group of students learning about innovation in a classroom

Real-world business problems and prototypes: MMI’s Product Management by Design Course

Jeremy Fish and Blake van Delft


How can you be confident that a solution to a complex business problem will deliver value? What makes the difference between a product that people love and adopt, versus one that people forget about? It starts with a human centered approach to innovation and an obsession with evolving the product to suit the needs of the people it is intended to serve.  

MMI2000, Product Management by Design, is the MMI program’s first elective course and offers a novel opportunity for students to collaborate with a corporate partner to apply human centered innovation and product management to a real-world problem. The course is co-taught by Jeremy Fish (Deloitte, Unleash Innovation Labs) and Blake van Delft (Upgrade), who are industry experts in innovation, business design, and product management.  

Man in blue sweater
Jeremy Fish, Innovation Strategist and Course Instructor

“Product management and design principles are a very important part of innovation management”, says Professor Matthew Osborne, Director of MMI.  “Our program’s core objective is to produce managers of innovation...hands-on experience is critical to our students’ success, and the opportunity for students to work with an industry partner...on real-world problems is something I feel is really unique and valuable”.  The students in the course echo this; “I chose this course”, says Selina Bains, MMI ‘24, “because I wanted to learn more about [the concepts of business design and product management] through a project with an industry partner”.  In turn, she says, this would help her to explore whether a career in these areas would be a good fit. 

Product Management by Design immerses students in a case study based in a real challenge so that they can rapidly apply and adapt the course content and develop new business concepts. In the first half of the course, teams of students learn about Business Design, a human-centred approach to product, service, and experience innovation and strategy through an intensive sprint lasting two days. During the sprint, students discover rich insights about human needs, prototype a new idea and test it with the aim of gathering feedback for future iteration.  

In the second half of the course, those same teams of students apply Product Management concepts in a second sprint to build and evolve their idea by learning how to go from concept to commercialization in a way that minimizes risk of failure while balancing the needs of multiple stakeholders - customers, team members, and the broader organization.  Says Bains, this experience “was extremely rewarding, as we received valuable feedback from our industry partner throughout various stages of our project”. 

Afrodite Cruz, MMI’s Placement & Employer Relations Manager, notes that "the course was created after consultation with industry partners in healthcare and finance who regularly use business design methodology in their organizations”.  The structure and timing of the course enables students to acquire real-world training before embarking on their summer work-terms. 

students working in a classroom
MMI2000 students continue their project work

This year, the course’s industry partner was Grandview Kids, a healthcare organization with the mission to support children and youth with physical, communication and developmental needs to live, learn and play.  Their challenge was how to improve the intake and transition experience of clients, families, and caregivers. Students interviewed leaders, staff, and family members to generate insights about needs and pain points before prototyping and testing ideas for feedback. They also developed product management roadmaps and measurement strategies all while working with Grandview Kids’ leadership to gain feedback on their ideas. Grandview Kids was left with insights, ideas, and strategies for scaling innovation that will get them closer to delivering on their mission. 

The students, for their part, enjoyed the course, says Beate Ensminger, MMI’s Program Coordinator.  “It had this intensive character with long teaching days and a practical approach, combined with a real project with an industry partner”, she says.  Students were delighted with the focus on experiential education, and the application-based approach. 

Bains agrees; “my biggest takeaway was how the general concept of both business design and product management involves an integrative process of developing a prototype, and that a product is never really ‘finished’”, she says, learnings that she will carry forward into her summer internship as Innovation and Special Projects Intern at Schlegel Villages.