Colorado students leverage Design Thinking

By Hannah Lippe

I arrived on the University of Denver campus four weeks ago to lead a Design Thinking boot camp. It’s probably the 20th boot camp I’ve led, but I have never felt as excited and inspired as I did at the end of that day at DU!

The boot camp attendees had signed up for the disCOver Challenge—an intercollegiate student competition, sponsored by Fidelity Labs, for student teams from across Colorado. The challenge was created by a unique partnership between Project X-ITE, the University of Denver, and Fidelity Labs’ Design Thinking group. We worked hard for several months to create an inspiring educational program for statewide undergraduate and graduate students.

Design Thinking Boot Camp

At the disCOver Challenge kickoff boot camp, we showed the teams how to use Design Thinking, a human-centered methodology that requires collaboration and creativity to define and address a problem.

At several moments throughout the day, I looked around and saw smiles on people’s faces and heard laughter from all groups. Several members from the Air Force Academy brought a level of energy and a competitive spirit that seemed to inspire every team around the room. I watched the students and Fidelity associates from our Denver locations, who we invited to join the challenge, work side-by-side throughout the day and learn from each other.

At the end of the boot camp, we unveiled the problem to solve for:

The Challenge

disCOver Challenge contestants would have four weeks to design new ways to help people put money aside for healthcare costs, while continuing to build their long-term wealth. We talked about a recent Fidelity study, which found more than one-third of Millennials surveyed said they shy away from sharing with their parents how they are handling their own savings and investments. Surely, these college students from Colorado could think of some ways to help? That was our hope.

The teams were required to apply Design Thinking methodology to understand the users, and then prototype and test their solutions. All of the participants would then come back to present their ideas and insights at a two-day case competition in early March, about a month after the kick-off boot camp.

Why Colorado?

It was exciting to bring this Design Thinking challenge to Colorado. I worked in Colorado for four years in education and environmental policy, and spotted an opportunity to bring Design Thinking education to the many universities there. In our work at Fidelity Labs, we connect with top innovators and entrepreneurs and work to educate young thinkers about Design Thinking. It made sense to bring our know-how to the University of Denver and work together to host the first state-wide innovation challenge of this type there. Colorado is growing as a hub for innovation, venture funding, and startups. There is a real “can-do” mentality with Coloradans including individuals, governmental officials, and business leaders.

Presentations and Judging

The teams presented their proposed solutions and strategic thinking to a panel of judges, which included: our own Suzi Hamill, head of Design Thinking at Fidelity Labs, and other members of our team; several executives from Colorado’s innovation community; staff and faculty from each of the participating colleges; and state and city government officials. The judges were looking for presentations that would reflect the human-centered process, utilized user insights, had a strong design concept, demonstrated an understanding of the problem they were solving, and showed how the solution they built would address that problem. The teams also needed to demonstrate an understanding of general business strategies, marketplace opportunities, and—of course—to show off their presentation skills.

Winning Team

The winning team (drumroll please!) came from Colorado State University. Team “Business for Good” developed a prototype for a website that provided one place to sign up for both a retirement-savings account and an a la carte-style healthcare plan. The team learned users did not click on the word “invest” so they changed the site to say “stash your cash,” in one example of how they incorporated user feedback and prototype testing in the final design.

We sponsored the statewide disCOver Challenge to teach college students a new way of working and thinking, and how to find empathy for the people who would ultimately use the products or experiences that they design. After this four-week journey together, I am inspired by the future that these students will create.