Innovation in last-mile delivery for B2C e-commerce

To face the logistics challenges opened by the advent of e-commerce, players operating online should leverage on innovation. Innovation is the enabler for efficient and effective solutions in a fast-changing and challenging sector, which is expected to become increasingly significant in the everyday life of all of us.

 

Arianna Seghezzi, Assistant Professor in Management of Logistics and Production Systems

 

Business to consumer (B2C) e-commerce is gaining increasing importance in many countries – in both mature and emerging markets – and online initiatives are proliferating across different industries. Globally, B2C e-commerce is a rapid pace growing phenomenon, and the online market of products in 2021 has been worth more than € 800B worldwide (B2C e-Commerce observatory, Politecnico di Milano). If compared to the offline market, B2C e-commerce opens new logistics challenges for companies, and the intangibility of online transactions must not lead to underestimate them. In particular, the most critical logistic process is the last-mile delivery, i.e., the “last stretch” of the order fulfilment, aimed at delivering the products ordered online to the final consumer.

Traditionally, last-mile deliveries are conducted by means of diesel vans performing delivery tours with a high number of customers to be reached, which entails criticalities according to different dimensions. Considering effectiveness, last-mile delivery is the interface between the merchant and the customers, who directly perceive the associated performances. Considering efficiency, it is the most expensive part of the delivery process, mainly due to the small dimension of orders to be delivered to multiple – potentially dispersed – points of destination. Finally, considering environmental sustainability, a high number of diesel vans may generate CO2 emissions and contribute to traffic congestion.

These being the premises, the academic, managerial, and policy-making communities are striving to find alternative solutions to address such challenges. In this context, innovation emerges as a promising option: the answer is developing last-mile delivery solutions that introduce novel elements, to help companies overcoming the limits of traditional deliveries (such as the inability to saturate the transport mean or the high probability of failed deliveries). These solutions may imply the use of transport means different from traditional vans, innovative algorithms optimizing the scheduling of the deliveries, or even the implementation of new logics and the involvement of new players.

  • Crowdsourcing logistics is intended as the outsourcing of last-mile delivery activities to a network of “common” people (i.e., the crowd), which give their availability to carry a parcel from a point of origin to a point of destination. They often offer this service because they have to move on a similar route for personal or working reasons.
  • Parcel lockers are boxes managed by a retailer or a logistics service provider used by different customers, usually grouped into structures located in public places (e.g., supermarkets, post offices). The allocation of one specific locker to a specific customer is not fixed, but it dynamically varies according to the issued orders and to the availability. The customers can retrieve their parcel using a one-time password, barcode or QR code.
  • In-trunk deliveries allow parcels to be delivered directly in the trunk of the customer’s car. Couriers unlock the trunk using a one-time-use digital key associated to the specific order. The real-time information about the car location is provided by a GPS system installed inside the vehicle.
  • Drones consist of unmanned aerial vehicles in which parcels are loaded, which can travel from a point of origin to a point of destination relying on the on-board GPS. Once the destination is reached, the container is dropped off. Drones then have to come back to the warehouse or to a truck that, in the meanwhile, has moved to a new destination. Here the driver changes the battery and loads the new container.
  • Robots are small-dimension self-driving road vehicles that, moving on determined and controlled paths, reach the customers, who unload the vehicle retrieving their parcels.

The solutions presented above are just a selection of multiple available options, and are very different from each other. Their characteristics and peculiarities make some alternatives more suitable for specific contexts, depending on many contextual factors (e.g., the road and viability conditions, the dimension and obsolescence of the delivered products, as well as the urgency and the required delivery speed). Nonetheless, all of them have one element in common: innovation.

E-commerce logistics is completely different from traditional logistics, and traditional solutions are not the right answer to solve novel and disruptive problems. As a result, in order to pursue sustainability (intended in its threefold configuration, i.e., economic, environmental and social) goals, e-commerce players should leverage on innovation, that is the enabler for efficient and effective solutions in a fast-changing and challenging sector, which is expected to become increasingly significant in the everyday life of all of us.

