Advice for HBS from the graduating class

The HBS experience is brought to a close at the end of the second year with an event called “Bridges.” Students return to their original classroom to the seat where they sat on the first day, to reconvene as a section and reflect on the journey they all have just completed. The time leading up to bridges also affords second-year “ECs” to pass along wisdom to rising first-year “RCs.” Here is a collection of some of the best advice we came across:

Ditch imposter syndrome – many people at Harvard suffer from imposter syndrome; they worry that they were admissions mistakes. The truth is that life is too short for such self-doubt and that no one really “deserves” the benefits of the program. Instead of worrying about cosmic fairness in your admission, focus instead of living your life so that you are worthy of the gifts you are give.

Whiteboard your priorities – The currents at HBS are strong. Career events are geared to push you towards consulting and investment banking, the social hierarchy pushes you to rack up large bills drinking and traveling, and the curriculum implicitly pushes you to value higher paying jobs. If you don’t set your heading before you embark on your HBS journey, they will take you out to sea. To keep yourself on track, purchase a white board and stick somewhere in your apartment where you will see it every day. On the whiteboard, write down your 1-3 priorities for the coming year. As you consider whether to attend a lecture, social event, or weekend trip, check the opportunity against your criteria. If it doesn’t match, then decline with confidence.

Timebox your activities – If you plan on spending one hour on a case, pull out a stop watch and set it for 60 minutes. When it goes off, wherever you are in your reading or analysis, stop! There is always more work to do, more things to read. If you don’t put open-ended tasks into boxes they will eat up all the time you’re saving for other valuable activities.

Don’t put anything off – Your calendar next week may look more open now but it will become just as busy as your calendar this week. If you can avoid it, don’t push that coffee chat or phone call into the deceptively open future in order to buy time now. If it’s not worth doing now, instead ask if it is ever worth doing at all.

Roll over your IRA into a Roth – this is perhaps the most valuable advice you will get while you’re in graduate school!

Embrace unlearning – we all come with prejudices and misconceptions. Lean into experiences where you find your view challenged and when you find that they are wrong, change them!

Remember: companies exist for more than “shareholder value” – It's fashionable to advance Milton Friedman’s “property view” of corporations: that they exist solely for the enrichment of the owners, and that management should prioritize that objective above all others. Some of your classmates will believe that this opinion is accepted fact. This is not true! While management has a duty to maximize shareholder value in the event of a sale (in which case no “long term” interest can credibly exist), they have broad legal berth to exercise their own judgement in determining and attaining the objectives of a company. Furthermore, investors agree. On average, holding times for stocks are about two years, and the price tracks to earnings over 10 years, evidencing compelling market long-termism. In fact, if you analyze earning calls, short-term concerns are almost always brought up by the management, not the investors. Don’t let this myth perpetuate in class... or in the boardroom!

Hack your calendar in Year 2 – While you don’t get to choose any of your classes in Year 1, you have total flexibility in Year 2. The administration will say that it is not possible to get all your classes on either Monday/Tuesday (“X” Days) or Thursday/Friday (“Y” Days”) in the second year, but it is! Just look for International Field Courses between terms and Independent Projects.

Don’t let Harvard define you – You are so many more things. Harvard should just let you become more potent expressions of them. Plus, it’s always refreshing to read a speaker’s biography where HBS is mentioned only in passing at the very end.

Is the Case Method right for me?


Business schools can be separated academically into two separate categories: majority case-method programs and non-case-method programs. In the former category are schools like Darden, INSEAD, Berkeley Haas, UNC Kenan-Flagler and, of course, Harvard Business School, which pioneered the case method of MBA instruction by borrowing the Socratic dialogues used to teach at Harvard Law School. Schools that are non-majority-case-method incorporate more traditional lectures, team-based projects, and experiential learning, in addition to case-method classes. The average MBA program teaches 30% of its classes in the case method.

Case method courses are very different than traditional lecture-based classes. To prepare for a case method class, students are given a bound document (a “case”) presenting a roughly 10-page overview of a business problem faced by a team, firm, or industry followed by a series of quantitative and qualitative exhibits that an MBA might need to analyze the problem and find a solution. The goal of the case is to simulate as accurately as possible what it would feel like for the student to experience the business problem themselves, by placing the student in the role of the “case protagonist” from whose vantage point the story is told. The day of the class discussion, students normally meet with discussion groups to go over the study questions and try to anticipate where they believe the case conversation will go.

