All posts by Sarah Massey

A design framework for innovation

On April 2, the Foster School held its 2nd annual Innovation and Entrepreneurship Symposium, hosted by Neal Dempsey, this year’s Fritzky Chair. Julia Link, principal of the Link Group which offers product and go-to-market strategies for various companies, spoke about the creative process and provided a design framework.

A design framework for innovation:
Julia LinkStep 1: Empathize – In this phase, you’re trying to understand your target customers’ needs, motives, feelings and goals. Your job is to get the story. Don’t go to your potential customer with the solution; instead let them tell you what they want.

Step 2: Define – Take the information and insights you’ve gathered in step one and start to define the user and decide what problem you’re trying to solve. You should ask yourself “so what.” We’ve created this product that solves this problem. So what? Why is it so important to solve that problem? Who needs that problem solved?

Be sure to design your product for individuals, not the industry. Link also made a very important point about designing for the extreme users. Extreme users are not power users, but they are people who have more requirements than the average product user. If you can design for the extreme users, chances are high the regular users will also like what you designed. An example she cited was wheels on suitcases. Now ubiquitous, wheels on suitcases were originally for people who traveled a lot.

Step 3: Ideate – Come up with a lot of ideas for your product. This works best when you can brainstorm with a group which has varying backgrounds. Have everyone suggest ideas. Don’t judge the ideas, just write them down.

Steps 4 and 5: Prototype and Test – Take the ideas generated in step three and go make something. Don’t spend a lot of time or money on the prototype. It’s not sacred. You’re simply trying to create something people can give you feedback on. Don’t take the feedback personally. Repeat this process as often as needed: Prototype > Fail > Learn often.

Learn more about all the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Symposium sessions.

Consider the inevitable

On April 2, the Foster School held its 2nd annual Innovation and Entrepreneurship Symposium, hosted by Neal Dempsey, this year’s Fritzky Chair. Three people spoke about design and innovation trends in business: Ken Denman, president and CEO of Emotient; Bob Paulsen co-founder and CEO of PlayerLync; and Julia Link, principal of the Link Group. Below are highlights from Denman’s and Paulsen’s sessions.

Ken DenmanDenman focused on innovation and relayed his experiences with Emotient, a facial expression recognition and analysis company. Main points included:

  • When established companies are trying to innovate, they tend to make existing products only incrementally better. This works for awhile, but then smaller companies start to catch up and offer more innovative products that grab more and more market share. The example Denman cited was the iPhone. When it came out, it was a product category maker or re-maker. It started taking market share away from existing markets such as GPS and personal cameras.
  • Study up on the industry you’re in so you know who the competitors are and where the market is heading. Knowing this information allows you get beyond the basics in conversations.
  • As an entrepreneur, you’re always raising money while you’re doing everything else. It’s exhausting, but it’s part of the job.
  • As an entrepreneur you have to be able to overcome your fears. You must have the confidence to say, “I can do this.” And you have to be able to project that confidence.
  • Uncertainty is a given in entrepreneurship. You don’t know what you don’t know, but you’ll learn it when you need to know it.
  • Product philosophy: Before you start, think about the inevitable. What’s inevitable given the technology available, customer needs and status of the market? Use the answers to these questions to decide whether or not to pursue an idea. If you can identify those areas in the market where something big is going to happen, you’re positioning yourself for success.
  • One of the most challenging aspects of innovation is to take big complex ideas and make them stupid simple—so simple anyone can understand them.
  • To innovate, be disciplined and methodical in your thinking. Try something, measure it and iterate. Repeat that process over and over.

Learn more about Ken Denman and his company Emotient, formerly Machine Perception Technologies.

Bob Paulsen, co-founder and CEO of PlayerLync, shared his innovation best practices. PlayerLync creates an enterprise platform that provides a secure and easy way to control content and offers tablet-based collaboration. Their clients include large restaurant chains and NFL football teams.

Bob PaulsenPaulsen shared several keys to success:

  • PlayerLync takes a very user-focused approach to their product, and Paulsen reinforced that mentality throughout his presentation. He said you have to make it easy for someone to use your product. If their first experience with it isn’t positive, they’ll look for something else.
  • When developing PlayerLync, they considered what their customer would want in their product by anticipating their needs. The customer gave them a few initial requirements, and they took those requirements and ran with them. The result was a product that exceeded the customers’ expectations.
  • Ideas are great, but businesses are based on who will pay for your product, service or software. Don’t overlook this when starting a new venture.
  • He also recommended three business books: The E Myth by Michael E. Gerber, Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore and The Discipline of Market Leaders by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema.

