Innovation in progress - Sustainable Business Challenge update

7 December 2020 - 16:50

The final of the Sustainable Business Challenge (SBC) will be held this Friday, during which the teams will be presenting their ideas to the five companies. So how are the students working on the ForFarmers case doing? They have kept completely tight-lipped about the idea they’re going to surprise us with, but the two team captains were happy to answer a few questions.

‘This is truly a different way of working’

Afbeelding: Teamcaptain Fabian_portret
Fabian Franje

Fabian Franje is studying Management, Economics & Consumer Studies at Wageningen University and says he is committed to creating a healthy environment. “You regularly hear the term circular agriculture mention in my particular field of study. But what level of ‘sustainable’ profit can actually be realised with this? I wanted to know more about this and it goes without saying this challenge and the ForFarmers case have presented me with the perfect opportunity to delve into this topic and provide my very own contribution too.”

Are you all managing to work together effectively, as everything has to be done remotely?
“So far we’ve only spoken to each other digitally as a team, but we all get on brilliantly. The SBC’s introductory session certainly did help, as we were given plenty of time and ‘icebreakers’ to get to know each other. We’re regularly in touch online and we always start off with a little small talk. We then divide up the various different tasks and everyone gets to work. All contact with ForFarmers has gone very smoothly too. We were really left with the feeling that ForFarmers is happy with us during the online In-House Day. The contact people allocated to us are just as excited as we are and always ready to answer any of our questions.”

Is the challenge satisfying your expectations?
“The case presented by ForFarmers is more complex than we originally thought and coming up with an appropriate concept is quite tricky when you don’t have a huge amount of data at your disposal. But we were certainly given a very useful helping hand during the ‘Innovation Lab’ and we learned to think ‘out of the box’, making sure we will hopefully also be coming up with an innovative idea for ForFarmers. We are used to working out one solution into the finest details, so this truly is a different way of working. But that’s exactly why it’s also incredibly educational and challenging.”

What has been the biggest eye opener for you?
“The thought experiment during the Innovation Lab, during which we needed to provide the wrong answer to three questions. This clearly demonstrated our tendency to continue thinking inside our boxes, even when you’re instructed to say something completely random. You’re still subconsciously being controlled, which will inevitably also limit your creativity. It’s good to be aware of that.”

Is your team going to come up with the winning idea?
“We think we’ve come up with a very strong and concrete plan and we believe we’ll stand a good chance. But we’ll keep the exact details to ourselves for now… ;-)”

‘Our idea actually originated from a joke’

Afbeelding: Teamcaptain_Max_portret
Max Dekker

Max Dekker is studying Finance & Technology at the VU in Amsterdam and would like to contribute to a sustainable future. “Change starts with you, but I believe the companies in our society can definitely play a central role in this too. That’s why I’m participating with this challenge.”

Are you all managing to work together effectively, as everything has to be done remotely?
“Everything is done online, as we pretty much all live in different parts of the country. We only got together during the Innovation Lab, which gave us the opportunity to come up with a fantastic idea. That was definitely a great deal more fun than simply sitting behind the PC. But it was certainly a little odd too, as we had never met each other in real life before, yet we all felt like we knew each other. Working together with ForFarmers has also gone really smoothly. We received a lovely welcome pack and are also provided with expert advice and assistance every time we express a need for this. However, we do all agree on the fact that it’s a real shame we haven’t been able to visit the feed mill in Lochem.”

Is the challenge satisfying your expectations?
“I started the challenge with a multitude of different ideas in my head and was keen to instantly get going. It soon became apparent we needed to start with taking a step back, to look at the issue from a different angle and to use other methods to come up with appropriate solutions. Making that switch wasn’t all that easy to start with, but it eventually definitely resulted in better and more original ideas.”

What have you enjoyed the most so far?
“The actual case! My dad is a goat farmer and cheese maker and even though I ended up studying something completely different and (probably) won't opt for farming as my career, I am still hugely enjoying doing something in an area I’m familiar with due to my ‘farming background’. Plus it is also really interesting that another team member also has a great deal of affinity with the agricultural sector, whilst the other two team members don’t. This allowed us to look at this issue from various different angles.”

Is your team going to come up with the winning idea?
“Absolutely! But what’s most important to us is that we present an idea which is interesting to all parties. A simple, effective and original idea which can be introduced and implemented in the short-term. Our eventual idea actually originated from a joke. Once we were done laughing at someone’s comment, we all sort of sat back and thought: actually, that’s a pretty good idea! But of course I’m not going to tell you what that is just yet!”