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Kiran Sajwani

I'm a little ray of light, trying to glow brighter... I'm also in search of new adventures at www.kiransajwani.com
Kiran Sajwani has written 41 posts for MBA: Must Bring Adventure!

See you on the other site! www.kiransajwani.com

Whatcha doin’?  Methinks you’ve wandered over to the first iteration of my blog – I’ve transitioned over www.kiransajwani.com where you’ll find all my previous blog posts, and new ones too!

Come on!  Click on www.kiransajwani.com – and you can read some of my thoughts on Design Thinking, Golf, and even The Godfather! 😀

See you on the other site!

-Kiran.

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Back to the (blog)board at www.kiransajwani.com

It’s been quiet for a little while, but I’ve been itching to get typing my thoughts!

The latest post and subsequent posts will be updated on my blog at www.kiransajwani.com – don’t worry, the previous blog posts are there too!

So, I endeavor to write about all the awesomeness I come across along this continuing adventure, and I hope you’ll join me for the ride! 😀

KS - Logo (Blue)

Bye-bye Rail Container, Hello FlexBox!

While my journey with human-centered business design may have begun at Rotman, I was determined to not let it end at Rotman. I was determined to continue my pursuit of designing better solutions, and jumped at any and every opportunity to be able to practice my design chops (is that even a term? :P)!

Fortunately, I’m not alone in that boat, and when three amazingly talented classmates and I happened to chance upon an interesting challenge to redesign rail freight, we jumped pretty high! The innovation competition challenged us to explore how might we extend network capability and improve the user experience for the UK rail freight industry.

We (Team Novus Capsa) were pretty stoked about the challenge, but we had no idea about rail freight whatsoever! Also, it was kind of tricky to figure out the freight space in the UK while we were sitting in Toronto, Canada! So, what do you do when you don’t know something? You research! We reached out to brilliant academics researching urban planning, real estate economics, operational efficiencies, and marketing strategies. We spoke with seasoned professionals who shared their insights from sectors such as shipping, logistics, postal services and industry analysts. We chatted with enterprises, business owners and individuals who had previously, are currently, or may use freight or freight forwarding services at some point in the future. We are incredibly grateful for the knowledge, experiences and insights that these generous individuals shared with us, and they helped us deep-dive into the world of freight.

FlexBox - PrototypeThen, last, but not the least, we looked at the freight container itself, and that’s when we realized the box had changed the space of shipping and trade. While the humble box had changed a lot, it remained relatively unchanged since its invention. Well, if we wanted to change the current state of rail freight, we had to change the box. So, that’s what we did! We brainstormed, ideated, prototyped and repeated until we were out of Lego blocks!

Eventually we conceptualized a redesign of the box – “FlexBox” – where the box comes to you! It would be a unique freight solution for small and medium enterprises, with door-to-door service. Our concept was to change the box, which would change rail freight, and redefine the rail user experience. Curious? Take a peek at our concept solution, and tell me what you think!  🙂

When Life Gives You Roller-Coasters…

I sat down to write a post on a design project, but before I knew it, my fingers had taken over and were typing something completely different… So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here is my post of gratitude for those cheering me on to ride roller-coasters 🙂

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KS - Roller-CoasterLife is a crazy roller-coaster, with plenty of twists, turns & double loops to leave your head perpetually spinning.  But even as you ride this crazy roller-coaster, there’s an element of excitement and exhilaration, with a shot of adrenaline to keep you shooting in the direction of your dreams.  It also leaves you a little hyper and loopy, with your family and friends telling you to simmer down and be realistic!  Within this cacophony of emotions, it falls upon you to center yourself with the right combination of idealism and realism, and find your peace amidst all the madness.

