Lessons from Corporate Innovators

Special Episode: CSL Demo Day

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As a special episode this week, we’re broadcasting the full audio of our annual CSL Demo Day. If you would prefer to watch the video, you can see the full video of Demo Day on the Corporate Startup Lab site.

Full Transcript

Sean Ammirati (00:08):
Welcome to Agile Giants lessons from corporate innovators. I’m Sean Ammirati, your host. Co-founder and Director of the Carnegie Mellon Corporate Startup Lab and partner at the early stage venture capital fund Birchmere Ventures. Each week, I’m going to talk to guests who are experts at creating startups inside large corporations. I believe fundamentally a startup within a company is the same as one inside the proverbial garage, a group of entrepreneurs, trying to make the world a better place using new ideas and inventions. However, I also believe some of the techniques and processes are just inherently different. This podcast is going to explore those similarities and differences.

Sean Ammirati (00:56):
Welcome to a special episode of Agile Giants. One of the highlights of the year at the Corporate Startup Lab is our annual Demo Day. This is the culmination of a project course that we run every spring semester. In this course, established companies sponsor students to validate and explore corporate startup ideas. A team of five to six grad students from across campus act like corporate entrepreneurs. Typically an MBA, a few designers, and some engineers working with the corporate sponsor who acts like their board of directors, along with myself and two other CMU instructors.

Sean Ammirati (01:30):
We’ve done this for three years and every year it feels like the best. Even with COVID, this was no exception this year. For perspective, those of you who remember Gustavo Lopez interview on Agile Giants, his Safety IO program started as a CSL project. Anyways, we finish this with a public Demo Day where the team share lessons learned and also kick it off with a brief annual report on CSL progress that I do. After this, the teams and the sponsors have a private demo day where they share their ideas.

Sean Ammirati (02:03):
We obviously can’t share the private part because of NDAs and intellectual property. Many companies will actually go on to commercialize these ideas over the next year, like MSA did. However, I did want to share the public Demo Day. I’m biased, but this is an amazing program and the students have done a fantastic job. Many of them have listened to the interviews across this community, and now it’s their chance to share their lessons learned about innovation with that same community. Also because of COVID, this was done over zoom. So, I’ll share a link in the show notes where you can see the video on the CSL site.

Sean Ammirati (02:37):
If you prefer to see the slides and the speaker videos along with the content. Finally, if your company would like to sponsor a CSL project next January, please reach out to me now. Even though January is far away, we typically locked down all the sponsors over the summer so that we’re able to spend the fall recruiting the right students for the specific teams.

Sean Ammirati (03:06):
All right, everyone. Thanks so much for joining our Demo Day. We have done this a couple times in person in the Swartz Center. And obviously in this unique time, we wanted to not lose the demo day experience, but bring it to a format that would work and similar to what we’ve been doing for class for the last couple of months, we thought we would do the public part of the demo day over zoom. So, I appreciate so many of you logging in and joining tonight. I know we had over a hundred people beyond the students register for this, which I really appreciate and appreciate the support.

Sean Ammirati (03:41):
Just what we’re going to do here, similar to what we’ve done for those of you who’ve been to the Corporate Startup Lab Demo Days before is I’m going to start giving a little overview of the Corporate Startup Lab Program, just a little bit of a state of what’s going on in the program. And then we will have four different team presentations with a student from each of the teams sharing, which is the meat of the demo day. Then I’ll finish up with just a couple of things that we’re looking forward to at CSL. And then for those of you who are not sponsoring one of the four projects, the a hundred or so guests of you.

Sean Ammirati (04:16):
The evening should wrap up about seven o’clock. For those of you who are our project sponsors, obviously you should have a separate zoom link in your calendar for a meeting that will start at seven o’clock, which will be the one-on-one presentations between the student teams and the sponsors. I think it’s always helpful to start about just contextualizing why CSL is part of the Swartz Center. And we’ve reduced the number of speakers here so in the past on my colleague and the director of the Swartz Center has talked a little bit about how the CSL fits into the entrepreneurship program at CMU, but just quickly some context on that. When we talk about entrepreneurship at the Swartz Center, this is the definition for entrepreneurship that I like to use.

