What I Learned at…Kellogg, Part 3

In our “What I Learned at…” series, MBAs discuss the tools and skills their business schools provided as they launched their careers.

mbaMission connected with Chris Brusznicki, founder of Gameday Housing, the leader in the sports vacation rental market. In the third part of this four-part series, Chris discusses how one class and one project at Kellogg helped him see the big picture.

One of my favorite classes at Kellogg was with Brian Uzzi: “Management & Organizations.” It was, in fact, the first class I ever took as a Kellogg student and one all Kellogg students take during orientation (CIM) week. Brian’s focus is on the power of networks and teams and how such ideas can be applied to creative businesses. In particular, Brian heralded the successes of IDEO, a design and innovation consulting firm with offices nearby in Evanston in addition to around the country and world. The IDEO case resonated with me because I have always had both a technical and creative bent. I had also learned a lot from just understanding IDEO’s approach to product development: rapid feedback and diverse teams were the keys to success. For example, in the case we studied, the team had to redesign a shopping cart, and in so doing, involved not just designers, but also customers at grocery stores, cart collectors, designers, philosophers, manufacturers and even the logistics companies that ship the carts to the stores at which they’ll be used.  This passion for thinking about the full life cycle of a product and all the stake holders who touched it really blew my mind and both humbled and empowered me as a designer.

Just one quarter later, I was ecstatic to actually meet and work with IDEO designers as part of the design curriculum of the MMM (Master in Management in Manufacturing) program—the design program was led by Don Norman, who is one of the foremost thinkers in the design world and author of the seminal design book Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things.  We had a project for which we had to build a green prototype, and Don and IDEO were available for that rapid feedback. The project was certainly fun and educational, but for me, because Gameday Housing was already moving, I took lessons from that prototyping to our Web site: “What are our core features?” “How will a customer experience our site?” “What’s the minimum this Web site needs to do well to make money?” We were able to launch a site with the minimal functionality needed to get things going and then constantly solicited feedback from users—feedback that we were able to quickly apply to our Web site. Everyone I went through that experience with—whether they were bankers or consultants or went into industry—had a base level knowledge of what “right” looks like. For me, that was crucial.

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