Organisations need to innovate digital products and services faster than ever before. This requires new skills for digital innovation but gaining skills is challenging. Traditional university lectures and classes are excellent at providing the vital theoretical backgrounds; for example in platforms, business strategy, digital infrastructures, systems development approaches, cloud computing and agility, yet they are poorly designed to provide a visceral understanding of how agile teams really innovate. Addressing this challenge we drew inspiration from Mark Thompson at Judge Business School who has run small sprints within their MBA and we developed a 1-week “Sprint week” bootcamp within our core MSc course.
This week all our 120+ MSc students studying “Management, Information Systems and Digital Innovation” are coming together in teams of 6 to innovate a new product or service for a real global company during a 5 day sprint . They are supported by faculty and by consultants from Roland Berger who run similar sprint innovations for blue-chip clients, and by the client’s digital innovation expert.
In essence our week follows the Sprint method set out in Jake Knapp’s book “Sprint: How to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days” with some significant changes:
- Students will use richer (and more complex) modelling methodologies, which makes sure groups appreciate the different cultural, social and organisational perspectives within their design. This ensure they produce designs which are both systemically desirable but also “culturally feasible” wherever they will be applied.
- Students will be pushed to not just produce solutions based on user interface or web design. They must develop a coherent digital design using basic UML modelling techniques alongside Wardley mapping techniques, to ensure a realistic strategic design.
- Interspersed with the innovation work are a few short lectures – refreshing them on key techniques and introducing challenges their design will face.
On the Friday, the consultants will select the top groups for a Friday afternoon “Dragon’s Den” where experts from the global company, Roland Berger, and from the consulting and software industry, will put those groups through their paces – asking the difficult questions and pointing out the failings in their design. Finally, and most importantly, there is a party on the Friday evening (kindly sponsored by Roland Berger).
As the week counts for 50% of the student’s course mark, their designs will be marked by LSE academics based on LSE assessment criteria – something that is important to ensure this is not a “game” but a deliverable for our students.
Students will benefit from this unique opportunity and will experience some of the frustration, stress and elation of this kind of digital innovation work. Students will also get a chance to show in future job interviews that they know how to work in groups on digital innovation work, for a real client under real pressure.
One group might just come up with the next big thing and then, perhaps, be given a chance to work with the client to develop it further!
Will Venters 2017.
- Knapp, J., J. Zeratsky, and B. Kowitz, Sprint: How to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days. 2016: Simon and Schuster.
- Checkland, P., Systems Thinking, Systems Practice. 1981, Chichester: Wiley. 330.
- Checkland, P. and J. Poulter, Learning for Action: A short definitive account of Soft Systems Methodology and its use for Practitioners, Teachers and Students. 2006, Chichester, UK: John Wiley and Sons.
- Checkland, P. and J. Scholes, Soft Systems Methodology in Action. 1990, Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.