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IMG_7165 copyOne of my favorite experiences at Kellogg to date was participating in the recently completed Kellogg Business Design Challenge hosted by the IDEA club. As a MMM student and someone interested in pursuing a career in design and innovation, signing up was a no brainer. But the experience far exceeded my expectations thanks to the real-world problem my team got to solve, the friendships I made and the lessons I learned.

The problem we were presented by our client, Scotch, was to use a human-centered approach to identify an opportunity in the elementary/middle school education market that delivered a social value proposition.

Through extensive in-field research and interviews across various stakeholders, we found such an opportunity among teachers, who faced a couple challenges when decorating their classrooms. We learned that not only do teachers spend a tremendous amount of money out of pocket to decorate, but some of the supplies they buy for this purpose don’t deliver when it comes to quality. To solve both parts of this problem, we developed a solution called “Scotch Sticks up for Teachers,” which featured both a new product line and a donation program.

It was really gratifying to present this solution to the client and hear that it was feasible with existing technology and partnerships, and that the idea was big enough in terms of the “size of the prize” to be financially viable for the Scotch brand. We also heard from countless teachers how thrilled they would be if such a product and program existed, which was incredibly validating.

Beyond solving the problem, I couldn’t have had a better experience with my team: Elsa Augustine, JP Tucker, Jeff Kwong and Adam Slabowski. Coming together at the beginning of the quarter, it was the first time any of us had worked together, and for some, the first time we’d met! While this uncertainty initially made me nervous, I quickly realized that everyone brought a passion for the challenge and commitment to the team that was truly impressive. We instantly bonded over our common cause. Thanks to our great dynamic, we’ve already reconvened at a local watering hole a couple times to catch up, and we’re actively planning for our next design competition appearance.

Finally, as if the great project outcome and amazing friendships weren’t enough, I also learned a ton. I’m a true believer in the user-centered design process, as I’ve seen it lead to some really fascinating insights and innovative solutions when applied thoughtfully and effectively. Thanks to the awesome organization of the KBDC program and multiple practical workshops on the process led by design professionals from firms across Chicago, everyone who participated was able to learn these design process best practices.

We also got tremendous support and feedback from the second year organizers, had a chance to review our interim solution with the client (who made a special trip in from Minnesota), and were judged during the final presentation by an all-star cast of industry professionals from IDEO and IA Collaborative, who provided invaluable feedback.

In short, I can’t say enough good things about my experience with the Kellogg Business Design Challenge and the learnings and friendships it fostered. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in design and innovation at Kellogg!