Graduate Blog / Graduate Life

Babson Team Wins IXL Innovation Olympics

Twice a year, the IXL Center hosts an Innovation Olympics, an 8-week challenge where teams from different colleges act as consultants to produce the best business solutions for a company. In September, I was on a team with five fellow Babson graduate students competing in this year’s challenge.

They told us we were accepted because of the diversity we had in our group—three Peruvians, two Indians and one American from different backgrounds, including architecture, business, engineering, supply chain management, finance and marketing. Teams from HULT University, UC San Diego, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (Brazil), University of Memphis, UCLA, Penn, Northwestern University and University of Chicago also competed in this challenge.

Our client was the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) in Washington D.C.. CAFB works on solving food insecurity and its companion problems, helping around 540,000 people get access to healthy food each year, partnering with over 444 community organizations in the Metro D.C. area. We were posed with the challenge of accelerating sustainable food distribution through innovation!

None of my Babson team members had a consulting background, so to start, we get certified in innovation consulting. The IXL institute partners with Global Innovation Management Institute to help provide this; my team earned our level 1 and level 2 certifications in innovation consulting to help approach the challenge better and provide a sustainable solution.

Our diverse background enabled each of us to bring something unique to the table. Be it work experiences or cultural differences, we learned from one another every step of the way. Going into our first presentation, we were all nervous and a little unsure. But, as we have learned at Babson, “You never fail, you always learn.” And we did learn a lot from that presentation. We redefined our scope and narrowed our work down five final ideas to present to our client.

One idea was to start a food truck that would act as a distribution and revenue center. Another idea: to tie-up with grocery stores and sell packed meals at these stores. The client askedus to combine both of these pitches in a final presentation, to be held the day after our final exams. Hey, the MBA is all about working those long nights with your groups, right? That’s what we did for that entire week. Just like winter, our days were getting shorter and our nights longer. After making the final set of changes at 2:40 a.m., we sent out our presentation to the client along with a sigh of que sera sera.

Our client had to sit through 5 hour long presentations at a stretch and at one point, you did feel for them. We were the 4th team to present. Apart from our presentation hanging once, the display turning off twice and animation failing to load in a few slides, we thought we did a good job handling the hiccups with humor. After a 10 minute Q&A, we felt like the client liked the idea and enjoyed sitting through the presentation. Come January, they announced the results. It was nerve-racking.  When we didn’t hear our names as the third or second runner up, we just turned to each other and said, “it was probably because the animation failed to load.” That statement was just about completed, and we jumped off our seats, filled with joy, not paying attention to where we were, high-fives were flying in the air. We had actually won the 8 week Innovation Olympics and our client was about to take our idea forward.

Eight weeks seemed like a long time in the start, but when you are having fun, time flies.