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Design & Innovation: Putting Classroom Learning to the Test

A group of six MBA and MAM students recently had the opportunity to work with the design consulting firm Prophet for a month-long project. The task: how to make an innovative first-mover, fast-casual restaurant regain popularity now that several competitors have entered the marketplace. The information provided: the (privately held) client’s name. Where we took it was left to us.

We started by surveying the client’s customers to get an understanding of what they thought of the company’s product and brand. This was done through observation and informal conversations. With our customer insights, we created a hoteling model to demonstrate several options that the client could consider. Each option has a distinct customer archetype and unique recommendations the client could use to manifest the new brand. The SOM team narrowed it down to two options to present to Prophet. One option was to move from a relatively high-end customer segment to a larger, less upscale customer segment. The other option was to pursue a zen-like feeling within the restaurant to encourage people to remove themselves from the stresses of daily life during meal time.

We jumped on the 9:46 a.m. Grand Central-bound train one Friday to present our options. After sneaking in a bit of delicious market research at the client’s restaurant, we headed to Prophet’s office on Fifth Avenue. We met with the Prophet team, swallowed our nerves, and presented our ideas. The Prophet team offered us interesting insights, experiences, and recommendations for us to improve on our ideas. We had plenty of food for thought as we got on the train that afternoon and headed back to New Haven.

Our main takeaway from the Prophet team was that in order to strengthen our suggestions, we had to include more industry research and clearly define how our industry and customer research influenced the recommendations we made.

Through our industry and customer research, we decided that we had a stronger argument to suggest that the client should target the larger, less upscale customer segment. We made this decision based on feasibility, scalability, and potential profit generation. Our suggestions ranged from easy and doable to whimsical and thought-provoking, however each idea was based on industry trends and research.

We brought our client strategy recommendations to Prophet and presented to the team. Throughout the presentation we had great discovery and discussion about the industry and the client. The Prophet team was diligent in asking thought-provoking questions and really challenging us to develop and back up our recommendations.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience to allow us to take the skills that we learnt in the Design and Innovation Club classroom and implement them with a real-world client. We learned how Prophet approaches its client’s issues and how it structure its recommendations. The team at Prophet was incredibly supportive and patient with us as we tried ideas and suggestions and worked through our brand story. A big thank you to Christian and the rest of the team at Prophet!

Follow the Design and Innovation Club on Tumblr to watch a video of the team working on its pitch to Prophet.