As winners of the NYUSPS Innovation Challenge, hosted by the NYUSPS Wasserman Center for Career Development and sponsored by Ernst & Young (EY), we reflect on our journey, including the challenges we faced and the lessons we learned. We hope that this encourages others to make the most of the experiential learning opportunities at SPS.
TEAM Totum: Linxuan Li (MS in Integrated Marketing); Nianrou Liu (MS in Integrated Marketing); Rachel Hui (MS in Integrated Marketing); Ruoxin Yang (MS in Integrated Marketing); Tania Mishra (MS in Integrated Marketing); Weiyao Lyu (MS in Management & Systems)
We joined the NYUSPS Innovation Challenge for more reasons than one. Participating in this challenge was a great opportunity for us to gain experience in tackling real business problems faced by companies worldwide, by implementing the skills and techniques learned at school. Furthermore, collaborating with students from different programs as one single unit also provided a chance to enhance our critical thinking, problem solving and decision making skills.
Our winning solution, Totum, aimed to facilitate growth and retain corporate culture by utilizing gamification strategies and artificial intelligence (AI) to intuitively inform and evolve the onboarding and learning process. It was designed to address the challenge that businesses face in retaining corporate culture when they scale. In order to accomplish this, we conducted in-depth research on the various measures that companies can take to keep their employees engaged during and after the onboarding process. We found that that corporations typically have a one size fits all approach, and all existing software that have attempted to resolve this merely function as communication or project management tools that provide no incentive for the employees to continue to interact with the platforms beyond the first week of onboarding. Devising this solution deepened our knowledge of how AI could inform gamification to produce optimal employee engagement whilst ensuring that they work in tandem with human insight and creativity.
The other 15 teams that competed in the NYUSPS Innovation Challenge came up with outstanding proposals, but overlooked something: understanding the needs of their end user – which is of utmost importance to lead successfully in any business scenario. As marketing students, we are repeatedly reminded to always filter everything through the lens of the consumer. While pitching our solution, we accounted for both the users of Totum as well as our judges, which allowed us to confidently respond to anticipated questions and effectively communicate why Totum was the ideal solution to the challenge at hand.
Our EY mentors, Denise Zhang and Brian Ruane were an absolute delight to work with. In order to define and improve our solution, we continually revisited and adjusted our value proposition as a result of their feedback, which was a critical part of the development of the final proposal. From references to scratch comedy, to challenging us with real world scenarios, and to truly relaying the employee perspective – we could not have emerged as winners of the NYUSPS Innovation Challenge without their support and guidance.
Such co-curricular activities have a huge positive impact on one’s academic experience. As part of a multidisciplinary team, we had the unique opportunity to derive solutions with our integrated knowledge and showcase our problem solving skills as real world business executives. One of the most crucial aspects of this experience was learning to compete - which is a key skill in any business setting - while still learning and appreciating those whose ideas were different from our own. As aspiring marketers, we are always being told that we have made it if we are good storytellers, and what better way to practice the art of storytelling, than to be able to practice in front of experts who can provide us with feedback, lessons from their own experiences and the necessary resources needed to succeed.