Sean Ammirati (05:01):
I like to say that entrepreneurs are people who look out into the world, see things in the world that aren’t as they should be and build products and services that really make the world as it ought to be. And that may feel a bit fluffy, but think for just a moment with me, all the different ways that the world is more magical today than it was 20 years ago. From the Tesla in your driveway, to the Peloton in your basement, to the iPhone in your pocket, each of those things have made your life different and more magical. And also each of those products was introduced by an entrepreneur.

Sean Ammirati (05:40):
Now, the interesting thing is when you look at those three examples, I think everybody’s nodding their heads saying, “Yeah, those are good examples of entrepreneurial thinking, but here’s what’s interesting.” One of those three examples, obviously the iPhone was created by a company that was a very large company before Apple introduced the iPhone. Now, today, obviously the iPhone is a significant portion of the overall revenue for Apple, but when the iPhone project was started, it was a small group inside of a large company with the goal to become a very large part of that large company.

Sean Ammirati (06:16):
And kind of a guiding principle since myself and the team at CSL started the Corporate Startup Lab in 2017 was that we believe startups where those are the iPhones or Teslas can exist and thrive anywhere. And then the second part is important, including inside large corporations, but the processes and tools to do those inside large corporations are just different than those needed by the startups inside the proverbial garage. Like, and usually at this moment, I would point to the 10 Swartz Center startup garages and say exactly the startups being created inside of all of the Swartz Center garages right now.

Sean Ammirati (06:54):
Coming back to this corporate startup activity, we’ve been looking at this for a number of years now here going on four years. And one of the things that’s just become so, so evident is how important this is for companies, for these large companies to actually figure out how to create and thrive with these corporate startups. And this is just one chart that I think is not surprising on one hand, but maybe the slope of the line is surprising. This was research done by Innosight looking at companies and how long they stay on the S&P 500.

Sean Ammirati (07:33):
And just to contextualize this for a minute, in 1955, if your company made the S&P 500 list, you would have a good chance that your successor and his or her successor would all stay on that list. If you imagine, 15 to 20 year, 10 years as CEO, if you make the SMP 500 list today, you’re just hoping to make it out of your tenure. And what we’ve come to believe is what we call these corporate startups or these sort of blend of adjacent, and then truly transformation activities, really are the key to not disappearing. And I think one quote that I often use to talk about this comes from Jeff Bezos in the first Amazon shareholder letter.

Sean Ammirati (08:22):
This is Amazon’s first letter that the CEO and founder is going to Wall Street. And he says, “Look, given a 10% chance of a hundred times pay up, you should take that bet every time.” And I think we all know mathematically, I mean, this is Carnegie Mellon we’re good at math. We all know mathematically that that’s true, but one of the things we’ve come to appreciate is just how few companies actually operate that way. And so, over the last four years, as part of the Schwartz Center, we’ve been really focused on researching and promoting the mission of transformative innovation within companies.

Sean Ammirati (08:58):
And we’ve done this across five different activities. The student courses up at the top there, that’s really what tonight is a celebration all about. And we’re going to talk about that in more detail in a couple of minutes. Research that we’ve done, tools we’ve created, executive education that we’ve done. And then some even off the record, what we call private round tables or what I often like to tell the executives, consider your under frieNDA not a formal NDA, but kind of act like you’re under an NDA. And at this point, the CSL has amazing momentum, but I just wanted to take a moment and talk about how we got here. And then talk a little bit about what’s happened over the last semester.

Sean Ammirati (09:39):
I think last year when I did this, one of the attendees joke, this was kind of like the state of the union for the Corporate Startup Lab. To pick right up on that, the state of the union for CSL right now is doing very well. This started back in April of 2016. There’s a number of you on the call who remember this. I had a book that came out and spent a bunch of times with companies that were trying to look at lessons from my book, which was really targeting traditional entrepreneurs and how they could apply those inside their company.

