With the encouragement and support from MMM Co-Director Greg Holderfield, six MMMs from the Class of 2015 formed a team to tackle the annual Rotman Design Challenge hosted at the business school at the University of Toronto. The team assembled itself by choosing MMMs from diverse backgrounds and skills, having a good representation of the class, and the MMM Program helped support us, dual-degree students, by helping with supplies, travel and accommodations.

Leading Up

To gain entrance to the challenge, we were tasked to create a three-minute video that hit on all three of the following prompts:

  • Introduces the team
  • Shows why we should participate in this year's challenge
  • Answers the following question: Describe a company's business model that uses one or more of the 3 gears of business design. Why is this company ahead of the curve? The 3 Gears:
    • Empathy & Need-Finding
    • Prototyping & Experimentation
    • Business Strategy

We had to move fast to turn this around as we only had a day to shoot, edit and submit before the deadline, but you can see our final cut here:


Main Event

The 2014 Rotman Design Challenge was sponsored, in part, by Target. They were interested in how they could disrupt their own business model to sustain growth over the next 50 years. In order to understand how Target could stay ahead of its competitors up through 2064, we decided that we needed to understand the average Target customer, and how their needs are currently being serviced.

After spending weeks conducting interviews, visiting stores, and auditing the retail landscape, we were able to identify four key missed opportunities that we thought Target should capitalize on to sustain future growth.

  • The system that we prescribed, Project Focus, would:
  • Deliver on Target’s promise and differentiation: design and service
  • Offer a connected and customized experience
  • Capitalize on the love that guests already have for Target
  • Extend the best of in-store online and incorporate the changing digital consumer

Our findings were consistent with what we heard from Target customers and employees. We were one of the only teams to prescribe a solution that was implementable tomorrow, while still disrupting the Target business model. Highlights from the other solutions included opportunities in the “Internet of Things” space, RFID/mobile technology, and increasing the City Target strategy. Although our team did not finish first, we were commended by the VP of Enterprise Strategy at Target for prescribing an actionable, yet innovative opportunity that his team was going to look into further.

By using through the toolkits we had learned while in our MMM core courses, our team was able to find an innovative solution, rooted in customer insights and empathy. This challenge underscored the value of augmenting a traditional MBA degree with a human-centric approach to service and systems design.