Days 16-20: Reverse Innovation Customer Discovery Projects

The objective of this study abroad trip to India was for the students to learn about the various segments of poor people in a developing country and then work in teams to develop ideas for products and services that the poor could afford, that would improve their lives, and that, optimally, could provide jobs that would lift some out of poverty.

Students in UA’s STEM Path to the MBA are taught a process for innovation and design that involves repeated, quick development of ideas, testing these ideas through customer interviews, and pivoting the idea until the students arrive at an idea that they believe is ready for prototyping.  Once a prototype is created, students go back to potential customers, in much larger numbers, to validate the business model.

On days 16-20 of our trip, each day the four groups of students (team 1: product that makes use of cattle dung and urine; team 2: sustainable clean water; team 3: container for human transport of materials; and team 4: mobile web site for coordinating employment opportunities and potential employees) traveled to one of the local villages and talked about their business idea.  These clusters of interviews typically lasted 3-5 hours each day.  During the afternoons, the groups would work on adjusting their business models to better fit what they had learned that morning.  In the evenings, we would all gather, the groups would pitch the new iterations of their ideas, get feedback, and then hit the villages again the next morning.  After five days of iterations, the students presented their ideas one last time to the group and four leaders from these local villages.

I was able to go with a different group each morning, except for the employment app group, so this and the next couple of blog posts will share sort of a day in the process.  I hope you enjoy following their progress!


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