This may sound a little odd, especially given my frequent references to roller-coasters, but I am afraid of roller-coasters.  I rode one when I was about eleven, and it terrified the living daylights out of me with its double loop; I couldn’t wait to get off, and haven’t gotten on one since then.  Why is that important?  Because I think my fears run deeper than I fear, and trying new things, experiences and emotions has always terrified me.  I have been hesitant about doing or saying something I feel, and I have held back quite frequently, with the result that I have a running inner monologue about how I should have done this or said that, and perhaps things would have turned out differently.

A little over two years ago, on a miserably cold evening, a dear friend told me that it’s okay to be afraid, as long as I don’t live my life in fear.  I made up my mind then to at least try to face my fears instead of cowering behind them.  When faced with the prospect of trying something new, I at least attempted it once, and when thinking about saying something, I at least attempted speaking my mind instead of relegating myself to days of recurring inner monologues.  Even when you try to change something for the better, you do slip into old habits without realizing it, and so it happened to me.  Recently, another dear friend wondered out loud how life could be different if we weren’t so afraid, and didn’t overthink everything.  It reminded me to keep charging ahead, and face my fears instead of running away from them and hiding.

This Thanksgiving, I am immensely grateful for these Angels appearing in my life, in the form of family, friends and complete strangers, reminding me to do what’s right for me, and keep charging ahead towards my dreams.  They often think what they said or did was completely insignificant, but their words and actions are immensely powerful.  While I’m unlikely to get on one of the terrifying roller-coasters at Cedar Point or Six Flags, these Angels remind me to get back in line for the roller-coaster of life, and ride it with my face in the wind, smiling through all the twists, turns and double-loops 🙂

Take a Moment for Joy!

KS - Love & JoySometimes, all it takes is a little moment to remind you of what you need to do, in order to materialize the life you have envisioned for yourself.  I’ve been told that I was a happy burst of sunshine as a kid, brimming with optimism, and beaming with a big smile.  I think, nay, I believe that every kid comes into this world in a state of joy; that’s why they are most likely to smile in their sleep.

However, the increasing pressures of the world erase most of these innocent smiles, leaving them with sullen mumbles in their teenage years, and confused drudgery as they transition into adulthood.  At least that’s what it was for me; I turned into a cranky, pessimistic grump, dragging through my days, and for a while, I didn’t think it could be any different.  Until one day when somebody tried guessing my age, and came up with a number that was about ten years older than my chronological age… If you want to give a twenty-something a panic attack, tell them they’re old!  After many hours spent peering at myself in magnifying mirrors looking for fine lines, it hit me.  It wasn’t my face itself that was making me look old, but my internal self, reflected on my face, that was aging me beyond my years.  I took a good, hard look at myself, and realized that no amount of potions and lotions would help me look younger, unless I returned my mental state to a state of joy.  Easier said than done!

Being happy is expected of kids, and hoped of teenagers, but generally elicits confused stares of bewilderment in adults.  I encountered those stares fairly often as I began my conscious commitment towards being happy, and quite often, it was easier to be cranky than happy, but I had to try to be happy, especially if I wanted to be guessed as a twenty-something again!  The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and for me, my journey towards joy started with baby steps – simple things like taking a moment to smile after waking up and being grateful for this new day, rather than just slamming the alarm clock and stumbling out of bed; taking a moment to look up at the sky and breathe in the dawn before getting behind the wheel, rather than succumbing to road rage and honking at errant drivers; taking a moment to ask my colleagues how they’re doing and listening to their response, rather than just getting straight into the task; taking a moment to look at my plate and savor all the aromas and colors, rather than just shoveling food down my throat; taking a moment to do a fist-pump at scoring a great parking spot in a crowded lot, rather than just jumping out and rushing off; taking a moment at the end of the day, to reflect on and being grateful for all the wonderful things that I’ve been blessed with, rather than just grumpily falling into bed, and complaining about everything that went wrong that day.  All it takes is a moment to savor the experience and be genuinely grateful, to change from being apprehensive about all the craziness that awaits, to being anticipative about all the joy that’s waiting to embrace you.