Sean Ammirati (10:10):
About a year later and myself and a PhD student, who’s the co-founder, at the time he was a PhD student, now he’s a proud CMU graduate, but Matt Crespi, who many of you now. For those of you who haven’t heard, Matt has graduated and congratulations to him for that. But Matt and I did an independent study where we talked to about 10 different students about this question of how are traditional and corporate startups similar and different. Coming out of that work in the summer and fall of 2017, then Associate Senior Dean Laurie Weingart and Swartz Director Dave Mawhinney kind of officially blessed the Corporate Startup Lab. And we made it a thing in spring of 2018. We did a pilot course of the same course that we’re celebrating tonight. We did our first version of that three years ago, we had four sponsors and 23 graduate students coming out of that.

Sean Ammirati (11:02):
Laurie was at that point, the interim provost and the Associate Deans Sevin and Allen actually approved this to become a course that was taught every year. You can kind of see throughout this, we’ve continued to have the support of both the Swartz Center and Tepper through this. And then, over the last year or so, we’ve just had an amazing momentum. Last spring we did our first reverse pitches event. We did one of our first private round tables, the second cohort of the CSL project course. At the end of that project courses, for those of you who attended last year, remember at the end, we announced a partnership with Optum creating the Optum Startup Studio. We’ve now had two companies accepted into that.

Sean Ammirati (11:49):
And we still have a room for one more company in this cohort this year. For those of you interested in healthcare startups broadly, that could be a great opportunity for you. You can go to optumstartupstudio.com to see that, or I actually just published a podcast today on my podcast, Agile Giants with Paul Nielsen, who’s the business leader for Optum who runs that. And so, that launched the summer of 2019. And then this past fall, we launched our first custom exec ed program with Optum. We also became the Tepper, MIPD track Capstone option, and you’ll get a chance to meet some of those Capstone students tonight. And then finally, just over the last semester, we’ve added two more faculty members that I’ll talk about in a minute.

Sean Ammirati (12:37):
We’ve added an academic program manager. We’ll introduce again, in a moment we’ve kicked off our first IRB approved network study so had to go through the whole IRB process to get that approved, which was work, but thankfully we’re through it now. And it’s our first true academic research project. We’ve launched the CSL fellows that I’ll talk about. And then this course tonight, we did our third project course here. First of all, the new CSL team members, Laurie and Melissa, who many of you in the Pittsburgh area know they came alongside me now that Matt has graduated and have helped me teach the class.

Sean Ammirati (13:17):
They’ve done an incredible job with that on both of them have multiple decades of experience in marketing. Laurie was both CEO of a startup, had a number of other roles in venture backed startups and some corporate roles. Melissa has a tremendous amount of experience across a number of different large companies and teaches a number of classes here at Tepper and also at the Integrated Innovation Institute, including a product and brand strategy class and a new product development class.

Sean Ammirati (13:46):
And then Hallie, who many of you have been getting emails from as this whole program has come together, came on as the academic program manager for CSL, which has been just great to have additional bandwidth. And she’s done an incredible job for us. We’ve added three new team members this semester. We also launched this program with numo and Optum, which we’re calling CSL Fellows. Many of you know, I also have a day job if you will, as a partner in a venture capital firm. One of the things I’ve been really interested in, is how corporate venture associates may be an interesting career path for many of our students. We’ve actually had five of them this semester work for four months on a paid fellowship with numo which is part of PNC and Optum actually acting like CVC associates. It’s been a great pilot program.

Sean Ammirati (14:37):
And over the summer, we hope to clarify plans for next academic year. And then the course for this year kind of stepping into obviously what we’re really here to talk about tonight. This course every year I say, this is the third year I say it, this course is just as good as it can get and every year the students surprise me and it gets even better. This year we had basically four students apply for every student admitted into the course. We have every college on CMUs campus represented. In years past we had four of the six colleges represented. In the years past, we’ve had Tepper, Heinz, the School of Computer Science and The School of Engineering.

