On February 23, 2018 TinkRworks, a design studio focused on the nuts-and-bolts of creating brand identities, the Kilts Center for Marketing, and the Innovation and Design student-led club organized a robotic workshop exclusively for Chicago Booth students. TinkRworks kicked off the day with something we were all familiar with—a business case.
A fictitious toy company that has been traditionally successful with their target segment is falling behind and their sales are declining. A new CEO has been brought on with one major goal: increase sales by developing a new toy. In order to meet his goal, the CEO brought in 4 consulting companies to assess the situation, make recommendations, and design a prototype for a new toy line that can be launched by the holiday season.
After briefing us on the case, we met with the TinkRWorks staff who divided us into four groups of 4-5 students based on our interests and backgrounds. The staff then gave us a crash course in design thinking and rapid prototyping. Our goal was to follow the design cycle in order to have a product ready to present to the CEO by the end of the day. The steps we had to follow were: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.
DEFINING THE PROBLEM
Before we could get to work on designing our prototype, we needed to learn more about the problem. We held mock interviews with our pretend toy company’s CEO, CMO, and CFO, along with several pretend customers played by the TinkRworks staff. These interviews helped us to understand the pain points for the company and the customers and better identify the problem at hand. After conducting the interviews and identifying the problem statement, each team struck out on its own to ideate, prototype, and test.
The staff gave us hands-on training and provided demonstrations of digital design, electronics, and coding, which would be useful in developing a prototype of each team’s toy idea. The staff then had us identify all the parts and electronics that we would need to make our idea come to life, leaving it up to us and our creativity to play with various devices and combinations to come up with a unique toy.
We had access to a laser cutter, a fully-stocked woodworking workshop, glue guns, paint, and parts made by the on-site 3-D printer. They taught us how to use a CAD design that we could use to design the prototype components (e.g. the body of the robot) to be cut by the laser printer. For example, one team designed and laser cut a skateboard with a custom logo engraved on top. We also learned an easy-to-use electronics coding software that we used to program our robots to do things like speak, roll, or turn.
Once we were finished ideating, prototyping, and testing, each team had come up with a unique working model of their toy idea. One team developed a remote controlled jukebox, another team created an intelligent skateboard that could navigate to a specific address, while yet another team developed a robotic fighting machine.
Reflecting on the experience, it was as much about marketing as it was about innovation and design. We met the challenge of blending creativity and science. We relied on the core marketing tenets - the 3Cs and 4Ps. In our mock interviews we’d learned all about the Company, Customer, and Competition while throughout the day we’d thought about how to properly Promote, Price, Place, and prototype our Product to address the needs of the new CEO. I walked away with a new appreciation of the marketing skills I’m learning at Chicago Booth.