Rotman Design Challenge 2012

6 students.  6 weeks.  1 client.  1 enormous challenge.  Result?  Growing Green with TD! That sounded far more dramatic and exciting in my head, with voice-overs by Don LaFontaine or  Phil Keoghan... ;)

The Rotman Design Challenge was an incredibly exciting opportunity, to not only once again immerse myself in business design, but also apply it to a live case.  The Rotman Design Challenge is the only student-run competition in North America that incorporates both, business & design concepts, and the organizing team did an awesome job at managing an incredibly collaborative & creative competition.  For this year's challenge, we were tasked with developing innovative solutions for TD, to help students prepare for a financially successful and socially viable life after school.  Aside from 11 teams from the Rotman School of Management, we also had visiting teams from the California College of Arts, Darden School of Business (University of Virginia),  Illinois Institute of Technology, Ontario College of Art & Design, Sloan School of Management (MIT), Stern School of Business (NYU), and the University of Cincinnati.

Given that Team Rubik's Cube comprised of students from the business and design worlds, it was a little easier to put ourselves in that mindset of students, and understand our concerns about all things related to money.  With our student interviews, user insights, user personas, concept visualization, ideation, and prototyping stages over, we thought we'd hit the jackpot!  Alas, whenever you think you're done, think again!  When we tried testing our concept & ideas with our target users, they liked some stuff, but not all of the stuff, and so it was back to the drawing board (or in our case, the stickies, whiteboards & chalkboards... I'm surprised we didn't start drawing out our ideas on the school's walls!).  Our concept went through many iterations and user tests, with our journey maps consequently taking a fresh turn with every iteration.  In the end, our team came up with and presented to TD "Growing Green," a long-term financial literacy program for young adults, where we would go backwards, in order to take them forwards to where TD is right now.

TD Growing Green Timeline

As exciting as it was to go through the entire business design process for a real live case, develop a creative concept, and present it to senior executives from TD and hear their feedback on our concept, it was just as exciting to see some of the other amazing ideas from the visiting schools, hear their perspectives on the student pulse, and learn from them.  It felt like a meeting of like-minded individuals all collaborating together to work on creative ideas and integrative solutions to solve 'regular' business problems, before we all go on and solve 'wicked' world problems.

Team Rubik's Cube!

After IIT took top prize at this year's challenge (Kudos to Team Beta from the Illinois Institute of Technology!), we all went out to the After-Party at the Thomson Hotel, and celebrated our six weeks of intense curiosity, determined thinking, fervent debates, repeated iterations, and innovative solutions, all underlined with constant creativity.

See you at next year's Rotman Design Challenge!  :)

Update: 26 April 2012

If you've had a chance to peruse my MBA: Must Bring Adventure blog, you've kinda realized that I probably express myself best when I write...  Just a short while ago, there was an article advising against hiring MBAs if you needed to solve a tough business problem, on the basis of the student performance at the Rotman Design Challenge.  As an MBA student who's one exam away from completing her first year, and over the past year, has discovered the incredible value of design thinking, and is determined to learn all that she can about business design and design thinking, this article (and the ensuing comments) certainly caught my attention.  It got me thinking, and writing...

Is our storytelling lousy?  Yes.  Do we need to focus more on the user insights?  Yes.  Do we need to be less bullet-pointy and more graphical?  Yes.  Do we need to learn more about Design?  Yes.  Do we need to learn more from Designers?  Yes.  Do we need to inculcate Business Design as a way of thinking, doing & being?  Yes.  That's why the Rotman Design Challenge was a great way to start that learning process.  And for first-year business school students who, on average, had no more than 20-25 hours of formal instruction on business design (as compared to designers who've spent countless years of being & practicing design), we didn't do an awful job.  However, that's only the beginning of our learning journey into design thinking.  We do need work, and there is definitely a lot of room for improvement.  But, we're not afraid to learn and put in the countless hours, the incredible effort, the integrative thinking, and the dogged determination into understanding & thinking like designers, and we'll eventually get there...

I apologize if this offends the author, but I won't apologize for my fervent desire to learn about design thinking, and to try to integrate both, business and design, into this sweet spot where wicked problems can be solved.  I know I need to learn, and I am learning, and will continue to learn, all throughout business school and beyond.