Sean Ammirati (15:21):
We added this year, The School of Fine Arts, with the design student and the Mellon College of Science with a PhD, giving us a PhD in physics. We have all six colleges represented this year. And the four who’ve been involved in the past, they’re still participating plus those other two. And we actually cover 11 different majors this year. We had four great sponsors this year, Bosch, Giant Eagle, numo and Optum three of those four are returning sponsors from the last year, which I think is just a great sign that the companies are getting value from this. And certainly the continued increase in popularity from the students to participate in this really, I think shows the demand and the interest on this from a student perspective.

Sean Ammirati (16:06):
I should say, we also had a similar ratio for the CSL fellows we had over 20 students apply for those five slots, for the CSL fellowship. Just to kind of quickly let you guys know for those of you who are dialing in, the process that brought us to tonight. On January 28th, we’d been meeting as a class for two weeks and we had a deep dive with the four sponsors that I mentioned formally kicking off the project. That night, I gave everybody these countdown clocks and you can see, and a little less than an hour will be having them actually present to their sponsors. That was the kickoff.

Sean Ammirati (16:45):
And I said, at the time we had a little less than a hundred days, how fast a hundred days we’re going to go. Certainly didn’t know this year, that would also involve a pandemic, but it’s always moved quick. And it moved even quicker this year. And early February coming out of that kickoff, we spent some time using some CSL tools to frame out the project. Late February through April, really focused on each of the teams learning as much as they could about the company startup ideas.

Sean Ammirati (17:13):
And then over the last couple of weeks, we’ve really transitioned to help them figure out how to synthesize and present their results back to the sponsors. I am incredibly excited about where all four of the projects ended up tonight. What we can’t do because each of the four ideas are covered under an NDA between the sponsors and Carnegie Mellon is actually have the teams get a chance to come up and pitch their idea. But what we’ve done the last two years, it’s been really well received. And we wanted to do again tonight is ask, a representative of each of the four teams to just share about six minute presentations on what they learned about corporate innovation from this project.

Sean Ammirati (17:54):
What I’d like to do now is hand that over and we’re going to go in this order. We’re going to go Giant Eagle, then Optum, then numo, which again is part of PNC and then Bosch. And so, we’ll go consecutively through those four presentations. And then I’ll just wrap us up at the end here, but let’s go ahead and we’ll move to Shetara. Who’s going to present from the Giant Eagle team.

Shetara Edden (18:15):
Awesome. Thank you all for joining tonight. I’m super excited to share what our team has learned over this semester. And there’s many lessons that we’ve learned, but we bolded down to a growth mindset and how you can excel in a growth mindset in corporate innovation. Our team was working with the Giant Eagle client and we are a diverse team with different functions and different backgrounds across different industries. Jeera and myself, having a business background, Harshi with an engineering background, Soreel little with a dev software background and Amy with a design background.

Shetara Edden (18:56):
But as you can tell, none of our backgrounds really involve grocery. This was definitely a new territory for us and being challenged with this new territory, we were really able to figure out how can we shift really from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. And for those who aren’t familiar with what that may mean, it really means moving away from what is comfortable and looking at challenges and obstacles as a way to grow and solve problems and not be stuck. It’s about adapting, it’s about not being afraid if you fail, but learning from your failures and really having ownership over success.

Shetara Edden (19:35):
And it’s not just attribute it to luck. One thing we learned as far as having a growth mindset is really to be unbiased. One of the potential clients that we looked at for our project was the elderly community. And our expectations of that was bearing like they weren’t in tune to technology or they weren’t maybe really involving social circles or not exploring new behaviors. But after we got to research and do some interviews, we really realized that our limited mindset was preventing us from thinking creatively about solutions for this potential audience.

Shetara Edden (20:12):
Another lesson that we learned around growth was agility. So, in the grocery industry, it’s a very traditional industry. And in our initial look at market research, we noticed that companies in this space or retailers trying to stay competitive through technology and also through delivering excellent service. But that was in January, halfway through the project just a few months later in March, the industry had completely shifted and it shifted from a very traditional industry trying to stay competitive to one that was as central and really feeling a pandemic.

