Sustainable Design Centers Consulting Projects this Semester

duq-main-logo2.gifDesigning an urban oasis in cooperation with Phipps Conservatory, developing an innovative restaurant concept in conjunction with Eat’N Park, and identifying best practices in financing sustainable building construction and renovation with the Green Building Alliance are the three consulting projects our cohort is working on this semester!

Each of these endeavors comes with a unique set of challenges, and our cohort is eager to utilize the many frameworks, theories, and ideas that we have learned throughout our time in the MBA Sustainability program in real-world applications. We believe that these three ventures are ideal for implementing sustainable principles throughout the city of Pittsburgh.

We are thankful and excited for the opportunity to work with real world companies, and make a positive change in multiple industries!

IDEO Design Thinking Workshop

It was incredible how much knowledge we gained about breakthrough innovation!

Our MBA Sustainability Cohort participated and competed a training session on Design Thinking from IDEO. For those of you who don’t know, Design Thinking is a structured and proven approach to speeding up breakthrough innovations.

Our instructors helped our teams navigate the different stages of Design Thinking along the 4-hour simulation. Each group came up with dozens of ideas during our “Ideation” phase that focused on helping a town in California find new uses for stuff the residents no longer needed. Furthermore, we created storyboards to help visually represent the actions we developed to promote sustainable lifestyles in this town.

By following the key principles of Design Thinking, particularly being observant and testing out hypothesis in a quick, iterative fashion, we developed extremely imaginative, but feasible ideas swiftly. Stay turned to see how we apply these tools during our consulting projects.

PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting Project

Recently, three PwC executives came to class to introduce our first live consulting engagement – an exciting white space challenge.

The practice leader and managing director outlined the company’s portfolio of services, organizational structure, culture and values.  His colleague, a practice expert, explained his service area in more detail, and the third executive offered context for risk management issues associated with our strategic challenge.

Working for PwC offers a very unique perspective, since we will be consulting for a consultant.  To develop our recommendations, we will be using theory and tools from our systems thinking and sustainability courses as well as methodology from the IDEO design-thinking workshop that kicked off the project course.   The cohort has been divided into six teams, and all six will be preparing independent solutions for PwC.

Putting the Pieces Together: Design Thinking + PNC

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Our project’s course kicked off with a design thinking simulation from IDEO and Experience Point.  Our facilitator, Drew Marshall, discussed the “sweet spot” between desirability, feasibility, and viability and outlined a systematic process for observation, ideation, testing and implementation. A highlight of the design thinking workshop was the lightening round of brainstorming. This process will be useful as we begin our consulting project with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

IMG_7165The following day, PNC’s chief marketing officer Karen Larrimer spoke to our cohort about the disciplined methodology for breakthrough innovation used at PNC. Using Target as an example, she shed light on how companies collect information and use specific data algorithms to tailor marketing to individual customer needs and wants.

One classmate, Laura, recognized the design thinking in PNC’s creation of the virtual wallet application.  Karen explained that the application responds to customer shifts from brick and mortar to ATMs and on-line bill paying while providing a competitive advantage for PNC. Laura described the creation of the virtual wallet as a “win-win” because customers have more flexibility, and the bank is able to reach more customers.

It is no accident that the program hosted Karen Larrimer after our design thinking simulation with Drew Marshall. While Drew showed us the theory and application of design thinking, Karen was able to show us design thinking in practice at PNC. It’s a relief to see that we learn in the classroom is directly applicable to a business environment.