Four Reasons why Corporate Value Statements don’t work

« Excellence », « integrity » and « communication » These seem to be the most popular buzzwords in corporate value statements.

I roll my eyes as soon as I see these values anywhere. Why? I will give you four reasons why they make me nervous:

1. One size does not fit all

First of all, values like excellence, integrity, and communication are way too generic. They could be adopted by any organization. Who would be against excellence, integrity, and communication? But are they really specific for the company and its culture or business model? Probably not! Excellence can mean many things to different people. It certainly makes a difference what we mean by excellence whether you are working in a bank or a hospital.
Integrity? It means that you always stick to your moral principles no matter what the benefit might be if you break the rules. This value, too, needs a lot of definition and soul searching before a group of people like a company can agree what it really means to them: When is a gift a bribe? How do we deal with confidential information?  Can I be friends with a supplier? Etc.

Pic Blog Corporate Values prt1 Yes, way too often value statement are empty word bubbles! Please avoid that. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash 

 

2. The true colors are always shining through

Second, often companies succumb to the temptation to choose values that sound appealing but are too far away from their corporate reality and somehow hoping that the simple act of proclaiming that value it will become a reality in the organization. For example, when companies put “communication” in their value chart they wish to express with this value, which is not even a value but an activity, that they want everyone in the organization to cooperate effectively and openly with as little political power play as possible. Wishful thinking in many cases!  Of course, the people in the company know this and react with cynicism.

You cannot declare that your company cherishes collaboration, open communication, and teamwork when in reality your corporate culture is driven by fierce internal competition, politics and monetary incentives only. What we need is an inside-out approach. You have to do your internal cultural homework before you go into the world and brag about what a wonderful company you think you are.

Values statement will never work, if they are only the icing on the cake, they have to be the very foundation of a corporate culture. Within the icing-on-the-cake approach, the top management comes together and agrees on some fancy sounding words that are then communicated to the lower ranks. This does not work. It is like putting on makeup without washing your face. Or like learning some moves and gestures to appear more self-assured without doing the hard internal work of personal development.

France Telecom had to learn this the hard way in 2008, when they got hit by a series of over 30 employee suicides: victims stabbed themselves in the middle of company meetings, jumped out of the window at work and left goodbye letters that clearly stated that they killed themselves because of the pressures and fears at work. At that time France Telecom was in a difficult transition from a state-owned company to a player in the highly competitive and dynamic international telcom market and could not fire employees with a public servant status. Therefore, CEO Didier Lombard had introduced a merciless shake-out project that aimed at demoralizing employees in order to make them leave the company “voluntarily”.  As a reaction to the suicide series, Lombard said that this “fashion” of suicide should stop and that the media coverage created an effect of contagion. The waves of public outrage went high, Lombard had to leave and is still today on trial for harassment. Of course, at the same time, France Telecom had a value statement that said that the well-being of their employees was very important to them.

It is clear that after a disaster like that it will be very, very hard to ever make coworkers believe in the beautiful words of a value statement again. This is one point that is often ignored when companies initiate a value management project: If you screw it up, credibility is lost for a very long time, if not forever. At the same time, it is true that values can and should be aspirational. You can use values as part of a change program. But if you do that you have to make clear that you know that you are not quite there yet and prove that you have measures like training, organizational redesign or new performance standards in place to get there.

3. No Emotional appeal

Third, if values are too generic and unrealistic they do not create any genuine emotional response or connection for the men and women in a company who know the true colors of their organization all too well.  Of course, client orientation is important, but this is not a value that would deeply resonate with the hearts of employees. This is nothing that makes people get out of bed in the morning and go to work with joy and anticipation.

How can you make corporate values emotionally appealing? Not easy, but it helps to always start with a motivating overall purpose of the company that goes beyond the profit motive. Humans always yearn for meaning in their life. As philosopher and Holocaust survivor Viktor Fraenkel famously put it: “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”

This human desire for meaning is nicely illustrated by Harish Manwani’s (COO of Unilever) TED talk in which he tells the story of his first day at the company where his boss asked him why he was there. Manwani answered: “To sell lots of soap!” and his boss said: “No, to change peoples lives!”, because the original purpose of Unilever was to improve hygiene in order to help prevent contagious diseases. Clearly changing peoples lives is more emotionally appealing than selling lots of soap, right?

