Innovating with BSL: THE TAG – Keeping tags on our health with meaningful labels

Edited by Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers

Blog Post by GFW Group 7 BSL students: Arman Danielyan, Karina Bondarenko, Karina Grigoryeva, Khalid Attieh, Lidiya Kudina, Morgan Manin, Omar Eltanani, Timofei Plahotniuci, Ulysse Ortiz

 

Day 1

During our Spring 2018 Gapframe Innovation week, our group opted to work on “Quality of Life”. We found three main sub-themes to develop further: Education, Nutrition, and Peace & Stability. We then developed each of them by coming up with solution ideas using a design-thinking ideation exercise. Overall, we felt we could get most group traction around the Nutrition and Education themes. Can you believe that we came up with 80 different ideas?

Day 2

In the morning, our group discussed possible project ideas. Maybe surprisingly, we did not choose any of the original 80 ideas. Sleeping on it clearly brought inspiration because we actually came up with a brand new idea: “Health labeling for food” on two levels: for illiterate people and for already developed countries. We felt that if we designed a concept in this area, we could have impact globally. Click HERE for a very short video showing the general idea.

According to our research, health labelling is relevant for almost everybody. It not only informs those who are health conscious, but also those unaware of the food they are eating. Nowadays, too few people actually scrutinize the ingredients and nutritional value of the food they are buying. Could our solution provide an easy and non time-consuming way of checking these factors?

Our team came up with a cool solution: to put colorful labels on products, so that it is super easy to check whether the product being purchased is really healthy. The symbols relate to the levels of sugar, chemicals, salt, wheat, lactose, conserving agents.

On Day 2, we researched 5 main stakeholder groups: media, customers, thought leaders, cities & communities, government & regulators. We carried out interviews to benchmark the feedback and drawbacks of our project. We concluded from the feedback we got that the project was promising and interesting and that we should continue developing it. We defined our mission statement as follows: “We provide a simplified and understandable labelling system to evaluate how healthy food products are, allowing even the illiterate to link health risks or benefits to the food they eat.”

Day 3

Having presented our idea and the product to the other groups in the morning, we realized that we needed to be more specific with the labelling objective. For example, to look at the possibility of product labeling for blind people, or to concentrate on people with specific diseases, and for whom food has an important impact, such as those with digestive disorders, depression, obesity, heart / kidney diseases, diabetes, inflammation, osteoporosis.

Day 4

Today, we started prototyping and searching for ways of implementing our idea. Since we did not have enough time to create and personalize all the labels we wanted, we found some good options online, printed them out and stuck them to a number of products we bought. Since in our group we had a certified nutritionist, we used her knowledge to decide on which product to put what. Depending on the amount of sugar, salt, and harmful chemicals (such as aspartame in Coca Cola light), we distributed the labels on the products, using red ones to attract attention to less healthy ingredients, and green to distinguish the products that are healthy.

To set up the company, we discussed creating a Swiss association in the Swiss commercial register free of charge, with tax-free status. We also decided that launching a website made a lot of sense for our initiative, more as an awareness-building platform, to include all information related to our product and events and detailing the benefits of collaborating with us. The website and social media would be very important marketing tools. We also outlined important financial resources questions, including crowdfunding and aid agency possibilities.

Looking forward to developing this further in Gap Frame Week 3, 2018. There are many labelling initiatives out there; can we develop and outreach one that will lead to less consumer confusion and add value to society?

Innovation at BSL: GAME OVER? – Transforming the lives of the elderly

Edited by Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers

Blog Post by GFW Group 3 BSL students: Alexander Svetlitskiy, Amin Riaziat, Andrea Sacco, Deem Almuhaidib, Dmytro Kovtoniuk, Luis Miguel Becerra, Valentina Korobeynikova, Victor Gladskoy

Today, we are neglecting our elderly more and more as a society. Moreover, current retirement homes are not responding to the basic human communication needs of the elderly. There is also a need to incentivize the elderly to remain healthy as long as possible in both mind and body.

