You don’t have to get it right the first time

October 6, 2020
By: 
Lisa Weighton

If you’ve ever watched a baby learn to walk, you’ll know failing is all part of the process.

That’s one idea behind the fourth annual Royal Roads Design Thinking Challenge, an online competition event where teams of business students from across Canada and beyond compete against one another to create solutions to a real-world problem.

The challenge calls on students to use design thinking, an innovative approach to solve complex problems using empathy and continuous prototyping. That means in order to flourish, students should be prepared to iterate their way toward a brilliant solution, says challenge organizer Assist. Prof. Amy Zidulka from the School of Business.

“Toddlers constantly fall when they first start walking, and nobody thinks that they should therefore give up and stop trying,” Zidulka says. “Yet, once we get older, we’re not often encouraged to fail and try again. We’re encouraged to get it right the first time. With the Design Thinking Challenge, we're trying to provide a counterpoint for that.”

With the emergence of the pandemic in 2020, student teams experienced Royal Roads’ capacity to deliver interactive and creative virtual learning experiences when the event moved online. This year’s event will follow suit.

Royal Roads 2020 participant Dave MacNaughton says the online competition stretched his thinking by invoking a sense of play he knew as a child.

“I was a big fan of LEGO,” MacNaughton says, who will graduate this fall with his Bachelor of Commerce in Entrepreneurial Management. “I got to go back to that state of being a kid surrounded by a pile of LEGO and just having fun—without looking at the [instruction] book. We just got to be creative.”

Student teams will work with civic leaders to address a soon-to-be-announced challenge. Previous teams have tackled issues including reducing greenhouse gas emissions through home retrofitting, attracting more people to Victoria’s downtown core and reducing congested city streets.

To be successful, students will have to prototype and cultivate a deep understanding of those for whom they’re designing.

“What matters isn't that you're brilliant right out of the gate. What matters is that you can change course and refine your ideas as you go,” Zidulka says.

Students will benefit from personalized coaching from expert judges, who act as mentors through every step of the challenge.

“This is an educational experience as much as a competition,” Zidulka says. “The Design Thinking Challenge is really analogous to taking a course in design thinking from leading industry experts.”

Registration opened Oct. 5 and the challenge begins in the students’ home city with a preliminary four-week round starting Jan. 25, 2021. Rounds two and three will be held virtually over four days March 5 to 8, 2021.

Teams from business schools across Canada and around the world can register now for the challenge.

For questions or information about the challenge, please contact Amy Zidulka.

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