Challenger Lab

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Startups are disrupting the business landscape across all industries by using innovative and entrepreneurial thinking. The question is, how can large organisations adopt this mindset and methodology? We got the bottom of this at the Challenger Lab.

Bringing together 40 students across our MBA and MSc programmes, Challenger Lab is a two-day pilot programme that taught students how to develop a startup mindset for big companies, also known as “intrapreneurial” thinking.

The programme theme was the constantly evolving industry of FinTech, with guest speakers from startups leading the workshops and the final challenge set by Santander.

Challenger Lab welcomed back two of our Full-Time MBA alumni, Imogen Berman and Jared Ruddy, but this time they were running the show with their company Think.Plan.Thrive, which they founded post-MBA.

Think.Plan.Thrive specialises in strategy for startup growth and big company innovation. A combination of Imogen and Jared’s MBA insight with the amazing work they do with their company make them the perfect pair to run Challenger Lab. Imogen says:

Spending time with the current MBA students is really exciting for us – because we understand exactly what they have been through this year. The whole programme felt very collaborative, we loved sharing insight from our work at Think.Plan.Thrive and learned a huge amount from the group over the two days too.

The aim of Challenger Lab is to teach students the methodology they developed at Think.Plan.Thrive and give them to skills to apply that knowledge to a variety of different environments. Jared says:

We constructed our business to work with both corporates and startups, so we’re able to bring a few of those perspectives and apply that entrepreneurial thinking across the board.

Challenger Lab Post it Room

On the agenda: guest speakers, workshops and breakout challenges

Boasting a jam-packed schedule, the first day of Challenger Lab prepared students with the toolkit, ideation process and methodologies to tackle the challenge on second day.

To kick things off, Peter Myatt, CEO and Co-Founder of financial management app Bean, presented about building a customer-centred FinTech business. Rachel Adelman from financial app Curve followed-up with a presentation on challenger banking and how to build products customers really want. On the guest speakers, Jared said:

There were some really great speakers who brought some amazing insights. One of the highlights for me was that each of the speakers came to us with stories of success and challenges, but every one of them centred it around the customer That set the scene for the way the teams worked together and built their projects.

On the second day, students put all their learnings into practice with a full day challenge set by Francois Blanc, Head of Customer and Innovation at Santander.

In his keynote speech, Francois addressed how innovation works at Santander and the process of testing and rolling out new ideas. He discussed how the organisation partners with FinTech entrepreneurs to provide innovative products and a better service for Santander customers.

Francois’ speech was a highlight for many of the students in attendance. Alex Guardans, an MSc Strategic Marketing student, talks about the relevance of his speech:

I really liked how Francois introduced how they innovate at Santander because I’m particularly interested in working in digital innovation. Right now everybody does it differently in big companies. As I’m applying for jobs it’s good to get an inside view of how such a big and innovative company as Santander is doing it. That’s been the most inspiring part of the programme.

Challenger Lab Winning Team

The Santander challenge

Following his speech, the Think.Plan.Thrive. team introduced the major challenge. The challenge revolved around a hypothetical Santander customer called Isla who has a young family. The question was: How might Santander get Isla and her family using one more product?

The five teams spent the rest of the day applying the ideation framework to come up with an innovative solution. One final session on Pitching 101 gave students the fundamentals of crafting a flawless business pitch.

Francois spent time with each team to help them further develop their idea. Sabrina Hearn, a student on the Full-Time MBA, really valued his guidance. She says:

When Francois was coming around to help us, he constantly had so many ideas and was just really helpful in the discussion. I am very impressed with him and it’s so exciting to pitch to him!

Students in the ideation phase

After a long day of intrapreneurial thinking and many post-it notes stuck on the walls, time was up and pitching time was ready to begin. Each team had three minutes to pitch and five minutes for a Q&A with the judges, Francois and Peter from Bean.

Each team presented fantastic solutions, but one team took the top spot, consisting of Mathieu Bortot, MSc Economics & Strategy for Business, Alex Guardans, MSc Strategic Marketing, Laura Scoffin, Weekend MBA and Rob Thompson, Full-time MBA.

Jared talks about why this team came out on top:

What they did was answer the problem really directly. They used our process that we use every day with clients to do that and came up with something really simple and very powerful. They brought separate lines of business from Santander together to create an offer for a customer which is significantly better and should benefit them all.

We are ecstatic that our inaugural Challenger Lab was so successful and look forward to working with Think.Plan.Thrive. on expanding this in the future.

Find out more about the students’ experience

Alex Guardans, MSc Strategic Marketing

What was your biggest takeaway from the programme?

I haven’t studied Design Thinking so I really enjoyed learning about this methodology of forming ideas. I want to create my only startup and company and I learnt about the idea of finding your niche customer, your early adopters and the innovation processes that I didn’t know about before. That’s my biggest takeaway for sure.

How did you enjoy working collaboratively with MBA students?

The opportunity of being with people who already have many years of work experience was amazing and something you don’t get on the MSc where people might have one to two years’ work experience, but not 10 years. I’m grateful and it’s an honour to listen to what they’re saying and learn from all the experience they brought.

Sabrina Hearn, Full-Time MBA

What was the best part of Challenger Lab?

I really like how Think.Plan.Thrive. turned it into something much more pragmatic that you can use not only if you’re an entrepreneur but also if you’re an intrepreneur. Often on the MBA we had two to six weeks to work on projects and this has been a matter of hours. It’s much more realistic to a real-life situation where you have to come up with a product or idea. It’s been really useful to see that I can still use these new learnings but in a way that I can see myself doing in the future at my next job.

How will you apply these learnings to your MBA studies?

At the moment I’m doing the Entrepreneurial Journey (EJ) elective. We’re still in the ideation phase and are getting stuck on a few things. This is a really good reminder of all of the things we learnt previously and a reminder of how not to get stuck in these pitfalls. It’s gotten me really excited to go back to my EJ project and work on it again.

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Nicole Pires

About Nicole Pires

Content Marketing Manager
Nicole is the Content Marketing Manager for Programmes Marketing.