What happens in an HBS FIELD Global Immersion (Part 2)


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Day 6 – Thursday – Convergence

After a light breakfast of pickled fish and (a lot of) eggs we lock ourselves in a board room, agree on which customer pain points are most pressing, and debate which recommendations we wish to advance to the company. We settle on two broad categories: improvements to the existing ReimaGo sensor experience, and out-of-the-box new services that support Reima’s mission of promoting the “joy of movement” to children. We hammer out the final shape of our recommendations and assign them to individual team members to completely flesh out and assemble into slides for the deck.

In the afternoon, we visit Reima’s gleaming new corporate headquarters to debrief our initial conclusions on customer pain-points to the leadership team, and set expectations for the recommendations we will deliver to them on Monday. They give us a tour of their offices, complete with a sneak preview of their 2018 collection.

In the evening we rejoin the entire Finland section in a private room at Restaurant Sipuli for a Q&A with a local Finnish venture capitalist and the young co-founder of Wolt, the Finish version of Instacart / Seamless.

Day 7 – Friday – Team Bonding


We set a goal of finishing up all the recommendation slides in our PowerPoint by lunch and set about dividing and conquering. We end up with visually compelling mock-ups for new ReimaGo applications: one targeted towards daycare centers and another offering busy parents a one-stop shop for apparel-related services.

Over lunch at the Michelin-starred Restaurant Ask we forget about work for a while and focus on team bonding, sharing funny stories from our lives before HBS, and riddles that we take turns trying to solve. The food is incredible, the atmosphere is relaxing, and the staff seamlessly accommodates all dietary restrictions.

We spend the afternoon as a team enjoying the sunny weather, strolling around the downtown seaport and over to the beautiful mansions of embassy row. At night, some members of my home section meet up at another Michelin restaurant, Chef and Sommelier, to celebrate a birthday.

Day 8 – Saturday – Exploration

Saturday is our day off, so a cross-section of the Helsinki section travel with our team’s local guide to Porvoo, a nearby Finnish village that dates back to the 1300s. We walk around the cobblestones streets, past a bank of red barns perched upon the river, to a chocolate factory and an unusual barn-shaped church perched on the hilltop. After some ice cream (the Finns also consume more ice cream than another other nationality in Europe), we head back to Helsinki to one of the weekend markets, where we grab lunch and buy some souvenirs.

Day 9 – Sunday – Practice

I take off on a long run to explore parts of the city I hadn’t seen before. Eventually I find myself in the military section of the Hietaniemi cemetery where the national heroes of World War II are buried, notably Finnish President Marshal C.G.E. Mannerheim, who has been voted in surveys as the Greatest Finn of all time. Having lived close to Arlington Cemetery when I worked in Washington DC, the solemnity of the cemetery and the beauty of the headstones left a profound effect on me.

In the afternoon we present an abridged version of our client presentation to our FIELD professor and two other teams for feedback. Drawing on some of the media training seminars I attended at Harvard Kennedy School, I help coach our designated presenters on best practices for speaking to the room and making effective use of hand gestures. Our team does a great job and gets excellent feedback from the others.

The evening is spent at one of Finland’s famous saunas located right on the shores of the Baltic Sea.

Day 10 – Monday – Final Presentation


We arrive at the Reima Headquarters at 9AM for our two-hour final presentation with the company CEO and her senior leadership. Our tone is conversational and we answer questions in real time. The CEO’s face lights up at our recommendations and her team asks what feedback we got about them in the field. Though her team has already considered some of our recommendations, I could tell that the fresh perspective we brought inspired them to think differently about both content and implementation. Each member of the team does a great job presenting, and in the end the CEO offers each of us a job at the company should we ever come back to Finland.

In the afternoon, we reconvene as a section to debrief the projects, offer feedback to team members, and go out for a group dinner. I also hit the saunas one last time.

Day 11 – Tuesday – Return

We catch our flights back to Boston satisfied with the project we completed for our partner company and empowered by the strong bonds we made with each other.

What happens in an HBS FIELD Global Immersion? (Part 1)

For many HBS students, the FIELD Global Immersion is the seminal class of the HBS experience. Broken into two parts over the first year, the goal of the course is to stretch students’ emotional intelligence and apply the business learning of the RC in an international context.