Shetara Edden (20:51):
And we had to really adjust and shift in order to account for that in our recommendation. And finally ownership. In the beginning, I showed a graph about fixed mindset versus growth mindset. We learned how to have this rhythm of how can we… growth mindsets really work well for team settings and thinking about innovative solutions, vision, decision making, because it’s a team really exploring a new area together and really bringing their expertise to make that decision. We worked really well with making big decisions and aligning on visions and clarification together, but we realized in order to move faster, there’s times we had to specialize and revert back to what’s familiar and what’s known in order to build parts of the product for our prototype.

Shetara Edden (21:41):
This is something else we learned about a growth mindset that fixed is not always completely bad when it comes to speed as far as individual specialization, but in order to move forward as a team and build something new, you definitely need the growth mindset. And that includes our top three lessons that we learned from growth mindset. So, I will hand it over now to Satoshi.

Satoshi Ikehata (22:04):
Thank you, Shetara. And I’m going to share my screen. Thank you for being here today. I’m Satoshi a second year MBA. Our team has been working for Optum and united as a group. And today on behalf of Optum, I’ll walk you through what we learned from Corporate Startup Lab, and try to give you our thoughts on how to drive corporate innovation. But before jumping into detailed discussion, let me introduce our team. Again, we are Optum and we have seven talented the people Christian, Neyha, Daniella, Shenyu, Geniah, Gushaga and myself, Satoshi.

Satoshi Ikehata (22:52):
And we are all coming from very diverse backgrounds, including design, human computer interaction, computer science, data science, and business. What we as a team have learned from this program. Well, when we reflected on the entire project, we identify four critical elements that determine whether or not the corporate innovation succeeds, which includes target audience, corporation, innovation team, and underlying process driving innovation.

Satoshi Ikehata (23:30):
In the upcoming slides, I’ll go over what we learned from these four perspectives. First and foremost, target audience perspectives. What we really learned is that corporate innovation is an endless audience discovery, meaning we really want to understand target audience deeply and holistically through the innovation process. In order to get a better understanding on our audience, we talk directly to multiple audiences and was really trying to get to know everything by asking their lifestyle, what they like, dislike and their concerns early on.

Satoshi Ikehata (24:15):
And after we came up with a hypothesis about problems that our audience is facing, we also asked the audience how they feel about our hypothesis, which was really helpful for us to get a real sense of who they are. And we also interviewed influencers around our target audience because often times target audiences are not aware of their own problems. We actually reached out to 14 influencers around the target audience.

Satoshi Ikehata (24:48):
And that was really helpful for us to get a more holistic view of the problem. The next is also about our findings from target audience perspective. On the one hand, we came across the situation where the audience have visible and direct problem. It was easy to see and find it. And there are lots of supporting facts indicating that this is the problem but on the other hand, we also came a close invisible and indirect problems.

Satoshi Ikehata (25:24):
It is hard to find and how to quantify the impact, but in our case, this invisible problem is the routine cause of multiple visible and direct problems. We think that it might be easier to jump into visible problem and build solution around them. And it is true that it could work out, but we also believe that invisible problem could have more significant positive impact on all things live than visible problem does.

Satoshi Ikehata (26:01):
These are the findings from target audience standpoint. And moving on to the corporation and process perspectives, we would like to say that we learned corporations, existing assets could be both advantage and disadvantage in corporate innovation. If we had started off this project with too much focus on corporation size, such as what is the current strategy of the company, what we could utilize in the corporation, stuff like that, we did really have any missing real problems that our audience is facing. Or we would have ended up with a solution that doesn’t address the problem.

Satoshi Ikehata (26:45):
However, at the same time, after discovering audience, identifying the program that audience is facing and creating solution idea around it, we realized that there are lots of assets and resources that we could leverage in order to actually produce and deliver our solution to target audience. From this end, we’d like to say that the focus should be put around target audience, especially early on the innovation process.

Satoshi Ikehata (27:17):
But once we figure out their problems and solutions, corporation asset could really help us move innovation forward. The last piece is about team. Innovation process is kind of like this, so it would never be smooth and linear, but it would be very bumpy and wild pass. And we believe that the most powerful engine to get through this wide process and create innovation is the team. We have kind of like this, we have different backgrounds, we have different personalities. In that sense, we are very diverse, but at the same time, we share the common value such as valuing defiance, respecting team members and always audience first.

