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4th annual Royal Roads Design Thinking Challenge

October 15, 2020
Michael Pardy
4th annual Royal Roads Design Thinking Challenge

The 4th annual Royal Roads Design Thinking Challenge (RRDTC) showcases our 21st century model of learning and approach to change-making to undergraduate business students from across the country and the world by engaging their creativity and empathy with a wicked social challenge.

This year, we’ve put together a four-day online challenge March 5-8, 2021. Details are available on the RRDTC website. This year’s challenge question with be announced at the start of the event. 

The RRDTC is about making society better, not business as usual. In traditional business case competitions, student teams are sequestered in a closed room with a business case and rewarded for their proficiency in quick analysis. We believe that truly solving problems requires working with others to understand their context and the people who are impacted. It requires launching small-scale experiments and engaging in a learning process.

As a consequence, we actively seek to connect students to clients with lived experience, and design and subject matter experts.  Together, these people serve as sponsors, speakers, and judges for the teams.  They engage with students and their ideas throughout the challenge. They serve as mentors to help students engage in an interactive process that stems from their initial ideas to prototype and test minimum viable solutions to the challenge. 

Here is what one organizational leader, who was a judge in the 2018 challenge, had to say about the RRDTC:

Huge kudos for building a bold new learning format that emphasized collaboration over competition, and mindset over methods. These are the problem-solving skills we desperately need in the next generation of leaders.

We also bring in practitioners as speakers so the students learn from the best and gain insights into how design shows up in business and government.  Meeting with practitioners often inspires students to explore how they might engage with design thinking in the context of their education and in their professional practice. This year, we’re very happy to announce that Chris Ferguson is returning.  Chris is a Royal Roads BComm grad, founder of Bridgeable, and a leader in service design in Canada.  In advance of the challenge, Chris spoke at the RRU-sponsored webinar Insights that Spark Innovation: Introduction to Design Thinking Methods that happened on Nov 3, 2020, and we encourage you to watch the recording of this master class!

Each year, our challenge is represented by a live client living in and working with these issues. In the spring of this year, we worked with the staff from Transform TO, the City of Toronto’s ambitious climate action strategy, to help homeowners retrofit their homes to reduce GHG emissions.  COVID pushed the event online.  Despite our uncertainty about moving online, and because of the high calibre of students, it was a success.  One 2020 team said:

[W]e felt that Royal Roads University made every effort to accommodate us and provide support for competing online. We felt the entire competition was incredibly innovative, from how well the online plenary sessions worked to the "speed-dating" networking session. For that, we would like to sincerely thank you for delivering one of the best competition experiences we have ever had.

The RRDTC is a competition, in that we reward teams who use design thinking to arrive at what judges deem the best solutions. But, as our past participants have told us, the event is equally about fostering a community of forward-looking business students who will lead in new, more imaginative and more human-centred ways. As the role of business in society continues to evolve and stakeholder capitalism moves into the mainstream, RRDTC connects future business leaders and innovators to the necessary skills and mental mindsets for tackling wicked social challenges.

Registration to RRU 2021 Design Thinking Challenge has now closed. Sign up to receive updates from Royal Roads Design Thinking Challenge and get on the waitlist for next year's event!

See you there!