Even though I have become more optimistic and joyous, that doesn’t mean I’m in a continuous state of helium-induced excitement – life has its fair share of problems and disappointments, and it’s natural to feel sad or upset when things don’t turn out as you had hoped.  However, I’ve learned feeling defeated doesn’t mean that I’ve been permanently defeated.  I get angry, sad and frustrated, and I recognize that those are my natural responses; accepting that it’s okay to be unhappy, for just a little while, allows me to take a moment and take a step towards happiness.  Sometimes it’s taking a walk (fresh air amidst nature works wonders), watching a funny movie (laughter is the best medicine), baking a decadent delight while listening to peppy music (cookies solve most problems), talking with a friend (I’m infinitely grateful for my patient, nonjudgmental family and friends), all of the above (What? You’ve never walked to a friend’s house to chat as you two baked, and then watched a comedy while eating cookie dough?), or something completely different (maybe you’re the anomaly in the human species that doesn’t like cookies).  Happiness comes in ebbs and flows, and not everything in life will go your way, but how you respond to the lows, by getting back on your feet, and taking a moment to find that little thing that makes you smile, even if for just a moment, before charging on, full-steam ahead, towards joy.

Why have I been talking about being in a state of joy?  It’s because being joyous allows you to be more proactive towards, and receptive of the even greater joy that awaits you.  I believe that to be true, and have experienced that to be true.  But even when you know something, you forget – we’re only human, after all.  And sometimes, all it takes is a little moment to remind you of what you need to do, in order to materialize the life you have envisioned for yourself.  I was lucky to be a guest at a Rotary meeting earlier this week, where they wrapped up the meeting by passing around their Happy Box, and every member expressed gratitude for something good that they had experienced during the past week.  It didn’t matter if the happiness was big or small, it was the mere act of expressing gratitude, and sharing that joy with others.  The past few weeks have been a bit of a roller-coaster  where I barely appreciated the highs, and tended to dwell in the lows longer than necessary.  The little moment of sharing joys with the Happy Box, reminded me to take a little moment to be truly grateful for all that I have been blessed with.  It may take me longer than a little moment (especially if I’m trying to write about it), but I think gratitude is worth the effort.  So, here goes my top three for today… I am very happy and grateful for my academic and professional mentors who continue to guide me with their experiences and insights; I am very happy and grateful for my family and friends who continue to tolerate my quirkiness, encourage my creativity, and support my dreams and aspirations; and I am very happy and grateful for the invention of chai – it’s the perfect beverage to keep me warm and cozy for when it’s cold and rainy outside, and great for dunking cookies too!  Hey, I already told you I was quirky!  And being in a state of joy isn’t always about the big happiness moments, it’s about being happy to recognize (and appreciate) those little moments that make you smile and happy.  So, thank you, dear reader, for patiently reading this post, sticking with this blog, and sharing your comments and words of appreciation 🙂

P.S.  I am guessing there might be some wondering on how taking a moment to be grateful and joyous has to do with creativity, design or adventure…  I believe a joyous state of mind not only helps you look happier and younger, but it also helps spark more creative ideas, and this adventure of life needs ideas and solutions that are better designed, with a dash of quirkiness to make you smile 🙂

P.P.S.  While I will persist in my efforts to be joyous, I promise to have my next post focused more on design and/or an adventurous spirit!  Thank you for your patience and support!  🙂

The Adventure Continues…

ImageI started writing this blog – “MBA: Must Bring Adventure!” – as a way to chronicle my experiences during my MBA at the Rotman School of Management, and share my journey with family and friends.  My MBA culminated this summer, with a glorious graduation ceremony that had me grinning from ear to ear, surrounded by wonderful family and awesome friends, some watching and cheering for me from the other side of the world, as I finally achieved this long-held dream of mine.  While my MBA was nothing short of a terrific, high-adrenaline roller-coaster, I feel like the adventure has only just begun. Life’s too short to be just ho-hum; it deserves our best effort to bring an adventurous spirit as we charge ahead to leave our own mark on the world.  So, I intend to continue approaching each day as a new adventure, knowing not where it may lead me, but just that it deserves a creative, optimistic and determined spirit.  I intend to continue chronicling my adventures, and I hope you continue to join me on the road ahead…  🙂

