Reacting innovating

Matteo Vignoli
Researcher at University of Bologna
28 July 2020

It is the official start of the BBS React Innovation Program project, the initiative of Bologna Business School, designed to make a real contribution to the post-Covid recovery, involving students and Alumni divided into specific rescue teams.

The aim is helping companies of the area to redefine their business models. Matteo Vignoli, professor of the Global MBA of BBS, Director of the Open Innovation Program of Almacube at the University of Bologna and of the Food Innovation Program of Reggio Emilia, coordinates the project.

“When a storm begins, at first you can sense the electricity in the air and drops of rain on your skin. Some people ignore it and go on their way, as nothing were happening, while others hurry up to get where they were heading to; others again react and get ready.

We react, and our way of doing it is through innovation, leveraging on all our resources. Hence BBS React Innovation Program, from the feeling of belonging that we all share and that unites us, from the idea that nobody should be left alone to face critical situations, that from difficulties opportunities may arise, if the right resources are deployed. BBS React is the strength of a community, ours, that proves to be united faced with adversities and that is preoccupied (from the Latin occupy before) for those in difficulty.

For this reason Bologna Business School intervenes to support companies that need to deal with a new competitive context, with its students, talents who come from every corner of the planet, with its faculty, dedicated and competent professors, with its alumni, managers and executives of companies from every industry. The program provides innovative design responses, that may trigger the cultural change that organizations need to undertake. The goal is rethinking the business models of the companies partners and help them readapt to what we call “the new normal”, the post-Covid world.

The BBS React process was born from an original merger of the Design Thinking methodologies and more business-oriented approaches in a Lean perspective. Every team, made up of 4 to 6 MBA students who have different backgrounds and come from different countries, works on a challenge presented by an SME, supported by a mentor of the community of the BBS alumni and a coach who has expertise in innovation processes.

Design Thinking enables to deal with complex problems with multi-disciplinary teams, providing a way of thinking. It requires to change the point of view, from “what it is” to “what it could be”, starting from “we need to understand” and getting to “we need to imagine”. Design Thinking is a basic competence, enabling people to design the future starting from their perspective, enriching it in a shared vision. While doing it, people realize that the value is not in focusing to find the right solutions but in identifying the right problem.

BBS React is divided into 3 stages. In the first research stage (Discovery), the team will investigate in depth the partner company, its reference sector and its main stakeholders, the aim being to identify latent needs and the most interesting market opportunities to tackle. In the second, starting from the opportunities that were identified, the team will focus on the ideation of possible solutions (Ideation), testing them and quickly measuring their performances with users. Finally, in the third stage (Definition), the Team, together with the company, will transform the solution that was found into a proper functioning pilot.

The experience of BBS React is unique in many respects. However, the fundamental element is that the ideas that are developed will not actually remain abstract concepts, but they will be implemented and immediately tested in the market, turning students into proper “intra-preneurs”, entrepreneurs in the partner companies.

The first wave of the program has started, we involved 11 companies, from fashion to services, and 54 participants, from 8 different masters, from the Global MBA to New Media. 13 Executives from as many companies gave their time to act as mentors for the teams involved. The teams will devote their talent and skills to imagine the right reaction to the crisis and to create the opportunities leveraging on the resources present at the University and in the territory.

Paraphrasing Gramsci, crises are those moments when the old way of doing dies and the new way is ready to be born, but it needs help. BBS React aims at providing this help, combining educational and business goals in a unique program that aspires to have a strong and long-lasting impact (social and economic)”.

Author: Matteo Vignoli

Matteo Vignoli, PhD is “building the future” through research, training and business, through the application of Design Thinking and the Reggio Approach. Matteo teaches in several masters and business schools, and works on innovation projects with global organizations. Researcher in Management Engineering at the University of Bologna. Visiting Scholar at Stanford University and Ryerson University, member of the Design Thinking ME310 / SUGAR network. Founding member of the Challenge Based Innovation at CERN initiative. Responsible for Open Innovation at Almacube, academic director of the Food Innovation Program, trustee of the Future Food Institute and global leader of the Future Food Ecosystem.