Satoshi Ikehata (28:15):
And I will say that this blend of diversity and common value helped us breakthrough status quo and drive innovation. So, that’s it. I’m not going to wrap up again, but these are what we learn firsthand from these four months Johnny. Again, thank you very much for being here today. So, now I’m going to pass to Shana.

Shana Pradeep (28:43):
Thanks to Satoshi and thanks everyone for joining us tonight from wherever you are around the world. I’m Shana. I’m going to let you know a little bit about what we as a team learned about resilience in corporate innovation. All of this year’s project teams encountered unexpected challenges in the workplace and our personal lives similar to all of you on the phone right now today. As we progressed, we found that our success was a product of the resilience that we built as a team early on in the semester and that developed over time. Our team was partnered with numo, a FinTech incubator backed by PNC Bank, as Sean mentioned earlier. And we’re located right here in Pittsburgh.

Shana Pradeep (29:19):
Numo is part startup, part innovation lab and part tech incubator, which made it a great partner for corporate startup lab and a great partner for us. The team builds products in financial services, and that’s exactly what we were tasked to do. Our project sought to commercialize the very specific technology. Our project team represented diverse professional and academic backgrounds as you can see here on the slide. Although none of us had worked directly in financial services, we have client facing experience and industry knowledge in adjacent fields, which we found incredibly useful as we went forward.

Shana Pradeep (29:53):
Not only did we have to quickly become knowledgeable about technology in an industry that was really new to almost all six of us, we had to norm, storm, form, perform, whatever, what have you, all within a very short timeframe. We all have really different styles of learning, communicating, sharing, and documenting, not to mention different levels of knowledge on the technical processes and jargon around our area of focus. We work together to find out how to learn together and develop domain expertise together in our area of focus.

Shana Pradeep (30:27):
And with that, we created a solid foundation for us as a team to build resilience for the challenges ahead. When we started the project at the beginning of the calendar year, we had a defined scope, a strong plan of action, and clearly identified stakeholders. Halfway through our project timeline, the entire CMU community shifted to online learning. Although we were all here in Pittsburgh at first, we couldn’t rely on our particularly lively in person team dynamic. We had to learn how to communicate necessary information in new ways. And we had to be flexible about the availability of team members, clients, and external resources.

Shana Pradeep (31:03):
Right around the shift to online work, we had a second shakeup. The professor we were working with did not want to continue with the project. The truth is a key stakeholder can withdraw from any corporate innovation project at any time. And those of us with prior experience in industry knew this feeling very well. We had to assess the situation together and create a new task plan together in partnership with our client numo and our leadership with Corporate Startup Lab. After these two big changes, we had a shortened timeframe to create a new deliverable that would still be valuable to our client.

Shana Pradeep (31:35):
Throughout the semester, we’ve spoken to many executives across industries, such as financial services, public utilities, healthcare, you name it. We’ve reviewed all of our interviews and found new insights aligned with our new path. And we reached out to these same industry executives for feedback on our ideas based on their real world experience of the problems and solutions that they had seen already that might’ve worked or might not have worked. This helped us keep our client’s organizational objectives top of mind, as we pivoted the project to ensure we at the end found a successful solution.

Shana Pradeep (32:09):
As we continue our academic and professional careers, these new skills and resilience are apt for the current situation, as well as many other unexpected obstacles. We now have a better way to think about what may seem like a roadblock. With the right team and the right mindset, a roadblock can turn into a fork in the road leading to a brand new path. Thanks everyone. And with that, I’ll hand it off to Nick.

Nick Shariat (32:32):
Hi everybody. Let’s talk about my experience with Bosch. Thank you all for being here. Hi, mom, I know you’re out there. I am a second year MBA. And this semester I worked with Bosch and a phenomenal team from around Carnegie Mellon. Just want to give a shout out to them, Aubrey who’s from SCS and robotics, Alex from CFA and industrial design, then Emily and Stephanie from HCI and Molly from School of Engineering. The way I want to frame my talk is if I could give a message to past Nick at the beginning of this semester, what would I really tell him?

