BiL Day 1: Teaching for a Digital World


“Running sessions this week in the BiL with the MBA students. This place rocks!! This is exactly what we should be doing…teaching interactive skills and methods around innovation and entrepreneurship!


If you are on campus….come round here now! Yes now!”


The excitement is palpable at Surrey around the Business Insights Lab (BiL). Our MagicWalls arrived all the way from Berlin early one morning recently – and by 10.00, they were being used with great enthusiasm by Innovation and Entrepreneurship students on the Surrey MBA.


Amidst the buzz in the class, we had CoDE team members dropping in to observe and participate, a graphical facilitator trying out the MagicWalls, and a visiting model-maker and illustrator in an Incredible Hulk mask of his own creation.


The atmosphere was high-energy, revolutionary, creative, and collaborative. It’s exactly how we’d pictured teaching and learning about Digital Business.


The Lab is designed for ‘wicked’ problems arising in conditions of considerable environmental uncertainty.


What’s a ‘wicked’ problem? It’s a problem that’s intractable, systemic, and features interconnected and tangled issues that vie for importance. It’s a problem that’s almost impossible to address, because no one knows where to start.


The Lab is a space for anything that:

  • Features a complex and ambiguous topic;
  • Is multi-disciplinary and requires many different types of actors;
  • Confronts uncertainty through iterative experimentation to generate insight rapidly;
  • Uses collaborative/interactive working to foster active learning; and
  • Has potential for considerable Impact.


With the dizzying speed of technological innovation brought about by the Digital Economy, more and more business dilemmas are answering this description. Together, we are able to explore the ‘ecology of technology’: the BiL approach is tremendously flexible, and applicable across virtually all disciplines and sectors.


A taste of our Labs:

  • An upcoming conference co-hosted and supported by CoDE, focusing on crucial issues of identity and security raised by the Internet of Things;


  • A recent workshop with a construction company about challenges posed by building – and maintaining — a highly specialised ‘smart building’;


  • A planned lab for a well-known energy company to explore a sector-changing idea around the connected home, and monitoring energy usage.


The BiL process involves two phases of collective thinking, learning and decision-making. The process is scalable. It can be used with 8 or 80 people. It can be employed over one sprint or several. It can be targeted at a single proposition, a whole innovation portfolio, or an entire organizational transformation.


What does your business know about the ‘ecology of technology’?


Can we help?


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About the Author : Kris Henley

Communications and Outreach for Surrey Business School's Centre for the Digital Economy, a newly-founded research centre to explore the implications of the Digital Economy for business, government and society.

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