Interview with Innovation Lab Director, Lotta Hassi

By Anna Bernadó & Nicholas Sayaan

With Innovation Summit 2014 less than a day away, it’s time to really get into a design thinking mindset so we can get the most out of the speakers, networking, and mini case competitions (with prizes) available to us tomorrow. What better way than to ask our very own Innovation Lab director, Lotta Hassi, a few questions regarding innovation programs at ESADE as well as design thinking itself? Many thanks to Lotta for taking the time to answer our questions!

1. Some first year students may not be very familiar with design thinking or how it may be a practical skill for the MBA and beyond. Can you tell us generally what design thinking means to you? Why is design thinking or an innovative approach to problems important for future business leaders?

Design thinking is a user-centered approach to innovation that has its roots in the design disciplines, such as for example architecture or industrial design. So, one way to look at design thinking is that the tools used by designers are now put into the hands of people who are not professionally trained designers, and these tools are being applied to solve problems that are not design problems in the traditional sense of ‘design’.

To give some examples, companies are using design thinking to improve services and internal processes or to create new products. Here in ESADE student teams have applied the approach to solve challenges such as “How to fight digital piracy?”, “How to redesign the patient experience in primary care of a hospital?” or “How could personal transport solutions be produced and purchased as a service?”

Design thinking is an explorative process driven by a deep user understanding and iterative prototyping, and that’s why it’s able to support in projects where you don’t have clear specifications at the beginning. In other words, there is uncertainty about what exactly should be done and how. Imagine for example that previous question about digital piracy: there is no single clear solution and we lack the information to write a plan for the successful execution of a project. Design thinking helps to create that necessary information. So, it is a valuable approach to know when you are working in situations of uncertainty, such as for example creating a new venture.

2. In its inaugural year, what is your vision for Innovation Lab and which aspect(s) do you believe students will benefit most from?

I think the i-Lab should both inspire and empower its members. We want to provide access to the knowledge of universities, research centers and individuals who are active experts in specific areas of innovation, and at the same time help in building relationships with these parties. That allows deepening your understanding, as well as developing practical skills in the areas of innovation that each of us finds most interesting. I hope to see the innovation lab bring together the students in ESADE who share an interest in innovation, but at the same time bring in their own passions and different perspectives to innovation. So when the i-Lab takes its shape and evolves through the interaction with its members, it will become something unique.

3. What is something you’d like to see D&! club do in the future to increase engagement and excitement in innovation?

The D&! Club has been very active in creating a conversation around innovation and involving the MBA’s in learning certain skills and methodologies related to innovation. I have seen the club now move the conversation towards “how could we broaden the view on innovation and how the topic is approached at ESADE.” I hope the club keeps facilitating that conversation through their activities, but also through the tight collaboration with the i-Lab.

I also hope that more students find a way to become active members of the club, because there can be a great power in student-led initiatives, such as the Summit. This week in Helsinki the 7th edition of a startup event called Slush takes place, and it is an entirely student-led initiative that now draws thousands of entrepreneurs and almost 800 investors from all corners of the world to participate in the event – amongst them also the prime minister of Finland. What started as a small event of entrepreneurial students has now grown into a significant international event. I believe it is thanks to having like-minded passionate students come together to form a strong community, receiving support from the university behind them, and not being too shy in setting their goals high from the very beginning.

4. Why is important for ESADE to host and organize an event like the Innovation Summit?

The Innovation Summit allows us to actively participate in and shape the discussion in the field of innovation. It demonstrates that there is an active innovation community in ESADE that wants to bring together people from different organizations and inspire them to collaborate. Through the summit, the MBA’s can focus our attention to the areas of innovation that they consider important for today.

ESADE Innovation Summit 2014

As for the Innovation Summit itself, don’t forget to bring your laptops. Also, definitely don’t forget to use the #‎ESADEIS2014 and the #‎theESADEmba hashtags in all your posts/tweets/instagrams/smoke signals/etc. about the event. Let’s make some social media noise! We are looking forward to an amazing day with all of you at Innovation Summit 2014!

When: Thursday, 20th November, 9:00 am
Where: ESADE Sant Cugat Campus
What: Speakers, Networking, Mini Case Competition
Who is coming: you + me + awesome companies
Dress code: Business Casual

Preliminary Schedule:
9:00 am: Registration, Breakfast & Networking
9:30 – lunch: Kickoff and Speakers from the Innovation field
Networking Lunch
After lunch: Mini case competition in teams for a specific company
Presentations & Judging, Awarding of Prizes
7:00 pm: Closing Cocktail

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