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Executive Education

Léo Studer
Léo Studer

Becoming an innovation catalyst

Léo Studer

Senior Product Manager SIX Payment Services (Europe) SA Luxembourg

Attended the Innovation by Design (now Design Thinking and Creativity for Business) Programme.

"I came out of the programme with a different energy and a positive mindset. I now find myself asking many “what if…” questions. It has become a kind of mental exercise that I apply daily."


Can you please introduce yourself?

I am senior product manager for SIX Payment Services, based in Luxembourg. We are an international payment services provider, active in the card issuing and merchant acquiring business. Our client base is spread across Europe.

What attracted you to the programme?

I was looking to find a high quality training programme on Design Thinking principles. I was hoping for a hands-on experiences, allowing me to add items to my toolbox of methods and exercises that I could reuse directly. The fact that INSEAD was proposing this relatively new executive programme triggered my interest.

How familiar were you with design thinking before coming to the programme?

I came with an existing base because a few years ago, we established innovation as one of the key principles and key strategic orientations of the company. We created an innovation group internally that applies design thinking principles and innovation screens.

So, I had hands-on experience with workshops around innovation.


INSEAD is a reference for high quality executive education. I have high standards when it comes to investing into executive education and I demand the best. My managers and I trust INSEAD to deliver on quality.

Please explain the importance of design for your organisation and your role?

Over the last two to three years there has been a shift in the landscape of banking and payments with new entrants and mobile application based solutions. I’ve seen our client base, and banks in a general sense, being disrupted. Yet, existing banks are sitting still in terms of the solutions they provide. Instead, it is the fintechs and new entrants that are bringing new services to customers and challenging the traditional space.

What this means for us as an organisation is that we need to provide our client base, the traditional players, with new innovation principles. We also need to reinvent the way we provide services to the client. We want to avoid them being overtaken by new digital players.

So, one of my roles in the organisation is around the strategic orientation of products and the development of solutions. We need to ensure we have proper techniques to design products and solutions. This is vital. And we involve our customers at a very early stage. Indeed, we value practices enabling us to involve customers and staff together at the design board.

What were your expectations ahead of joining the programme?

I had high expectations. The programme came at a time when I was given the opportunity to organise an innovation workshop within my company, to take place a few weeks after the programme. So the programme was really perfectly timed.

What were some of the key benefits from having attended the programme?

I was able to not only go into my workshop with fresh ideas and experiences, but was also able to directly apply these ideas in my daily work.

The programme also provided me with levers which I can use in my innovation programmes and when I do simulations with management.

Engaging in innovation is important. But what is more important is to not just speak about it, but to work around it. You need to dedicate some day-to-day energy to it. And to translate that into the way we behave, into our DNA and our psychology.

For me it was extremely interesting to attend this very practical programme. I was able to copy paste some points into the workshop I was organising.

What did you think of the workshop format? 

Learning by doing is extremely powerful. As I come from a very academic background (MSc in applied mathematics) I know the power of theory, but having done my carrier in engineering, I know that experience and iterations are key when it comes to put a product on the market.

These days I’m switching to product management, which involves more creativity and strategising. Having a programme like Innovation by Design is really helpful in helping me make the shift.

All the participants were very heavily involved and it made for a great environment with a unique atmosphere.

What did the programme teach you about becoming an innovation catalyst and how will you put this into action in your job?

I learnt that having fun is key to getting people on board, and that innovation is hard too. I’m always trying to convey the point that failing fast and often is important and that failing is fun. We must change the “usual” mindset where failing is frowned upon, so in the end, it’s a matter of psychology especially if you are within a “traditional” organisation or business line. Today, disruption of business models and products is happening at a fast pace, so we must adapt rapidly.

What new mindset did the programme give you?

I came out of the programme with a different energy and a positive mindset. I now find myself asking many “what if…” questions. It has become a kind of mental exercise that I apply daily. It is a way to get myself, and people outside the status-quo, to try and think different.

This new energy is important to show when working with people from inside the organisation and with clients. It brings positivity and pro-activeness into the meetings.

Why is a change of mind-set necessary when it comes to innovation?

Mind-sets need to change. Yet, some people reluctant to change. For example, you need to embrace the idea of failure. The idea of failing, failing and failing again. At some point in this process you start to realise that it makes sense. Indeed, the faster you fail, faster you can move onto another concept. In 1000 ideas, one will be good.

This was clear in one of the first workshops I organised. The energy was low. A few months later, people said the workshops and the ideas discussed during were going somewhere. I now had support from management to go in the direction I wanted to go in.

You need to embrace failure and be able to recognise that you need to spend a lot of energy failing. It will create a nice flower that will bloom.

What did you think of the ArtCentre students?

It was a unique experience having them in the workshop. They came from totally different backgrounds. What they did was fill a gap with their creative skills and with their experience of designing. They helped us prototype, for example. They are really talented artists.

What were the programme highlights?

Without spoiling too many secrets, the field visit and the live exercise was really the highlight. Totally hands on, totally unexpected and definitely valuable.

And your key takeaways?

Be a fly on the wall, have fun, fail fast.

What surprised you about the programme? What weren’t you expecting?

I wasn’t expecting to have such a practical programme. It was even exhausting, each and every minutes was well spent and totally worth the investment.

What did you think of the participant mix?

The diversity of participants, geographically and industry wise, bring much unexpected and rich feedbacks and interactions. It is one of the highlights for me.

How does Manuel Sosa help make sense of everything in the time he has with you on the programme?

Manuel has a fantastic energy on the programme. He brought a lot of passion and was a role model for us. He was always on top of his game and was inspiring. Hats off to him.

The small interventions he made here and there to reignite the energy kept everyone on track and going in the same direction. He wasn’t too directive and let things go. It was amazing how with so little intervention from his side everything was going in the direction he was planning. He’s like a magician. That is talent.

How important is continued learning?

It brings you new insights and new ideas. Being on the programme felt like I had been off from work for a lot longer than one week. It was good to be in Singapore as thanks to the time zones, I was totally disconnected.

It was also an opportunity to work on stuff that is completely different from the day-to-day. For example, one of the exercises was to redesign the shopping experience at an open air marketing in Singapore. It was completely different and very refreshing.

From what you have been saying, it sounds like the programme was a one of a kind experience?

I think what is interesting is really how the programme is being marketed up front. Personally, had the feeling of going into a very unique experience in a unique place. All the preparatory material beforehand, together with the communication from INSEAD, really set the scene. It made me aware that I was going to live a unique experience. The programme is only three days, but you need to make the most out of it. I was really buzzed and did feel that it was a one in a lifetime experience. You have to put yourself into that mind-set before arriving in order to get the most out of the programme.

How would you describe the programme to someone?

Prepare to get your mind blown. If you’re interested to learn about innovation through design, this is the place to be.