A world of futures to nurture the future

Center for Technology Foresight, Politecnico di Milano

Cristiana Bolchini, Professor in Computer Engineering and Chair of the Scientific Board of the Technology Foresight Center, Politecnico di Milano
Silvia Gadola, Research Fellow, School of Management, Politecnico di Milano

 

In a rapidly changing world, the opportunity to look ahead and scan the horizon to investigate what possible futures are ahead is paramount to anticipate the challenges our society will face, to be aware, possibly prepared, and eventually move towards the most desirable ones. To this end, in 2020 Politecnico di Milano established its Technology Foresight Center with the aim to explore and identify future technology perspectives and provide useful indications for strategic planning for both public and private institutions. The goal is to identify (and possibly anticipate) the drivers of change, understand and explore the potential of technologies with respect to their impact on society and the environment, and adopt a critical and forward-thinking approach to the technological progress and innovation.

The Technology Foresight Center exploits the strong competencies of its faculty and researchers in the Design, Architecture, and Engineering fields, as well as the rich network of national and international experts from the academy, the industry, and the public sector. Such heterogeneity provides the opportunity to comprehend the implications of the complex future ecosystems, highlighting the opportunities to seize and the risks to avoid, to be prepared for the challenges of the future. The reference horizon is a long-term one – usually 15 years from now, going beyond the typical forward-looking window of everyday research to try to explore with a broader perspective what possible futures are ahead, which are the preferable ones and how to move toward them. While it is true that the future cannot be predicted, it is mandatory to foster a future-thinking approach in researchers and society as a whole; spreading a mindset of understanding how today’s innovations, economic and political choices, climate and societal changes are shaping the world ahead is a pillar for the Foresight Center.

The first activity conducted by the Technology Foresight Center involved the entire Politecnico’s research community and aimed at understanding the expected impact in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of a selected set of 50 technologies and innovations identified as disruptive by previous prominent foresight studies. The technologies covered a wide range of areas of adoption to ensure an exhaustive mapping of future impacts. The outcome highlighted the technologies that are expected to have the greatest impact, among which Energy Harvesting and Car-Free cities, as well as others that will possibly have diverging effects on different SDGs, such as Blockchain or Flying Cars, negatively impacting some of them.

Driving from these outcomes, in 2021 the Technology Foresight Center developed the project entitled “The future of sustainable mobility – How will we move in 2035?”. Commuting takes a great share of our daily lives, and the way we move will have a significant impact on the quality of our lives and cities. Thinking today about new transportation needs, emerging technologies, and the associated opportunities and risks is a crucial step toward creating the mobility of the future.
2035 marks a significant milestone. Following the European Committee calendar, this date is, for many, the moment when mobility as we know it will come to an end: new technological perspectives and new habits suggest a significant change of pace that is making smart mobility a turning point for the future and sustainability of our cities. Among the various findings, technologies related to mobility showed divergent tendencies requiring a more in-depth investigation. Scenario analysis and technology road mapping have made it possible to identify mobility needs in 2035 and highlighted supporting evidence for drivers of change guiding the transition towards a more sustainable future. Within this context, a set of enabling technologies and innovations emerged in association with the relevant policies and strategic actions to be put in place to address the most desirable scenarios. The following five takeaway messages are set forth to summarize the many elements that resulted from the foresight study.

  1. To work towards more sustainable mobility in 2035, the technologies and strategic actions identified by the study move in two main directions: transitioning from private cars to services and making public transportation smarter and multimodal.
  2. The speed of the transition towards more sustainable mobility strongly depends on different combinations of political and strategic choices that need to be supported by the development of technologies and actions integrated into the existing, consolidated urban reality.
  3. The prerequisites for sustainable mobility in 2035 are already visible today where travel habits are gradually changing: owning a car is no longer a status symbol, walking or cycling is considered not as a necessity but for its health benefits. The choice of the means of transport is also determined by the growing awareness of the contribution to the environmental impact.
  4. Greater attention is required to adopt means of transport and policies capable of meeting, on the one hand, the growing demand for mobility of an aging society and, on the other, the travel needs of citizens who will be living on the outskirts of urban centres due to an expected increase in migration flows.
  5. The future of mobility is strongly affected by the evolution of choices related to the energy domain and the consequent infrastructural renewal and upgrade. Its implementation could be longer than the time horizon considered. Therefore, we expect 2035 to be an intermediate transition phase, with the coexistence of several technological alternatives regarding the type of energy vector for means of transport and autonomous driving.
The future of sustainable urban mobility

Train the trainers

Digital technologies are deeply changing the dynamics of teaching and learning: a re-design of the whole educational experience is needed, requiring trainers to develop both digital and pedagogical new skills.