As Group 3 of 8 student groups overall during the Spring Gap Frame Week, we selected the “Quality of life” area of focus on Day 1 of the Gap Frame Week so that we could design a useful solution for the future. Our research on Day 2 provided us with significant insights into the “pain” of our stakeholders. By addressing the pain points identified, we felt we could provide an additional choice for the elderly to spend time in retirement, using a mobile application and developing a specialized community center for the elderly. During the rest of the week, we had a challenging time developing an early prototype of our concept, but it was a lot of fun at the same time. Click HERE to view our fun team video so that you can get a sense our positive collaborative spirit!

Our research revealed that many elderly people are suffering from loneliness. In many cases, the elderly have limited communications with other human beings and over time, they may engage in increasingly limited activities. Often, the highlight of an elderly person’s day is simply reading the newspaper. Retirement for many represents a “long wait for the inevitable”. We want to change all that by introducing an easy to use application, supported on all mobile platforms, called “Game Over?”. Our innovation aim is to create a tailor-made application that is extremely user-friendly and easy to navigate. The app would provide several functions – newspaper, TV, a net-working and communication platform, games, activity schedules and plans, with related activity sign-up sheets. Our idea is to provide an easy to use platform where the elderly can engage in a favorite activity such as reading the newspaper but also try other activities. For example, on the Game Over? App, the elderly will be able to play games especially designed to be beneficial to the health of the elderly. Playing video games increases brain stimulation, reduces arthritis, lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s, improves memory and attention, slows down the aging process, improves hand-eye coordination and helps with depression. To appeal to the target group, the design and interface of the App games will appeal specifically to the elderly.

We also discussed including a concept of related Game Over? community centers.  The idea is to provide a room for elderly citizens to enjoy gaming experiences and for those not yet initiated to gaming, provide an introduction class to new technology. Exploring our ideas further, we felt that the “Game Over?” community center could cover other aspects of elderly well-being. It could also have a meditation room and garden to hold meditation and or light yoga sessions with a meditation instructor. This would help elderly citizens learn the art of relaxation and good breathing techniques but also help retain a certain level of physical fitness. We also had the idea of equipping the community center with an emergency treatment room. Another idea was to provide a system whereby the elderly will be able to tutor young students for a profit, depending on their skills, potentially with the profit being used for our platform subscriptions. As we discussed and worked on our prototype, plenty of new ideas came up.

With the target market of elderly (aged 65+), our group felt that the App and linked community/activity center will not only make the lives of the elderly more meaningful but it will change and improve quality of life.

With Game Over?, we are reintroducing a selection of elements that complement and enhance quality of life. In our view, Game Over?, if developed fully,  has the potential to create a new found purpose in life for isolated populations of the elderly in Switzerland and outside. During the next GFW, we will be developing this prototype further, into as feasible a start-up idea as possible in order to attract the attention of potential (albeit hypothetical – for now) investors. Watch this space.

 

Innovation at BSL: Beep Saved – Technology empowering ordinary people to save lives

Edited by Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers

Blog post by GFW3 Spring 2018 Group 6 students: Alexandra Sommer, Alexandre Watry, Anastasia Morozava, Aswin Babu, Diego Dimartino, Kamran Hatam-Zada, Konstantin Goldenberg, Theodore Martorell, Volodymyr Kovalchuk

“One right beep – one saved life”

We are proud to invite you to read our blogpost written during the Spring Gap Frame Week 2018, when BSL students focused on coming up with solutions to some of the world’s most challenging social issues.

Many people with chronic illnesses die each year having collapsed in the street or on the way to hospital due to the lack of first aid knowledge amongst people passing by. Our research revealed that 150,000 lives could be saved in Europe yearly if passersby were able to provide effective immediate first aid. We were interested to learn that St John Ambulance research shows that 59% of interviewed people would not feel comfortable providing first aid on the street due to their own lack of knowledge (The Guardian, 2010).

