For four years now, Lear Corporation has invited students to compete in the Lear Student Innovation Challenge. This year, the challenge took place between Feb. 9 and Feb. 22, and I was privileged to be part of it.
After applying to participate in the competition, students were selected to head over to Lear’s corporate headquarters in Southfield, Michigan, for a jump-start weekend. Mobility was the theme of this year’s challenge, and eager students like me were excited to take on the challenge of innovation. Student participants ranged from freshmen to the graduate level with various educational backgrounds and disciplines. The diversity of the program was what really stood out to me, giving us the opportunity to work with students we’ve never met before and who think and process information and tasks in many ways.
We spent the first day learning more about Lear’s current innovations and challenges, receiving a private tour and forming interdisciplinary teams. The exercises and discussions were especially thoughtful on the first day and began to get our creative juices flowing.
On the second day, we met at Lear’s innovation headquarters in downtown Detroit. This is when we were given our challenge and time to brainstorm with our teams along with support from coaches. The teams then set out to work together, mostly remotely, over a two-week incubation period to craft the most innovative yet viable business solution.
During the two-week challenge, we were provided with support from Lear employees, subject matter experts and coaches. The constant support we received throughout this time was essential to creating a desirable, feasible, viable solution for the business.
This challenge was unique compared to other case-style competitions I’ve been a part of. With the two weeks we were given, we had time to engage in thoughtful conversations with employees who helped to steer us in the right direction. We had the time to explore many different avenues, and by the end of the challenge, we felt confident that we had become educated on the industry and current technologies. We were provided with the autonomy we needed to think outside the box while having the option to run our ideas by professionals who could support our progress.
On Feb. 22, we met again in downtown Detroit to pitch our solutions to the Lear judges. With limited time to tell a story to the judges, we were challenged with a difficult task. After each team gave their pitch, we enjoyed lunch while the judges deliberated. There were several prizes awarded, including Best Pitch, Most Entrepreneurial Spirit and MVP. The grand prize featured a three-month internship with the Lear Innovation Ventures team in which your team spends the summer crafting a solution while operating as an independent start-up.
I’m proud to announce that my team and I curated the winning idea! We worked long and hard to challenge each other’s thoughts and came together after just two weeks to pitch our innovation. I’m grateful for the mentorship we received throughout the challenge and the tremendous support provided by the Lear team and our coach, Shawn Hunter.
Overall, the experience I’ve had during the Lear Student Innovation Challenge was unforgettable, valuable and unique. I would recommend any student who is interested in challenging their potential to apply. I look forward to seeing this program grow and sharing my experience.