July 8, 2017

Intern report: Lauren Nelson at Goodyear - Takeaways

Lauren Nelson is a candidate in Weatherhead's MBA program.

Hello again! The first eight weeks as the Design and Innovation intern at Goodyear have flown by! My aspiration to become a business designer has been affirmed 100 times over by this experience.  I’ll frame my takeaways in terms of what got me interested in human centered design in the first place: empathy, creativity, and integrated thinking.


Empathy. A disclaimer: the closest I had ever gotten to truck drivers before testing our prototype was renting a U-Haul, so you can imagine that I was a bit nervous and unsure about what to expect when we sat down with a local fleet to introduce the devices that we were about to install in their trucks. As with past experiences studying abroad in various Latin American countries, the more I sat with our “user” the more I could understand their language, culture, and hence, their needs. Never did I expect that our hacked-together solution would produce the delight, excitement, and enthusiasm that I saw in their eyes and heard in their voices as we did our post-experiment debrief and co-creation session. The drivers revealed insights and ideas that we never would have come up with on our own in a laboratory or cubicle. This goes to prove my favorite Teddy Roosevelt quote to be true:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

My experience working alongside these truck drivers affirmed my choice to pursue a career in business design. I look forward to learning more tools that this team uses to gain insights through empathy!

Creativity.  I have long defined creativity simply as the ability to rearrange existing pieces to create something new. This shows up when we apply existing technologies to new contexts, involve our users in prototype testing and decision-making, and create for our ideal future. During my childhood “what if” was a phrase I annoyed my parents with during long car rides; today generating “what if” and “how might we” statements is an exercise that my team at Goodyear does to generate out-of-the-box solutions for complex problems involving exceedingly complex human behaviors. Each day I am astounded by the depth of knowledge that my teammates have around different frameworks and tools that can be used in the design process. My coworkers have helped me to see how necessary the cliche “fail quickly” actually is - but perhaps we can frame it more positively: “you never know what will work until you try it.”

I am further convinced by my experience this summer that creativity is indeed a skill that is necessary as companies like Goodyear seek to remain competitive in a world that is moving toward digitization, servitization, and integration. Having always been known as “the creative one” it is heartening to have finally worked on a team with other creatives, and to see that this attribute is in demand in corporate innovation spaces.

Integrated thinking. I have gotten to see this more strategic side of things because I’ve been tasked with developing a presentation of the future state of the electric vehicle market and Goodyear’s place in it. I have come to conclude that the winning companies are going to be those that can develop strategies for the future that integrate with the increasingly complex network of service providers, tech companies and startups. No longer can legacy manufacturing companies be sustainable by maintaining the status quo. It takes different business functions working together to get ahead of the rapidly changing business models and consumer preferences. I feel fortunate to have worked at Goodyear, which has established an entire global department completely devoted to ensuring that the company is not only ready when the future comes, but that it helps to create the future.

Again, it would be impossible to overstate my gratitude for this experience and how Weatherhead has prepared me for it. Since beginning at Weatherhead I have been overjoyed by the opportunities that I’ve had to engage in work that really suits me. I extend thanks to the Career Management Office, professors, classmates, alumni, and everyone who has crossed my path in the last year, and I look forward to all of the new connections, projects, and experiences that will happen in my remaining six weeks here at Goodyear as well as MBA year two at Weatherhead.

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