In Russia, many people suffer from diseases such as epilepsy, diabetes and chronic heart disease. The overall number of Russian people with these diseases is actually 32.5 million. Therefore, there is a high risk of people collapsing on the street on a daily basis, and not receiving critical and appropriate first aid from passers-by. After our preliminary research, our Group decided to focus on providing an effective solution to this issue in Russia, a country where victims of heart attacks or other problems have a high risk of not receiving primary first aid on the street. Frequent long delays in ambulance arrivals exacerbate the problem and makes it even more important for passersby to have high awareness and good knowledge about how to act in case of emergency.

Our team came up with an idea of a wearable technology – Beep Saved – that would allow people with health conditions to be attended easily and safely in case of an emergency. Our wearable technology – worn on the wrist much like a watch – provides a panic SOS button, which identifies the emergency, immediately calls for an ambulance using GPS technology, makes a recognizable sound/alarm to attract the attention of people nearby, and provides the passerby with tailor-made first aid tips depending on the person’s health condition. The screen carefully guides the bystander through minimal step-by-step instructions to ensure that the person has as optimal a chance as possible of surviving the episode (CPR, positioning of the body, etc). Click here for a demo to show the operating principle.

To test whether we had a feasible concept, we decided to explore the perceptions of three different groups: customers, doctors, and investors. That meant that we needed to get out into the external environment and meet stakeholders so we carried out interviews in three different locations: the city center of Lausanne, the university hospital (CHUV) and at Business School Lausanne.

We prepared three different questionnaires based on qualitative and quantitative data. Afterwards we divided our group evenly, to carry out the interviews. After carefully reviewing the results, we noted that all stakeholders provided common feedback: acceptance and interest in the concept.

We enhanced our prototype ideas as a result of our research (an interactive screen, GPS for ambulance, SOS button, heart rate checker, and speaker to let passersby know that the person is in need of help). We also added the monitor idea, to show first aid tips to perform in advance of the arrival of an ambulance.

After pitching our idea to the other student groups and faculty, and receiving feedback, we came up with the final technology software prototype. Our group decided to locate this business in Russia and to produce the technology in Latvia due to the costs and legal aspects. We decided not to produce in China as wanted to create a sustainable responsible business and did not feel that outsourcing to China aligned with that vision. We carried out a competitor analysis, looking at the three most well-known similar companies from an international perspective. We focused our analysis on price, strengths and weaknesses. The most well-known comparable concept is Medical Guardian which asks for a subscription price in the market and offers simple technology; followed by Lifefone, which has similar characteristics, but expects a long term contract commitment from customers. Bay Alarm Medical is the most expensive existing solution. It offers wide customization choices and is more than seventy years in the market. Our differentiation from these potential competitors are one-time payment, no contract requirements, free delivery and installation of software, and the fact that it would be the most interactive device on the market. After the competitive analysis and examining the possible target market, we defined our product as a high quality one-time payment product.

We had an opportunity to present a draft version of our concept prototype mid-week, to share what we had learnt from other groups. Our idea received overall positive comments. To illustrate clearly the problem we were trying to solve, we showed a social experiment video filmed in Russia that demonstrated the level of ignorance and even indifference of passersby in case of someone obviously not feeling well or collapsing in the street. This video emotionally connected with many viewers and stakeholders and illustrated well the high social importance of introducing our product to the Russian market. Once other groups had commented, we reviewed the remarks made by our BSL colleagues and implemented their feedback in the development of our prototype.

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity” Martin Luther King Jr.

We believe that in today’s world it is crucial to reduce ignorance and encourage the notion of people and communities helping each other on every level. Our device will not only potentially save lives, but it can also have a substantial impact by improving behavior and increasing empathy. Our concept will reduce the level of ignorance and, we feel, raise awareness such that more people will want to help each other in the long run.

BSL Gap Frame Innovation Week, Spring 2018: Is the world all set for MySet?

Blog by Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers with video blog by Student Group 2: Anastasiya Markova, Armen Danielyan, James Polit, Julia Bogle, Mathis Chailleux, Napat Suttaponga, Umar Kalanov, Vasily Zhuraviev, Victor Marinescu.

