21 June 2016

Over the spring, Ronaldo’s Stone Oven Bakery in Linköping got help from master’s students in Business Management to develop their company. The concept has its basis in ideas from Stanford University.

For five weeks, 30 students in the Strategy and Management in International Organisations (SMIO) master’s programme took a course based on the Stanford concept. They all focused on Ronaldo’s bakery and, from various aspects, worked out ideas that could get the company to grow.

“We got fantastic help from the students. To name just one thing, they taught us that we could do much more with our cash register system than we knew. And they had ideas for how we could improve sales through our website and apps. Now we’re going further and offering them the opportunity to help us carry out those ideas concretely,” says Josephine Schultzberg Dias, co-owner of Ronaldo’s.

On five different teams, the students studied the baking process, deliveries, and sales; they gathered business intelligence; and they investigated the bakery’s financial situation. Some of them were on-site at night to learn in detail what the baking process looks like; others were there during the day to study, for example, customers’ behaviours and sales. After that, they put their information together and identified a problem that they then designed a solution for.

“I worked with business intelligence, and in our group we can state that sourdough is still in. Many people want to buy handicrafts without chemicals, but the majority also look at the price. And it’s mostly women over 40 doing the shopping,” says master’s student Oscar Rosander.

The entire course, called Design Thinking, is a springboard for a larger project that a portion of the LiU students will take part in for the first time starting this autumn. It is called SUGAR – the Stanford University Global Alliance for Re-Design – and is a network of universities across a large part of the world. The hub is Stanford’s d.School; students from various universities and various subject fields are paired together to solve a specific business problem. The LiU students will cooperate with students from the University of Sao Paolo in Brazil.

“Everything rests on the Design Thinking platform, which involves the students putting great focus on understanding the users and their needs. But instead of planning up to a solution, they work with quick prototypes, they test, they learn more about the users and they try again. It’s another way of working with product development – the idea is to detect critical errors more quickly. The students quickly learn to understand what the problem is through testing, understanding which pitfalls they’ve fallen into and, based on that, go further with the solution,” says Marie Bengtsson, head of the programme at SMIO.

The idea is for the concept to expand into several of the master’s programmes at the Department of Management and Engineering.

“Going forward, we hope to have a course with students from various programmes – engineers and economists, for example – in which they meet concerning design. Just like working in the real world,” Ms Bengtsson says.

The SUGAR Network