Tommaso Buganza, Full Professor of Leadership & Innovation, School of Management Politecnico di Milano

 

The pandemic has made us all blackbelts in Teams, Zoom, Webex, etc.
It has catapulted us into a digital world and forced us to develop digital skills quickly, with no opportunity to back out. In some cases this has worked very well (as students are telling us), while in other cases it has not.

We are still not sure if the pandemic is only a memory of the past, but at least we can be sure that many aspects of our lives will never go back to how they were, and training is certainly one of these. These digital skills required much effort on our part and we will now keep them with us.

Perhaps a moment has arrived in which we have the maturity to start asking ourselves how our skillset as educators has changed (and whether it still needs to change).

We can start with a simple consideration on the concept of digital: the equation

digital = online remote

It has shown to be false.

In fact, we must distinguish between the nature and functionalities of the many tools that we have learnt to use. On the one hand, as stated, Zoom, Teams, Webex and so on are tools that allow us to interact remotely. But the pandemic has also brought us tools for interaction which facilitate innovative activities and can also be used easily in the physical classroom.

Think of instant polling software like Socrative, Kahoot! or Poll Everywhere. We can now also extend the interaction to hundreds of students in a few seconds, obtaining an accurate idea of emotions with tag clouds or the extent to which they have understood a concept with multiple responses in real time.

But we can also do more; we can activate interactive dynamics within the classroom. For example, by asking for opinions to be written and then voted on by others in a sort of simple but quick and interesting brainstorming exercise.

Then there are other tools like MIRO, Mural or Jamboard, which make it possible to create a shared space to allow teams of students to interact in a deeper way, operating a virtual artefact in a coordinated and simultaneous manner, also keeping track of what has been done in previous lessons, if necessary, and guiding them with templates and procedural steps that would have once required paper, printing, logistical management, a loss of information, etc.

However, we must recognise that all these tools, and our ability to use them, intersects with a change in the way in which society interacts with the concept of learning. Major digital platforms such as YouTube or Instagram have revolutionised the way in which we interact with knowledge. They have made it quicker, more divided, more interactive and on-demand. Micro-learning, the parcelling of the practical part into small pieces that are easier to digest and the multi-media nature of communication (slides, speaking, film, etc.) are how many of us experience this, both as users and as educators. Above all, the dynamics of training activities have changed. We can no longer consider having long periods of lecture-based knowledge transfer and then long periods of application. The paradigm of the 20-page case study to be read and then discussed has not (yet) disappeared, but in some case it is starting to seem slow and a little dated.

In this scenario it is irrelevant whether the training takes place in person or online through a communication platform; what we need to do is change the logical and experiential flow of our lessons.

But what skills do we need to develop in order for this to happen?
To change what we do in the classroom, how should we change what we do before going into the classroom?

I believe that there are three fundamental things that we always need to learn better.

The first is conceiving (and therefore designing) a lesson as a service to be provided. We must design not only the content (which obviously is and remains the central point), but also how it will be used. Where we want to place a repetition, where we want to have a test, where we want to place a group activity to reinforce a concept. All of this requires planning, and it cannot be improvised once we are already in the classroom. Designing a group activity in 4 steps means designing a specific MIRO board, doing a brainstorming activity means preparing the interactive slide, etc. In many cases we will discover that the scarce resource will be time and we will need to choose what to do and how to do it to maximise the effectiveness of the training. The content is a necessary condition, but it is no longer enough; we need to imagine ourselves as designers of educational processes.

There is obviously a dark side to this approach, when the emphasis is placed on so-called infotainment, and the centrality of the content is overlooked. A meaningful and fulfilling educational experience is a means and not the end. However, we must accept that not paying due attention to the design of the learning process today risks drastically reducing the effectiveness of education.

The second thing that we must learn to do more, and better, is exploring the digital space. New functionalities and details are continuously added to all the tools that we named above. Each one of them enables new interactions or activities. We will never be able to use them unless we are familiar with them; we need to be curious in order to have new ideas. For example, when Miro introduced the possibility of hiding some content and only showing it at the opportune moment it led to ideas on how to structure complex processes with several steps; or when Poll Everywhere added the possibility of voting on other people’s ideas it led to the opening of open spaces for collective brainstorming which would have previously been impossible (or required too much time).

There is also a possible dark side in this case, when we fall in love with the tool and add activities just so we can use it, and not for their real impact on the educational process. In this case, we must also remember that the tool is a means and not an end.

