Zhuang Chao | 2013.08
General speaking, IDBM is a high quality postgraduate program which all about interdisciplinary collaboration by carrying out relevant theory courses and practice programs. There are three main reasons why I chose the IMBD program. First of all, I was looking forward to feeling the interdisciplinary collaboration in the field of design. Secondly, I was interested in the Finnish cultural deposits in design. Last but not least, the solid and rigorous way of teaching of the IDBM program is always promising. Now a year has passed, and all my expectations have reached and even beyond, I feel lucky and content.
There are seven main courses of the IDBM program, which include Design Thinking in Business, Interdisciplinary Product Development, Business Model and Management, Designing Open Innovation, International Design Business Management, and Innovation and project management. Beside the main courses above, each interdisciplinary team also have to work on their independent project in order to consolidate and assimilate the theoretical study. This independent project runs through the whole year.
The first two weeks of the program was the Training Camp of the Design Faculty, for the purpose of being familiar with classmates and get used to the teaching rhythm, we did workshop everyday under different groups covered by a wide range of topics. And the after two weeks was the course of Theories in IDBM, we began to adapt to the mode of interdisciplinary collaboration of business, engineering and design. In this mode we completed a small project that takes one week to improve a LBS mobile application called Introdex that exchange native personal information. During the project, we were required to read relevant papers after class every day, and there was a lecture related to the papers on the next day that help us to apply the content of the paper into our workshop. Although these were warm-up courses, the training was intense. When we went back to our dorm after class, it was about 10:00 P.M. every day. At the end of these courses, we need to submit a 1000 words reflection paper.
In terms of the IDBM project, there were 50 of us and we’ve been divided into 12 groups, each group included students from three different majors. However, we could not choose our own group, instead, teachers grouped us based on our resume. There were many interesting projects like Rovio’s fun city project and Volkswagen’s mobility in rural area project; however, I was not lucky enough to be a member of them. The group I was in is about how to assist Finnish Chemistry association to improve their image and attract more young people to involved in this industry. It is an urgent issue for Finland, so the chemistry association hoped to find a creative and efficient way to solve this problem. Therefore, we interviewed many companies, and visited a lot of education institutions, read a lot relevant literature, we even went to Tokyo to do case research and analysis. At the end, we made a brochure for them, which include tons of good ideas and systems, and it received favorable response.
For me, the course of Design Thinking is relatively simple. Because it refreshed the knowledge I already learned. Our group analyzed the northern Europe fashion home furnishing brand – Fatboy as a case, and the presentation of which received good feedback. However, due to the insufficient report, I didn’t get 5 in this course. It also made me value paper writing more importantly and conjured a general understanding about it. Both IDBM and Innovation and Project Management are courses based on business school, in IDBM program, we chose kalevala as our case study target. During the process, we learned a lot about business and management knowledge. Later, the business model course made me have a deep understanding of current business theory.
The course of Design open innovation had great influence on me, which introduces the significance and performance of open innovation. The course offered me a clear idea of future design. The Interdisciplinary Product Development course which started with variety of possible meant to develop a product, and ended up with a hypothetical project of a factory. This course opened my eyes and helped me understand other skills of design.
B. Feelings and thoughts
In the process of study, I notice that students from business and engineering background have distinct traits that are different from students who major in design. So, it is pretty fun to co-work with them, the perspectives of solving problems are varied, we can learn new knowledge from each other. In addition, the moderate and open personality of Finnish people makes the communication much easier.
About knowledge, personally speaking, I feel that we are keeping learning various business concepts, and get to know about business students’ working methods. We also have chance to learn something about engineering, but not too much. Another thing is the ability of writing essay, because all of the score are based on quality of your essay, so it forces us to enhance and improve. Thus, we have deep understanding about academic paper and foreign literature now.
What’s more, life of study abroad is colorful and fun, I joined a lot of parties, and trips arranged by student union, made food by ourselves, spent our vacation in the middle part of Finland. All of this enriched my experience in Finland, and made me know more about the world.
During the process of big project cooperation, there were tough moments as well as joyful time. We’ve been very efficient and also suffering lag phase for a long time. One year has passed, our team members become close friends, and we do build up the experience of cross-disciplinary and cultural cooperation. And if I handled something appropriately at certain points, I think, I could get better outcomes.
There is no doubt that IDBM is an outstanding postgraduate program, no matter it is before or after my join. It possesses high quality school, teachers, companies, and student resources. As long as students treat their study seriously, then all these elements can ensure students unexpected good outcomes after one year study.
I am very satisfied with the quality of IDBM’s basic theory courses. However, problems still exist, like teaching methods issues led to low attendance and some courses didn’t make relevant adjustment for IDBM, the assignments took us too much time meanwhile has no practical use for the project (e.g github, it is a good platform but unpractical).
The quality of big project is good. Some of the projects are at leading edge and the companies are major enterprises in Finland, like Rovio and Funcity project. But, due to uncontrollable reasons some projects could not fulfill our request.
