Nicolette Wojtak, a recent graduate of the University of Notre Dame, spoke to us about her recent innovation course that used design thinking to translate opportunities to insights for MillerCoors.

The course, called Innovation and Design, was offered out of the Business School at Notre Dame. As an Architect major, human-centered principles gave Nicolette a brand new tool set for problem-solving—including finding unarticulated needs to better evaluate new-to-the-world ideas and concepts.

The human-centered design curriculum also showed students the value of ethnography, as well as other tools and methods that fall under the design thinking umbrella. “We were able to do a lot of research, and we saw how you can do qualitative, instead of just quantitative research,” explained Nicolette.

“After the research, we created insights from what we observed, and that guided our designs,” she explained. “Batterii helped us in keeping all of that organized.”

The class, made up of about 25 students, was first divided into groups for the MillerCoors challenge. Each group had the same broad problem to solve, but they represented a different end user—or consumer—for MillerCoors.

The scenario: MillerCoors wanted to bring a new product extension to market. The students needed to determine if that product had a market, and if so, how MillerCoors should best package the product so it could compete on the shelf.

Two of the user bases that teams had to empathize with were the sporting/tailgating persona and the beer connoisseur persona. The teams conducted interviews, collected pictures, videos, stories, and more. From these methods, a clearer and robust understanding took place. Through qualitative research, the teams began the process of diverging and converging to better examine the problem, and to put their initial ideas together.

“We combined all that research and tried to see if there were any patterns within that,” explained Nicolette. From there, the teams continued to brainstorm, and were each able to come up with initial designs, all within Batterii’s dedicated space. Nicolette said that overall, the process involved a lot of filtering and synthesizing. “Batterii was then used to sort information through the use of the walls. It really helped our team work together.”

Each group was responsible for bringing their strongest, most feasible and viable solution to development. “As a whole, our class had 4 or 5 ideas, and we actually had core insights that were similar,” said Nicolette.

Nicolette said her peers learned a lot about the use of empathy as a way to maintain creativity. The class was able to learn about continuous innovation as a process, all in just under 8 weeks.

“We learned the idea of [creating] from actual insights, instead of what you think will work, and then continuing to get feedback [as you iterate].”

For Nicolette, learning how to use empathy to solve a problem was something she will be able to utilize beyond just the MillerCoors project. After graduating from Notre Dame in late Spring, she has landed an architecture position. Much like the innovation course at Notre Dame, her job will challenge her to make real, feasible impact, and all within a given timeframe.

“Being in architecture, I hadn’t learned about design thinking before. It’s very impactful. It changes the way that you think and work – it guides in the process of getting to know your user before trying to come up a solution.”

Do you want to take advantage of an empathetic product or service design process?

Use Batterii for research, trend spotting, business model development, product service and design, and concept development. See how Batterii works, and be sure to download this presentation given by John Klick, an innovation leader at Pfizer, and Batterii's CEO Kevin Cummins on how Pfizer scaled its innovation program across the company.

download the pfizer innovation journey presentation