Fast Forward (FFWD) programme participants design better learning experiences for SBE stakeholders

For the third time, the Maastricht University (UM) School of Business and Economics (SBE) is offering the Fast Forward (FFWD) programme. FFWD is a leadership development programme that helps prepare and support academic talents in their personal and responsible leadership, to involve them in SBE’s strategy and to expand their network within SBE. Last year’s FFWD cohort visited the refugee centre in Maastricht. This year, one of the activities of the programme is a practical experience day during which participants developed ideas to improve the learning experience of SBE’s stakeholders in education. The Service Science Factory (SSF) developed an experience day that enabled participants to take an outside-in perspective and to prototype ideas for improved collaboration with both students and companies.

What did that look like?
After a brief introduction into Design Thinking and comprehensive experiences, Dr. Dominik Mahr (Associate Professor at the Marketing and Supply Chain department and Scientific Director at SSF) introduced four personas for education, as depicted in Picture 1. These personas represent different important stakeholder groups of SBE.

Picture 1: Four different personas and their problem statement, representing important stakeholder groups of SBE

Picture 1: Four different personas and their problem statement, representing important stakeholder groups of SBE

The academics were divided into four groups, mixing people from different departments and backgrounds. Every group focused on one of the four personas, and the problem statement for that persona.

The groups then went through three different steps of insight collection (see in picture 2). One person took the role of the experimenter, testing how the current service works and how users actually experience it. Another person was the interviewer, asking current and potential users about their wants and needs. The third person gathered insights as the data analysis, looking into existing research and learning from similar initiatives.

Picture 2: Three roles and three steps for data collection

Picture 2: Three roles and three steps for data collection

After the initial field and desk research, the teams grouped their insights and looked for overlap and synergies.

In the afternoon, SSF Project Leader and Service Designer Damien Nunes introduced five ways of creative thinking, and guided the teams through an individual and collective brainstorm. After sketching a rough customer journey of the proposed service concept, the teams made prototypes using Lego, Play-Doh and paper.


The service concepts
After the groups made their pitches, participants were asked to invest in one or more of the ideas. SSF asked the participants to base their investment on multiple criteria, including innovativeness, feasibility, desirability and sustainability. The ideas, starting with the highest funded:

  1. Online experience day for SBE Master Programmes for Persona Roberta
    This concept ensures that international master students get information about SBE’s master’s programmes in an interactive way, without needing to be in Maastricht. It does so by offering of an online platform where people get information about master’s programmes through videos, Q&A sessions with professors and so on.
  2. The Dr.UM challenge for Persona Paula Visser
    This helps regional SMEs by providing solutions to their problems, visibility in the market and coherence in their offering. It does so through a competition via video broadcasting, in which firms present their challenge and compete to have their problem solved by the university. This adds value to SBE through visibility, data, growth of the network and relevant (research) questions.
  3. Job or money back plan for Persona Max
    To help students develop in a result-oriented way, and get to a job quickly after their studies, this idea offers student-centred education and a personal development system. If the student does not have a job after a certain period after graduation, the student would get their money back. This team already thought of multiple scenarios and ways to prevent fraud, ensuring that their idea would lead to an increase of students, as well as higher revenue for SBE.
  4. My Learning Lab – online platform for lifelong learning of executives for Persona Knut Berger
    This idea ensures that community building, collaboration with other companies and personalized offers are in line with the needs of executives at multinational enterprises (MNEs). Through career counselling, personalised offers in line with needs and matchmaking with other companies, executives experience a personalized programme that matches their wants and needs. For SBE, this leads to an increase of participants in PGD activities, more visibility and collaboration with practitioners.


The main takeaways
During this day, the main focus was on four important aspects:

  • Foster the outside-in perspective. To know how other stakeholders see us, we need to ask them, and take their perspective.
  • Interdisciplinary communication matters. Bringing people from different departments together already leads to interesting insights, discussions and concepts.
  • Link needs and wants to ideas. Offering a practical, structured way to come from target groups via analysis to initial solutions.
  • Encourage people to be creative.

For more information about the FastForward programme, please contact Silvie Vonk,; about the Service Science Factory please contact Laszlo Determann or

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