RILA and McGill University kicked off the Global Retail Challenge on Wednesday, September 26, 2019 with the support of seven sponsors – Accenture, Walgreens, UL, Columbia Sportswear, Qurate Retail Group, Nordstrom Inc., and lululemon. We are thrilled to report that we have 92 students representing 16 teams from 4 continents participating in the competition.
Our Kickoff workshop offered students an opportunity to step into a leadership role by imagining how they might develop new circular products, services or business models that transform the retail industry and engage young consumers by designing out waste and pollution, keeping products in use longer and regenerating natural systems.
We introduced Design Thinking as the problem-solving methodology we will use during the Global Retail Challenge. Design Thinking is a framework for accelerating innovation and growth driven by three core beliefs:
- Empathy –start by establishing insights based on a deep understanding of human needs and the job to be done
- Invention –discover new possibilities, push beyond conventional to higher order solutions that are treated as hypotheses
- Iteration – the goal is to experiment and learn, using initial hypotheses as steppingstones to better ones
Complex challenges like global circular economy benefit from a problem-solving methodology like design thinking that can develop creative alternatives to the existing status quo.
Students in the Global Retail Challenge work together in 4-6 person teams over the next 7 weeks and progress through a series of activities and assignments designed to spur action and experimentation with the circular economy. Teams will select a product category to focus their research and development on from: clothing and shoes, sporting goods, entertainment, toys, health and wellbeing, electronics, home décor, furniture and kitchen appliances. Each week, students will hear feedback and insights from industry experts, provided by GRC sponsors, that will help them advance their challenge solutions.
Week 1 Assignment
Week 1 saw the teams engage in a Teardown Lab. Each team tore down a product or service into its smallest parts and disassembled the product using a checklist of questions to prompt thinking about how products are designed for disassembly, designed for repairs and updates, and designed for closing the material loops. Lauren Phipps, GreenBiz Group Director and Senior Analyst on Circular Economy and Chelsey Evans, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager for Nordstrom, Inc. provided excellent feedback to each team and gave out top honors this week to:
- Team 13 - Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University A,
- Team 6 - Florida State University,
- Team 3 - University of Arizona B,
- Team 5 - Vanderbilt University, and
- Team 9 - University of Calgary.
Team 13 took on a very ambitious teardown of a Hitachi vacuum cleaner and wowed this week’s mentors with their clever assessment of the vacuum cleaner design for repair and upgrades. Here is a look at their winning submission:
Week 1’s success is a great indicator that this year’s competition will yield tremendous ideas. Stay tuned to find out what the students come up with next week.