Learn more about all the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Symposium sessions.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship Symposium

InnovEntreSymposiumOn Wednesday, April 2, the Foster School of Business held its 2nd annual Innovation and Entrepreneurship Symposium. Neal Dempsey, the visiting 2013-2014 Edward V. Fritzky Chair in Leadership, hosted an interactive day where students and business representatives came together to discuss the latest challenges in design and innovation.

The symposium started with Christian Chabot, founder CEO of Tableau Software. Next, Salman Ullah of Merus Capital and Neal Dempsey gave an insightful talk and provided advice to aspiring entrepreneurs. Highlights included:

  • It’s hard to be an entrepreneur. You have to fail to succeed. And after you fail, you have to get up and do it again.
  •  To be successful today, you have to work really, really hard—harder than those in previous generations. Why? Because the world is full of people who are also working really, really hard, and you’re competing against them.
  • Raising money.
    • There are many sources from which to raise money. Ullah made the point, however, that it’s good to raise money from traditional sources (venture capitalists) because they have a high bar, which is good for you and your business.
    • The real work of an entrepreneur starts after you’ve raised money. Ullah said, “Have enough psychic energy to get past the initial euphoria of raising money.”
  • Take responsibility for your own career path. Regularly evaluate your career to ensure it’s what you want. If it isn’t, make a change.
  • In every job you have figure out who will give you air cover. In this context air cover refers to a person who will back you and your ideas up when you need it. This person could be someone you’ve done a favor for, your mentor or a colleague.

Learn more about all the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Symposium sessions.

The journey of Tableau

Christian Chabot, CEO and co-founder of Tableau, spoke at the Leaders to Legends Breakfast Lecture Series on April 2. He outlined how Tableau, a business intelligence* software company, went from a small start-up in his Capitol Hill apartment to a publicly traded company (NYSE: DATA).

Chabot drew parallels between the rise of Tableau and the pattern that all disruptive companies follow as outlined in the book Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen. That pattern is outlined below.

1. Disruptive technology comes along that is written off as low-end.
Initially, industry experts dismissed Tableau’s software even though it made it much easier for people to analyze data. Its software democratized people’s ability to work with and analyze data.

2. Market share captains write off the disruptive technology.
Gartner, an industry research firm, wouldn’t give Tableau the time of day from 2004-2006, and from 2007-2009, Gartner referred to Tableau as an interesting little data visualization start-up that is part of a niche market.

3. Massive numbers of people start to adapt the new technology.
The company’s revenue has roughly doubled every year since 2005, except for in 2009, the year of the financial collapse. Today, Tableau is the fastest growing software company in the world.

4. Technology moves up market and replaces the high-end technology.
Gartner visited Tableau in 2013 and said traditional business intelligence is dying and the world is moving toward the way Tableau operates.

5. Traditional providers start to struggle financially.
While Tableau is experiencing rapid growth, companies such as SAP and IBM, former leaders in the business intelligence industry, are reducing the size of their business intelligence divisions.

To learn more about Tableau and hear Chabot’s two pieces of advice for entrepreneurs and why he thinks Seattle is a better place for start-ups than Silicon Valley, watch the video below.

* Business intelligence (BI) refers to software applications that are used to analyze an organization’s raw data. BI includes data mining, processing, querying and reporting.

Christian Chabot was one of UW Foster School of Business Dean Jim Jiambalvo’s guest speakers at the annual Leaders to Legends Breakfast Lecture Series, which include notable leaders in an array of industries from greater Seattle and around the country.

Is your marketing vision 20/20?

Guest post by Marissa Freeman, UW undergraduate and VP of public relations, UW American Marketing Association

UW American Marketing Association Regional Marketing ConferenceOver 150 students and professionals gathered in PACCAR Hall in February for a full day of keynote speakers, breakout sessions, a case competition and a career fair as part of the first annual UW American Marketing Association Regional Marketing Conference. The conference’s theme was “Vision 20/20: A Clear Vision into Marketing in the New Millennium,” and it was sponsored by Eddie Bauer. Foster’s EY Center for Undergraduate Career Advancement and the UW American Marketing Association co-facilitated the event.

