More MBAs Flock to Popular Darden School Product Design Elective

12 December 2013

Thirty teams comprised of 120 Darden Second Year students showcased their original prototypes at the 2013 Product and Service Design Fair held at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. Participant turnout was the largest to date, reflecting a growing interest in entrepreneurship and innovation among MBA students.

The inventions and amenities the students produced solved an array of challenges:

  • Most campers would love to have a sustainable way to access electricity. Students offered a device that allows its users to harness energy by gathering water from the nearest source.
  • The prospect of dressing a squirmy baby into a onesie can be daunting. One team designed a way to wrap babies into their clothing instead of having to fuss with rigidly designed outfits through which parents have to pull baby’s tender limbs.
  • It can be difficult putting a pet back on its leash after playtime. A new lasso-like leash was designed with enough space to wrap around the neck of a small to medium-sized dog with a mechanism to help avoid fitting the dog too tightly.

For roughly seven years, students enrolled in the elective, “Developing New Products and Services,” have had the opportunity to conceptualize and design original creations at the end of the elective to share with the Darden community.

“There is definitely a change in the career interests of incoming students at Darden and generally in business schools. Though many still want to work in investment banking or consulting, many also want to own their own companies. They want to be entrepreneurs,” said Darden Professor Raul Chao, who facilitates the elective with Darden Professor Jeremy Hutchison-Krupat.

“For my long-term career, I’m interested in product development and innovation,” said Darden Second Year student Peter Crow. “I wanted to take this course to really understand the on-the-ground work and how it’s done, so that later as a general manager I can work with engineers, go through the prototyping process and help prioritize good ideas.”

The students worked together to come up with ideas and create working prototypes in a short period of time thanks to tools and advice from Chao and Hutchison-Krupat. Together, they help students understand how to engage stakeholders to develop products and services that provide value.

“We go through some readings early on and discuss how to find what the user’s needs are. We also teach students to define the functions of the product or service,” said Hutchison-Krupat. “Based on those functions, we guide them through the prototyping process; it’s a constant iteration of identifying the problem, figuring out concepts, testing these concepts and then identifying the next problem.”

In the spring, many of the students will participate in the Darden Business Project, “Venturing,” where they will expand the work they began in “Developing New Products and Services.”

“Venturing” will allow the students to refine their prototypes, explore product economics, find suppliers and eventually launch companies.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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Sophie Zunz
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Darden School of Business
University of Virginia