Dozens of student teams will take to the streets of Washington, D.C., in upcoming weeks as part of an Urban Challenge to “discover new things and experience the joy of that discovery.” Approximately 100 undergraduates at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business will participate in the challenge as part of the course “BMGT289B: How Do Innovators Think?” Mark Wellman, clinical professor of management and organization and director of the College Park Scholars Business, Society & Economy (BSE) program, explains that “at the core of this exercise is a simple and energizing exploration of businesses, museums, neighborhoods, schools, restaurants, and artistic performances to rediscover our creativity and the value of being open to new people, places, ideas, and perspectives.”
For the past several years, one of the required readings for Wellman’s course is the book, The Necessity of Strangers, written by Alan Gregerman. The author, president and chief innovation officer of Venture Works, Inc., returned again last week to Wellman’s classroom. In his book and in his presentation (which he elaborates with an assortment of toys and gadgets) he tells students that “the journey itself is just as important as the destinations.”
Teams of four to six students are given missions to complete at each of the six destinations including Tesla Motors and the Union Kitchen Grocery in D.C. and Warby Parker and Lush Cosmetics in Georgetown. Some of the assignments include:
- Take pictures of your team at moments of great wisdom.
- Talk with complete strangers (employees and customers) at each stop to gain their insights.
- Eat something from a different culture or period in history.
According to Gregerman, “Each stop has been picked to provide a setting rich with clues that can help your team to reach its full potential as innovative thinkers. But it will take the curiosity and wonder of a child and the ability to step 'out-of-the-box' (or 'out-of-the-classroom') in order to find them.”
The team adventure exercises are expected to enhance experiential learning opportunities with a particular focus on the creativity and the entrepreneurial mindset. The exercise teaches students how to unlock their own potential to be innovators, become more open-minded and in addition, improves team decision-making, leadership and communication skills.
To conclude the assignment, students will “bring back the ideas, insight, and evidence you have collected throughout the day” and present to their colleagues in the form of a website, videos, and/or some other form of digital storytelling.
For more information about the Smith Undergraduate Program, visit: www.rhsmith.umd.edu/undergrad.
- Claudia Donnelly, Smith Undergraduate Program