Professionals from 4th Avenue Media, KeyBank, Razorfish, Eddie Bauer and Edelman participated in the conference and students from UW, Seattle University, Pacific Lutheran, University of Montana and Western Washington University attended the conference. During the breakout sessions, marketing professionals led students in discussions about how to stand out in the marketing industry. The breakout sessions covered how marketing in a digital world means understanding the language of a digital market. Mel Carlson, founder of Delightful Communications, shared his take on how social media is more than a way to flood people with information, but rather a way to begin discussions with customers. He made the point that conversations online have shared the B2C dynamic for the better.

Keynote speakers included Lucas Mack, founder of 4th Avenue Media, and William Boucher, senior vice president of marketing at KeyBank. Mack opened up the conference with encouraging our attendees to understand “the why” behind their actions and how it fits into their larger story. Standing out in the marketing industry means finding creative ways to tell a story. Story telling is at the core of the marketing world, as suggested by Mack, and helps marketers connect with their audiences like never before. Adding the story telling element to any marketing campaign allows for the target audience to understand why they should look more into a product or idea. Mack also shared his personal mantra: “Discover truth through story, discover story through truth.” This helped attendees see how crucial it is to be open and excited about advertising and marketing so the truth behind the product or idea’s story comes to life.

Students shared that the conference as a whole was worth the early wake-up call. While marketing classes teach the core ideals of the industry, nothing can compare to hearing from professionals in a more casual, intimate setting. The UW AMA’s Regional Marketing Conference created an environment for students to raise their hand and open up a discussion between marketers in Fortune 500 companies and aspiring marketers.

The buzz throughout PACCAR Hall was one of excitement, intellect and passion. There was an excitement for conversations, the intellect of those professionals in attendance and students’ passion to learn. The UW AMA and EY Center for Undergraduate Career Advancement are proud to have hosted the first annual Regional Marketing Conference and look forward to organizing this event again next year.

PhD alumnus wins Poets&Quants teaching award

Greg FisherGreg Fisher (PhD 2012) recently made Poets&Quants “Top 40 Under 40” list. The list recognizes the rising stars in academia who represent elite schools from around the world. To determine who should receive this award, Poets&Quants asked business school officials, faculty, students and alumni for their top picks.

Fisher, who received a PhD in entrepreneurship and strategy from the Foster School in 2012, is now an assistant professor of entrepreneurship at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. Suresh Kotha, professor of management at the Foster School and Fisher’s PhD advisor, said, “In addition to being a great teacher and researcher, he was one of those really focused PhD students who knew what he wanted. Rarely do you see a PhD student who is so focused and knows what he wants from his PhD program in such a short period of time.” Fisher was also one of the few PhD students at the Foster School to receive an invitation to teach in the Executive MBA Program—positions typically reserved for senior faculty.

In response to winning the award, Fisher said, “It was nice to receive recognition for teaching because you often don’t know if you’re having an impact.” He also said he was honored to be part of the cohort of professionals who also received the award.

When teaching, Fisher brings the content to life. For example, at Foster he taught the business case about HomeGrocer, one of the first online grocery delivery services. In addition to analyzing the case, Fisher invited Terry Drayton, co-founder of HomeGrocer, to his class to talk about the rise and fall of the company. At the Kelley School, he teaches a business case about a bowling alley that goes through a turnaround. To make the case more memorable, Fisher teaches the class at a bowling alley. It’s experiences such as these that Fisher hopes provide a deeper, more impactful learning experience for his students.

Fisher also made the point that becoming a teacher who has impact doesn’t happen overnight. He said, “I’ve been teaching since 2005 and am always looking for ways to improve.” According to Fisher, the five years he spent at Foster as a PhD student served as an apprenticeship. He had the opportunity to see many excellent teachers in action, and would spend time figuring out what they were great at and how to emulate that in his classroom. He also said his time at Foster gave him the confidence and insights necessary to be able to experiment in the classroom.

According to Poets&Quants, “A few common characteristics cut through the whole group: Most, if not all, of the top profs leverage their youthful energy and Generation Y knowledge to create an engaging classroom environment. They naturally build genuine and meaningful relationships with their students, and they pursue another profession or serious hobby on the side.” Fisher’s serious hobby is running. He has run 45 marathons, 16 ultra-marathons and completed three Ironman Triathlons. As for upcoming races, he’s running a marathon in May and doing a triathlon this summer.

