2024 Systems Innovation Challenge

The Nurture Stage

The first stage of the 2024 Systems Innovation Challenge saw 185 students from nine universities across Ontario apply systems thinking to the retail industry’s billion-dollar product return problem. Students engaged in weekly virtual workshops where they discovered the complexity of systems problems and discussed ways to tackle them.

The Nurture stage culminated with an in-person studio session in London, Ontario where students showcased their current ideas. Ivey faculty members, mentors, and other students participating in the Challenge provided feedback so the student teams could refine their ideas before submitting a final deliverable.

This short video recaps the showcase and what students had to say about their experience in the Challenge so far:

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The Navigate Stage

Five teams advanced to the Navigate stage, and moved on to a new challenge that involved assessing the overall retail situation and making some specific recommendations for Walmart Canada. Students presented strategies for transforming retail spaces into community spaces that foster social interactions, trust, and support, particularly for new Canadians, leveraging Walmart’s diverse, intergenerational workforce to enhance connections and belonging.  

Three teams were declared winners, each in a different category, after presenting their ideas to leaders at Walmart Canada at the company’s headquarters in Mississauga:

  • Most feasible idea ($5,000) – Schulich School of Business (MBA students Pallab Kumar Doley, Ankita Sharma, Menka Ahlawat, Ashwin Vignesh Rajagopal, Nikita Prabhu – not pictured);
  • Most creative idea ($5,000) – Rotman School of Management (MBA students Derek Leung, Sirun Wan, Armanda Iuliano, Sandra Villasenor, and Camilo Gonzalez); and,
  • Most scalable idea ($5,000) – Mixed team from Telfer School of Management (PhD students Wrenford Thaffe, Sneha Pujani, Shirin Biglari, Meraj Bousaki – not pictured) and the University of Waterloo (Masters student Mithara Fonseka).

Hussain Bandali, MBA ’11, is Senior Director, Store Layout and Experience at Walmart Canada was impressed with the students’ understanding of Walmart’s capabilities: “I was most impressed by the depth of research the teams conducted to understand what programs Walmart has tested and implemented already, not just in Canada but in other markets around the world, and how the proposed ideas were very feasible, tangible, and ready to execute.” 

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Plans are underway for the 2025 Systems Innovation Challenge!