4. No link to everyday behavior

Forth, very often values statements are not linked to behavior. They get developed, glossy brochures rolled out, employees (maybe) read them, laugh bitterly because they are so unrealistic and cheesy and then they forget them because nothing happens that would link these values with the behavior of managers and employees. The mere proclamation of value buzz words will never, never, never influence people’s behavior. How people in an organization actually behave is the ultimate proof to the value pudding. Without this link to behavior, a value statement loses all credibility and disappoints all expectations that unavoidably come up when a company opens the value Pandora’s box.

And by the way, these three values, excellence, integrity, and communication were the corporate values of Enron. And we all know how this ended: In jail, bankruptcy, and shattered hopes. Somehow Enron had managed to win prizes for their value statement, but it definitely did not keep their top management from cooking the books and inciting their employees to cut-throat business behavior with the help of an inhumane incentive system.

In a nutshell, ever so often value statements do not go beyond orgies of humanistic prose in shiny brochures that nobody can take seriously. In extreme cases, they are a more or less random collection of buzzwords sound like this hilarious song by Weird Al: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyV_UG60dD4

On the other side, of course, values are important for companies in our highly volatile, complex and ambiguous times. Old-school management that works with order and command is too rigid for this new fast-moving world. The younger generation of corporate coworkers is looking for more freedom, more fun, more autonomy and more purpose in their jobs. Here a corporate culture that is driven by values and a purpose that goes beyond simple profit maximization creates a positive appeal for future coworkers, higher levels of motivation with current coworkers and a more inspiring and more flexible way of decision making. Ideally, instead of applying rigid rulebooks, controls and processes, coworkers decide on the basis of common values.

So how can you come up with a value statement that will actually have these positive effects instead of creating cynicism and ridicule?

Stay tuned for my next blog post and on the five steps to make the value statements work.

Prof.-Bettina-PalazzoAuthor: Dr. Bettina Palazzo, BSL Professor

How business – and the world – benefit from intrapreneurship

intrapreneurship

Image credit: Emily reider on unsplash

I recently co-designed and co-facilitated an MBA elective on the subject of ESG (Environmental and Social Governance) and Sustainable Investing at Business School Lausanne.

Teaching an elective to MBA students at BSL was a great opportunity. And to be honest, initially I was not at ease, as it was completely out of my comfort zone. But I ended up doing it – and I totally loved it!

The point is that this experience made me realize (again!) that as an entrepreneur (and freelance-on-a-mission as I like to define myself at the moment), stepping out of your comfort zone and nurture your positive mindset are essential if you want to change the world for good.

This is also true within companies: if you want to change the status quo, stepping up, daring to be visible and stepping out of your comfort zone are skills to be developed.

Why is intrapreneurship key for companies – and the world?

According to the Intrapreneurship Institute, there are 3 enduring benefits of intrapreneurship within organizations: new products and services, growing employee satisfaction and market share increase.

Letting employees experiment and “train” their intrapreneurial mindsets and skills, letting them “fail often and fast” (as we say in the start-up world) are key for agility, adapting to increasing VUCA environments and thus, long term business success.

During the MBA elective, we pushed students out of their comfort zones, “sparking” their entre- and intrapreneurial mindset through a hackathon: learning and applying new tools and frameworks in a short period of time and pitching a project “for good” with positive social or environmental impact to (fictional) potential investors or board of directors.

A call to action for business

Let your employees “train” their intrapreneurial mindset and skillset for a positive impact initiative they care about! It will not only motivate them to follow through if it’s a cause they truly care about, it will also enable them to train these skills so that they can use them in their daily jobs. A win-win for people, planet and profit!

marena eirichAuthor: Marena Eirich is a CSR consultant and creator of teams4purpose, a program that helps organizations activate positive impact from within. She is a graduate of the Diploma in Sustainable Business from BSL and HSG.

Keeping the student spirit up!

We meet with BSL professor Erdal Atukeren, who’s telling us about his journey into continuing education.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, what is your background?

I am Turkish by birth and Swiss by marriage. I studied Economics & Business Administration (B.A.), and Econometrics (M.A.) in Turkey. Then, I went to Canada and completed a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Economics at the University of Ottawa. I came to Switzerland in 1995 and worked at the UBS in emerging markets research and credit risk management areas. Afterwards, I joined the ETH in Zurich and worked there for more than 13 years in economic research, mostly focusing on macroeconomic modeling and forecasting and doing third-party projects. Currently, I teach at BSL and other business schools. I am research-oriented and I have published a good number of articles in academic journals. I serve as an Editorial Board member in International Journal of Sustainable Economy, Journal of International Trade and Economic Development, and Investment Management and Financial Innovations. I am also serving as Guest Editor at the Journal of Risk and Financial Management (Special Issue on Macroeconomic Forecasting) and at the Resources journal (Special Issue on Global Economic Development, Resources and Environment).

