In Projects for AARP, McDonough Students Pitch Innovations

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Select undergraduate and MBA classes have partnered with AARP to help develop new ways to reach consumers who do not necessarily view themselves as part of an older demographic. Through the AARP Innovation Challenge, students at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business are fielding their own consumer research, developing prototypes, and pitching their ideas directly to AARP executives.

In the first round of the challenge, student teams brainstormed ways to engage and increase AARP membership among adults ages 50-59. The teams generated a variety of solutions, including AARP Lifestyle, an app facilitating community engagement. The students developed their solutions in Professor of Management Robert BiesImagination and Creativity course.

“This was a great opportunity for us to work on something really meaningful for a company,” said Julia Abbernathy (B’18). “They actually wanted to hear what we had to say, and it was exciting to have a real-world impact.”

“The project didn’t just exist as a self-contained assignment that had a prepackaged answer,” said Evan Cunningham (B’19). “Witnessing AARP executives experience and value our input gave me a lot of confidence.”

The solutions were passed off to students in Professor of Management Michael McDermott’s Management Consulting course to refine the business models. “I’m a believer in parallel processing – multiple groups working on the same task, not out of competition but for creativity,” said Bies. “Our goal was to come up with the concept, and then pass it over to the Management Consulting course to figure out how to implement it.”

MBA students received a similar opportunity. Three teams met with AARP executives at their innovation center in downtown D.C. at the beginning of the semester, where they were given the same challenge as the undergraduates. Professors Michael O’Leary and Karthikeya Easwar oversaw the tutorial.

“They gave us free reign to organically come up with ideas to build a business case around,” said Adriana Brizuela (MBA’18). “It was energizing and motivating to work on something that a company would actually move forward with.”

This semester, AARP presented McDonough students with a different challenge: Create and test content and tools to empower millennial and Generation X family caregivers to address the immediate needs of their loved ones.

Connor Mick (B’20) and his team developed a concept called Caregiving Homeshare, in which young professionals and students are offered subsidized housing in exchange for running errands, basic medical services, and companionship for individuals who need a watchful eye.

“This class encourages you to think outside the box and do things differently from everyone else,” said Mick, requiring imagination, creativity, and design thinking.

Ideas from the undergraduate and MBA student teams are being market tested by AARP to gauge consumer interest. “We get a real-world experience, and they get some great ideas,” said Bies.