Nick Shariat (33:17):
There’s really three things. One is that training is essential. Two is that choosing what to do isn’t just about consumer needs. And three is that defining the problem is the hardest part. So, let’s start with number one. The first thing I would say to myself is that I and the team overall should expect to get lost in translation. This is just a forgone conclusion. Different stakeholders are going to ask for different things. Some may ask using the same word, but means something different. Sometimes you may even agree on a word or words meaning with your team and then something happens and then it still changes again.

Nick Shariat (33:55):
And this happens for a bunch of reasons. All of them, EO syncratic how high up you are in the organization might change what you mean by opportunity. Your background might influence how you perceived word or phrase IOT. Your previous experience working with designers might influence what you see in your mind’s eye when you hear the word [inaudible 00:34:17] frame. And as someone kind of leading an innovation team this semester, I found that a lot of my time was spent clarifying these words sometimes multiple times over and the act of definition kind of made me feel like I wasn’t making progress because it’s such a remedial tasks.

Nick Shariat (34:34):
You literally say, wait a minute by this, do we mean that? But that isn’t true being kind of a captain of language for your team is essential to getting the right work done. And doing it well, requires a strong intuition for context, which means you really have to know your people and what their strengths and weaknesses are and what they know. The next thing, next piece of advice is that choosing what to do, isn’t just about consumer needs. Pre-MBA, I had this very simplistic model of how innovation really happens. Basically, someone goes out there and understands a consumer problem really well.

Nick Shariat (35:10):
And especially, with the blast of the popularization of human-centered design in the past decade, everybody takes those insights and puts them on sticky notes and they get in a room with a whiteboard on it and they move the sticky notes around and boom, you have this kind of market busting innovation. And this semester I learned two things about that. One is that that is a highly romanticized view. And two is that there are a lot more inputs to the process. Organizational factors play a huge role in which [inaudible 00:35:41] are deployed to look at corporate innovation. And it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I think Satoshi touched on this as anyone who has engaged in a large creative processes will tell you sometimes having constraints can be a blessing, but I was surprised at kind of how frequently of the relationship between different departments or even individuals influenced how likely innovation was to happen.

Nick Shariat (36:06):
And then part three, the third piece of advice I would give to myself is to trust the process. One of my personal areas for development is to remain optimistic when the path forward seems unclear and naturally this project opened up with something that challenged me in exactly that way. At the beginning of the process, you’re actually figuring out what problem to solve. Doing that requires wading through a sea of ambiguity, meaning there are really no right answers that. Reality can change your ability or trait, excuse me, can challenge your ability to stay optimistic.

Nick Shariat (36:42):
You kind of read and read and read and talk and talk and talk with experts and with each other. You’re never really sure if you’re making progress because you don’t know what the destination is. So, staying confident can be really challenging and even more challenging is helping the rest of your team stay confident when they look to you as a leader. There’s good news though, when you finally define the problem, it gets easier. Finding a solution is by no means easy, but it’s definitely simpler than defining the problem alone. Even better, coming up with an implementation plan is even easier, not easy full-Stop definitely relatively easier.

Nick Shariat (37:21):
And this is because as you move down the process from finding the right problem to the right solution, to implementing that solution, more standard processes become available to you. When we’re at the start, there are no standard methods, really. Do you read contradictory market research and opinions? Do you intake a deluge of jargon? And you’ve talked to customers who don’t even know what they want, and you have to make sense of that. But as you get to the solutioning phase, some methods open up, design methodologies, a better understanding of the language of the problem area you’re solving for become really helpful. And then you get to implementation where lots of things I learned in business school, particularly things like go to market frameworks and how to network with experts are particularly helpful.

Nick Shariat (38:07):
At different stages, different skills are required to proceed, but the most important ones are those that you need to make it pass the problem definition stage. And those are persistence patience and the ability to process ambiguity. And with that, I just want to say thanks. And I can kick it back to Sean.