Lastly, personally, I have added and activity that I never used to do. When designing new lessons with digital interactions of varying nature and duration and mixing various tools, I had to start adding a test phase. I used to create the slides, think about how to narrate them and go into the classroom. Now I test all of the tools and interactions as if I were a participant. In fact, our ability to creatively manage the situation in the moment has drastically reduced due to the use of rich but rigid systems. If a link is missing, if the page does not refresh, if I can’t log into Mural… it takes a long time to deal with the problem and the amount of time lost without anything happening drastically reduces the educational experience, at the risk of jeopardising all the work that has been done.

Designing the educational experience, constantly exploring the potential of digital spaces and adding a test phase are new skills and activities that we must add to what we already do. Old activities are not replaced or eliminated. They are simple and also added. Like all jobs, ours is becoming more complicated and requires increasing levels of specialisation. Personally, I do not believe that this was triggered by the pandemic. This change was already underway; the pandemic acted as a catalyst and only made it quicker, giving us less time to react.

Talents and the challenges for education

Teaching and learning innovation will be central in the next few years, enabled also by – though not exclusively – digital technologies. In this evolving scenario, a holistic view on programmes’ learning experience shall be the guiding principle with also great attention paid to learning assessment methods.

 

We discussed it with Marika Arena, Professor of Accounting Finance and Control and Director of the Programme in Management Engineering.

 

The pandemic has been a shock that enabled changes that usually take centuries. What is left of our inheritance?

I think that the biggest heritage is the way the pandemic fostered the diffusion of technological instruments for teaching and learning. Digital technologies already existed before the pandemic, which made their presence pervasive, forcing all of us to use them. Today, we can continue using digital technologies for teaching and learning, taking the best out of these solutions and combining them with face-to-face activities.

On the one hand, digital technologies have facilitated many ordinary activities: they represent a useful support for students involved in international mobility projects, or those who work and cannot attend the lectures regularly. On the other hand, digital technologies provided brand new opportunities.
One interesting example is represented by collaborative classes, where two professors of different universities in different countries design and implement a course together, and the students of the two courses participate to the lectures jointly or collaborate on common activities and projects. This is something really powerful because allows all the students to experience an international environment, even if they are not involved in mobility projects.

 

What is the impact of digital technologies on students’ participation and teaching modes?

Students’ engagement and participation has changed a lot with hybrid teaching (intended as the combination of online and face-to-face teaching). A risk that is inherent to hybrid teaching is the limited participation and engagement of online students compared to those in the classroom, partly because interacting with a student is easier if they are in front of us, partly because online students could be less prone to intervene. In my opinion, this is something that could be detrimental to the learning experience and should be revised in terms of students’ engagement to make sure that they can participate and feel engaged regardless the fruition mode they choose.
This approach is obviously much more difficult since a professor needs to manage two communication channels instead of one.  This is one of the cases in which digital technologies can help us. One simple example is represented by the use of online surveys in class to collect answers and contributions from a large and dispersed audience, or by the use of different collaboration instruments (e.g. online whiteboards).
However, technology is not enough:  in order to obtain engagement and participation, courses need to be at least partially redesigned, often by rethinking the way content is presented, in order to create opportunities for discussion.

 

“Passion in Action”: what is it? Why?

Passion in Action is a “catalogue” of educational activities that students can attend on voluntary basis. These activities aim to support our students to develop transversal, soft and social skills, and to encourage them to nurture their interests, beyond the “standardized” academic offer.

Thanks to Passion in Action, our students can get acquainted with totally new subjects that may be far from their academic path, or they can enrich their knowledge approaching one topic from very different perspectives.

This catalogue of opportunities is dynamic and constantly updated since new courses are proposed on a monthly basis. Hence, it represents a precious resource that allows our students to personalize their path and access a variegated academic offer, with different levels of intensity.

 

What are the future projects for the Management Engineering study course?

Teaching and learning innovation will be central in the next few years. Many professors have already developed innovating initiatives in their own courses, introducing flipped classroom, project-based learning, digital twin, simulations, etc.

However, when it comes to innovating initiatives there are two aspects that in my opinion should be taken into account. First, innovating teaching implies necessarily a reflection on the innovation of the learning assessment methods. Learning assessment is an integral part of a course and its design is strictly connected to the design, organization and administration of the course itself. Second, innovation should be considered and designed also at the Programme level (and not only at course level), with a holistic view of students’ learning experience. This means designing the Programme not only in terms of contents, that obviously are crucial, but also in terms of teaching modes, exposing our students to different approaches and different learning experiences.