The actual class is a real pressure-cooker. The professor usually leads off by “cold-calling” (i.e. involuntarily selecting without prior warning) one student, often one specifically chosen for their relevant prior professional experience, and grilling them on what they would do in that situation. Other students are brought in to reveal different facts, challenge different perspectives, offer analysis, and argue out the correct course of action. Students need to be ready at a moment’s notice to agree or disagree with the other voices, forcing everyone sit on their edge of their seats, paying close attention.

Sometimes professors will reveal incremental data on what intermediate steps the actual case protagonist took and what results they achieved. The professor will then ask individuals whether this new information changes their perspectives and how.

Very often the case protagonist him or herself will sit in on the class (they find the conversations useful too!) and use the last part of the session to describe what happened, respond to individual students, and take questions. The result is a thrilling class experience where students develop intuition for handling emerging business problems, practice communicating their ideas articulately, and get comfortable leading through uncertainty.

The question is, is a case method program right for you?

Test Yourself

Below I’ve posed a dozen statements. If you disagree with the statement, give yourself 1 point, if you’re neutral 2 points, and if you agree 3 points. At the end, tally your score.

  1. I want to develop my public speaking skills
  2. I think reasonably quickly on my feet
  3. I want to be a general manager or CEO one day
  4. I am confident that I can teach myself finance out of a text book
  5. I have a “big personality”
  6. I prefer short stories to long technical readings
  7. I came to business school to learn
  8. I want to really get to know my peers
  9. I think diverse perspectives lead to better answers
  10. I not that excited to hear about faculty research
  11. The best way to learn something is to do it
  12. I want my peers to take class seriously

12-18 Points: Avoid the case method. Apply to schools that are majority lecture based like Carnegie Mellon Tepper, USC Marshall, UCLA Anderson, Vanderbilt Owen, Michigan Ross, and Oxford Said.

19-23 Points: Choose a program with a mix of teaching styles, including team and experiential-based learning. Examples for this category include Northwestern Kellogg, MIT Sloan, Duke Fuqua, Georgia Tech, SMU Cox, NYU Stern, and Georgetown McDonough. If you're still curious about case method classes, you consider trying out HBX CORe, which does a decent job at simulating the section experience.

24-30 Points: Apply to programs with a moderate mix (but not a majority) of case-method classes. Examples include Dartmouth Tuck, Stanford GSB, Columbia Business School, UPenn Wharton, and Yale SOM. If you're worried about case-method classes, you can dip your toe into subjects like leadership, ethics, and marketing, where the case method is easier to grasp, while sticking to traditional methods for learning finance and accounting.  

30+ Points: Definitely apply to majority-case-method program. These include schools like HBS, UVA Darden, INSEAD, Berkeley Haas, IESE, University of Western Ontario Ivey, and UNC Kenan-Flagler. Here is where you will really thrive.

What Military Vets bring to the MBA classroom


The former Director of Admissions at Harvard Business School Dee Leopold would famously tell interviewees that admitting a class of MBA students is similar to building a salad. Each student is meant to add a certain flavor to the overall mix. For investment bankers, it is economic intuition and modeling skills for the finance classes. For consultants, it is the marketing and strategy frameworks for those classes. But what is the flavor that we military veterans are meant to add?

As military veterans seek to achieve the benefits of an elite business school – higher paying jobs, vibrant personal networks, a world-class education – this is an important question to ask. Schools like Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, Chicago Booth, and Wharton, look for students who will bring voice to certain perspectives in the classroom. When you write your essay, it is important to convey a narrative that gives the admissions committee confidence in your ability to play the role that they have envisioned for you. So what do they look for in vets?


Leadership Experience

Unlike your peers, who at most have indirectly supervised a couple other consultants on a client site, military veterans have an incredible wealth of leadership experiences. Veterans lead many times more people, in diverse organizations, in some of the highest-stress environments in the world. As you write your application, your resume should shout your leadership experience from the rooftops.

Socio-Economic Diversity

Many students at elite schools like Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Chicago Booth, and Wharton come from elite private universities and have generally spent their entire working careers working with those who have done the same. Very few will interact at length with anyone who has not gone to college. In contrast, the military is an incredible melting pot of class. Officers from Dartmouth, UVA, and Notre Dame work side by side with those who dream of completing a degree online from Central Texas University, University of Phoenix, or University of Maryland University College. This experience often gives Veterans higher Emotional Quotients and the “common touch” needed to interact with people who are very different from themselves. That’s a valuable part of diversity that would likely be nowhere else in evidence at prestigious MBA campuses.


