Tag: Bear Studios



Max Klapow, LA ’21, is a psychology-neuroscience-philosophy and cognitive neuroscience double major from Birmingham, Alabama. Max joined the Bear Studios team as a strategy fellow in December 2018. He wrote this for the Olin Blog.

When we think about innovation, a lot of business-school buzzwords come to mind. “Tech,” “corporate shake-up,” “industry disruption”—the list goes on and on. Rarely, however, do we include words like “human,” “heart,”  “connection,” or “understanding” among that list.

By failing to link innovation to its human-centric conception, we further the idea that business is logic and nothing more. Business is spreadsheets, go-to-market plans, careful research, and analytic approaches to engagement.

“It’s nothing personal,” we even say, “It’s just business.”

We’re quick to draw a dichotomy between logic and emotion. It makes sense; emotions seldom line up with the objective reality, so we’re hesitant to trust them.

But this separation has become extreme. Think how we assess skills in the workplace. There are the “hard skills”: spreadsheets, word processing, research abilities, and meeting quotas. Then, we have the “soft skills”: communication, teamwork, problem-solving and understanding the big picture. These so-called “soft” skills are, in fact, essential to making change to both the business world at large and the collaboration and innovation within in.

Emphasizing the human connection

First, however, we must recognize that innovation requires empathy.

In a world where technology is ubiquitous, solutions that offer humans more benefit are the key to engagement. It’s a wickedly simple concept. People want to like what they use. The hang-up, however, tends to lie in the approach.

This where human-centered organizations like Bear Studios, Two Ravens (where I interned last summer as an analyst), and the Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship make an impact. Whether it’s regular team brainstorming at Bear Studios, design thinking seminars at Two Ravens, or venture opportunities and networks at Skandalaris, it’s nearly impossible to miss the emphasis on human connection in business.

It is not just small startups or student-run organizations that are capable of human-centric innovation. Large companies are comforted with this opportunities as well. Size may be a factor for the magnitude and ease by which companies innovate, but the capacity exists.

Where companies often misstep is in the front-loading and data collection processes. These two concepts have roots in both the philosophy of science and the scientific method itself. Getting in the habit of expending resources on the initial stages of problem-solving can do wonders for designing an effective and efficient solution.

That’s not to advocate that all problem solving should use the scientific method, but rather draw lessons from the approach. If we can start by defining a problem that needs to be solved and identify the assumptions required for the problem to exist, it might go a long way in developing a solution.

This is because we frequently jump in to innovation and problem solving by spitballing—throwing ideas against the wall and prototyping the ones that stick. It’s expensive, time consuming and often fruitless.

Why? Because it lacks empathy.

Empathy drives innovation

To be clear, empathy is not a complicated procedure that requires company-wide buy-in to be effective. It does not necessarily require extensive training or an immediate overhaul of processes. At its core, empathy asks us to acknowledge each other’s humanity.

In a corporate setting, this can be as easy as beta testing product based on its minimum viable experience, interviewing prospective buyers to understand their pain-points in engaging with your company or product, or grounding a solution in principles of human behavior.

It’s a wickedly simple concept that often eludes even the savviest businesses. Innovation requires empathy because empathy drives innovation.

Olin Business School shares this mindset. Olin’s values-based, data-driven branding promise encompasses both the numerical and relational aspects of business. Olin prepares students to arrive at innovative solutions to the most challenging business issues in a way that leverages both research and relationships.

Whether it’s collaborative case competitions within the classroom or student-run startups outside of the classroom, Olin’s students understand that innovation is more than just a numbers game.

For other companies and institutions, arriving at a point of human-centric innovation takes time and may seem unnatural. Companies exist to make a profit. This premise is simple, but its implications for vulnerability are incredible. Vulnerability means uncertainty.

For investors, for executives and particularly for the students planning to work in industry, we have to start becoming OK with not having all of the answers in order to be able to find them. That means education and organizations that emphasize connection.

If humans can innovate, companies can, too. We just have to be willing to see the bigger picture.

“It’s nothing personal, it’s just business,” creates a transactional view of business. Yet, business has always been personal. It has to be. We are and always will be inextricably tied with the numbers. Whether we can use them to innovate—along with our own humanity—is simply up to us.




Kristine Yim (left) performs during the Lunar New Year festival at Washington University in St. Louis, January 2019.