 

Digital transformation to foster the effectiveness and efficiency of learning in tertiary education

The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of Higher Education Institutions, with possible implications on their effectiveness and efficiency. The next step is to look beyond the emergency and leverage on the recent experience.

 

Mara Soncin, Assistant Professor of Business Economics and Organization, School of Management Politecnico di Milano

Tommaso Agasisti, Full Professor of Data Analysis for Public Management, School of Management Politecnico di Milano

 

The digital transformation that Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have been undertaking over the last years has been strongly accelerated by the Covid-19 emergency., The key breakthrough for the near future is to understand how to shape the future of education by exiting the emergency mindset and leveraging the aforesaid acceleration. The turmoil on the digital transformation of HEIs is twofold. One the one hand, the digital turn can support the effectiveness of the educational system and its ability to support student’s academic success. On the other hand, digital technologies affect the input-output structure, with a possible impact on the efficiency of HEIs.

Regarding effectiveness, students will highly benefit from digitally supported learning, which allows a higher personalisation of the learning process and a higher level of flexibility in learning activities, whereas the amount of data coming from digital sources enables a profound investigation on how learning happens. The dimension of performance on which the greatest amount of evidence is available is that of student achievement, which can be evaluated as the grade obtained by a student in an exam in a certain discipline or in a test specifically designed to assess the competences gained through the online tool (i.e., experimental design). Evidence on this is mixed; however, it generally shows the higher effectiveness of a blended model comprising both in-presence and distance learning experiences compared to both the remote only and face-to-face only education delivery modes. Traditional and digital models can therefore be combined to foster the effectiveness of learning.

Furthermore, the digital transformation of higher education is expected to grow even faster in the next future as it allows broader accessibility and hence allows to meet a growing demand for tertiary education, as well as to improve efficiency and sustainability by generating new financial resources. HEIs are increasingly investing in digital tools that substitute or complement traditional education, pursuing objectives that range from driving student recruitment to innovating pedagogy and supplementing on-campus traditional education. Indeed, the digital transformation provides HEIs brand new teaching possibilities and a higher scalability (i.e., a potentially very high number of students can enrol in the same virtual environment), partially bending the economics of education and the cost structure of institutions.
The compound effect on HEIs is potentially disruptive and is affecting both the structure of the inbound inputs and outputs generated by institutions. Still, the introduction of digital tools requires high initial economic investments (especially in technological equipment) and entails additional costs for teaching assistants and extra support to students and faculty in order to ensure the quality of the learning experience in a digital context. In turn, this increases education delivery costs, and therefore, the cost-effectiveness ratio may not necessarily be in favour of the digital mode.

Based on all these considerations, HEIs should progress strategically towards the digital transformation of learning, which is first of all an organisational transformation of the faculty, and only secondly is a technological matter. In turn, the way in which the strategy is implemented will affect the resulting gain in terms of effectiveness and efficiency.
The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation, and now it is up to HEIs to boost the consequent effectiveness and efficiency gains.

 

Open programs evolutions: what should stay and what should go

The last few years were a real moment of change for the role of education, and the world of open programs was not excluded: the challenge now relates to understanding which of the phenomena recently witnessed are supposed to become permanent and which are likely to go away.

Antonella Moretto, Associate Professor and Associate Dean for Open Programs at Polimi Graduate School of Management

The last few years were a real moment of change for the role of education, and the world of open programs was not excluded. Just a brief definition: with the term open programs, I mean master programs available on the market and targeting the B2C world. As master programs, they could cover from 1 to 2 years, in case they are respectively full time or part time.

Over the last years, in the education on open programs, we saw three hot topics circulating.

During the first lockdown, the only discussion topic was online learning and how to make it as effective as face-to-face learning was.

Between the first and the second lockdown, the new issue became hybrid learning and the need to simultaneously manage people in presence and people online. The purpose was to give to anyone the possibility to attend classes the way they preferred, while always worrying about how people online could feel isolated and feel that they were getting a learning experience not effective and not valuable.

Finally, over the last months, when it became once again possible to go back to face-to-face classes, the key point of discussion became how to bring the students back on campus, as they apparently were not finding a reason for doing this anymore. This is a shared problem among different schools internationally.

The scenario has changed a lot of times in a pretty short period, and this is a fact. The purpose of this short paper is not to discuss what is the most effective teaching method. The key takeaway point is that, whether we want it or not, the world of open programs has changed, and now we are struggling to understand which of the phenomena recently witnessed are supposed to become permanent and which are likely to go away.

