Although MIT Sloan is a top business school, and MIT is the top engineering school, design is a big aspect of the products and companies we build.
I was inspired to write this post by the recent App Store launch of my classmate’s iOS app, Pictual. Pictual is a beautiful, intelligent and simple picture-messaging app that uses design magic to transform your words into pictures that encapsulate your mood, personality and emotion. Within seconds, Pictual gives your words a creative point-of-view that is distinctly yours.
Chintan and I met each other early on in the MBA programme in the E&I track – we enjoyed working together and brainstormed a few ideas, but his ever persistent plan was to create Pictual. As he had worked at Adobe Photoshop for over 7 years, he definitely had the chops to create it on his own, but still worked with classmates and recruited an awesome design co-founder, Isidora.
It’s been incredible to build companies side-by-side with classmates and constantly push each other forward because in a previous life it was much more rare to watch an idea grow into a prototype and finally into a live product. One thing many of these companies here have in common is a focus on design, and I don’t just mean making a beautiful product, but making an intuitive product that someone wants.
In his book, Disciplined Entrepreneurship, Professor Bill Aulet focuses heavily on conducting primary market research and validating your hypotheses to design and develop products and services that consumers and businesses are not only willing, but waiting to pay for. This framework is one of the most powerful ideas I have learned at Sloan and I now liberally apply it to many things I create including product features, presentations, emails, and even cooking dinner.
In addition, Professor Aulet often touts the Hacker, Hustler, Hipster entrepreneurial dream team mentality commonly attributed to Rei Inamoto. Each role is defined in the Forbes link (above), but basically it’s a model of a team that can create a product, design it to be intuitive, and sell sell sell.
While there are many classes at MIT that allow interdisciplinary teams to work together on entrepreneurial endeavors, PDD stands out with a particularly diverse student base. 2.009 – Product Engineering Processes (cross listed at MIT Sloan as 15.735 – Product Development and Design or “PDD”) brings together teams of more than students from across the institute and even includes designers from the nearby Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
Avatech (another of my classmates’ companies) was started last year and their prototype was designed and built in the PDD class. They subsequently joined us in our GFSA ’13 cohort, and continue to make waves with their avalanche safety products.
MIT is known around the world for being innovative in specific aspects, but during my time here, I have recognized MIT and the surrounding area as an holistically innovative place where one can effectively design, develop, and launch companies with many of the skills needed in-house. Naturally we are business and engineering heavy, but we also have the resources and inclination to include primary user research in product design.
I am a second year MBA Candidate at MIT Sloan and Co-Founder of Thyme Labs.
Follow me on Twitter @radatmit.
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