Partnerships between different industries are the key to extract the most value out of this opportunity, so the big question then is who to partner with and why?
CEMS students from Bocconi University had the unique opportunity to work on a Business Project with Whirlpool to answer this question. CEMS interviewed the students, professor and company employees involved in the project.
Professor Silvia Zamboni:
I teach Innovation and Technology Management, so the project is a real application of new technologies that open up different possibilities of innovation in different industries, collaborating with other players (collaborative and open innovation), catching latent needs in different fields compared to the home appliances industry and underlining the need of understanding which are the benefits for all the stakeholders involved in a collaborative project that wants to innovate in a cross-industry manner.
Students had the possibility to enlarge their perspectives thinking about the meaning of innovation: how to look for new market opportunities, how to exploit existing or improved technologies, how to search for the right partner(s), how to generate insights of what could create value for new customers and new partners in a win-win strategy.
I had the possibility to see the evolution of an emergent technology applied to an emergent new market. The collaboration with the company was very open and fruitful, both for students and for me. I had the possibility to see in details a portion of a process that I usually teach in class in general terms.
I think that the value of this project resides in the possibility of companies to get in touch with structured approaches and methodologies and, on the other side, the university can better understand the changing dynamics of a technology, a category of product, a consumer trend or anything else that could directly affect one single company with its specific culture and heritage. Lastly, the students can simulate a consultancy approach with the safe net of an academic help and a company representative help.
The Student Team of Centanni Marco, Gauthier Claire, Gebka Olga, Ghisoni Erica, Misan Yair:
There is no doubt that in today’s business world technology plays a crucial role by shaping companies’ business models and the way organizations compete in their markets. Our team was particularly interested in exploring the impact of technology in a specific industry – the home appliance one - that is generally perceived as being very traditional, without real sources of breakthrough innovations. Moreover, our general interest in technology has further driven us towards choosing this project.
Working on such a hot topic has been challenging and extremely interesting at the same time. We needed to bring together two different modes of work: rigorous methodology and breakthrough creativity. On the one hand, we had to go through a structured process of focus groups and individual interviews, necessary to gather insights from our target customers. On the other hand, once analysed the results, we aimed to “think outside the box” finding new ways to satisfy the identified customer needs.
Working with the company has been extremely smooth, pleasant and motivating. Our Company Tutor was always available to help us out and clarify the expectations of the project. One of the moments when commitment of the company was clearly visible was when, in the middle of a meeting, our Tutor stood up and started drawing the theoretical model he wanted us to use on the whiteboard and gave us a lecture on how to best analyse customers’ needs and habits. It has been a really captivating point and a sign for us that we may always rely on the Tutor and be given any explanation we may need along the project.
One of the greatest added values of the CEMS program is to create a direct contact between students and companies. The Business Project has proven that Companies really value CEMS students and are keen to ask for their input on business situations that are critical to them.
Company Tutor (Marco Signa and Nadine Vieker):
The Smart Home is 'THE' topic of the moment, with virtually all industries focussing on products and services for it. Appliance manufacturers are no exception and Smart Appliances are quite a growing trend globally. Being 'smart' doesn't mean to be just connected to internet, it is about offering new services and functionalities that may leverage the “internet of things” or just the possibility to be remotely accessed. The creation of new functionalities is the real challenge and we believe that the most sucessessful functionalities will be those that link different products together.
We had a few interesting ideas, but the uniqueness was more on the perspective, since they were identified by a young group of students interviewing other young students. It is a glimpse of what young customers may really consider of interest and this is not something easy to replicate with the traditional tools and processes that a company has.
Our company benefits from the opportunity to interact with people that have a completely different perspective, not 'polluted' by years of practice in a specific sector, which is always interesting to get out of the traditional schemes and point of view we have in the company.
Whirlpool is seeking top talents with the right mix of academic background, first work and international experiences. Talents who not only have theoretical knowledge, but also know how they can apply it to the real world. Here CEMS is contributing immensely because the program is giving students the opportunities to "bridge" between those and acquire also advanced soft skills.