Kristine Yim, BSBA ’21, majors in marketing and economics & strategy and has been working as a strategy fellow at Bear Studios for one year. She wrote this for the Olin Blog.

There is one interview question we all fear: “What is your greatest weakness?”

I’ve always known I was afraid of change. When answering that question, my immediate response was that my greatest weakness was a fear of failure and discomfort with the unknown. As an individual who lived in a small suburban area my whole life, I didn’t have to face my fears until I decided to attend WashU. New city, rigorous classes and unfamiliar people. I was scared.

I think we all have some level of fear when we face change. Whether you are stepping into an interview, going to a networking event, or giving a presentation, there are many questions about the outcome. When I first came to college, I questioned myself frequently. Will I make genuine friends? Will I be able to do well in my classes? Will I be able to join clubs I enjoy? Although the outcome is important, I believe the process I use to reach the outcome is more important.

I’ve had amazing experiences at Washington University thus far. I joined a student-run consulting business called Bear Studios, performed a taekwondo routine for a full audience, and pledged a business fraternity. This would not have been possible if I stayed in my comfort zone.

Step into the unfamilar

Instead, I decided to enter into situations by stepping into the unfamiliar. I’ve learned that the best way to overcome my weakness is to put myself in uncomfortable circumstances that test my levels of confidence and familiarity. I have had a great deal of awkward conversations, churns in my stomach, and painful rejections, but as I challenged myself to keep going, I finally reached success.

Ultimately, I learned to consider my weaknesses as a form of self-improvement. Although I have become a better risk-taker, it is still a skill that demands improvement. For example, I am in a class called  Entrepreneurial Collaboration: Madagascar, and I will be going to that country over the summer to implement a solution for sustainability.

At first, I was afraid of going abroad for a month for the first time where living conditions are going to be very difficult. However, I knew my desire to help others outweighed any fears or hesitations I might hold. I didn’t want my uncertainty about the future to inhibit my once in a lifetime chance at making a significant impact.

Deep down, I still hold fears about the unknown. However, I have learned to turn that fear into a healthy pursuit of the future and its uncertain opportunities. My time at Olin has challenged me to immerse myself in the most unexpectedly influential experiences, and I hope nothing less for myself in the future.

Pictured above: Kristine Yim (left) performs during the Lunar New Year festival at Washington University in St. Louis, January 2019.




Ben Kosowsky, BSBA ’20, wrote this post on behalf of Bear Studios LLC.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” — Soren Kierkegaard

Take a moment and think about yourself five years ago—or even just one year ago. Consider the day-to-day issues you were facing and your near-term worries. I would bet that you cannot remember most of your troubles. And even if you can, they are likely not the same as those that bother you today.

Contemplate your attitudes and outlooks and reflect upon how different they are from your current perspective. If you are anything like me, it borders on absurd to think that you were the same person who had those thoughts and took those actions just a short while back.

Now, recognize that much of what you are concerned with and think about today will likely seem petty in five years’ time—or even just one year from now. The appreciation that you always have grown and always will grow is certainly important, yet it is only the first step in orienting your mindset toward personal growth.

Before I continue, let me introduce myself. My name is Ben Kosowsky and I am a sophomore at Olin Business School triple majoring in finance, economics and strategy, and philosophy. I consider myself to be a growth-oriented person. What follows are some of the strategies I use to maximize my personal growth.

Self-Reflection

Self-reflection can and should be different for everyone. For me, the most successful strategies have been documentation, meditation, and rebuke.

I became inspired to keep a journal after an interview with a “brother” in Delta Sigma Pi during my pledging process freshman year. Since then, I have spent at least 15 minutes every night reflecting on my day, focusing on what and how I can improve.

At first, meditating even for five minutes was very hard for me, but I have now reached the point where I can meditate for 30 minutes at a time. This contemplative time has trained me to let go of unproductive thoughts, focusing intensely instead on critical matters.

Finally, the strategy of rebuke, derived from the Jewish concept of Tochacha, involves inviting your closest friends to criticize you and explain how you can improve. This requires a tremendous amount of trust, but hearing your flaws from those closest to you can open your eyes to issues that documentation or mediation won’t bring to light.

Openness

Throughout your life, the vast majority of your thoughts and beliefs have changed, and they will continue to change. To embrace the inevitability of this change, you should actively seek out new ideas by exposing yourself to as many different perspectives as possible.