I present here, without any purpose of completeness, my personal list of four key points that I believe are supposed to remain central in the following months.

Digital is no more the byword for evil

Before the pandemic, when we already offered some online programs, a typical question was “could you reassure me that in the diploma it is not mentioned that this was an online program?”. During the first wave of the pandemic, a typical question was “could you reassure me that the graduate school is planning to come back to face-to-face classes or otherwise could you refund me?”. Now… There simply are no questions like these anymore.

Digital became accepted as a powerful learning tool and people simply expect to have the support of digital to expand their opportunities.

The old-fashioned dichotomy “either online or in presence” simply lost all sense. Now, for open programs, it really doesn’t looks like a matter of how you deliver education, but rather of how you are planning to do so.

A new why for a new world

Now that digital is accepted, it is also very clear that there are wonderful online resources available to learn something new, always up-to-date and very often free of charge. Does this mean that attending a master has lost all its sense? The answer is (hopefully) no, but we must be ready to offer something more than contents, and something more than support to placement.

Attending a master is a “once in a lifetime experience” and should be managed as such. For a junior, it could mean living an experience which is more relevant than ever; for an executive, attending a master could be not a matter of career anymore, but rather a matter of personal satisfaction.

Experience is more critical than content

As written before, for months the “riff” was the desire to come back on campus; when this was possible, the apparently incomprehensible consequence was that the classes remained empty. Someone connected this to a stronger laziness of people, and maybe this is also part of the story. Anyhow, people are lazy when they do not care about something, when something is not providing them real value. Students have understood that they can also learn from home and that this is more than enough to get contents. This means that we need to focus more on the experience, on our capability to offer something more, to offer something memorable in which students are the protagonists and not simply the spectators. Someone says that education should be a blending of content, network, and fun; we devoted a lot of time to content, we exploited our resources for network, it is now time to introduce also the component of fun.

One-to-one caring and the role of pastoral activities

Since students find themselves everyday more in a liquid environment, without a real distinction between online and offline, if we want to provide a value for education, there is a growing need to pay attention to one-to-one activities and pastoral caring. Students want to feel as people, to be supported in designing their own experience, in identifying what it matters more for them. In this field, although new technologies could provide a lot of support, the human touch becomes more relevant than ever.

The European Microfinance Research Award to a team of the School of Management

The award for a study on the positive social impact of fintech.

 

A team of the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering at the Politecnico di Milano won the European Microfinance Research Award 2022 with paper “FinTech for Good: unveiling social value creation in the fintech sector”. The award was given by European Microfinance Network (EMN), a not-for-profit organisation which promotes microfinance as a tool to fight social and financial exclusion in Europe through self-employment and the creation of microenterprises.

The study carried out by Federico Bartolomucci, PhD candidate, Veronica Chiodo, professor of Social Entrepreneurship, and Andrea Petrolati, Junior Project Manager at Fintech District, investigates the FinTech world, aiming to understand if and how technological innovation generates impact in the financial sector and which is the role played by technology in the value creation process. Results show that FinTechs, operating in underserved markets and combining technological innovation with the intentionality to generate positive social impact, can generate social value both in developed and emerging economies. Results challenge traditional financial players, institutions and social economy actors to re-imagine their relation with them.

 

Three things that I didn’t expect when I enrolled for my MBA

Now that I am deeply immersed in the International Part-Time MBA journey (read my previous article to better understand why I use the word “immersed”), I would like to highlight three aspects that I didn’t specifically know or expect when I sent off my application for the selection process more than a year ago:

  1. The number of resources and tools provided by MIP

I should probably write a specific article for each and every one of them. I will try to be concise.

These resources and tools are very useful for any aspect related to your MBA journey or, more generally, to your career and personal growth. They include:

  • D-Hub: MIP’s digital learning platform, all the teaching materials needed, including clips, case studies, assignments, slides, etc, but also the recorded lessons or webinars. What I didn’t expect was the great quality of the clips provided before the lessons in order to prepare for them, which give all the information needed in a clear and structured way.
  • Flexa: a one-of-a-kind personalized and continuous learning platform developed by MIP featuring the latest Microsoft AI tools. It is a really useful tool for career development because it allows you to perform self-assessments of your skills, to set your professional goal and to receive tailor-made learning material, to receive suggestions of people to connect with or even job opportunities based on your profile. Good news: you will have free access to this forever, as an MIP alumnus.
  • VMock: basically a resume optimization tool based on AI, which gives you instant scoring, benchmarking and detailed feedback on your CV, also considering your target goal.
  • Digital Innovation Observatories: MIP students can take up a free subscription or access restricted sections of the Observatory website. net is a multimedia and interactive platform enabling professional updates on Digital Innovation, with a wide variety of content and events designed by analysts and experts with unique expertise.
  • Free Subscription to the Financial Times: I don’t think it’s necessary to explain to you what the Financial Times is; let’s just say that it’s one of the world’s leading global business publications.
  • MBA-Exchange: this is a website that helps MBA students and alumni research and identify the right career opportunities for them, while also working with employers to diversify their candidate pool and optimize their recruiting resources.
  1. The power of networking

This is linked to the first point. Attending classes, events and also the International Weeks, allows you to easily build connections and friendships with people who can enrich you with different points of view, personal and work experiences, thoughts on careers, entrepreneurial ideas, etc.

Before starting, I didn’t expect the level of willingness to “open up” from other students that I have indeed found. Everyone (some more, some less of course), is available to speak openly about their goals and personal experiences, to give opinions and advice and to ask you to do the same, showing genuine curiosity. This willingness definitely makes it easier to build up trust with your teammates.

The network that you will develop throughout these years will eventually help you in finding your dream job, maybe building your startup and more generally with your personal growth.

So, my second tip for future participants is to ask your peers as many questions as you can, to contribute with your experience and feedback and, lastly, to actively participate in networking events, both those organized by MIP and by the students themselves.

  1. The importance of the course coordinator

You will realize how important it is to have the necessary information in time and to have it provided in a clear and concise way, especially when you have to deal with the tons of emails you receive from work, from MIP and on personal matters.

We have the good luck to have Francesca Mastroberardino as our course coordinator and I would say, especially during the International Week in Barcelona, that she helped us a lot in providing us with the preparatory material and the week’s agenda. When chatting, she also gave us some advice on the best way to approach our MBA journey in general.

The course coordinator is, in fact, the reference point for any kind of doubt, question or issue regarding the organization and scheduling of the MBA program, the materials, exams, taxes or the documents you might need for any reason, so be fully aware of their existence and use their email address wisely.

 

 

About the author
Davide Ritorto

Davide Ritorto is an ambitious and inquisitive Management Engineer, currently working and learning at Lamborghini and at MIP, where he is studying for the International Part-Time MBA. He is focused on improving himself and putting his passions and skills to good use.

Davide enjoys exploring new things, is passionate about scuba diving, (of almost all kinds) sports, personal finance, vintage watches, food and intercultural travels

 

Partnering with innovators: how does this translate into the daily life of an MBA student?

22nd October 2020 saw the launch of the new edition of the International MBA at MIP Politecnico di Milano, my edition. About seventy people are sitting in a big class waiting for the presentation to begin. These are all new faces, nobody knows anyone, eyes are analysing other eyes. There’s a strong excitement in the air, it’s easy to perceive. After a long time spent thinking, evaluating and discussing, it’s finally time to start a new adventure. So many expectations, so many questions: where will this experience take me? Will I be a different person? Two years  ̶  will I endure that long? What about these people around me? Are they like me, or totally different?

That was just the first day, but considering the importance that an MBA places on networking, it was probably one of the most important moments for the course itself. Later on, the lectures and group assignments pushed people towards mixing together and sharing more information about themselves. That’s how you start to understand that despite the common desire for personal growth that drives all the MBA candidates, the students want to contribute through their personal experience and background and this always makes the discussions unpredictable. One of the reasons is the extreme diversity sought by MIP while selecting the MBA candidates. Just to give an idea, in my class I met engineers from many fields, economists and financial experts, architects, psychologists, lawyers, and even medical doctors.

This mix works very well considering that the topics are always business related, but in a multidisciplinary way. As much as possible, the professors involve and invite start-uppers, high profile managers and international experts to make the lectures less technical and a great deal more practical.

So what happens is that while you’re studying a business case about a particular issue or a new strategy developed by a well-known company, you’re requested to prepare an interview for its CEO, i.e. by writing a list of questions. Surprisingly, the day after, that CEO participates in person at the lecture. So he replies to the questions and provides his own perspective about the issues described in the business case and explains how the company has finally decided to proceed. Such kinds of experiences make it clear that despite the theory, you’re also practicing the challenges that the administration of a business, at all levels, faces every day. What good training this is, especially if you do it by discussing the cases with your classmates.