As promised, this is the first of several blogs relating to student output from our Spring Gap Frame Week 2018 prototyping exercise. We want our readers to share in the “buzz” that these weeks create within BSL. And we hope to inspire some of you also. Please refer to this article to understand more in detail what the BSL Gap Frame Week is all about. The short explanation is that the Gap Frame Week is an opportunity for our students to work on prototyping solutions and even start-ups addressing some of the world’s most formidable sustainability dilemmas. In Spring 2018, the students tackled social issues.

Of the eight groups that presented early prototypes of solutions to world social issues, an expert faculty panel on Day 5 felt that Group 2: MySet ticked many boxes in terms of the potential outreach and impact of the idea, if marketed carefully and in the right way.

So what is the concept idea that was prototyped, MySet, all about? In innovation, the best place to start is always with the problem the solution is trying to solve. Group 2 decided to address Education as the social issue worthy of their attention. Their research indicated that students in developing countries often do not have enough seating in their school classrooms. Small children often squeeze into cramped desks, several at a time, or even have to sit on the floor to attend their classes. India is a case in point where 75% of schools in rural areas have this problem. This leads to difficulties concentrating and learning, and even to longer-term physical problems since students are forced to sit in unnatural positions.

What proposed solution did Group 2 come up with? The MySet concept proposes an affordable, light, adjustable chair set made from recycled material. If marketed to the right target audience (obviously, since parents are too poor to afford such a solution, charitable foundations, NGOs and aid agencies would be an interesting target), MySet has the potential to be an interesting proposition. Clever idea. Let’s see how Group 2 does in developing this early prototype into a full blown start-up ready to attract investor interest, with a corresponding exhibition space during our next GFW in May.

The video blog produced by the Group 2 students listed above gives an idea of the journey they took to arrive at their final prototype. Click HERE to view; enjoy!

 

Ionescu-AileenPICTURE-150x150Author: Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers

Gap Frame Week designer and orchestrator

BSL and innovation: Does BSL’s Gap Frame Week create value for society?

At Business School Lausanne, we are proud to offer a highly dynamic Gap Frame Week (GFW) experience to our students four times a year. What does this mean, and what happens during these weeks? Well, you might be surprised to learn that our students work in teams to co-create solutions to the world’s most problematic social, environmental, economic and governance issues. Ambitious: yes!  A tough call: yes!  But no one ever said business school should be easy. As the GFW designer, I incorporate a variety of co-creative techniques including World Café and Collaboratories to get our students thinking “out of the box”, but I have also designed the week with a strong red thread of design thinking processes throughout to encourage open innovation and create an inspirational learning context.

Click HERE for a short video of our students in action during the BSL Gap Frame Week.

Design thinking is a process whereby we seek primarily to understand the people for whom we are designing products or services. Design thinking helps us to question “norms” or fixed mindsets, challenge assumptions about “what they want”, change levels of understanding in the innovation teams, and redefine problems in order to find a better fit between “the problem” and “the solution”.  Design thinking is not only a solutions-based approach to solving problems, but also a whole way of thinking and working in itself. It is a good choice for our BSL GFW innovation week because it is so useful in helping to tackle problems that are not very well defined or are even unknown. And since during the GFW, we are tackling problems that the world’s best minds have not yet resolved, we need all the help we can get!

During each Gap Frame week, our BSL students generate new matches between solutions and needs that truly create value for society. And who knows, maybe some will carry a brilliant business idea out of BSL and create value in the real world! We encouraged our students to write blogs recounting their experiences during the last GFW in Spring 2018, so that you too can have a taste of what the students achieve.  Some great examples will be showcased in a series of blogs leading up to our next GFW from 14 to 18 May, 2018. Keep reading our blogs over the next 4 weeks!

 

Ionescu-AileenPICTURE-150x150Author: Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers

Gap Frame Week designer and orchestrator

Bachelor students successfully simulate Summit Conference

Conventional theories are presented and explored by our first-year students in the Bachelor of Business Administration macro-economics class. However, a substantial aspect of it considers alternative approaches to macro-economy.

The crowning of this wide-ranging approach took place during the last class of the semester, in which a global conference on sustainable development, along the lines of the United Nations Rio +20 conference, was simulated. Country representatives met in different task forces to demonstrate critical thinking and generate new ideas for solving the world’s economic challenges. Here is the inspiring outcome of their hard work.