Sean Ammirati (38:28):
Thanks, Nick. Thanks to all of you guys. That was great. And hopefully gave everybody on the zoom webinar here, just a little taste of how incredible these students really are, but the four students that you got a chance to hear a talk, and then just the backgrounds they are able to share on the team composition of each of the four teams. You have to be a pretty remarkable student to come to Carnegie Mellon. And then we just have the privilege of being so selective, even within the people that end up taking this class, it just really is such a joy to get to work with all the students on these projects.

Sean Ammirati (39:09):
I did want to just spend a couple minutes before we wrap this up tonight. And usually we would wrap this up into a happy hour reception. We did not figure out how to UberEats or Instacart each of you guys, CSL beer. What you’ll have to do your own quaranteenies tonight, but we did want to just, as we head into that, just talk a moment about future plans. And for those of you on the phone who are interested in participating, we’d love to chat with you guys about any of these. First of all, our plans for the summer, this is not the IRB research that we mentioned, but this is another research project that we’ve partnered with a local from Echo Strategies and Dr. Kevin Stolarick on… We’ve done some work looking at corporate startup labs impact on job growth in regions.

Sean Ammirati (40:03):
And that will be coming out this summer. We shared a little preview of it in the CSL forum that we had in December. We’ve continued to make progress on that. And the initial findings will be coming out over the summer And maybe that will continue to progress from there. We have two major programming initiatives over the summer for the students on the phone who are not participating in the class, or even if you’re participating in the class and are not graduating, but are looking for internships. We are going to partner with Bosch on some innovation internships this summer. We’re particularly looking for engineering, robotics and computer science students.

Sean Ammirati (40:44):
If you are interested in doing a deeper dive into a project like this for an entire summer, let us know. We also have some other internship opportunities with some of our other partners. Students in general, feel free to reach out to us, we’ve been trying to make connections between our corporates sponsors and students pretty aggressively here, especially as many of your jobs have changed with the COVID dynamic for them to be who had internships.

Sean Ammirati (41:10):
The other thing is that we’ll be finalizing our plans for the CSL fellows moving forward, in much the same way like the first year we did the Corporate Startup Lab Capstone course, we then, after that first Capstone went ahead and reviewed how that had gone. And then, Alan and Chevonne officially blessed us and every year course. We’re going to step back, look at how the fellowship went and then figure out plans for that moving forward. And then also, I guess, a soft sell here, we will be finalizing our project sponsors for spring 2021. So, if you are at a company that wants to participate in the Capstone course next spring, please reach out to me and we can talk about if your project would be a good fit for that or not.

Sean Ammirati (42:01):
The last thing is I just wanted to share three other dates that I think are worth mentioning. The first is, and many of you participated in this last December, in November of this year, hopefully we will be back on campus at that point. We’ve reserved the Stemmons Auditorium for our forum in November, 2020. Hopefully we’ll be back on campus, if not, we’ll figure out a way to do that virtually, like we’re doing this virtually, but that’ll be our second year in a row with our forum event kind of the big event of the year. And then we also are going to have two upcoming executive education programs over the fall that we do in partnership with the Tepper Executive Education Program.

Sean Ammirati (42:45):
I’m kicking off a brand new exec ed program. This is brand new content, very excited about it, it’s a day and a half of content. And then myself and Sylvia Vogt from the Carnegie Bosch Institute have a program we’ve been doing for years together. It’s a three day program called Leading Innovation, and that’s October 20th through the 22nd. If you want to learn more about those you can follow the link from the CSL site or just go straight to the Tepper Exec Ed Program. Again, just wanted to make sure you knew this stuff coming up as well as some important dates for the fall. Just one last time before we wrap this up, I do want to thank each of you for your time and support tonight. I know we had over a hundred registered, I saw earlier on, I made about 89 on the Zoom when I checked earlier.

Sean Ammirati (43:32):
It’s really cool that even as we had to move this from an in-person event to an online event where that doesn’t come along with receptions and all of that so many of you from all over the country were able to participate and give the students the same experience we’ve had for the last two years.

Sean Ammirati (43:53):
I hope you enjoyed this episode of Agile Giants, if so, consider sharing it with a friend. And if you think it’s worth five stars, which I hope you do, please go to iTunes and rate it so that others can find this content as well.

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Episode 34