“Business is an ongoing design problem that’s never finished.”

Chances are there haven’t been many MBA candidates who have designed eyeglasses for Nickelodeon and Geoffrey Beene, or the mobile console for a micro-ablation tool used in surgical suites. “I’ve had the unusual experience,” Colt Stander says, “of seeing my design for SpongeBob glasses released the same day as my surgical tool for opening skulls.”

Colt’s interest in designing cars attracted him to industrial design. “But I quickly learned that cars weren’t for me,” he says. “I became more interested in the problem-solving aspects of design rather than in pure aesthetics.” To his way of thinking, design and business have much in common. “To create a good product, you have to know all the influences behind manufacturing the product and consumer behavior. I became interested in business because I knew that to create the best products for consumers, I needed to understand the rest of the business problem better through things like marketing, finance, and operations. At the same time, I saw my design principles would have a greater influence in the larger business channel, impacting more people for the greater good. The creative process has the potential to generate new value.”

No cop outs

After much reflection, Colt realized that he “wanted to create a business, rather than simply a product.” When he considered MBA options that would help him achieve his goal, HBS topped the list. “The general management emphasis hooked me,” he says. “I love the required curriculum in the first year. It forces you to be exposed to all aspects of business, to know and understand every role and function. You just can’t cop out of any classes.”

The case method, Colt says, “is nothing but a dream. The classroom dynamic is one of the best teaching tools I’ve seen, especially for learning complex concepts. The process allows numerous opinions and concepts to be shared. And the quality of the students – you get to really know and become friends with top people.”

Making the transition from design to business was not as difficult as he had feared. “Prior to coming here, I was intimidated,” Colt says. “But the summer Analytics program really helped. It was a boot camp that boosted my confidence as well as my quantitative skills.” And upon reflection, design and business share similar challenges. The pathways aren’t clear,” Colt says. “You’re starting from scratch every time. In most curriculums, there’s an end. But in design, there’s never a perfect solution. And in a way, conducting business is an ongoing design challenge that’s never finished.”

Analytical yet creative future

During the winter break, Colt participated in the Westrek to San Francisco and the Silicon Valley to meet “many of the most creative and innovative firms. I wanted to see what job positions are out there, what’s analytical yet creative. Where are people solving problems?”

After graduation from HBS, Colt plans on solving problems at an established company. “Then eight to ten years out, I’d like to create my own consumer product brand or design development company.”