OCAD University

Strategic Foresight and Innovation students excel

in Rotman Design Challenge


By Jeremy Bowes, professor in OCAD U's Strategic Foresight and Innovation Master of Design program

For a second consecutive year, OCAD U's Strategic Foresight and Innovation (SFI) students demonstrated their innovative approaches to business and design problems in the Rotman Design Challenge — finishing second and third overall for 2012.

UofT's Rotman School of Management and its sponsor TD Bank, with partners Doblin Innovation Consultants and IDEO, asked the 22 participating teams to respond to the following design and business problem challenge:

As students, for students: investigate innovative and proactive models to enable students and graduates to embrace positive financial behaviour, to prepare them for a more economically and socially viable life after school, and foster trust and lifelong customer relationships with TD.

William Drenttel of the Winterhouse Institute and the Yale School of Management delivered a rousing speech to launch the competition's public presentations. Already it had become clear that design thinking and social innovation were key to the rethinking of business design strategy in this challenge, and that it would be a very proud day for OCAD U's SFI program.

Ben McCammon, of the team that created

OCAD U SFI student Ben McCammon, presenting his team's concept for BranchOut. Photo: Hisashi Hamada.

Competitor teams represented Rotman, the Sloan School of Management at MIT, the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business, New York University's Stern School of Business, the California College of Arts MBA in Design Strategy, and the University of Cincinnati/ School of Design — to name a few.

SFI students Jen Chow, Josina Vink, Jessica Mills, Martin Ryan and Phouphet Sihavong, whose team took second place for the concept TD Table Talk, presented a socially innovative departure from the challenge itself. Their idea involved the facilitation of family conversations around money using an aggregate view of family finances:

"We developed a breakthrough service called TD Table Talk, which confronts the deep-seated taboo in our culture that currently prevents families from speaking openly about finances. This lack of dialogue around a critical life skill systematically undermines a young student's ability to plan for and manage their financial future. The objective of the innovation was therefore focused on creating the conditions needed to spark new, healthy financial conversations within families. Strategically, TD Table Talk proposed that TD Bank shift its focus from servicing individuals with individual accounts, to servicing the family unit with a platform that knits together a simple, high-level, whole picture of the family's finances, which can be made available to the whole family. This platform creates the financial information and transparency needed to spark important, ongoing conversations between a parent and child about the financial side of life. TD Table Talk suggests the birth of a new system of conversation between the parent, child and bank that will work to readjust the often unfounded and blindly optimistic financial expectations held by high-school students today. In addition, TD Table Talk represents a novel opportunity for TD to extend its brand and advisor relationships more deeply into the family unit, creating the stickiness and human centricity needed for richer, longer-term relationships with clients."

SFI students Ben McCammon, Uma Maharaj, Eric Leo Blais and Ana Matic, who won third place, introduced a "Life Map," student representatives and a banking coach as part of the concept BranchOut:

"BranchOut is an innovative customer experience that would allow TD to connect with young people online and offline, and empower them to take ownership of their financial futures. Recognizing the specific cognitive and social needs of youth, BranchOut combines three new elements: a student rep employed by TD to create dialogue about finances, a TD coach who provides financial advice to youth, and an interactive visual tool called the Life Map, which allows youth to map their future dreams and connect them to current spending decisions. BranchOut uses the power of community and social interactions to enable positive financial behaviour, while also creating new, stronger customer relationships between TD and youth."

Martin Ryan presenting for team

SFI student Martin Ryan presenting the concept for TD Table Talk. Photo: Hisashi Hamada.

While first place in the Challenge went to the IIT Institute of Design (Illinois), OCAD U's two SFI student teams took the remaining prizes in the competition and also won two out three of the People's Choice awards for Best Storytelling (BranchOut) and Most Disruptive (TD Table Talk).

Our first congratulations go to the students — for they undertook and realized the real conceptual work. Both OCAD U teams delivered compelling presentations. But what was most impressive was their handling of the audience, and how well they responded to judges' Q&A.

Both teams from OCAD U.

Both teams from OCAD U's SFI program. Photo: Photo: Hisashi Hamada.

They made  the SFI faculty in attendance  extremely proud — as did Rotman Designworks Executive Director Heather Fraser, when, in her closing comments, she acknowledged OCAD U as "a leader in innovation." Congratulations to all!

© OCAD University