Everyone has things you can learn from them and taking the time to listen will help you truly understand their vantage point. Realize that you already know any potential things you will say, so you can maximize learning and growth by listening to what others have to say, and then determining what is valuable.

Perspective

While it is critical to be open to new ideas, it is equally as important to not care too much about other’s perceptions of you. Reflect on how much you cared about what the cool kids in middle school thought about you, and how little you care about their perceptions now.

On a more macro level, realize that societal definitions of success are sometimes just as arbitrary as “coolness” was in middle school. Additionally, notice how large of a role randomness plays in life and allow yourself to take some of your accomplishments and failures with a grain of salt.

This should help you realize how important it is to live your life only according to your own value system and not according to anyone else’s.

Challenge

One thing most people try to avoid is the feeling of being uncomfortable. My objective throughout college has been to challenge myself with a set of goals that push me beyond my comfortable limits, while still giving myself a chance at success.

In my first semester at WashU, I challenged myself to join as many on-campus organizations and to take on as much leadership and responsibility as possible. In my second semester at WashU, I challenged myself to think outside the box in terms of my career path and began to pursue opportunities in growth equity, instead of a more traditional path.

Last semester, I challenged myself to eat meals one-on-one with as many people as possible in order to deepen my relationships. My challenges this semester have been to meditate, to work-out, and to read at least one hour of philosophy every day.

None of these tasks were (or are) easy for me, but the key to growth is pushing your limits by setting your mind to overcome what makes you uncomfortable.

Failure

Embracing failure is not about being content with losing or not caring about success; instead, it is realizing that every struggle is an opportunity for learning and growth. Everyone struggles through failures in life. Learning to deal with and bounce back from them is the true test of one’s character.

One way I think about struggle is through the lens of what I call Type 1 versus Type 2 situations. A Type 1 situation is one you enjoy during the moment and will remember as a positive experience. A Type 2 situation is one where you are struggling during the moment and will likely remember it as a negative experience.

If you train yourself to recognize the potential growth opportunities of a Type 2 situations while in the midst of one, you can focus on how you can learn and grow from the struggle instead of dwelling on the struggle itself.

These strategies should be continuous processes that push you and keep you from becoming complacent. If you make a “wrong” decision, don’t dwell on your mistake (the “right” answer always seems obvious in 20/20 hindsight), but focus on how you can learn and grow from it.

If you consistently learn about yourself through self-reflection, open yourself to new ideas, take other people’s perceptions less seriously, push your comfortable limits with challenging goals, and learn to embrace failure, then you are well on your way to achieving personal growth.

Guest blogger: Ben Kosowsky, BSBA ’20, is a triple major in finance, economics and strategy, and philosophy; he is a strategy fellow at Bear Studios LLC.




Written for the Olin Blog on behalf of Bear Studios by Laura Glanz, BA ’21, who is majoring in international and area studies.

Since my start at WashU last semester, the most important lesson I have learned has revolved around the value of the word “reframe.”

While I originally thought college life would be about studying and meeting new people, it has proved to be so much more. I have discovered that college is also about the ability to take advantage of new, impactful opportunities. As students, we hold the power to determine how our four years at WashU will inspire intellectual and emotional grow. Our minds can be so greatly expanded given the access to fascinating people and tangible resources.

Perspective to Tackle New Experiences

However, taking advantage of the multitude of opportunities and trying new things is not easy. After all, students already have many obligations to balance and attend to: homework, a social life, self-care and mental health, etc.

Diving into the unknown, creating new experiences, can be scary. Joining a certain student group, trying to develop friendships, or dedicating time to a career path creates vulnerability. Uncertainty is a bottle of questions. However, we move forward, change, and grow in life through such experiences; pushing boundaries can lead to inner strength.

The value of the word “reframe” comes into play upon facing such uncertainties. Rather than acting habitually, we can choose to pause, breathe, be mindful, and reframe the discomfort. The closer we approach this line of discomfort, the easier it will be to cope with the unknown of the future.

I attempted to enact this philosophy my first semester at WashU by making a concerted effort to prompt conversations with strangers in order to spark friendships. Furthermore, I actively tried to learn about our campus’s student groups, especially those involving upperclassman whom I admired.

In the fall of my first semester, Jacob Finke, BA ’20, international and area studies, my Washington University Student Associate, introduced me to Bear Studios—a student-run strategy and design firm that predominantly services startups. The opportunity to join such a group sounded amazing, yet I questioned my ability to contribute.

