Julia’s journey from BCII to BMI•

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Business Designer Julia McNamara shares how an unexpected journey into design thinking and innovation strategy completely shifted her mindset and future outlook.

A degree in “innovation”?
I was confused, but intrigued. So, in the spring of 2015, I tacked on a Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation (Honours) to my Communication degree at the University of Technology Sydney. Little did I know this would completely change the course of my career.

When I was 12 I wanted to be an actor. At 18 it was a theatre producer. This month will be my third as a Business Designer at Business Models Inc. It also marks my graduation from BCII (virtually, of course).

It might seem like quite a career pivot when you compare my 12-year-old and 22-year-old career plans, but despite the decade between us a common thread remains – the want to create, to inspire, and to agitate for change. The difference is that through the toolset I acquired in BCII – and am honing at BMI• – the stage I’m able to work on has expanded. I’ve gained a new mindset and a new outlook on my future.


A new mindset
My degree in “innovation” taught me about transdisciplinary problem solving, innovation strategy, and design thinking. It gave me skills that I would have never encountered in my Communication degree alone. Moreover, it allowed me to expand on this skill set through real-world practice; partnering with a range of corporate, not-for-profit and government businesses to solve real-world problems. This emphasis on immersive teaching – breaking the boundaries of traditional university classrooms – has led to a number of prizes for the degree. Most recently including the Award for Programs that Enhance Learning at the 2019 Australian Awards for University Teaching.

It also demonstrated to me the importance of challenging your mindset through education. In fact, that was how I came into contact with Business Models Inc. – through an in-class workshop.

That session was the first time design thinking and business models really clicked for me. And I’m loving the opportunity to dive deeper through BMI’s Design Thinking & Doing online course. So when I began to navigate the uncertainty of life after university, exploring opportunities with Business Models Inc. was only natural.


Looking to the future
Beyond the toolkit and skillset, a big part of my mindset shift was embracing uncertainty. Which, for me, is not something that I’m naturally posed to do.

Now, in these unprecedented times where uncertainty is the norm, I’m ever thankful for this new way of seeing the world.

Because with uncertainty comes a tremendous opportunity to do something new – and perhaps create and exchange value where it once didn’t exist. The first workshop I helped coordinate was run online, our team is currently in the midst of running ideation sprints virtually, and as a whole we’re thoroughly embracing the accelerated digital shift. It’s not what I expected my first year out of uni to be like, but I am thankful for the opportunity to be at the forefront of change.

So, what does the future hold? We’re not sure – but that’s what the team down in Australia is excited to find out. Some of our ongoing projects include the Heritage Futures Lab, Design Pioneer Fellows and the Housing Action Lab; pathways to connect stakeholders, innovate, and create impact across a variety of industries.

Another Lab we’re in the midst of developing is the AI Futures Lab in partnership with the University of Technology Sydney. Specifically, with the Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation which oversees my BCII degree. It will be a change of pace coming back as an alumni, but one that I’m excited to undertake.


What’s next?
As we create in our current state and explore what the future might hold, a lot more questions are popping up than we have answers for. Or at least that I have answers for. But I think that in itself is important – to always be asking questions that can take our ideas, and our work, to the cutting edge.

While there is a lot of uncertainty in our world, I’m ever grateful to the mindset that a degree in “innovation” helped catalyse. And I can’t wait to keep shifting my mindset as I grow at BMI•.


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