A Day at the Innovation Lab Charrette

Along with a few of my MBA classmates, I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the University of Oregon’s Innovation Lab charrette up in Portland last month. Quickly after I said “yes” to attending, I had to actually look up what a charrette (pronounced “shu-ret”) actually was. Read on for some thoughts on a creative and interesting experience.

I wasn’t told much about what I would be doing in Portland, but I like the word innovation and I was happy that I had just learned a new word in charrette. According to Wikipedia, a charrette is an “intense period of design or planning activity.”

The purpose of the charrette was to brainstorm and formulate ideas and tactics for the creation of a new Bridge Innovation Lab near the University of Oregon’s downtown campus in beautiful Portland. The Innovation Lab has the word ‘Bridge’ in front of it because it is located under one of Portland’s many bridges.

Here is what the exterior looks like:

Bridge Lab

After fueling up with waffles for breakfast (more on the waffle again soon), we were strategically placed into inter-disciplinary teams. I worked with design and architecture students and did my best to learn their language over the course of the day. The thought of meeting with a group all day and not having to use Excel even once excited me to my very core, so I was looking forward to what we could come up with. Prolific Nike shoe designer and University of Oregon professor Wilson Smith gave us some instruction and inspiration throughout the day. Smith’s vision for the lab involved the waffle – the same pattern that was integral to the original shoes developed by legendary coach and Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman. So we weren’t treated to waffles for breakfast for any old reason.

Each team was given materials and time and instruction – our goal was to come up with a concise and creative “pitch” as to what the Lab should look like—both functionally and aesthetically. Portland is not only a beautiful city, but it is arguably the best place on earth to be if you are interested in the wonderful world of sports products. We quickly established that the Lab was going to be somewhere that would allow people to observe sports products from cultivation to creation. It would feature brainstorming and relaxing spots and it would also house high-end industrial manufacturing equipment.

The most significant hurdle we worked with (besides time) at the charrette was space. The word “budget” didn’t enter into the equation too much as we were still very early on in the process. But as the MBA in the group I figured my job was to bring a sense of clarity/vision/strategic thinking to the table, and I did my best to do that throughout the day.

Here’s a look at the Bridge Innovation Lab interior:


It was a great experience to really apply some of my interests to what will develop into an integral part of the University of Oregon’s future Sports Product program in Portland. I love writing and storytelling, and I also have an interest in marketing and how brands are created. Oregon’s brand is a strong one—sport, innovation, creativity, community—and each element factored prominently into our decision-making process.

And here is a glimpse at our final product:


The experience was a great one and I love the learning that is born out of inter-disciplinary meetings and projects. Often times the real world is not fragmented into specific industries or categories of knowledge, so the more diverse and well-rounded you can make yourself, the more doors you will be able to knock on in the future.





Written by Jeff Angus

Jeff is a 2015 MBA Candidate at the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. He was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada and obtained a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from the University of Victoria (BC) in 2009.He frequently shares his thoughts on Twitter @anguscertified and is passionate about writing, storytelling, fitness, health, and everything and anything sports-related.