Oanh Vo

A group of TSE students spent a week in Boston creating innovative solutions for Finnair and IBM Finland. Read all about the experience!

Time flies. On a usual day for a student like me in June, my phone was ringing. An unknown caller..

“Hello, It’s Oanh!”

“Aaaa! Yes, yes and yes.”

I got the big news I had been hoping for. I was over the moon for being chosen as one of the eight students heading to Boston, Massachusetts, USA: An Innovation Camp organized by Turku School of Economics, Finnair and IBM. I basically called everyone I could, just to tell them how happy I was to head over there.

The other students and I from TSE would receive our challenge and develop unique innovative solutions in Boston. Aviation industry was a new field for most of us. To be honest, I was a bit unsure how it would go first. However, we all love challenges. And personally, I want to get out of my comfort zone as I believe that it’s a great way to learn new things fast. One of the reasons to why I had applied for the program in the first place.

Get to know each other

Attending 3 meetings in Finland before the Camp starts was necessary. It was essential for us in order to get the basic knowledge of the challenge. It was also the first time that all the team members met, needless to say, I was very excited!

By forming a temporary team, we learned and discussed how the aviation industry works. The brief knowledge from these sessions broke down various assumptions I had about the industry. The visit to Finnair kitchen was one-of-a-kind experience to see how it worked in practice. Artificial Intelligence was involved as well, making it even more interesting!

Afterwards, we had a more relaxed atmosphere since we finally got to work together for real. The team would be together, learning and making a difference. This was also a valuable chance for us to network and get practical knowledge from IBM and Finnair. As an international student in Finland, I found it interesting to understand better how things work in Finland, quite different from my home country – Vietnam.

Trust the process

Finally, the day had come.

We were warmly welcomed at Watson Health Centre, Massachusetts in September, 2019.

We all flew to Boston, a lovely city. We managed to check things around the city and visit MIT and Harvard campuses. Next day, we were invited by IBM to visit Watson Health in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Thus, more about Finnair Kitchen and IBM as a whole was revealed. Watson (IBM Artificial Intelligence) is impressive. The visit opened my eyes about how much data and technology have developed to improve business and research process. Afterwards, we started brainstorming to understand the problem provided. That day was just for the problem, no solutions yet, they said! This was emphasized over and over again!

The Camp methodology were briefed to us beforehand. It’s a good idea to follow the process to develop the best innovative solutions. It was overwhelming but amazing. We listened to about 10 different presentations – including background information and explanations to how things flow. Tons of information. It was great to see how much we could learn and process in just one day.

In the rest of the week, we focused on the solutions. As many as possible. But then we had to choose the best one. And afterwards, we abandoned them. And came up with new ones. That was the desperate part. However, the purpose is to have a new look at our current solution via a different lense and perspective. The mentors from TSE have listened and given us advice, directing us when we seemed to get lost. We also got the chance to talk with IBM and Finnair to see if our solutions were feasible. A great learning journey filled with curiosity, emotions and encouragement!

The last day in Boston

Each team had 5 minutes to pitch their ideas in the morning. We were all nervous and tried to spend every minute to make the idea the best we could. Same day at the Gala Dinner, the announcement of the winner was made. Team Trash to Cash won as they answered the best to the challenge posted. Congratulations Tiina and Tuulia! You deserve it!

The winning team and the judges. From left to right: Patrik Etelävuori (Finnair), Tiina Määttä & Tuulia Kailajärvi (TSE students), Maarit Palo (IBM), and Jukka Honkimaa (IBM).

That day was a nice touch to the whole week. We had had our time, learning and understanding each other better. This dinner was a time to calm down, have nice conversations  and share our experiences. We also had the chance to say thank you to all the TSE organizers, mentors, Finnair, and IBM. It wouldn’t have happened if it was not for them. A huge huge thanks from all of us. A warm hug to each person for being part of such a great Innovation Camp.“From kitchen it started and to kitchen it brilliantly ended”, said Antti Saurama, Director of TSE Center for Collaborative Research.

However, this was not the end, it was the beginning of a new journey.

What do you mean, “the beginning”?

Since IBM and Finnair are interested in our ideas, we are all invited to Slush and IBM Think Summit. These will be held in October and November, 2019. Yes! That’s it, a new beginning, for implementing our solutions. Stay tuned!

Oanh Vo
The writer is a last year student in the Global Innovation Management Master’s Programme in the University of Turku.



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