A few months before departure, the list of 15 destination countries is announced, presentations are held on each, and students rank order their preferences. The goal is to send each student to a country they have no prior experience with. Once assigned to a country (in my case, Helsinki, Finland – my top choice), students are assigned to six-person teams, each curated from different sections to possess a diverse set of professional and personal backgrounds. Each team is then paired with a local company, non-profit, or government institution and given a consumer-facing business challenge to solve using the using the process of “Design Thinking” made popular by IDEO.


In college, I studied abroad in two different European countries, and as a military officer deployed throughout East Asia and Central America. I felt confident in my international exposure, but was excited by the chance to help an international company with a live business challenge. My teammates include two female MIT engineers, three consultants, five different nationalities – and me. Our project was with the PE-backed Finnish outdoor children’s apparel company Reima and centers around finding the best consumer use case for their new “ReimaGo” line of wearable activity trackers.


Day 0 – Friday – Departure Day

Today is the final day of class in the RC year. Our TEM Professor, the former President of Babson College and COO of both L Brands and Au Bon Pain, delivers a stirring valedictory about the keys to success from his own experience in entrepreneurship. Our BGIE professor, a former White House Economist, ends with a mini-case on ways activist business leaders influence policy change. Both classes end with the traditional student-performed “roast” of the professor, poking fun at their quirks and lampooning some of the funnier things said in section. I perform as our BGIE professor.

We head to the airport for a 9:30PM departure from Boston Logan bound for Helsinki, Finland via Reykjavik, Iceland. Inspired by our BGIE course, I re-read part of my international relations textbook from college and try to get some sleep. The earplugs and eye mask prove to be a lifesaver.


Day 1 – Saturday – Arrival Day

Having painlessly exited EU customs in Iceland, we simply walk out of the Helsinki Airport and find our guides waiting for us. It’s gray, windy, and snowing. I think of my wife – also an RC – currently on a plane to the warmer shores of Cape Town, South Africa. We get to the hotel late in the day and find our way to an Italian restaurant able to accommodate the 16 members of our party (there are 72 of us in Finland) in a private downstairs room. The fish is incredible.

Day 2 – Sunday – Vappu

The snow continues and so after our first Finnish Breakfast, we hit the museums. Today is also “Vappu,” one of the four biggest holidays of the year in Finland. Students from the surrounding universities descend along the Helsinki waterfront, and place a ceremonial white cap, the kind awarded to every Finnish high school graduate, on the head of a statue in the water fountain. From that moment on, the champagne corks pop, singing breaks out in the packed streets, and seemingly every Fin, young and old, dons the white hat they received at their college graduation.


Day 3 – Monday – Orientation / May Day 

The weather turns absolutely beautiful as the Vappu celebrations continue for a second day. Businesses are closed as families head to the parks for picnics. All 72 HBS students head out of the hotel for a wilderness cooking class where we learn to smoke salmon and barbecue reindeer, before playing some traditional Finnish camping games. After a full day of outdoor fun, we return to Helsinki for a lesson in traditional Finnish folk dancing at the local performance hall, before a huge section dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 4 – Tuesday – Customer Interactions

We meet the CEO of our client company and her top leadership for breakfast at the hotel. We’ve been in contact with them over Skype for a few weeks refining the business problem, and they share final guidance on the direction they would like our project to take. After the meal, we split up into teams of two to interact with local Finnish consumers in parks and playgrounds to understand what pain points they encounter in children’s apparel and outdoor activity. We meet with new users of the ReimaGo technology to understand the value they derive from the product, and the ways they believe it can be improved.

Helsinki is home to four restaurants with one Michelin star and all are reasonably priced, especially given the high cost of lower-end restaurants in the city. I decide to explore one of them with some friends from my wife’s section. The dinner comprises 15-courses and lasts 4.5 hours.


Day 5 – Wednesday – Rapid Prototyping

Half our team visits a daycare center running a pilot of the ReimaGo product, while the rest of us demo our very own versions of the product and the iPhone app. We meet up at the mall to visit the Reima store to see how the products are displayed and advertised. After lunch, we bust out the post-its and start compiling the pain points we have observed, brainstorming ways to improve the ReimaGo product, and ideating entirely out-of-the box ideas that Reima can pursue to promote the “joy of movement” at the center of the company ethos. The Finns drink more coffee than another nationality in Europe, so our caffeine needs are satiated by the high-quality roasts they keep on tap.

We draw up some prototypes and immediately test them on some local Finnish MBA students who join us at the hotel for drinks. Their feedback is incredible. We mull it over a team dinner at another fabulous Finnish restaurant and present some initial ideas to our professor, herself an accomplished marketing executive, during evening office hours.

Story continued in Part 2