To Sir, With Love

Edward Ricardo Braithwaite wrote him, Sidney Poitier played him, Lulu sang him… But are inspirational teachers like Mark Thackeray just confined to our books, our screens, and our stereos?  I’m very fortunate to say that I’ve come across some inspiring teachers and mentors, each one of them playing a role in spurring me on to greater heights.  Some of them appeared in the classroom, some in the boardroom, and some of them offered silent wisdom as they went along their way.  For me, most of them appeared in the hallways and classrooms of the Rotman School of Management, each one of them inspiring me to do better than I thought I could do, and one day hopefully, emulate their insight, foresight and wisdom.  But I wouldn’t have found myself at Rotman, learning from these amazing professors, had it not been for one particularly inspirational professor, Roger Martin.

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A few years ago, while searching for the future home of my MBA, I perused catalogs, websites, emails, blogs and videos, trying to find something that clicked with me, something that I could identify with, something that would spark my curiosity, and fuel my fire for learning and knowledge.  While Rotman was always in my top choices, it wasn’t until I saw a video of Dean Roger Martin at the Business Innovation Factory (BIF-5) Collaborative Innovation Summit in 2009, that Rotman became the only choice for me.  Professor Martin spoke of Rotman redefining business education from “narrow, shallow and static” to “broad, deep and dynamic,” and producing business professionals capable of handling today’s business problems, but also proactively tackling the wicked problems of tomorrow.  After watching that video, Rotman became my only choice, and suffice to say, I was deliriously happy when they sent me their acceptance letter about two and a half years ago.

Over the past two years at Rotman, I have not only acquired a strong foundation in business knowledge, but I have also been very fortunate to learn from some truly stellar professors, many of whom became mentors, as I navigated my way through this roller-coaster, each one of them providing unique insight that helped me along my way.  But I do owe Professor Martin a special nod of thanks.  Thanks to him, I found myself at Canada’s top business school; I understand the incredible value of Integrative Thinking; I discovered my passion and delight for Business Design; I find myself applying Human-Centered Design Thinking principles everywhere I go; I am yearning to tie up Strategy and Innovation in the challenges ahead; I am inspired by the academic pursuit of excellence; and I can’t wait to pay it back to my school.

After 15 impressive years as Dean of the Rotman School of Management, Roger Martin stepped down as Dean this summer, and took a leadership position at the Martin Prosperity Institute researching democratic capitalism.  Professor Martin, during your years as Dean, you have had innumerable incredible accomplishments that have elevated Rotman through the ranks.  However, I think your biggest accomplishments would be the impact you’ve left on your students; we’re better today than when we first walked through Rotman’s doors, discovering new skills and passions, and raring to tackle the world’s little and wicked problems.  And so, it is with utmost gratitude that we say, “To Sir, With Love.”

11,111 and counting… Thank You!

KS - MBA Blog

I started writing “MBA: Must Bring Adventure!” about 22 months ago, as a way for me to chronicle my MBA journey at the Rotman School of Management.  I’ve loved writing ever since I was a little girl, so this blog naturally became a happy place for me to share my thoughts… happy & sad, frustrated & excited, freezing & melting, bittersweet & joyous.  What I didn’t expect was so many people sharing my Rotman journey, through every reading, paper, report, project, presentation, along with endless cups of coffee.

