Monday, August 27, 2018

Interview with UAL MA in Innovation Management Program current student

I'd like to thank Daisuke Wakamiya for participating in an interview so that anyone interested in grad school, and in particular interested in innovation management, can learn more about his experiences in this unique educational program. Below are his responses to my questions about the MA in Innovation Management Program at UAL (University of the Arts London) as well as his life in this vibrant city.

1. Why did you choose this unique program?

First of all, multidisciplinary and multicultural talents gather and collide here, producing something new. I have noticed collaboration amongst people of different professions/nationalities is key for innovation. That is why this course was ideal for me. In addition, I’m convinced the composition of the program, featuring a personal project after team explorations, would help me focus my interest and philosophy. Different from my prior working experience, this MA Innovation Management Programme is focusing on exploring new perspective and ideas, rather than making physical products. Since I have worked as a hardware engineer for 10 years, I already have a lot of experiences of making things. That is why the course was ideal for me to learn a more creative way of thinking, similar to what artists and designers do. At the same time, I wanted to be the one to invent the products and services on site rather than making decisions. This attitude made me choose design school rather than business school. On top of that, London is the ideal location for me because the city is not only famous for being a melting pot of races contributing to the diversity, but it is also a travel hub - you can fly to most European cities within a few hours.

2. Please walk us through a typical weekday as a student in this program.

This program relies enormously on independent learning - we basically don’t have lectures every weekday. Besides, scheduling is one of the team project tasks, and as such each team builds up their own schedule. Bearing that in mind, what follows is a typical schedule.

From 10 to 10:30 on Monday, we initiated a student led meeting where we share our skills and knowledge with each other. For example, we had a coaching session from a course mate. As most of us have some professional background, it is a really useful opportunity to learn about each other. After that we have a lecture involved in the project. Almost all lectures are interactive and often include some workshops. Then students spend time on each team project in the afternoon. As most of the outputs of the team projects are team presentations, brainstorming can be the main part of the discussion. In the evening, I take part in a seminar the university organizes from time to time. The topics range widely from managing stress to reflective thinking, which is also useful for students.

3. Is there a course or experience that you particularly recommend?

In this course, the professor offers some philosophical frameworks to find innovation opportunities. One project involved “discourse”. In this project, we as a team researched a given theme. Discourse is simply defined how people speak and write a topic and is also a methodology to analyse a topic from the past to present and develop a future scenario. Through the project we have noticed how our minds and perspectives are biased. One insight we have gained from this is the attitude to keep a naïve mind during research. As such, the MA Innovation Management Program encourages us to learn not only design thinking methodology but also different perspectives to allow us to critically analyze a theme. I highly recommended this. 

4. Have you enjoyed the team projects? What have you learned from working with your peers?

Definitely yes! Actually, most of the projects in the 1st year are team projects. As the members are randomly divided into groups, I have tagged with different member in each project. I enjoy getting inspired by teammates from different countries and different professions. There is collision, collaboration and cooperation. What I have learned most is the importance of adaptability. To be honest, I’m still struggling with the language barrier like catching up to fast-paced discussions with native English speakers. So I had to come up with some survival skills such as asking for a recap, setting aside time for my speech in the beginning and using rough sketching to better relate ideas. These practices have worked. Besides, some of my colleagues told me that distilling information through sketching is one of my strengths. Pushing the boundaries with peers can be a tough experience, but it will make you grow.

5. How’s life in London? What kinds of things are you doing?

It’s a once in a lifetime experience, to say the least. Although I continue to be busy with group work and reading assignments on weekdays, I often hang out around the city, and get immersed in British culture such as old buildings, museums (most are free), crawling pubs and restaurants, going for picnics at parks and other such activities. Watching World Cup games at local pubs with a pint of pale ale was really fun. Since craft beer has been getting popular here, most of the pubs have more than 10 taps (type of beer), inviting you into the deep brewery world. As for food, there are lots of great restaurants, but they can be a bit pricey. Gastropubs are an alternative, where you can have modern British dishes and beer with traditional atmosphere and at a decent price. On holidays, I go for short trips to neighboring cities such as Barcelona, Paris and Helsinki. 

6. After receiving an acceptance to the programme and before actually arriving in London, I imagine that you did quite a bit of preparation. Reflecting on that period of time is there anything you wish you had done more/less of?

If you are a normal Japanese person like me, I recommend that you improve your English conversation skills, especially listening comprehension skills. I got a 7.0 on IELTS, but I couldn’t catch what local people said at all when I arrived, and it is still difficult after one year. Except a fast pace in conversations, and as well the British/London accent might not be one you are familiar with. It feels like the difference between Queen and London accents is as much as the difference between Standard Japanese and the Osaka dialect.

Thanks Daisuke for your time! 

John Couke