Learn more about Greg Fisher and the other “Top 40 Under 40” professors.

Building the business case for applied learning: Strategic Management Case Competition

Alaska Airlines presentation team
Alaska Airlines presentation team: Kenny Thompson, Tyler Waterer, Mackenzie Meier and Jordan Barr

An Alaska Airlines jet soared overhead as a group of four Foster School seniors emerged from the Customer Services and Innovation team headquarters last Friday. Spirits were soaring too as Jordan Barr, Mackenzie Meier, Kenny Thompson and Tyler Waterer had just presented their recommendations on how to make Alaska Airlines the “easiest airline to fly” to a senior leadership team. The students landed the opportunity to present their ideas to the Customer Innovation team because they outperformed 33 teams of their peers (161 participants) in the fall 2013 Foster Strategy Development case competition.

The competition has been described as the capstone experience to a capstone course. All graduating seniors are required to take strategic management, a course designed to assimilate and apply academic theory to real business issues. The goal is to provide students with practical experience prior to launching into their careers. Offered in the fall, winter and spring and summer, the course draws between 150-300 students per quarter.

Beginning in the fall of 2012, undergraduate program faculty, staff and administrators had the vision of bringing valuable case competition experiences to all Foster School of Business students. Initially, the case competition was optional, done in lieu of a final exam. During the first fall quarter, about 100 students in 25 teams (80% of total class population) participated. Quickly, the value of this experience was recognized by all stakeholders.

According to Clay Schwenn, case competition coordinator and assistant director of student leadership and development, a key learning for students is to be “able to take the theoretical knowledge they have acquired over the years and create something concrete. They generate a set of recommendations to people who could actually implement them.” This is powerful for the students and for the client companies.

Course coordinator Rick McPherson, a veteran of the telecom business for over 25 years, knows the importance of how to “sell” ideas to executives. He sees incredible benefit not only to the students in terms of richness of learning, but also for the companies. McPherson noted “particularly with the presentation to Alaska Airlines you saw how a well thought-out analysis and recommendations were really attractive to a company. Our students demonstrated that they can come up to speed to understand an industry and a business opportunity and create realistic ideas that a business can pursue.”

At Alaska Airlines Customer Innovation headquarters, the moment the students began their pitch, the dozen company leaders in attendance began taking notes, and then asking questions and soliciting the student’s perspective on wide raging issues from the usability of their web interface to competitive market analysis. Student team members Mackenzie, Kenny, Jordan and Tyler’s polished presentation skills left a strong impression on the leadership team. Their confidence, depth of knowledge and ability to respond quickly and thoughtfully to challenging questions will translate well to job interviews and future executive level presentations. From Jordan Barr’s perspective, “the most rewarding aspect of making our pitch to the Customer Innovations team at Alaska Airlines is the thought that our solution could be implemented in the company. It clearly shows that Alaska Airlines didn’t just do this to say they were involved—they did this because they truly want to innovate and do something different. It is an incredible feeling to know that they will be using our advice moving forward in their solutions—and it doesn’t hurt that they want to hire us.” Tyler Waterer commented, “Without Foster’s partnership with Alaska Airlines, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have this kind of learning experience (while) still in college.”

The success of the case competitions has focused on sourcing local businesses (past case companies have included: Microsoft, Amazon and Seattle City Light) and creating forward-looking cases on current issues the company is tackling. This approach of what should a company DO, not what they should have done creates urgency for the issue and maximizing the impact the students can make. Stay tuned to see student ideas take flight in other businesses.

It’s a good time to be a woman in business

Foster undergraduates Madeline Down and Natasha Tieu share their thoughts on the Second Annual Women’s Breakfast, which was organized by the Foster School’s EY Center for Undergraduate Career Advancement.

WomenBreakfastThe Second Annual Women’s Breakfast was a success. The attendance from both employers and students was impressive. Women from many companies attended, including Wells Fargo Bank, Deloitte, Concur Technologies, Grant Thornton, KPMG, EY, PwC, West Monroe Partners, Eddie Bauer, The Boeing Company and Liberty Mutual Insurance.

A highlight from the event was the keynote speech by Mary Knell, CEO of Wells Fargo, Washington and Western Canada. She spoke about the challenges and benefits of being a woman in business, and her experience at Wells Fargo and in other positions. Knell shared that there are many challenges related to family and work life, and the social expectation that women should not be the ‘bread-winner.’ However, society is changing and it is an extremely exciting time to be a woman in business. Knell is proof that all women are capable of having a successful career and a family at the same time. She definitely inspired me to keep working towards my goals, and not to let any adversity deter me from reaching them.