What do you teach at BSL, and how long have you been part of our faculty?

I started teaching at BSL in Fall 2010 with the MIB Economics for Business course. Afterwards, I taught BBA courses and later on Master’s courses as well. I currently teach Business Mathematics & Calculus, Business Statistics, and Sustainable Business Strategy at the BBA level. At the Master’s level, I teach the Economics for Business, Risk Management, and the Sustainable Economy courses. In the past, I taught the BBA Operations Management and the MSIF Quantitative Methods I courses as well.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I like to see when students start a course with little or no knowledge in some subjects and how it changes overtime. Sometimes, the students think they know a topic; but upon systematic thinking about the concepts, questioning how they are operationalized, and scrutinizing the assumptions they are based on, they see that it is not an easy task. If they are confused about what they think they knew before, I am happy. This is also important for being innovative and developing the thinking-outside-the-box skills. The class environment at BSL is very multicultural. I like to see how students from different cultures and backgrounds tackle an issue and also work together to generate diverse ideas.

How did you get to start up studies again? And what did it bring you?

I live in Zurich. I come to the BSL by train for my classes. Depending on the term, I travel a lot between Zurich and Renens. I read a lot on my trips but I was thinking about using my time more productively and do my readings on a more systematic basis. Four years ago, with these thoughts in mind, I enrolled in a distance education program in Sociology offered by Anadolu University in Turkey. Anadolu University has a Western European Office in Köln – Germany, which coordinates their distance education programs offered in Europe. I’ve now graduated with a B.A in Sociology. Sociology provides a broader perspective into the issues we are facing today. It gives a more holistic perspective – going beyond the narrow lenses of other disciplines.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to a graduating student?

Congratulations! Keep learning, keep the student spirit up. We are always students.

 

 

Appreciative Inquiry, Business Innovation and the SDGs – A winning combination

For the first time in September 2017 Business School Lausanne designed a case study course that used the UN Global Goals as a lens for students to take a step closer to business innovation in their community, exploring companies that are both profitable and doing good in the world.

In Part 1 of the course students needed to research a company they believe are doing work related to the SDGs. The students job was to help the company to uncover and reveal an important story that has happened to them related to a recent project where clearly “good for the world” was created, sometimes even unintentionally.

To find out whether their discovery was valid, they had a wealth of information available to them on the Aim2Flourish platform regarding the sustainable development goals and corporate innovation. Once a company and a contact person had been identified, students reached out through the power of our professional networks to connect, explain their intention, and set up an in-person interview with the specific business leader. The interview was prepared beforehand in class using the appreciative inquiry method. Based on the information interview and their additional research, students then wrote their stories and we went through a few rounds of revisions before submitting them to the AIM2Flourish platform. From the outset students knew they were part of a competition for the most innovative stories and that there was a possibility that their story would be chosen the following year as one of the best-of-the-best stories.

Early April I received a message from Aim2Flourish requesting confirmation that all the information in one of the stories written by a student was valid. I reached out to the company in question and liaised with the press department, made some modifications and on April 16, 2018  was advised that the story written by Karim Albekov had been awarded one of the 17 Flourish Prizes, based on the Promoting Gender Equity story he had written about the organization: IKEA.

This business’ story was selected as one of the 17 best stories exemplifying how business is a positive force for good and demonstrating progress towards the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) published on the AIM2Flourish platform in 2018.

AIM2Flourish is a UN-supported global learning initiative where students discover and celebrate untold stories about business innovations for good, using the 17 SDGs as a lens. AIM2Flourish is an initiative of the Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit at the Weatherhead School of Management – Case Western Reserve University.

Please join me in congratulating Karim Albekov for this excellent accomplishment and to all the other students who submitted their stories;  Alexandros Katsidonis,  Anna Iskanderova, Arsen Amanbayev, Lisa Foffano and Ana Cristina Junquira Ottoni. Give them all a big round of applause at graduation this summer for being the first to try and the first to succeed!

This year, Aim2Flourish will celebrate all of their 2018 Flourish Prize winners in a week-long, virtual celebration from May 7-11. During this time Aim2Flourish will host a global, multi-day celebration via our social channels on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium, and Zoom Video Conference with the hashtag #FlourishPrizes2018.

