunity. As the team wrestled with the initial questions and researched some of the large economic shifts, they uncovered the emergence of the freelance economy. When we coupled this with the fact that Fidelity is the largest provider of retirement and investment workplace benefits, the question became, "what does the future of workplace benefits look like for people without a traditional workplace?" The team was able to successfully merge the data-driven approach of Booth with human-centered design.

 First-year students Samantha Set, Michael Cheng, Lizzie Pine, Katarina Lackner, and Yoni Sarason combined to form the Winning Booth team that took home the Rotman Design Challenge 1st Place.

First-year students Samantha Set, Michael Cheng, Lizzie Pine, Katarina Lackner, and Yoni Sarason combined to form the Winning Booth team that took home the Rotman Design Challenge 1st Place.

 

Innovating has become an integral part of creation in the corporate sector as more companies across industries realize in order to stay competitive businesses have to think out of the box. Business schools, including Booth, are catching on to this trend and implementing Design Thinking Clubs. Design thinking is an approach to problem solving that dates back to an idea called 'human factors.' ‘Human factors’ posits that since humans will be the end users of a product, how might we understand how humans actually interact with the environment in order to better understand their needs, when creating products and services. Where the traditional MBA problem solving approach is deductive, orderly, and logical, design thinking is an inductive process that is iterative and often messy. Design thinking has now become a popular approach to solving complex, ambiguous problems through innovation. A number of consulting firms are operating in this space as well as increasingly  in-house shops at major corporations.

 

Booth’s Design Thinking Club was officially established in October 2015, by a combination of 1st and 2nd year students including Yoni Sarason, Polly Grube, Mukund Multani, Lizzie Pine, and Katarina Lackner. The club was established to help students navigate a potential career in the highly competitive industry of design thinking and introduce classmates to the firms that foster this methodology.  After taking the User-Centered Design for Entrepreneurs course, co-taught by Waverly Deustch, Lindsey Lyman and Hugh Musick, some of the Booth cofounders of the Design Thinking Club utilized this course as a framework. Yoni Sarason told ChiBus “I got really interested in the space and focused my recruiting efforts on firms providing innovation consulting from this design-centric perspective.”

 

This year, the club has brought design-consulting firms, IDEO and Doblin, to campus for corporate conversations, which both events had a strong turnout.  They also held a webinar focused on finding customer needs with Teri Hoffman ('15) from Innosight, held a workshop on using the business model canvas hosted by Business Models, Inc., and conducted a session on ethnographic research. The club hopes to bring more opportunities to experience the design thinking process and meet the firms in the field. They also plan to partner more with the Chicago Innovation Exchange, which has hosted workshops in the past in design thinking, and eventually create curricular opportunities for students.

Alexis Miller is a 1st Year at Booth with a passion for entertainment, media, blogging, and cooking.