Today, mustbringadventure.wordpress.com crossed 11,111 views!  That’s eleven thousand, one hundred, eleven views, and counting!  And for that, I thank you, each and every one of you! 😀

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” – G.K. Chesterton

Rotman Design Challenge 2013

After experiencing what was undoubtedly one of the highlights of first year, with the Rotman Design Challenge 2012 (RDC 2012), I was determined to pay it forward when the 2013 edition came along.  While the competition itself only took place in March of this year, fervent preparations for RDC 2013 began in earnest shortly after our first year came to a close.  From pitching to prospective clients, to liaising with our competition sponsor, to liaising with generous partners, to scouting locations, to inviting judges, to inviting speakers, to developing learning program, to managing internal and external teams, to managing multiple communication channels, to finally putting together “one of the most awesome case competitions ever” (testimonial by an enthusiastic participant!), and I was very fortunate to be a part of the awesome team behind the magic.

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As the RDC Sponsor, Target challenged teams to find an innovative solution to, “How can Target leverage it’s ‘Expect More. Pay Less®’ brand promise and it’s mantra of ‘Design for All’ to become and be recognized as a leading company in sustainability?”  Our eager participants came from schools across Canada, United States and Europe (we went international in just our third year!), from Aalto University, California College of the Arts, Darden School of Business, IIT Institute of Design, Ivey School of Business, McCombs School of Business, Ontario College of Art & Design, Sauder School of Business, Sloan School of Management, and of course, the Rotman School of Management.  125 eager business designers fully immersed themselves in the challenge, using business and design techniques and frameworks, to create amazingly creative concepts inspired by unique user insights.  And their presentations resonated the words of our keynote speaker, Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management, offering a creative and “productive combination of analytical & intuitive thinking” to move the business world forward.  Innovation was the theme of the day, with Daniel Duty from Target saying how, “engaging with their guests and building brand love, requires constant innovation.”  Kate Heiny also offered words of wisdom for our eager participants, “Dream big, make it simple, make it look good, and you should be set!”

The Judges did not have an easy task as they deliberated extensively (timing one of the rooms was highly enlightening – so much wisdom & insight from our Judges!) to select the final 5 teams from IIT Design, OCAD, MIT Sloan and Rotman (It was a proud day for Rotmanites when two of their teams went into the final round!).  The final round judges had an even trickier task as they reviewed, questioned and debated, before awarding first place to ‘Team Meta’ from IIT Design, second place to ‘We Almost Forgot Our Passports’ from MIT Sloan, and third place to ‘P-Type’ from Rotman!  Yay!  😀  

The RDC was an incredibly exhausting, yet amazingly exciting experience, and I particularly enjoyed meeting with eager business designers from different schools.  In short, the RDC was like a design melting pot, where like-minded individuals came together, to share their curiosity, creativity, and commitment to innovation, and I can’t wait to see what the next year’s team has in store for Rotman and business design!

Puppy Therapy at Rotman!

Now that school’s out, I find myself with a little more time on my hands; going from full-time studying to full-time searching still takes up a significant amount of time, but with a little more free time than before.  It’s been really nice to spend time with understanding family members I barely saw during my program, catch up with friends for reasons other than group projects & deliverables, get back to cooking for joy & health rather than speed & convenience, get back to working out without worrying it cutting into my study time, read a book not because it related to a course, see a movie without worrying about a paper that’s due in a couple of hours, and just take leisurely walks through the neighborhood with my camera and take in everything.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Rotman, and it’s been an incredible roller-coaster ride that I’ve enjoyed completely… but sometimes, it’s nice to enjoy a less manic pace too! 🙂

KS with Stevie, Therapy Dog

It was on one of these neighborhood strolls that I came across an adorable little puppy that took me straight back to Rotman.  During a particularly stressful period at Rotman, with exam season just around the corner, the Graduate Business Council and the Rotman Health & Wellness Association brought in Stevie, a St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog.  An adorable little 4-year-old female miniature poodle, Stevie loves to cuddle, meeting new people, and playing tug-of-war with her very soggy chew toy!  Although the Puppy Therapy didn’t last very long, the after-effects lasted quite a while… I had a relaxed smile on my face for the rest of the day, and I was constantly lighting up with glee around puppies & dogs for a good few days after Rotman’s Puppy Therapy session. 😀

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