INSEAD’s MBA 20J and Art Center College of Design students present digital solutions to help drive Hoffmann Institute’s sustainable efforts.
In March 2020, INSEAD’s MBA 20J students were introduced to the Hoffmann Institute, and posed the challenge of designing digital solutions to help maximize some of the Institute’s efforts and goals. As part of their Product Management in the Digital World (PMDW) elective, the students’ task (created by their Professor, Manuel Sosa and co-creators Monisha Varadan and Ayman Jawhar), was to brainstorm ideas within their eight teams and present a final solution with accompanying prototypes to the class, and to the Hoffmann Institute. All this was to be achieved in about six weeks.
Usually functioning as an on-ground and in-person elective, the students were left with no choice but to move the presentation online amid the global covid-19 pandemic. The 38 MBA students were joined by 8 industrial design exchange students from the Art Center College of Design, with one exchange student in each of the 8 teams. To complement the teams’ brainstorming, design and prototype creation journey, each team was also mentored by an experienced Google engineer. With everyone on board, the students presented innovative solutions to tackle various goals of the Institute. The hard work and inventive spirit were evident in the presentations.
Realising the growing need to identify events and community around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on INSEAD’s fragmented platforms, Team One’s solution was ‘SDG Connect’ - a platform to integrate and engage all the school’s activities and community related to the 17 goals. On building SDG Connect, Pratiksha Barasia highlighted the power of walking the talk. "This class showed me the power of learning by doing - we didn't only talk about product management in this class, we also implemented it to create a real product."
Being one of four pillars of the Hoffmann Institute, walk-the-talk also means contributing towards a sustainable world even after graduation. Tackling this was Team Three’s ‘Hoffy,’ a web-based platform connecting students and alumni to explore #SDGSmart careers to positively impact business and society. Sharing his involvement, Henk Peterse spoke of his learnings to “generate, shape and combine ideas to create user journeys and an awesome product design.” Echoing these sentiments, teammate Anandhi Gokhale added, “I particularly enjoyed brainstorming the user journeys with the team, and creating solutions centered around our users.”
Centering solutions around consumer behavior was also reflective in Team Five’s ‘Chirp.’ Identifying the gap in consumers’ knowledge about sustainable and non-sustainable clothing brands, Chirp’s web browser extension and website helps users compare different brands and their sustainability. Also helping users decide through comparison was Team Six’s ‘CarbonSquare,’ an app that helps select the best carbon offsetting options for sustainable travelers, while encouraging this habit through a competing leaderboard and an award system. Underlining her favourite aspect of the class, Team Six’s Violeta Todorova mentioned, “My favorite part of product management class was the visual nature of our collaboration and output. I loved seeing the work come to life!”
Using a competing leaderboard system to keep users encouraged and involved was a strategy also seen in Team Seven’s ‘Cache,’ a gamified app motivating users to engage in physical fitness activities through geo-catching, collecting avatars, and earning points. Encouraging physical movement was a part of Team Four’s ‘FunDa,’ but for a much younger audience. Created to bring fun and learning to homeschooled children, parents can opt for a year-long subscription where a mailed FunDa box will include guidelines, activities and other items to help promote physical, social, cognitive and other skills in children.
Team Two’s ‘Room of Requirement,’ set out to promote sustainable consumption within the INSEAD community by creating a peer-to-peer platform to buy, sell and trade items within and across INSEAD campuses. Also creating a marketplace, albeit a slightly different one, was Team Eight’s ‘INSEAD Action.’ Addressing the gap between passion and action, INSEAD Action is a marketplace bringing together those keen to initiate, curate and participate in like-minded sustainable projects. Speaking on his takeaways, Team Eight’s Nitin Pal mentioned that the “collaboration with ArtCenter College of Design talent, and industry experts helped me understand the blind spots.”
Sustainability for business and society is possible when future leaders have both theoretical and applicable knowledge in sustainable solutions – a reflection of which was evident in all 46 students from both INSEAD and the Art Center College of Design. Taking the application one step further, the Hoffmann Institute and Prof. Sosa will continue exploring ways to support and implement the teams’ ideas wherever possible. In identifying Hoffmann Institute’s areas for development, the students have also walked away with a rewarding experience. Team One’s Daniel Gospodinov summed up the PMDW as “a rewarding and very hands-on course in INSEAD. Every top business school in the world should have a similar class to provide such a great insight into the day-to-day life of a Product Manager!"