The countries participating in the morning conference simulation were Switzerland, the Netherlands and the USA. The task forces on special topics, made up of country representatives, agreed on the following proposals:

  • Foreign Aid to reach the amount of 0.7% of GDP as proposed by the United Nations, achieved by raising the corporate income tax and re-allocating the public spending budget. Focus on food security in sub-Saharan Africa, including programs to educate farmers, because poor post-harvest handling and storage loss leads to a 10% loss of production.
  • Knowledge Transfer between MIT (USA), EPFL (CH) and Delft (NL), three science-based universities interested in innovative solutions to real-life problems. All knowledge shared will be protected by an agreement regarding Intellectual Property Rights, and the Erasmus program will be used as the framework for the exchange. In another program, knowledge could be shared on modern public transportation (from NL), space travel (from NASA in the USA) and nuclear research (from CERN in CH).
  • Climate Change to be firstly managed by increasing the use of renewable energy in the three countries mentioned above for transportation – Swiss Solar Impulse will work with Boeing (USA) and Fokker (NL) on solar-powered airplanes, and trains/buses will be promoted in the countries; secondly, by the introduction of Carbon Capture and Storage technology, developed in CH to collect CO2 emissions before they are released into the air and to re-use the stored CO2. In addition, society will be made climate-proof by being prepared for the harmful effects of climate change, e.g. flood protection.

The countries participating in the afternoon conference simulation were Chad, France and Canada. The task forces agreed on the following proposals:

  • Foreign Aid to achieve four objectives: firstly, Canada and France to channel more humanitarian aid to Chad to help feed and house the 300,000 refugees from Sudan, as well as to fight the outbreak of hepatitis E in the country. Secondly, ease visa requirements from Chad to France and Canada in order to improve work opportunities for Chadian workers – the three countries share the French language. Thirdly, France to build training bases for the Foreign Legion in Chad, which will create jobs and provide excellent training conditions for the Foreign Legion. Lastly, Chad to receive military support from France – a military school – and Canada – military equipment – in order to improve security in the region where there are numerous conflicts.
  • Knowledge Transfer to firstly raise the literacy rate in Chad from 40% today to 80% by 2030, with a program to recruit, prepare and retain teachers led by France and Canada; at the moment there are only 2 teachers per 1000 residents. Secondly, to extend the current exchange program for University of Chad students and French universities, running since 1971, to include Canadian universities. Thirdly, to install 100 MW of solar energy production by 2030 in addition to the 60 MW planned for 2020, because a good return on investment can be anticipated.
  • Climate Change agrees three objectives to deal with the serious desertification in the country and the drying up of Lake Chad, which some estimates claim has lost 95% of its water, all of which has raised tensions between the three countries making use of water from it. Firstly, to reverse the desertification, plant two million trees in addition to the 1.5 million planted by the UNHCR and use the French charity Friends of the Earth to clear away the silt in water channels. Secondly, use the Canadian charity Wateraid to improve access to clean drinking water and reduce waterborne diseases. Thirdly, to use the French charity Action Against Hunger to improve irrigation systems in the area.

The objectives and policies are marked by being linked to specific and concrete facts about the countries as well as to existing organizations and programs. Thus, the results of the simulation present an inspiring vision of what could be done for our collective future, while being practicable and realistic.

Author:

Benjamin Wall, Professor

 

Philip Morris International & Sustainable Change

Sustainability is a highly complex concept that, at times, might be hard to integrate in a business environment. However, even companies that were not built with a sustainable focus in mind can turn the leaf and make a real change. A great example illustrating sustainable change is Philip Morris International, which BSL’s Master in International Business students visited on 16th January 2018.

