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Student Experiences

Creating a Different Kind of Product

It’s the new adage of the marketing world: the secret to happiness is spending money on experiences, not things. While the desire for the latest gizmo has long fueled a culture of consumption, lasting memories can make a business a winning one.

A chef putting food on a plate in a restaurant

As part of a capstone class on innovation, recreation management students at the Marriott School harnessed this concept by developing ideas such as a live-action card game and an interactive restaurant show—among others—to startup-worthy fruition.

“We were trying to figure out a way to marry the business content with what students get in the recreation curriculum and put it together in a meaningful, significant way,” says recreation management professor Peter Ward. Several ideas for accomplishing this were tossed around before the concept of an innovation tournament rose to the top.

For the tournament, each student group developed a project centered on creating experiences, conducted market research, and projected financial feasibility. Acting as investors, their classmates then applied real-life innovation models—such as the Real-Win-Worth It criteria used by 3M and other major companies—to vote on which ideas would advance.

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Forgoing PowerPoint, students delved into designing engaging experiences through an innovation tournament.
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While stretching their entrepreneurial muscles, the students also prepared interactive presentations to accompany their pitches, giving their peers a real-time simulation of their project.

“This is the experience industry, and we’re teaching experience design,” Ward says. “I encourage them not to make their presentations static, like we get inside of a regular class, but to instead make their presentations an experience for the audience.”

Recreation management senior Sheri Hayden says she spent more time last semester developing her proposal for the innovation tournament than she did on all of her other classes combined. But it was to a worthy end: her group placed first in its section of the course with its Viewers Taste Awards project, a live cooking show in which restaurant patrons can watch chefs compete and then taste the competitors’ creations.

“It was very valuable to go through the process of thinking through every detail and trying to refine the experience,” Hayden says. “We intentionally tried to create an experience that people would be immersed in and would look back on as a positive experience. We learned how to make it more than just a product.”

Justin Roedel, also a senior, finished at the top of a different course section with his live-action gaming concept, a tweak on the multibillion-dollar entertainment style of the gaming and sports industries. With his childhood passion as inspiration, he

set out to create a 4-D gaming experience. During a class presentation, he used trading cards, industrial-sized fans, and even taxidermy animals from the Bean Museum to simulate related game moves.

Roedel says the innovation tournament was not only a comprehensive reflection of what he’s learned in the Marriott School—such as principles of marketing, advertising, and finance—but also an important lesson in the value of an engaging experience.

“Everything flipped for me,” he says. “It’s one thing to know what you’re talking about, but to know how to create an engaging experience for those you’re presenting it to makes all the difference.”

—Kasee Bailey