BCGDV + INSEAD + ArtCenter College of Design

Kevin Bethune, Strategic Design Director at BCG Digital Ventures, discusses his vision for multidisciplinary collaboration following a recent INSEAD learning event at BCGDV’s global headquarters.

BCG Digital Ventures recently hosted a group of 26 MBA students from INSEAD (a top-ranked graduate business school whose global presence spans France, Singapore and Abu Dhabi) at our head Investment and Incubation Center in Manhattan Beach, California. Also joining them was Karen Hofmann, Product Design Chair from ArtCenter College of Design, and Manuel Sosa, Associate Professor of Technology and Operations Management. For those not aware, INSEAD and ArtCenter have partnered to expose MBA students to the ins-and-outs of design thinking and design students to the world of business. Their relationship has been running strong for over 10 years.

Every year, a handful of ArtCenter students take a semester abroad to study in Singapore and cohabitate with INSEAD MBA students to work on multidisciplinary projects. We have a few ACCD/INSEAD alumni at BCGDV, and they’ve all benefited tremendously from their experience. Also, the MBA students travel to the West Coast to tour a large number of design and innovation studios and see design thinking in action.

This year, their MBA tour included Idealab, Google, Pixar, Disney, IDEO and LUNAR, and they were especially interested to learn what BCGDV is doing in this space. To them, BCGDV represented a new avenue for multidisciplinary hybrids and entrepreneurial risk takers to thrive and build new ventures for the world’s most important companies.

Needless to say, we were very excited to introduce BCGDV to this outstanding group of students. The collaborative experience that serves as the foundation of learning at INSEAD mirrors our work in the corporate venturing space, and we were able to demonstrate how our teams attack new venture opportunities by combining the strategic rigor of BCG, the multidisciplinary horsepower of BCGDV and the appetite to co-invest with our corporate partners.

Here are just a few of the insights we shared about multidisciplinary teamwork at DV:

  • Multidisciplinary collaboration is the currency that drives future innovation. The convergence of disciplines is the underpinning of innovation in the corporate sector. In fact, in most any industry, designers and business leaders will work together in frequent collaboration. This also means that both disciplines need to learn and embrace each other’s strengths and weaknesses and foster exchanges that encourage open, creative thinking balanced by analytical tools and principles. The potential gains are immense, and the cross-functional teams that challenge and learn from one another are better able to achieve disruptive outcomes.
  • Design thinking can be shared and embraced by all disciplines. Implementing a multidisciplinary approach means assigning equal value to a variety of strategies and methods to ensure we arrive at desirable, technically feasible and business viable outcomes. For example, design thinking is the human-centered thread that runs through product design and business development. It can and should be used by all disciplines to ground each individual’s deep expertise and knowledge in the customer’s journey. It also means that each member of the team, regardless of discipline, is aligned to the common goal of answering unmet needs for the customer. When you delve into the consumer experience, you get to make sparks and connections from rich sources of data.
  • When it comes to creativity, space is important. Space matters a great deal in fostering the creativity of the team. Whether it is a wall space dedicated to pinning up visuals, a quiet nook for head-down work or a plethora of collaboration rooms, a team’s work space should respect the different modalities required to support the business.

There are a lot of right and left brain opportunities and challenges that exist in this area, but when it’s done well and approached with a collaborative mindset, multidisciplinary teamwork can elevate the human experience and help transform industries.