The morning started with warm greetings from Huub Savelkouls, Vice President of Social and Economic Affairs. After a short coffee break, Mr. Savelkouls took us through what the future might hold for PMI’s stakeholders in our first presentation: “Transformation and Sustainability within Philip Morris International”. An interesting fact he mentioned was that, while the world population is growing, the number of smokers remains constant. This represents a great opportunity for Philip Morris to reevaluate their strategic focus. Mr. Savelkouls also tackled common misconceptions, suggesting that contrary to what people think, the tobacco industry can have an important role in solving the smoking problem. This is one of the main points within PMI’ sustainability strategy – convincing people to switch to less harmful products, such as the newly released IQOS device.

The release of this “reduced risk product” allowed Philip Morris International to publish their first ever Sustainability Report in 2016. One of the striking figures in the report is the fact PMI now allocates approx. 70% of their R&D spending on the development of smoke-free products, even though this segment currently only represents 12% of their net revenues. Their overall emphasis on the development of technology-driven, smoke-free products is a great example of sustainability being at the core of a major company’s strategic pivot.

Numbers aside, most students that attended the visit at the Philip Morris International Headquarters in Lausanne were pleasantly surprised by the overall work environment and culture. The free of charge gym, with provided gym attires, and motorsport-themed “Paddock” smoking area were the two favorite workplace perks among the BSL Master students.

To conclude, we would like to thank the people that made this visit possible and PMI for sharing with us their long-term vision on sustainability – hoping it will allow them to leave their competition in a cloud of smoke.

Author:

Ana Maria Login – MIB Master in International Business, Spring 2017 Intake

An ungoogleable experience

Walking from Zurich Central station to the Google offices I was wondering what was ahead of us. What I had in mind was a mix of flash-forwards, involving PlayStation corners, employees riding bicycles across offices and me sliding down to the canteen. I was curious and intrigued and so were the students: why was Google the best large-company workplace in Switzerland for three years in a row? The reasons started to materialize during the first few presentations.

BSL Students Visit Google Offices in Zurich, Switzerland on November 29, 2017

Four senior Googlers gave us a warm welcome and, through their stories, a real insight of what it takes to work at Google, as well as some clarity about the company culture. Also, we had the chance to learn how Google recruits and encourages employees to draw their own career paths within the organization. As their presentations and answers to our (many) questions were so interesting, I had to jot a few things down while listening. But let me go through the three key facts that, in my opinion, are particularly relevant to understand how the company operates.

At Google you need to be able to learn, as much as to re-learn. At the fast pace the company is cruising, employees need to constantly challenge themselves and embrace change pro-actively and fully. One of the speakers, long tenure with the company, spoke about his experience of getting in the company with minor responsibilities. Eight months after he was starting an exciting career, leading for several years projects in Tokyo and London – to mention just a couple – and keeping on challenging himself embracing change and exploring several areas of the business.

Google re-hires good employees. They let free their employees if they feel they want to take another path however if and where possible, they are welcome to re-join the company without going through an official interview process.

Google encourages you to make mistakes and work on personal projects. To employees, the company provides some physical spaces to develop special projects and own ideas to be developed outside their own competences, however within their working hours. There is also a small auditorium where employees present their ideas while other googlers listen to them, comfortably sitting on some vintage armchairs.

After the visit, I realized that Google is not only massage rooms, ping-pong tables, chill out areas and incredible services to employees. It is much more than that, and our experience was so enriching that is so hard to describe. What can I say, you need to see the place, you cannot just Google it.

Author: Daniele TicliCreating opportunities for Companies, Students and Alumni by addressing the needs of Education and Corporate world.

 

Lost and Found: The impact of a socio-technical addiction

Consumer behavior insights and lessons learned

A few weeks ago, the authors of this post ended up in a big mess of their own making. After going through the usual phases – denial, anger, scrambling for solutions – we decided to reflect and share what we learned.

It started at a faculty meeting on a Thursday evening, when we involuntarily exchanged our laptops. During the meeting all faculty moved around, participating in workgroups, taking their laptops, often closed. Contrary to student laptops, (wisely) covered with stickers, most BSL faculty use identical-looking clean Apple MacBooks. The meeting ended, everyone took a computer and retuned home.