Large-Organization Outlook

 Start-ups are “in”, but the fact of the matter is that it is always easier to go from a big company to a smaller one. Ex-military service members excel at big companies like Exxon, General Electric, and Eli Lilly, because they how to navigate large organizations. After all, with 3.1 million service members, there is no bigger American employer than the US Military. The ability to navigate complex power dynamics, advance causes through bureaucracies, and motivate subordinates are all topics that will be central to your MBA leadership classes, giving Vets a lot to contribute in them. 

International Exposure

One of the key issues students grapple with in business school is how to lead global teams that cross different time zones, work styles, functions, and cultures. While pretty much everyone in business school has traveled to other countries, few have substantial work experience in more than one country. Here again, military members often have an advantage, and can speak to the practical complexities that come with such work.


Geopolitical Perspective

When it comes to classes that involve government or foreign policy, often the rest of the class will instinctively turn to hear the perspectives of its Veterans. In addition to having the credibility that comes from wearing the uniform of your country, military leaders are trained early to have a global perspective – to look for geopolitical crises may arise and train to meet those challenges. Many other classmates on the other hand have spent little time thinking about issues outside their teams, firms, or industries.

Top Podcasts for MBAs

How I Built This 

How I Built This is a podcast about innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists, and the stories behind the movements they built. Each episode is a narrative journey marked by triumphs, failures, serendipity and insight — told by the founders of some of the world's best known companies and brands. If you've ever built something from nothing, something you really care about — or even just dream about it. (45 min per episode)

  • Good for: Entrepreneurs, Tech, VCs, General Managers
  • Interesting interviews with CEOs and Founders that help you "see sooner, faster" when reacting to challenges that any entrepreneur will encounter. Episodes are pretty inspiring. If you're an entrepreneurial person with a good idea but who has also been procrastinating, this will light a fire under your butt.
  • Very conversational and easy to listen to. Guy Raz is a great interviewer and the subjects are pretty compelling.

NPR News Now

NPR News Now is the latest news in five minutes. Updated hourly. (5 min per episode)

  • Good for: everyone. 
  • The fastest way to keep up to date on your way to and from class. New episodes are updated hourly (indexed on Washington DC time) and seldom repeat segments wholesale, so it is worth listening to whenever there is an update. Episodes are short so they won't burn your cell phone's data plan.
  • An excellent balance of US and world news with a consistently professional narration and neutral tone of voice. Much less prone to hysterics and hyperbole than CNN or Fox.

Revisionist History

Revisionist History is Malcolm Gladwell's journey through the overlooked and the misunderstood. Every episode re-examines something from the past—an event, a person, an idea, even a song—and asks whether we got it right the first time. From Panoply Media. Because sometimes the past deserves a second chance. (~35 min per episode)

  • Good for: consultants, social enterprise, public sector
  • Basically, every episode of this podcast is a case study in how to get a good grade in a case-based classroom. You may not always agree with Gladwell's points, but they are always incredibly interesting, consequential, well-researched, and surprising. Gladwell points out how complicated systems such as government work and where they have broken down in surprising ways in the past. This is a great source of inspiration if you are interested in improving the world but are unsure which issues are most pressing.
  • If you've read any of his books (or better yet, listened to any of his audiobook readings) you know Gladwell is a master story teller and narrator. These are the kinds of podcasts you enjoy alone, like a rich dessert. 

Freakonomics Radio

Freakonomics Radio is an award-winning weekly podcast with 8 million downloads per month. It can also be heard on public radio stations across the country, on SiriusXM, on several major airlines, and elsewhere. Host Stephen J. Dubner has surprising conversations that explore the riddles of everyday life and the weird wrinkles of human nature — from cheating and crime to parenting and sports. Dubner talks with Nobel laureates and provocateurs, social scientists and entrepreneurs — and his Freakonomics co-author Steve Levitt. Freakonomics Radio is produced by Dubner Productions and WNYC Studios. (~40 min per episode)

  • Good for: Investors, Bankers, Consultants.
  • Conversational show that presents contrarian views meant to change your mind. Definitely has a libertarian anti-government lean and has been criticized for letting ideology get in the way or research.
  • Generally interesting ideas to bat around with friends. Might even lead to some interesting investing decisions. 

Planet Money

The economy, explained, with stories and surprises. Imagine you could call up a friend and say, "Meet me at the bar and tell me what's going on with the economy." Now imagine that's actually a fun evening. That's what we're going for at Planet Money.

  • Good for: Investors, Entrepreneurs, VCs
  • Each episode examines a person or dissects a big idea that had had a profound and previously hidden impact on the economy. Great at helping build an intuition for the cause and effect of business decisions and policy on the overall landscape of the economy.
  • Great presenters with a lot of enthusiasm for their ideas. Perfect balance of conversational and informative.