Despite my lack of confidence at the time, I decided to reframe my skepticism and apply. I am so grateful now to have joined the team and become a part of their inspiring mission. Among hard skills, Bear Studios has taught me how much one can learn from taking risks. My colleagues there have shown me the beauty of mindful leadership, and they have made me more comfortable with uncertainty. A little reframing can go a long way.

Laura Glanz, BA ’21 is a strategy fellow at Bear Studios LLC. Pictured above: The author with her intramural soccer team composed of first-year students. Laura is in the top row, fourth from right.




Written for the Olin Blog on behalf of Bear Studios by Lexi Jackson, BSBA’20.

Young professionals today are far less likely to be drawn to monetary incentives than past generations. As PwC finds, millennials are driven by feedback, fulfillment, and the potential to create impact. They desire to make a difference in their work and reach high levels of social impact.

As I consider my own career ambitions, I find that they align most closely with this idea. I want to use my career as another platform to affect change and create my livelihood from difference-making.

The hardest question to answer is, where do I begin?

In order to begin a journey toward high impact, an individual has to have a healthy degree of impatience. That is to say, the most impactful individuals do not wait until they are at the most ideal state in their lives to make an impact. They act immediately with the resources they have at the time. Most individuals will never feel fully ready or equipped to believe they have the capacity to make real impact, and, therefore, often do not act.

Don’t Wait to Act

What we forget is that our actions are only as strong as our passions, and our passions cannot be cultivated by resources or opportunity—they exist in us inherently. Those who have the passion to create change are those who know that change can’t wait. And neither can their action.

Perhaps this is why I decided to create Olin Business School’s first Diversity and Inclusion Summit on February 9. I recognized a need within the community for dialogue and action on this topic, and while I didn’t have the personal resources to materialize my passion, I knew that by seeking the proper partners, the event could come to fruition. All it took was my decision to begin action.

Lexi Jackson

My team and I planned the Summit for more than five months. We booked speakers from over seven companies and organizations including Uber, Facebook, US Bank, Build-A-Bear, and more. We sought financial assistance of more than five different student organizations before finding success from our central sponsor, the BSBA office. We overcame challenges, celebrated unexpected opportunities, and crafted an event that attracted more than 80 students, faculty, and community members.

At its inception, the summit appeared to be an impossible undertaking. We did not have the resources, brand, or experience to execute a half-day event. However, if we had waited until we felt completely assured of our ability to succeed, we would likely have never succeeded altogether.

Action Leads to Fulfillment

Young professionals must act with the same diligence if they desire to find fulfillment in every stage of their career. I hear all too often that my peers are accepting jobs that do not fully excite them, simply to serve as an intermediary between now and their dream career. However, that does not have to be the case. High impact jobs can be found at every point on the career track and include jobs that are both meaningful AND lucrative. A high-impact job does not have to mean working at a nonprofit or earning lower wages in the pursuit of a greater good.

This understanding is the exact mission of the organization 80,000 Hours. 80,000 Hours was created by two Oxford researchers and philosophers who found that this generation is driven by high impact through a career, but will too often forfeit these positions of change in fear of financial stability.

Therefore, 80,000 Hours serves as a job search platform where users can find positions that produce high levels of social impact without breaking the bank. The jobs are sorted into a plethora of categories and are designed to teach users about the breadth of social impact. For example, with artificial intelligence positioned at the threshold to the future, there is perhaps no higher impact job that one can hold than to research and understand both its dangers and benefits. In this way, users are able to find surprisingly impactful positions that fulfill their interests and leverage their expertise.

As a member of Bear Studios, a student-run strategy firm and LLC, I actively use the resources and knowledge that I can contribute at the time to add value to our clients’ projects. I may not have all the answers, but that does not mean I should not leverage what I do know to make the biggest impact that I can.

When we begin to measure social impact in a different way, we find ourselves more equipped to act. We find ourselves more fulfilled, more involved, more empowered. We find ourselves making a difference. Most importantly, we find ourselves refusing to wait. And that, is where the change happens.

Pictured above: Charlyn Moss (BSBA’20), Lexi Jackson (BSBA’20), Sema Dibooglu (BSBA’20), Claudia Rivera (BSBA’20)

Guest Blogger: Lexi Jackson, BSBA’20, is majoring in leadership and strategic management, political science; she is a strategy fellow at Bear Studios LLC.