Reflecting on Summer Academy Learnings
During the innovation challenge week, Summer Academy, Proakatemia collaborated with Swiss master’s students from the Innokick program. Throughout the week, we learned about various innovation tools and listened to an inspirational speech. To reflect on the week and understand the topics covered, the following essay will further examine the innovation tools presented and topic of the inspirational speech.
After dividing into the innovation teams and receiving the challenge from the client on the first day, the second day began with a workshop on various innovation tools used by the Swiss students in the past. The timing of the workshop was ideal, as it was right before the real innovation process began and provided us with ideas on how to get started.
Tool 1: Design thinking
The first tool shared was known as the design thinking process. This tool has been gaining popularity in both the business and management fields as it considers the entire process of developing something new and is centered on the innovation of a product or service that is useful and desirable (Dell’Era et al. 2019, 325). By considering the existing market, customers development process, launching of the innovation, and feedback all at once, the product or service being created has a much more thorough base that allows for efficient modifications.
Innovating something new that will solve a challenge faced by real people is difficult and it is imperative to involve the future users of the solution. One thing I noticed during the innovation week was how the Swiss students pushed for testing the idea as fast as possible to gain insights from possible users and then integrate the feedback into developing the solution further before another testing round. This is a core aspect of design thinking that although our team didn’t necessarily follow, was still in the background of the innovation work we completed during the week.
Tool 2: Random object
The second tool presented was known as the random object tool, more officially known as extended mind map. The purpose of the tool is to generate new ideas and patterns that can be linked to the innovation solution or process (Michalko n.d.).
There are a few steps that go into the process of using the tool. First, the team needs to select a random object to begin the mind map. For our group, we chose a bag of peach iced tea flavored chewing gum. Next, the team needs to list out all of the characteristics and details connected to the object. For example, some of the descriptive words we wrote were sharable, orange, cheap, and fun.
From there, connections between the characteristics listed and the innovation challenge presented need to be made (Michalko n.d.). My team asked the question, ‘what is the first word that comes to mind when you think about ______ characteristic?’. Some additional questions to spark creativity are, ‘What are the similarities?’ or, ‘…is like the solution to the innovation because?’. For our team, we connected the word sharable with being friendly, and the word orange with security or warning.
Lastly, the connections should be combined, and it should be considered whether an idea or solution could be developed from them (Michalko n.d.). Since my team had already done a round of ideating and innovation, we connected the already existing ideas to each of the connecting words to narrow down the selection. For example, from the words orange -> security, we took one of our ideas which was intranet, and connected it to those words. As our innovation challenge focused on the internal communication of a local entrepreneurial start-up community, this was one step closer into developing a solid solution for the client.
Tool 3: SCAMPER
The third tool presented was called SCAMPER, which is an innovation tool best used to further develop, create, and expand an already existing idea or solution (Pumpo 2019). The acronym SCAMPER is made up of seven separate innovation steps where the so-called idea or solution can be filtered through each step to help create alternatives. Although our team did not use this tool, it is an important one to remember when the innovation process may be stuck in a rut or lacking in creativity.
To allow for easier understanding of the tool, a mandarin will be used as the example existing product. Each step of SCAMPER has been defined below:
S – Substitute: This step focuses on replacing a part of the product or service. In the case of the mandarin, this could be substituting the insides with a lime, creating a fusion of the two fruits.
C – Combine: The second step focuses on the idea of merging multiple ideas. A simple example for the mandarin would be to combine it with water to make juice.
A – Adapt: The third step allows for the changing of an idea that will produce an improved output. By adding a hat or antlers to a mandarin, it may have a better purpose.
M – Modify: The fourth step aims at altering the size of the idea or modifying the process in which the idea is created. For a mandarin, this may mean growing a mandarin differently to produce one large mandarin big enough to feed a family.
P – Put to another use: The fifth step focuses on using the current idea or materials to solve a different challenge. A mandarin could be instead used as an ornament, a stress ball, or air freshener.
E – Eliminate: The sixth step encourages innovators to remove an aspect of the idea entirely to improve it in some way. An easy example would be to remove the peel of a mandarin completely, as that would make it easier and faster to eat it.
R – Reverse: The seventh and last step of this innovation tool aims at changing the order of how the idea is executed. This is challenging to think about for a mandarin, but exporting the fruit elsewhere instead of importing it is one way.
In the middle of the week we listened to an inspirational speech from the CEO of Nordic Start-up Ventures, a local company that develops, mentors, and invests in start-ups. The topic of the speech was ‘What makes a good entrepreneur? Founder? Start-up CEO? And life balance?’. After listening to the background of the CEO and his journey of becoming an entrepreneur, founder, and CEO, we were tasked with answering each of the questions above in our teams.
By using a mind map style of ideating, our team worked together to first discuss what we think the differences are between all of the terms and write down all of the characteristics we could think of in the time given. In the photo below, all of our characteristics are written, however, the main learning from this practice was noticing how being an entrepreneur is more of an attitude or mindset, whereas a founder is an entrepreneur who actually has an established company.
Picture 1. Mind Map from inspirational speech.
In the top right of the mind map we wrote down a few words that resonate with all four of the terms, which were reflection, improvement, trust, being well surrounded, and ambition. We noticed that although there are differences between all of the terms, there is also a lot of overlap between them and it is challenging to think about one without mentioning the other. However, the most important term which was highlighted in the speech was having a life-balance. There are no sustainable or healthy entrepreneurs, CEOs or founders that do not prioritise having a work-life balance in some way.
Overall, the week with the Swiss master’s degree students was full of learning new working methods, practicing innovation tools, cultural comparison, and teamwork. The innovation tools will come in handy when my own team company prepares for our 24H innovation challenge and so will the reminder of having balance between working and living.
Michalko, M. n.d. Random Object Creativity Technique. Think Jar Collective. Read 13.09.2023. https://thinkjarcollective.com/tools/random-object-creativity-technique/
Pumpo, A. 2019. SCAMPER Technique for Create Thinkers. Europass Teacher Academy. Read 08.09.2023. https://www.teacheracademy.eu/blog/scamper-technique-for-creative-thinkers/
Dell’Era, C., Magistretti, S. Cautela, C. Verganti, R. & Zurlo, F. 2019. Four kinds of design thinking : From ideating to making, engaging, and criticizing. Wiley Online Library. Creativity and Innovation Management 29 (2), 324-344. https://doi.org/10.1111/caim.12353