Recode Decode

One of tech's most prominent journalists, Kara Swisher is known for her insightful reporting and straight-shooting style. Listen in as she hosts hard-hitting interviews about the week in tech with influential business leaders and outspoken personalities from media, politics and more.

  • Good for: VCs, Tech,
  • Kara Swisher interviews the heros of VC, tech and other fields. It's as close as you would otherwise get to a lot of them. However, Swisher is no "gotcha journalist" and often the episodes turn into puff pieces for their subjects. Regardless, it is a front row seat into the mindset of Silicon Valley and the first edition of what leaders there are talking about. 
  • An easy podcast to come and go with. Good for listening to when you are doing something else.

How military service prepared me for my MBA


Military members are said to have an advantage in the MBA application process, given how valuable their leadership experience, international exposure, and communications skills are to business education. Some studies estimate that the acceptance rate for military vets is about double that of non-veterans in top MBA programs.

In spite of this however, military members are severely under-indexed in the MBA classroom. Just look at my alma mater, Harvard Business School. More than 180 students in the previous two classes have worked for McKinsey & Company, which boasts 11,000 employees worldwide. The United States Military is more than 10,000% larger, with over 1.3 million active duty personnel, and yet there are about 55% fewer U.S. Veterans than McKinsey Consultants – only about 80 school-wide.

Military Veterans enrich the MBA experience for others, and get a ton of value out of it themselves. Do why don’t more apply?

Some Vets may be reluctant to apply because they feel ill-suited for the rarefied air of an elite MBA classroom. Military service is, after all, a lot more rough and dirty than the office lives of entrepreneurs, financiers, and consultants. Others may feel that they are unprepared for the academic rigors. However, I felt that my military service was excellent preparation for my MBA. In the spirit of this Independence Day, I’d like share some lessons all MBAs can learn from military service.


Integrity beyond reproach

One of my first memories of Officer Candidate School was our Senior Chief brutally punishing the class for failing to immediately fess up to a rule infraction. I remember his strained, veiny neck bellowing that our reputations were everything, and that as officers we would need to exemplify “integrity beyond reproach.”

To get the autonomy necessary to accomplish my mission, I needed my commander to have complete confidence in me to execute, whatever the hardships to be endured. To get my troops to follow my orders, I needed them to trust that my instructions were critical to the mission and already accounted for their well-being.

At business school, I also found myself under the microscope. As an MBA, every day you are interacting closely with the future business leaders of the world, each of whom is going to carry an impression of you based on what they see in and around the classroom. In this environment, you need to carry yourself with the highest integrity, from your academic coursework, to attributing ideas to their originators in discussion group, to prompt and complete Venmo payments after a group dinner. Military officers are used to doing the right thing whether someone is looking for not, which is good because in business school everyone will be.


Quantity has a quality

Sure some militaries have low-quality outdated missiles, but if they launch enough of them at a fighter jet or aircraft carrier, you will quickly realize how quantity has a quality all its own.

The same goes for a lot of business school. A single noisy dorm-room party might not yield the kind of high quality interactions you'd like, but if you’re the kind of person who always shows up, you’ll likely be invited to the more intimate gatherings. An individual networking event may not land you a job, but if you go to every single one hosted by a particular company, it will speak volumes to them about your commitment. Professors look for quality comments, but if you are always ready to jump in, they will appreciate your mental acuity and you will likely be able to ward off any cold-calls on days when you are not as prepared.

Bias for Action

MBA students are notoriously flakey. We talk a big game about organizing a trek or meeting up with an old colleague for brunch, but the fact of the matter is that our time is always double-booked and we’re forced to turn down fun events constantly. Vets are able to overcome these challenges because they are trained to have a bias for action. If someone asks to get brunch, they will know to put a few dates on the calendar to ensure that it happens. If there is a group project to do, Vets know to plan out the meetings, show up on time, and keep the group on track, even if it means leaning on others a little bit to ensure that their work gets done.


Think fast and adapt

Most of the time when I prepare a case before class, I’ll be struck by one or two comments that I think might change the trajectory of the case discussion. Then in class the perfect time for me to share my comment will come and pass before I can get into the conversation. These moments happen to every business school student, but I find that Veterans are better about letting them go, thinking fast, and adapting. Sticking with your original plan and shoehorning that comment into the discussion when called upon later would have disrupted the flow of the conversation and earned you a bad grade as well. Service members are trained to understand that no good plan survives first contact with the enemy, and are ready to adjust accordingly.

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


Click here if you missed Part 1!

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