After dinner, Sascha opened the laptop to check if everything was ready for his new course “SDG Explorer”, starting next morning at 9, just a few hours later. Big shock: it was not his laptop! A few late evening calls to whichever colleagues would kindly answer finally provided Alexandra’s phone number. She answered similarly upset, and after calling a few other kind people, we had a sort of solution to return our computers in the next day or two.

First Insight (all consumer behavior insights in italics) that we gained here was to face the emotional part of “Am I able to function one full day without my computer? Will I be unproductive? Will I only feel unproductive? Above all, how can I accept that somebody else is having MY computer without me having chosen it.”

Next morning, teaching the new course without a computer was indeed a challenge, as BSL’s decades-old “backup” laptop could not connect to any projector and the iPad kind of worked, but was an inferior solution. But somehow my new course went very well, students were interested and engaged – mainly because everyone went out of their way to help, from BSL staff helping with backup technology, providing moral support, finding whatever supplies could help, and suggesting a more suitable classroom, to students helping with class organization, actively participating in discussions and using their laptops to project required content.

Second Insight: the level of social and personal acceptance of the fact that we so strongly depend on technical tools in our professional environment. Could we try to teach one day without any electronic device? Would this be acceptable from the today’s socio-technical point of view? Or should we try to integrate an authentic learning experience in our courses that illustrates this dependence on technology and let us think about its sustainable use?

Friday’s classes ended well, by Saturday afternoon both computers found their owners, and it was time to reflect on lessons learned.

Third Insight: many of our dear technical devices are customized by their owners. If you don’t customize, you risk losing your global product in a global society, even if the content of your computer does underline your individual spirit. Nobody can see this content, it is inside your mass product! So, even if you are not willing to follow the “personal customization” stream, society is demanding it! 

Most importantly, it was only human kindness of absolutely everyone involved that saved the day, including the BSL students, faculty, staff and members of the Impact Hub Geneva, doubling as a logistics hub. It is easy to underestimate the team dimension of everything we do, of every success – this becomes obvious when there’s a problem. This is often evident during big natural disasters, which are becoming more frequent with climate change, but is just as important with small challenges of everyday life.

Fourth Insight: Humans will make the real difference and define the reality of the consuming environment. The product stays a technical tool and gets social through the personal adaption within a consuming context.

Our over-dependence on computers, or rather the high dependence combined with poor usability and limited reliability makes this problematic. Of course, computers are useful and important for work – but we also rely on running water, sanitation, electricity, phones, railways etc., and these systems are much more reliable and easier to use. Their complexity is hidden, managed by experts – the user experience is simple and predictable. On the other hand, just making your computer work is frustrating for most people, and any hardware or software problem, or loss of device creates a major problem for hours or days. Also, fast innovation cycles require constant upgrading and replacing hardware and software, investing non-negligible time, money and effort. What would it take to really be in charge of technology decisions and tools, as opposed to being forced to always catch up. We should ask ourselves what kind of place we should grant to technology in our society.

Finally, there’s the question of conformity. As scholars, we like to think of ourselves as independent thinkers, which we hopefully often are, but obviously not in our consumption patterns. Is the Apple MacBook the only suitable computer for professors? Or do we instinctively need to belong? Does this apparent conformism influence academic thinking?

Two weeks later, we still have the same laptops, Sascha’s one is customized with several stickers (yes – it does look ugly), and Alexandra’s with a classic Apple one, saying “Don’t touch!”. We are not sure that we found an answer to the question of academic conformity, but we certainly do know what difference human kindness means in a social-technical consuming context.

Authors:

Sascha Nick, BSL Professor

Alexandra Broillet, BSL Professor

 

Reinventing business models with Big Data Analytics

From a business perspective, the purpose of Big Data Analytics is ultimately to improve competitiveness and impact by making better business decisions that can be acted upon. Such decisions are backed by relevant and reliable facts collected from a variety of sources, providing insights based on trends and patterns which the human brain would never have found, in turn enabling a predictive approach to decision-making.

Every single industry is impacted by Big Data Analytics as digital transformation accelerates. Individual companies and public organisations are trying to make sense of all the changes, determining which are opportunities and which are threats to their activities.