For most of the time, I stood my ground of being a designer, no matter in which group, I tried my best in design part and helped others. I did so much work that my team member thought I could not bear it. Fortunately, people do appreciate my work. I treat my work and study seriously thus gained my team members’ recognition.
To be honest, my capacity of understanding business content is just so so, there were several times that I didn’t fully understand what was going on about the course, I chose to leave it alone instead of trying to figure it out, so some concepts were obscure for me. And my English comprehension ability was barely satisfactory, although I have no problem in communicating with others, but I think I am capable of doing better.
I benefit a lot from IDBM program; it changes my way of thinking. For example, the open innovation method has far-reaching impact on me, I believe this democratic innovation will spread to each fields in the future, and improve production efficiency.
If designers restrict themselves in this area, then their design will be limited as well. Studying in IDBM is kind of like being brainwashed by business, it makes me know more about new business concepts, like how do businessmen think of design and how to combine design with the whole business process. This change is so precious.
F. Action Plan
I will bring what I have learned in IDBM into my own design field to do further research and finish my paper.
Some tips: learn some business concepts in advance, and believe me, you don’t need too much knowledge about culture and engineering, but you need to have a basic impression about them; stand on your own ground, even if your foreign classmates doubt you, you have to learn to fully express yourself; review what you have learned in the class and turn it to your own knowledge as soon as possible; join more school activities and student parties, experience different life style is also another important class.
Learning Journals of IDBM Program
Zhu Yue | 2013.08
From September 2012 to May 2013, I have participated in the IDBM Double Degree Program (International Design and Business Management) in Aalto University for nine-month study. The Aalto University School of Business, the School of Arts, Design and Architecture, and the School of Science jointly organize the IDBM Program, the main purpose of this program is to foster expertise in international design business management through multidisciplinary learning. The courses reflect multidisciplinary knowledge of design management from business, technology and design perspectives, and the IDBM students are required to work in forms of multidisciplinary cooperation. I decided to join this program a year ago because I was aware of the fact that design cannot be treated as a separate subject, especially in this fast developing era, things have few connections before become hardly not relevant today. So it is essential for a design student to know not only how to design, but also how design works in business environment.
The courses in three schools and the one industry project that last through the whole academic year enabling students to have theoretical and practical exercise about design management. In business school, we learned basic business knowledge about business modeling and management, the theory about IDBM. In engineering school, we had courses about interdisciplinary product development, innovation and project management. While in design school, the theories of design thinking and open innovation were introduced to students. Besides these courses we had in three schools, all the IDBM students were divided into multidisciplinary teams. Each team was consisted of around 5 students who come from design, business, engineering majors, and each team had its own industry project with an institution or company as its client, the client assigned the task for each team, and all the teams had 8 months to fulfill the task. The team I was in has 5 students, one business student, two design students, and two engineering students, our client is Rovio, a Finnish entertainment company which is famous for it game application “Angry Birds”. The original project brief for our team was to create a pool of wild and crazy ideas for Rovio Fun City. In addition we were encouraged to validate these ideas and transform them into concepts that could be prototyped and tested during the project period. Therefore we have had two parallel objectives throughout the project.
I have worked in multidisciplinary teams before in Tongji University, but only with design students from different design directions, so comparing to my former experience, this time is a far more multidisciplinary team working journey for me, I felt very fresh at the beginning. It also was a challenge to all the IDBM students, since we have different logic and methods according to our different expertise, not to mention that we have different nationalities and cultural values. It did take some time for us to understand each other and choose our certain roles in the team. And then it turned out that we all interested in others’ expertise, I think that is one of the reasons of why we chose this program, we can learn something new from each other, and the expertise landscape of the team became much wider.
Each professor has his or her own way to teach, and I can feel three different learning atmospheres in three schools. This help me to understand the learning habits and the strength of others better, for instance, almost all the business students have great report-writing skills, they are also good at using chart and table to analysis and present their thoughts, while the engineering students like prototyping, they are very sensitive to technical tools. Studying together with them gave me the opportunity to observe and understand things from different views, and I found out the method for business analysis also could be used on design works.
During the last one year, what important for me is not only the tools I have learnt, for example, building business model, but also the way of thinking has been changed. I used to only pay attention on the articles or news about design, but now, I am also interesting in information about business and technology, since these subjects are all connect to each other.
The students in my industry project team worked really hard, especially the two Finnish students, both of they have strong sense of responsibility, plenty of working experience, great communicate skills and want to be a good leader, so we had two leaders in our team, while they were in charge of different areas, most of the time I only tried to do best of my part and being humble, now when I recall the whole process, I feel maybe we could have even better performance if I could be more initiative to lead the creative part.
Some new concepts that were introduced during the courses I think they are worth to be explored further, I would develop them as one of the topic in my thesis, and use the analysis or prototype tools I have learnt as well. If I had the study opportunity again I would be more social to get to know every classmate better, since they have a lot of things that I can learn from them, besides, they are very helpful friends, and I would like to work more closely with the client of our industry project to make sure what is exactly they want.