The length and the setup of the course enable an easy deepening of these relationships; some of the students share their intention to start new businesses, and others want to improve their role and their impact on their employers. Personally, I am trying to improve my work reality and understand how I can be helpful and where my expectations and ambitions can have a positive effect. This mindset is something new for me and I am sure it is coming from a new maturity that I have acquired while merging work and studies.

On the other hand, every time I hang out with my classmates, now my friends, I too often realize that these people, all of us, are moved by a strong and deep passion for what we are working towards. I believe that we are choosing this path not because of dissatisfaction, but because we haven’t had enough of learning and experiencing alternative fields. We don’t want to live unchanging and repetitive days. We know that we can do more and together we can cover what we are still lacking. We believe that we can be innovators  ̶  we want to demonstrate this to each other and, mostly, to ourselves.

My MBA is approaching the end and while our eyes are still meeting, it’s now happening with a different awareness: we have no doubts that whatever this experience will bring to us, it has been already a success; we have found and joined an amazing and supportive team, a team whose only purpose is effecting change. We own the future.

 

About the author
Simone Moscato

Having graduated at Politecnico di Milano, Simone is now working as a civil engineer in an international EPC Company while attending the International MBA at MIP. An enthusiast for travelling and fighting sports, he’s always searching for new challenges. After years, he’s still struggling to learn how to play the guitar.

 

 

Innovation in companies and in professional daily life: some similarities

Starting with a definition of innovation, we can simply say that Innovation is the realization of new (or significantly improved) products, services, processes, or methods. This can be true either for companies or for professionals: both should focus on and maximize their efforts in improving efficiency (and effectiveness) and create something new and more valuable for the end user who, for the company is the customer, while for the professional it is themself.

The mistake we might sometimes come across when talking about innovation is to confuse “new” with “valuable”. Novelty is crucial, since innovation is about the realization of something new, but not everything that is new creates new value and, more importantly, the hardest part of the innovation regards the implementation of the idea.

In a famous TEDx speech, Bill Gross, founder and developer of innovative start-ups, investigated the reason why some companies succeed while others fail. With the help of data collected from numerous start-ups, he ranked each enterprise based on five key factors: Idea, Team, Business model, Funding and Timing. He found that the factor that counted the most among all the others was not the idea but the timing, first, and the team and their ability to implement the project in second position. He opened a company called “idealab” because he really thinks that the idea is crucial for changing the status quo but, at the same time, he wanted to affirm that a good idea at the wrong time or managed by the wrong team would bring no innovation at all.

If this is true for companies, I think that we can translate this concept into the life of workers as well, and go a little further with the similarity. Every professional dedicates their time to performing tasks, as short-term goals, and to imagining a new way of doing the job, to updating their own competences or to learning new skills, as long-term objectives. The difference between the best performers and the others (as well as between successful companies and the rest) is the percentage of time and resources dedicated to these two different kinds of activities.

Successful companies and successful professionals are those who dedicated a robust percentage of time in studying (R&D for companies) and in applying innovations. Of course, this is a risky way, but it is necessary if the goal in mind is to shape a different and brilliant future.

During the MBA path at Politecnico di Milano, I had the chance to study for a course named “Innovation Leadership”. The aim of the course was not to push the professionals to create tons of ideas or to imagine a new cutting-edge start-up; the real objective was to instil the concept that, once an innovative idea has been recognized as such, the hardest part arrives and new managers, Innovation Managers precisely, need the appropriate skills to choose the right timing, to create the right team for the implementation and, more importantly, to transfer their mindset to all of the company’s employees.

Again, I think that this concept, mutatis mutandis, can be applied also to a professional’s daily life. There are a lot of good ideas and inspirational suggestions to enrich a job routine and to improve one’s personal outlook. The hardest part is to fight inertia and to be consistent in applying what we think might enhance our daily lives. Every person has an “Innovation Manager” inside them, the “planner” part of us that reports to the “slow thinking” of Kahneman. This side has the important task of setting goals and constantly monitoring and controlling the other side of us, which may be more creative, but is less fixed and dedicated.

 

About the author
Luca Bianchi
International sales manager for a multinational logistics company and part of the young group of the Freight Leader Council, I would define myself as curious, ambitious and continuously disposed to improve. Strong supporter of cross-functional experiences, job rotation, teamwork and lifelong learning, my objective is to be constantly able to see challenges from different perspectives and to be adaptable in this ever-changing environment.