Big Ideas to Power the Circular Economy

Week 4 of the Global Retail Challenge

This is the fourth in a series of updates from the 2019 Global Retail Challenge, a seven-week design thinking case competition featuring student teams from around the world. Learn more here.

This week’s assignment offered the students an opportunity to develop ideas and concepts that will help solve our Global Retail Challenge. Each team has created a portfolio of fifteen concepts that summarized their big ideas, how the ideas will work, what the desired impact will be and who will benefit. The teams seemed to have a lot of fun with this assignment and generated some great ideas.

This week's mentor, Lisa Davis, sustainability manager at IKEA US, helped the teams sharpen their focus as they began to make the transition from brainstorming into prototyping and testing. She offered two big takeaways:

Be sure to ground your new solution in the needs of your customers. During the competition, we have talked about the value of taking a system-wide point of view in order to find opportunities for change within the entire value chain. Lisa urged every team to not only think about solutions from a systems perspective, but to also spend time with potential customers to make sure to understand the customer's point of view.

Be specific about the circular principles incorporated into your solution AND prioritize circular principles that are higher on the circular hierarchy. After a quick introduction of the Circular Principles Hierarchy, Lisa urged teams to prioritize solutions that focused on eliminating materials, reused materials or refurbished existing products before considering recycling solutions.

Lisa awarded top honors this week to six teams, congratulations to:

Team 1 - Ecole des Ponts,
Team 5 - Vanderbilt University,
Team 6 - Florida State University,
Team 8 - University of North Carolina Chapel Hill,
Team 10 - Ohio State University,
Team 12 - Columbia University.

Team 10 took home top honours this week. Here is a look at one of their Idea Capture Sheets:


The next assignment offers the students an opportunity to experiment with expressing their new idea as a product or service offering. The outcome will be a well-defined business model using the Business Model Canvas template. The students’ job is to create three business model canvases for their ideas.


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