SMU Team Wins Second Place in IXL Olympics Innovation Challenge

Singapore Management University (SMU) Master of Science in Innovation (MI) students clinched second place in the IXL Olympics Innovation Challenge, impressing judges with their business acumen and innovative solutions.

Taking place for the tenth year, the Innovation Olympics is an eight-week programme offered by the IXL Center and the Global Innovation Management Institute. The programme challenges business school students to integrate their business knowledge with soft skills, with the objective of solving a real innovation and growth issue for a senior executive from a company.

In this challenge, MI students Vidhi Vasani, Lee Kuan-fu, Sanjana and Wei Qiluo took on the task of developing a solution for a Fortune 500 company, Bosch North America (known as ‘the client’), over a structured five step process with specific deliverables at each stage. During the collaborative phase, teams firstly assessed the innovation intent within the context of the challenge. Secondly, the team conducted research to come up with opportunity insights. Next, they selected field-of-play to pursue growth. During the competitive phase, teams presented their business concepts and business case for the client, where they prioritised key concepts to create alignment for implementation.

Altogether, six teams of Masters and PhD students from business and graduate schools across the globe participated in the challenge. The SMU team saw stiff competition, facing off against the brightest minds from Yale University, London Business School, Cornell University and Indian Institute of Management (IIM). 

In terms of the judging process, the client selected winners based on a forced ranking system and its assessment of which team had the best idea. Competing teams had the opportunity to interact and engage with the client frequently, from kick-off meetings to fortnightly presentations and Q&A sessions. To crack the business challenge, team members met and worked with senior executives, learnt a world-class methodology to develop a business case and developed practical hands-on skills.

Commenting on the team’s experience participating in the world's largest innovation consulting competition, Vidhi commented: “It's fantastic. We honed our consulting skills during the course of identifying the challenges and understanding the hidden complexities within societal issues. A bold sense of purpose drove us through the rigorous rounds of presentation. We definitely picked up practical and valuable skills in the process.”

“The SMU MI Programme prepared us for the vision of opportunity recognition and Ideation [in the challenge]. Also, the implementation of the primary research was the key driver to hit the root of the challenge and understand the roles of the stakeholders in the project. We applied the methodologies of Design Thinking and User-Centric Approach to the project, which showed strong connection between stakeholders, and helped to clarify the user context with the client,” said Qiluo.

Having had an equally positive experience with the challenge, Kuan-fu shared, “Despite our diverse backgrounds and abilities, we held together as a team working towards the same goal. The key takeaway here is to identify the strength of each teammate and to learn from each other. We reflected the client's feedback, kept an unbiased approach, stayed curious, and were mindful not to jump to conclusions.”

Sanjana said, “We are wholeheartedly grateful to our client for keeping us focused on the essence of the project and recognising our efforts over the span of two months. It has been a great pleasure working with the client Bosch as well as IXL centre. We are honoured to have been part of the journey!”