Tag: Bear Studios



Julie Wang is a rising sophomore in the Olin Business School studying Marketing and Economics & Strategy. Julie works as Strategy Fellow for Bear Studios, an undergraduate, student-run consulting and design firm.

Julie Wang, BSBA ’22, is studying marketing and economics & strategy. She wrote this for the Olin Blog.

We always ask ourselves: What’s next? After one chapter ends, what’s the next one?

These are questions that I’ve been asking myself a lot in the past year, as one natural “chapter” of my life — high school — closed and a new one started at Washington University in St. Louis. As I approached the last page on graduation day, I realized how I content I was with that chapter. The ending to this part of the story brought me to a destination toward which I had been working for so long and it all seemed to perfectly set me up to write the next four years.

To my surprise, I got to campus in the fall and the words started to fail me. Although I had years of experience as the author of my own life novel, I realized that for once in my life, I didn’t exactly know where the plot was going next.

What I prided myself on so much in high school — knowing clearly who I am and what I wanted to do—seemed to crumble when an environment filled with new people and opportunities tested me. I started to ask myself questions that had no answers.

What do you want to major in? At the moment, I thought I couldn’t possibly pick a major without knowing what I want to do post-graduation. What are you going to be involved with on campus? A question I once thought to be effortless to answer suddenly seemed just as enigmatic as the other.

All my life, it’s been one chapter after the next. I saw life in a way that seemingly reduced my options, because if something didn’t contribute to the next chapter, then it wasn’t anything at all. I limited my growth to my academic and extracurricular environments; when those chapters ended, I thought I was left with little to substantiate my “story.” If I didn’t have a destination, it seemed like I didn’t have a purpose.

Coming into college without a single ounce of confidence in what I want to do in the near future opened my mind to the idea that perhaps I don’t need to be certain about the contents of the next chapter to begin writing my story. This shift in perspective allowed me to find opportunities I otherwise may have never discovered if I had confined myself to a single mindset.

Refocusing my direction led me to consider Bear Studios, a student-led consulting and design firm that was recruiting strategy fellows for its consulting practice at the time. I had little idea as to what consulting entailed but was intrigued by the opportunity to interact with real-world businesses in the St. Louis area.

Before coming to college, I had never envisioned myself as a consultant—it wasn’t a part of my story. Yet, participating in Bear Studios has since been one of the most formative learning experiences of my first year.

During my second semester, I also decided to take a step out of my comfort zone by rushing a business fraternity. Although I wasn’t sure what was to be of my experience, the organization has shaped my growth tremendously, building my first-year story and introducing me to new ideas, opportunities, and networks on campus and in the business world.

Now, with the end of my first year of college and the start of summer break, I am faced with a re-evaluation of how I want to sustain my learning in these next few months.

Sometimes, it’s still difficult to grapple with my goal-oriented and destination-focused past self—because not knowing can truly be intimidating. But if there’s anything I do know now, it’s that I want to see life not in chapters, but as a continuum of personal growth and sustained learning. We don’t need a new “chapter” to start new projects or grow in different ways and we certainly don’t need to know how our story ends to begin writing it now.

Pictured above: Julie pictured with members of her professional fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi.




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.