Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan competed in the 2019 Rotman Design Challenge, taking second place with their team name of Team 2.0. The Rotman Design Challenge (RDC) is a unique event that brings together top talent from master’s programmes across the globe to propose solutions to a complex business challenge.
As sponsor, Kingspan tasked students with the topic of disruption in the construction industry and sought innovative solutions to the impending question: ‘Change and disruption in the construction industry is inevitable but where is it going to come from and in what form?’
Team 2.0 from the University of Michigan consisted of Vanessa Lynskey, Colleen Clark, Dorothy Watts, Christina Puder and Abigail Liederman. Colleen Clark is pursuing a Masters of Design, Christina Puder is undertaking a dual Masters in Business Administration/Masters of Science, while fellow team members Vanessa Lynskey, Dorothy Watts and Abigail Liederman are pursuing the Masters of Business Administration.
In an interview following their success, Vanessa Lynskey [VL], Dorothy Watts [DW] and Abigail Liederman [AL] reflected on their experience and their proposed venture capital solution.
Can you briefly outline the Rotman Design Challenge?
VL: The Rotman Design Challenge is a competition for students to put design theories into practice by tackling a business challenge over one month.
DW: At an initial event we found out Kingspan was the main sponsor. The team had little experience in the construction industry and saw this as an opportunity to reach out and gather information on the industry.
VL: Over the course of the next three weeks the team set out to unpack the question posed by Kingspan. We completed the work up-front which involved background research, industry analysis and sector interviews. The final solution was submitted in advance and then we presented our plan at the two-day event in Toronto.
From the research you carried out, what problem does your solution solve?
VL: Kingspan put forward an open-ended question which allowed teams to explore multiple angles and approaches. As a team, we looked to reframe the question and focused on the underlying barriers to innovation experienced in the construction sector.
AL: We presented a two-pronged solution. In the near term the creation of a digital platform to ensure design decision-makers have access to information on Kingspan products. In our research, we discovered architects are the gatekeepers to decisions in the initial stages of development. This platform provides all relevant information in one place to the key decision makers, particularly architects.
In developing a long-term solution, we sought to establish a stream of innovative ideas. As the construction industry becomes increasingly digitally driven, we envisaged a collaborative venture capital arm. To remain at the forefront of innovation, a company needs knowledge and technical solutions. A venture capital arm within Kingspan would establish a flow of knowledge to identify future technology trends and better anticipate disruption.
What surprised you about the construction industry throughout your research?
DW: Early on in our research we realised there is a step change going on in the construction sector with an emphasis emerging on digital solutions. However we also recognised that the industry has traditionally been very relationship dependent.
VL: We set out to ensure our short-term and long-term solution addressed this discovery. A component of our platform solution involves a chat-bot. This allows customers to maintain direct contact with the company and allows Kingspan to tailor their communications to improve the user experience.
The venture capital solution is rooted in personal experience and engagement. A venture capital arm acknowledges the transfer of expertise, knowledge and innovation.
Finally, would you recommend the Rotman Design Challenge to fellow students?
VL: Absolutely! The weekend provides an opportunity to engage with peers from various design and business backgrounds. The competition requires teams to create tangible solutions to industry challenges and incorporate your academic learning.
Students were energised by the dedication of our sponsor, Kingpsan. Their passion for innovation, and eagerness to engage with students, was invigorating.
Additional information on the RDC is available at https://www.rotmanbdc.com/rotman-design-challenge