 

Author:

Nadene Canning, BSL Professor

 

Innovation at BSL: MEDICLY – A transparent blockchain healthcare system

Edited by Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers, Gap Frame Week designer and orchestrator

Student Group 1: Mariam Rawashdeh, Alexandra Gritsenko, Abdulkader AL Muhaidib, Andre Linney, Edoardo Danisi, Conrad Zawadzki, Mathieu Feltzinger, Grigory Klyuev, Tarek Talaat

DAY 1 – Ideation

Here we go, dear Readers; we are starting our Spring 2018 Gap Frame Week journey and this is our blog. Our group experience began with everyone introducing himself or herself and sharing personal insights. Out of the 8 members of our group, we had 7 different nationalities. This diversity helped us to get many initial ideas (80, to be precise) and different points of view.

We then discussed personal stories from our countries in connection to the health topic that we had unanimously chosen. What emerged is that health is certainly a multifaceted issue with many issues that need to be addressed. For example, we found during our research that even in developed countries, abuse and misinformation linked to use of medication is prevalent. What do guys think ? Is this a real issue?

While we talked, project ideas started to take shape, such as creating a transparent block chain healthcare system in which hospitals and pharmacies worldwide would be able to access the health background of virtually any patient. We discussed the pros and cons of a concept we called MEDICLY whereby any medical center or pharmacy across the globe could have access to an individual’s health record. The idea seemed appealing but we debated about the challenges of applying such an idea worldwide. For example, we established that there would be knowledge and communication barriers. Since we realized that applying this idea worldwide would be an immense challenge, we decide to stay at a country level, and to focus on Poland.

DAY 2 – Flexing of ideas

Let’s start the second day ! Our first task of the day was to identify relevant stakeholders. We then had to decide on some strategies to explore the feasibility of our Day 1 ideas.

The stakeholders we researched were Customers of companies, Cities & communities. Financial institutions, Consumers, Government and Regulators.

Customers of companies

We interviewed a pharmacist who was delighted with the idea and told us he would agree to take part in such a the project if it were launched. He found it simple, obvious and beneficial not only for the pharmaceutical business but for the entire health-care system.

Cities & communities

For cities & communities we sent an email to a local commune asking them about their opinions regarding the project, whether they would implement it in their commune and whether it is beneficial to them ? We also asked how it could work with local and Swiss regulations (knowing that in Switzerland, each commune is different).

Financial institutions

For financial institutions we interviewed an investor. The interviewed person said that he is observing a tremendous shift in technology and a tendency towards dealing with finance in very different ways (such as cryptocurrency). Medical health-care is an important aspect of human social existence and well-being. In his view, inefficiencies in the healthcare system inevitably translate into big problems for society. The investor we interviewed said that he believes in our idea and could see a future scenario where it may be possible to introduce it.

Consumer

For a consumer perspective, we interviewed fellow students of BSL and staff. The questions we asked were:

  • Do you think the current system of medical prescriptions is fair and functional?
  • Have you ever had any issues in trying to retrieve your or others medical records?
  • Do you know your blood type? If yes, do you have the blood type card with u at all times?
  • Do you know you if you have any allergies?
  • Do you think medical prescriptions are currently too easy or hard to get?

We concluded from the interviews that we had identified a problematic issue. People thought the idea was good but that there would probably be issues to solve regarding the handling of personal information and cloud safety (cybersecurity).

Government and Regulators

For governments & regulators, our team member contacted the Polish Health Ministry. We are still waiting for an answer….oh well…..you can’t win them all!

DAY 3 – Prototyping our concept

Today, we presented our project to all the students and faculty in the main auditorium. We got questions on how could we safely store patient data, and we had an interesting discussion around the block chain idea. Later in the day, we moved on to prototyping our idea. First, we carried out more research to get data that are more concrete and we decided to focus on the U.S. rather than Poland. Second, we shared all the information that different members of the team had been working on, combining and structuring our resources.

Back in our innovation space after our lunch break, we started working on the 10-prototyping criteria provided. We also made some decisions about what our slogan should be. Options we considered were: “partner in life”, “accessibility”, “partner for health”, “private health directory”, and we settled on the latter.

Once we finished the answers we went over the work done and refreshed everything for the opportunity we would have the next day to share our ideas with others and build on them (we call this session the “Frenzy”).

