UCL School of Management

26 October 2021

Sense Worldwide Business Analytics Student project: How might we measure cognitive diversity to drive breakthrough innovation?

As a part of the MSc Business Analytics programme at UCL School of Management, students undertake a practical consulting project with a company or undertake independent research. Using the skills and knowledge they have developed on the programme students analyse data and come up with actionable insights which may be around improving a particular area of the business, changing a process, or getting a more thorough understanding of its customers and target market.

Kamila Jasinska from the Class of 2021, supported Sense Worldwide and CEO & Founder Jeremy Brown, shares his experience hosting a Business Analytics student project which he says delivered an “incredibly powerful” result that has given Sense Worldwide the academic foundation to explain its work and the results it can yield.

What does Sense Worldwide do?

Since 1999, we have helped many of the world’s most innovative companies such as Nike, Sonos, PepsiCo, GE and Chanel to be more innovative and deliver breakthrough ideas. 

Breakthrough innovation needs people with different minds to deliver different outcomes. At Sense Worldwide we collaborate with creators: outliers, misfits, rebels and the crazy ones to understand the future and deliver breakthrough innovations, we are experts in harnessing cognitive diversity at scale to help innovators see things differently, think differently and innovate.

Our unique source of divergent perspective is channelled from The Sense Network. which is home to 5,000+ creators from over 1,000 cities worldwide.

What problem was investigated through the student consulting project?

In a world where innovation is the only sustainable competitive advantage, you need to be able to outthink the competition to get ahead and stay ahead. 

This is the problem we are solving. We help businesses to see things differently, think differently and make creative leaps into the future.

Successful businesses do not become successful from thinking differently every day. Growth comes from the consistency of repeated action. However, the strength of a replicable business model can also cause cognitive entrenchment. This is where teams become complacent or stuck in their ways and are unable to see threats, weaknesses or the opportunities that new ideas might present.

To mitigate this business risk we harness cognitive diversity, to help teams see things differently and think differently. The proof that this approach works is evidenced by the business results of over 500 projects. However, the big question is whether we could prove scientifically that the cognitive diversity of our collaborators to drive breakthrough innovation.

This was the challenge we set for UCL’s Master’s student Kamila Jasinska looked to answer with her project entitled: “How might we measure cognitive diversity to drive breakthrough innovation?”

What attracted you to working with students at UCL’s School of Management?

When breaking new ground, respected institutions like UCL bring gravitas and authority to research and ensure that our approach will stand up to academic scrutiny and has a basis in science.

Kamila’s future is undoubtedly bright. She is an incredibly talented and highly capable individual. She secured a job with a prestigious consulting firm whilst working on our project which is a great reflection on the quality of UCL’s students.

With candidates like Kamila we are excited to see what future projects hold and as our team grows we see ourselves turning to UCL for future hires.

How did you initially scope the problem, and how did this change over the duration of the project?

The project had been on our minds for several years. So when the opportunity to work with UCL arose we jumped at the chance.

The output remained very true to the initial hypotheses. We left the method of how best to determine the cognitive diversity of our network open to interpretation. this was deliberate to reduce our influence on the outcome.

This approach encouraged Kamila to carry out extensive reading on the topic and establish her own robust methodology for measurement. The last thing we wanted was to poison the well with our preconceived ideas or guide Kamila to the result we hoped she would find.

What did Kamila find and has her work helped Sense Worldwide adapt in any way?

Kamila was able to bring an objective perspective to our challenge, allowing us to ensure confirmation bias was kept to a minimum.

She identified a gap in academic research, which we now plan to fill. The result was incredibly powerful. Kamila’s research found: 

“a strong, positive correlation between innovation projects that delivered the best breakthrough results and the level of participant cognitive diversity”.

This has given us the academic foundation to explain why our approach delivers such great results.

What value has the project brought to your organisation?

Sense Worldwide has often been seen by its clients as the ‘wild card’ once described as ‘The Hogwarts of Strategy’. Our approach to innovation is often seen as radical. We now have an academic study from a leading university that proves our method delivers.

Kamila has helped to prove that, whilst we tap into consumers at the edges of culture, our approach is instead actually one of the ‘safest’ options for delivering breakthrough innovation.

Her study provides a valuable reference, reassuring hesitant clients that might ordinarily struggle to get on board with our unconventional approach. This work has created a scientifically proven point of differentiation.

What impact has there been on your existing employees’ ideas and working practices?

Not only will this research help us sell our services with the confidence of academic research, it will help us better select participants for innovation projects. We now have an algorithm to help shape the optimal composition of a collaborative innovation group. This will help us deliver even better breakthrough innovation for our clients.

Would you recommend the Business Project with UCL School of Management?

Absolutely. This was our first experience with UCL’s School of Management. Based on our incredible time with Kamila, we look to create annual projects. These might involve expanding upon Kamila’s work to provide additional dimensions or brand new initiatives.

As a brand that needs to challenge the status quo, it is important for us to foster partnerships with institutions like UCL. As a University at the forefront of research, they can help us ensure we are selling services that are going to drive the breakthrough innovation we promise.

Jeremey Brown is the CEO and Founder of Sense Worldwide. 

Last updated Monday, 21 March 2022