Business Innovation Week Inspires Students and Alumni in Uncertain Times

Business Innovation Week (BIW) at Business School Lausanne (BSL) brings together inspirational speakers, students and alumni. The four-day-long event includes panel discussions, workshops, networking, and more. The outbreak of the coronavirus earlier this year meant that the student organizers behind this term’s BIW event had to quickly rethink their strategy. 

The recent BIW event took place online from May 5th – 8th and focused on entrepreneurship in uncertain times. We spoke with Elias Raffoul, president of the student council and also a master’s student at BSL, who led the organization of the recent BIW event. He told us a bit about this year’s ‘virtual event’ and how the team managed some of the challenges presented by COVID-19.

Logistics: Moving Business Innovation Week Online 

The first and most obvious challenge presented by COVID-19 was moving everything from a physical space to a virtual one. “After three weeks of organization, we flipped everything online” Elias explains. This created some challenges because “It’s more difficult to involve people and to make students participate”. In order to prevent background noise or interruption, the organizers asked students to keep their mics on mute unless approved by the committee.  

However, the online format also presented some advantages. “The advantage was that there were no boundaries,” says Elias, adding that “You can invite speakers from all over the world. We had three speakers from Brazil, which we were unable to do before.” That unique advantage is one that might be used in future events, in order to involve inspirational speakers and organizations from all four corners of the world.

The online format meant that speakers from anywhere in the world could attend

Relevance: Adapting the Theme for COVID-19

The outbreak of the coronavirus has had a huge impact on businesses worldwide. The student council at BSL felt it was important to adapt the theme of the event so that it was relevant to students during this unprecedented time. 

The original topic for the week was innovation. However, in response to COVID-19 this was adapted. Elias explains that “We wanted to do something focused on the current situation, and how you can adapt to the current situation as an entrepreneur”. This would be particularly relevant to students enrolled in an entrepreneurship degree at BSL. 

Hands-on Challenge:  A Very Real Simulation for Students at Our Business School in Switzerland

As well as presentations and panel discussions, workshops are an important component of BIW. The team at BSL decided to replace the workshop sessions with a virtual challenge using a simulation format. 

On day two, the students were split into 10 groups as part of an entrepreneurial challenge. As part of the competition, teams were asked to create a business plan for a futuristic project. Students had to plan everything, including whether they would rent or buy a factory, whether they would take a loan from the bank, how many products they would produce, how many employees they would hire, how to market the product, and more. The simulation covered everything from marketing to finance, entrepreneurship, and decision-making. This was an important part of the simulation because students at BSL can study an MIB in finance, marketing, and more. 

For all involved, the virtual event offered an interactive and inspirational experience. 

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