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Sheila Shah '14 talks about HICCup's "Way to Wellville" initiative at the KIN Global 2014 conference.

KIN Global 2014

The multiplier effect

Student teams explore how progress and change are scaled at this year's KIN Global conference

By Rachel Farrell

6/5/2014 - Take a big, bold idea. Now figure out how to scale it.

That was the challenge seized by three student teams participating in the KIN 2014 Challenge, a new initiative launched by the Kellogg Innovative Network (KIN) this year. The teams presented their results on May 30 at KIN Global 2014, an annual, three-day conference that focused on topics related to global prosperity.

For the challenge, each of the teams — selected from a pool of 40 — were paired with business and government leaders and asked to find solutions to unique problems that the leaders were facing within their organizations. At one point, each leader had been a keynote speaker at KIN Global, said Robert C. Wolcott, co-founder and executive director of KIN. “They’re all making change happen.”

The first team paired up with renowned technology investor and philanthropist Esther Dyson, founder and chairman of the Connecticut-based nonprofit HICCup, who was interested in securing sustainable funding for her Way to Wellville health care initiative. The second team worked with Ann Hand, CEO of Project Frog, who wanted to explore strategies for scaling her San Francisco-based, green-building business.

The third worked with John Hickenlooper, governor of the State of Colorado. A successful entrepreneur-turned-civil-servant, Hickenlooper sought an innovative, public-private partnership model for large capital-works projects.

Looking inward

During their presentation, students on “Team Hand” explained that they tackled their challenge by first identifying opportunities for improvement within Project Frog. Labor inefficiencies, overhead costs and material thefts were costing Project Frog “approximately $26 million a year,” said Karn Raj Sinha ’14, a MMM student who formerly served as a principal technologist at Rolls Royce. “So [we asked ourselves], how can we use technology to streamline these processes?”

The team proposed that by using a combination of three technologies—radio-frequency identification (RFID), augmented reality and cloud computing—Project Frog could standardize and streamline the way its buildings are constructed. They envisioned a system in which construction workers could use a device to scan a section of a building — say, a staircase — download step-by-step instructions for constructing that section, search the inventory for any missing parts and then automatically order those parts.

Growth, growth, growth

The KIN 2014 Challenge was in keeping with the conference’s theme, Change@Scale, which focused on strategies to grow new ventures and initiatives. The conference drew distinguished delegates from a range of industries and institutions representing more than 20 countries, including Mark Sirangelo, CEO of Sierra Nevada Space Systems; Kristian Bush, a Grammy-award-winning artist and founder of Sugarland; Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871; Curtis Chin, former U.S. ambassador to the Asian Development Bank; and Lt. General Brad Heithold, vice commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.

Dean Sally Blount also addressed conference-goers (or “KINians” as they’re called), extolling the importance of growth as a change agent. “What I love about the topic of growth and scaling is it’s so fundamental to making the world a better place,” she said. “We all need to be thinking about growth in people, growth in organizations and growth in markets.”