At the breakfast, it was amazing to see a room full of women, ranging from freshmen to professionals, getting together to discuss topics unique to women in business. You could feel the tremendous support we had for one another. As a woman in the business school, I look forward to attending next year and creating new contacts and connections within the professional world.

805.5 volunteer hours

Guest post by Cynthia Chiou (BA 2014)

Foster Week of ServiceFoster Week of Service was a tremendous success, and we want to thank everyone within the community for making this possible. Because of your participation, we had a total of 805.5 volunteer hours dedicated to helping organizations across many different philanthropic causes.

Giving back to our community has always been an important aspect of the Foster School, and we hope to continue this event for years to come. Below are some highlights from a great week of service work. There were a wide range of events, surrounding causes such as environmental, health, education, diversity and global aid.

Alpha Kappa Psi Rho Chapter worked to raise money for cancer research and patient support. Their team was able to raise more than $9,000 in concession sales at the Alaska Airlines Arena, of which $900 will be donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

StartUp UW teamed up with Mercer Island High School to host an entrepreneurial challenge. Groups were given a $20 bill and went out to create their own ventures. After a week of hosting various fund-raising events, teams were able to raise $609, of which $549 will be donated to The Sophia Way.

Market Driven Investors worked with the Rainer Chamber of Commerce to procure items for their annual auction fundraising event. Students spent the week reaching out to potential donors and working directly with the chamber to strategize a successful procurement process.

Business Leaders in Healthcare worked with the Lifelong Aids Alliance on packet stuffing for the AIDS Action & Awareness (A3) Day.

Business Impact Group volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club of Renton Skyway, working with students on their social venture project, Marketplace. They also spent time talking with students about college preparation and playing gym games.

The Montlake Consulting Group organized a Foster Community Street Clean with students through campus and the University District.

AIESEC and CISB hosted a raffle fundraiser for disaster relief to donate proceeds to the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns.

Delta Sigma Pi and ALPFA co-hosted a dodgeball tournament to donate all proceeds to UNICEF for typhoon relief efforts.

The 2014 Foster Week of Service was generously sponsored by UPS and Target.

You’re in charge–now what?

EMBA Panel
Left to right: EMBA student Christy Bermensolo and alums Vetri Vellore, Kevin Conroy, and René Ancinas shared insights at the Forum on Leadership and the Executive MBA.

Three Foster Executive MBA alumni and one current student, all of whom are CEOs at mid-career, shared their experiences on the challenges and rewards of leadership with an attentive audience of students, prospective students and alumni on January 29.

The four came to their leadership roles in different ways. Kevin Conroy (EMBA 2004), president and founder of Blue Rooster, has been self-employed since 1990 and has started several companies. René Ancinas (EMBA 2009), president and CEO at Port Blakely Companies, and Christy Bermensolo (EMBA 2015), CEO at Engineered Software, Inc., assumed leadership of family-owned companies fairly recently–Christy just last year. Vetri Vellore (EMBA 2006), CEO and co-founder at Chronus Corporation, started his company in 2007 after a successful 14-year career at Microsoft.

René and Christy found getting comfortable in the leadership role especially challenging. Both said the advice and guidance they received from mentors inside and outside their organizations, including EMBA classmates, had been tremendously helpful. They both quickly realized their responsibilities required the ability to manage change. For René, the challenge was growth–unusual for a family business, he said. For Christy, it was the need to adopt a style of management different from her parents’ intensely hands-on approach.

All the panelists said finding mentors who offer sound advice and counsel was a key priority, no matter how long they had been in the lead. Kevin spoke about his recent experience recruiting a board of directors, and how much he had learned in the process of preparing to take his business to the next level. René looked to his board, experienced staff members and colleagues in the Young Presidents Organization. Velore sought out executives who he considered 3-5 years ahead of him in their development.

Christy offered some insight into the reason all these leaders had chosen to enroll in Foster’s Executive MBA Program. Preparing to assume her new role, Christy–an engineer by training and analytical by nature–developed a spreadsheet listing expertise that she figured she would need in order to handle the CEO job effectively. She quickly realized her list closely matched the curriculum of the Executive MBA Program. That made one of her first big decisions an easy one.