Around 300 speakers, recruiters and participants gathered to discuss innovation in business at the annual NYC Innovation Summit on Friday.
This year marks the fifth time that students at the Yale School of Management came together with their peers from Columbia Business School and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania to organize a full day of events centering on creative business strategies. This year’s theme was “Gamechangers,” and the New York City event centered on creative business strategies. Previously called the MBA Summit, the conference had its name changed this year to reflect its diverse audience, who hail not only from business schools but also from disciplines such as design and environmental studies. This year’s summit also included a employer showcase for the first time, where students could connect with recruiters from a myriad of firms and learn about their innovation strategies.
“With the employer showcase, the summit aims to provide an added opportunity for students to meet with people on the field and learn about what’s going on in the industry and where they fit in,” Adit Basheer SOM ’16 said. Basheer is a second-year leader of the Design and Innovation Club at the SOM, which co-organized the summit.
Basheer added that the conference — which attracted around 100 SOM students — also served as a chance for club leaders from different business schools to collaborate on managing student organizations. Typical SOM conferences are kept internal, and therefore, this collaboration between three schools is one of the most extended opportunities for exposure to different approaches to business issues MBA students will gain, he said.
The employer showcase featured representatives ranging from the digital agency HUGE to established jewelry retailer Tiffany & Co., from ingredients delivery business Blue Apron to the White House’s U.S. Digital Service. Hilary Gridley SOM ’17, one of the student organizers, said that by inviting a variety of employers, the summit aimed to cater to diverse interests instead of limiting itself to participants interested in consulting or startups.
In addition to the employer showcase, the conference also featured keynote speeches from leaders at Farenheit212, a consulting agency advising clients on innovation, and Rent the Runway, a firm providing designer dress and accessory rentals online, a business model some claim has disrupted the traditional retail industry.
Gridley said the conference incorporated perspectives from both the consulting and corporate world to give participants a broader view on business and innovation.
The summit also featured two panels. The first, called “Old Player, New Game,” included representatives from large firms such as Capital One and the insurance firm MetLife. The panel centered on how to push for innovation in the presence of red tape, especially at giant organizations. The second panel focused on social good and explored ways to innovate in philanthropy. Gridley said that unlike technology firms in Silicon Valley, these philanthropic companies are on tighter budgets and often find it harder to raise funds for innovation efforts.
Three workshops ran concurrently with the panels to give participants a hands-on experience. During one of the workshops, participants sat in groups with Post-its and markers on tables in front of them. They were asked to select a targeted customer group for a hypothetical new product, identify assumptions made about that particular consumer group and evaluate those assumptions.
Zichen Xu, a second-year MBA candidate at Columbia who attended the workshop, praised it for its interactiveness. Xu said she was interested in jobs in innovation consulting and was glad to learn how to test a business idea from step one while at the workshop.
Another workshop attendee, Kristopher Ansin SOM ’17, said he found the workshop productive and gained interesting insights into how to move beyond having a raw business idea.
Sanjna Malpani FES ’17 said she was especially attracted to the second panel on social good and innovation because of her passion for social entrepreneurship. She said the summit was well-organized and opened her eyes to many opportunities available in innovation.
Basheer said the collaboration between three schools allowed each to tap on another’s strengths. For example, the SOM is strong in developing new business models because of its emphasis in its common curriculum, whereas Wharton students lean more about the product side of business. Wharton also has joint-degree programs with engineering and design schools, but those do not exist at the SOM.
Wharton was established in 1881.