As entire industries reinvent themselves, taking advantage of data-driven business models, we decided at BSL to zoom in on a few sectors and invite guest speakers to help us understand the business challenges each faces as well as how Big Data Analytics is helping them find a path to resolution, sometimes by reframing the challenge.

  • As Public Healthcare seeks to improve our quality-adjusted life-years, Big Data Analytics help direct the right care to the right person at the right time. Treating illnesses earlier, sometimes even preventing them, positively impacts society and the economy. Kevin Dean, Managing Director of Smart Health Science Limited and former Director of the Genomics England Project, shared with us how Big Data Analytics is used to accelerate our medical understanding and decisions, thus improving lives and saving costs. One of the main challenges with these often decade-long projects is to balance what is viable with what is affordable – in other words, to prevent costs getting out of hand without steering away from the end goal. Finding immediate applications for the technology is a good way to improve affordability.
  • The Financial Services sector uses Big Data Analytics extensively to inform better investment decisions and to improve their client experience. Who better than the world’s largest asset management company to talk to us about Big Data? David Wright, BlackRock’s EMEA Head of Product Strategy for their Scientific Active Equity (SAE) Group, shared how self-learning algorithms are driving 1,000+ investment decisions daily for parts of BlackRock’s portfolio. To be able to do that, the algorithms analyse over 4,000 brokerage reports a day as well as transcripts of earnings calls, correlated with external data sources ranging from satellite imagery to consumer sentiment based on online search behaviour. Constructing better economic indicators whilst de-risking investments is the main goal.
  • A fascinating talk with Anne Mellano, co-founder of the Swiss startup BestMile, gave us insights into what Public Transportation will look like tomorrow. BestMile offer the world’s first Cloud platform for the operation and optimization of autonomous vehicle fleets. She shared with us today’s main public transportation challenge, which is that users need to adapt to what is offered, no personalisation is possible. Also, no matter how good the historical data, public transportation will always be planned based on past trends (pick-up locations, routes, timetables, capacity, etc.). BestMile are reframing the challenge by imagining an urban public transportation model which adapts to individual user needs through real-time routing and capacity management based on big data analytics feeds from various sources, including user devices such as smartphones. Sharing the mode of transportation will also help solve our urban congestion and pollution challenges.
  • With urban migration leading to >60% of the world’s population living in cities by 2050 (UN report), and with cities representing only about 2% of our available landmass, there are many challenges to be addressed urgently. Health, safety, movement, jobs, construction, education, entertainment and the list goes on. Nicola Villa, Global Leader of Digital Platforms for Government at IBM, shared with us the concept of the Cognitive City. A city where the Internet of Things (IoT) platforms are successfully addressing the various urban challenges and enabling us to shift from smart city to smart citizens. We are all co-responsible for the quality of life we aspire to in our cities around the world.

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  • Whatever the industry, tomorrow’s talent needs to be more agile, curious and collaborative than has been required in the past where the focus was more on hard skills. So, to wrap up our Big Data Analytics course, we invited an expert in Human Resources to share with us the role that technology is playing in redefining that industry. Paul Jacquin, Managing Partner of Randstad’s Innovation Fund, explained how recruiters are changing their approach to sourcing, screening and selecting the right talent. Increasingly, online tools based on self-learning algorithms are testing candidates, managing the hiring process and finding the best match with employers. Sometimes, it’s even the other way around with several employers bidding for the right candidate. Often we are victims of unconscious bias which leads to people hiring people like themselves. Also, the traditional application process of sending unsolicited CVs can be highly frustrating for candidates. And for employees, the cost of hiring the wrong person is very high. Big Data Analytics addresses all these issues, helping reduce the hiring timeline and the associated costs whilst finding the best candidate match.

Getting our BSL students ready for this changing digital world is paramount for their success and their ability to contribute to our collective future. This requires a sound understanding of the use and implications of Big Data Analytics. As one of the leaders at BlackRock says: “All employees are responsible for being students of technology”. That responsibility starts even before becoming an employee.

Author: Anja Langer Jacquin,
Professor at BSL