DAY 4 – Refining our prototype

Dear Readers: Here is the last part of our Spring 2018 Gap Frame Week blog!!! On this – the 4th day – we started organizing and planning for the Frenzy. We created posters and finalized the presentation, We even spoke with one of the other groups working on a health challenge also. We discovered that we had synergies and that seeking a partnership with the other student team might even make sense.

During the Frenzy we gave each other feedback. Our fellow students were highly engaged and gave many positive comments.

However, other students really wanted to understand how to ensure a sustainable flow of funding for the project once the program is sold to, for example, the government. We definitely need to focus on the funding model at our next Gap Frame Week in the Summer of 2018.

Once we integrated the feedback, we finished the presentation by adding our draft financial plan.

Phew…..we were finally done! Our team presenter rehearsed in front of everyone as, on the Friday – final day – we would only be allowed an 8 minute presentation. Wish us luck!!

 

Innovation at BSL: NAVINTA – Matching University students with rural communities in need

Edited by: Dr. Aileen Ionescu-Somers, Gap Frame Week designer and orchestrator

Blogpost by BSL Spring Gap Frame Week Student Group 5: Adelaide-Ioli
Eliopoulos, Arshia Soltani, David Chopuuryan, Jose Carreras-Medina, Moulaye El
Hassen, Nikita Safronov, Oleksandr Kryachko, Saveliy Danilov, Suchi Dubey

“Education is the passport to the future,
for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

-Malcolm X

This blog is mainly devoted to the teamwork issues related to our experience ofΣτιγμιότυπο 2018-05-03, 9.53.42 π.μ.
the Gap Frame Week (GFW) that has become such an essential part of the BSL community life. During this highly innovative week, we raise important questions about some of the world’s greatest environmental and social challenges. We share, reflect upon, and discuss possible solutions to these dilemmas, AND we develop a prototype of a solution. Being honest, sometimes we even get quite carried away and there are lots of different opinions – sometimes even raised voices – amongst the team members.

As Team 5, we decided to focus during the Spring 2018 GFW on the lack of equal opportunity for education and self-development. We came up with the idea of Navinta, which is the creation of a knowledge database using algorithm software to match University students with rural communities in need, and to empower them as educators of elementary school students. In order to create a successful concept prototype, which would contribute to equal opportunity for education, we needed to work as a team, as one organism. This short blog entry will talk about our experience during the week, our team chemistry and the way we worked together.

Our overall conclusion from our GFW experience is that the key to team success
lies in the creation of an original community, where everyone’s ideas are valued and represented. In order to find the right group chemistry, it is essential to get to know
each other, and to learn to respect each team member. Luckily,Στιγμιότυπο 2018-05-03, 9.56.15 π.μ. every member of our team knew each other before working on this project, but we were not very close. Therefore, we had to get to know each other better so we could operate better. The “Ice breaker” activity on the first day helped us to achieve this. The “Ice breaker” is an easy exercise, in which team members interview and introduce each other. It consists of 5 questions, to be answered by each team member within one minute each. During this session, even though we already knew each other, we still connected on another level. During the icebreaker time, we each drew symbols that represented the others (their characters and personalities, or what we knew about them). Even though it seemed as a simple task, we found it to be quite challenging. These symbols revealed a lot about each member of the group and helped us to get a better understanding of each other. Every member shared what he/she meant by the symbol, the idea and the meaning behind it. It was a crucial step on our way to finding the perfect team chemistry.

Respect, listening skills, and commitment (with an added ingredient of humor) in what we believe are necessary tools to create a warm and productive working atmosphere. The fact that we had a chance to self-organize as a team, had an immensely positive impact on our working process. Everything we did during the GFW, even when we were procrastinating, researching, interviewing, developing our posters or presentations, watching or making videos or even…. dancing, helped us to connect and as a result we feel we presented an inspired piece of work on the final day of the week.

Even after the working days were over, some of our team members met up, went out together, had dinner, and had some fun, which all helped up to bond even more. Even though those activities were not connected to the work at all – during the time we went out we did not talk about our project at all – it still had a positive effect on the chemistry of our team and we were able to work better together the following day.

At the end of the day, there really is no “I” in team and it  is crucial that every team member understands that. We are convinced that nothing is more vital to success than the team spirit.Στιγμιότυπο 2018-05-03, 9.57.42 π.μ.

In this blogpost, we have not talked
much about our solution, preferring to report on some of the team building aspects of the week. But watch this space for more news about NAVINTA and how it develops when we work on it further during GFW 4 from 14 to 20 May, 2018.

Until then, signing out, Group 5!

 

 

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