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Ivey MScs help organizations innovate for the future

Jul 3, 2023

MSc students at SickKids

MSc students and Warren Ritchie (far right) visiting Toronto's SickKids Hospital.

In today’s era of disruption and uncertainty, innovation and evolution go hand in hand. But business leaders often lack resources or are too caught up in the day-to-day obstacles to radically rethink how they operate or consider what’s ahead.

That’s why MSc Digital Management students in the Ivey Digital Innovation Studio (IDIS) course are challenged to find creative ways for real organizations to use emerging technologies to enhance their offerings all while developing an innovation mindset. Student teams work through three successive four-week digital innovation design sprints, each with a different client and increasing complexity.

IDIS Faculty Director Warren Ritchie, an assistant professor of Information Systems and Strategy, said the goal is to help the students understand that innovation can be practiced and refined and should be seen through the eyes of the clients, customers, patients, or users.

Innovation is key to organizational success

“Organizations are increasingly having to place more emphasis on offering renewal through innovation and the flow of emerging technologies is not subsiding,” he said. “It’s going to be part of students' careers – how well they understand the commercial value of technologies, assimilate it into their organizations, and apply it. It’s a future requirement of organizational success.”

This year’s first sprint had students working on challenges for four local organizations: Sutherland Elliott Insurance Brokers, Parts Canada, Denning's Funeral Homes, and the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog program.

In the second sprint, they all worked with Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), but in teams tackling one of four different projects: the physicians’ journey, the digital front door, patients with complex care needs, and the patient and family experience.

For the third sprint, student teams gave input to CIBC on innovations already underway focused on one of three areas: the future of payments, the future of talent, and cryptocurrencies as an investment. It culminated with an event at CIBC Square in Toronto on June 29 where the students received feedback from CIBC executives on their teams’ report and three-minute video summary and a theme winner was declared. The event concluded with a reception and networking session where CIBC recruited students for co-op and full-time positions.

“CIBC gets a better impression of who the students are and how they perform as a team, compared to regular human resources methods, so the bank uses this event as a regular channel for onboarding new talent in the innovation space,” said Ritchie.

New summer program for students

The clients involved also benefit from the students’ creative ideas. Ritchie said some clients would like students to continue to work on projects that came out of IDIS. As a result, the client-sponsored Summer Consulting Projects program will start in July.

Erwin Van Hout, Chief of Technology, Transformation at SickKids, said he was impressed with how much research the students did in a short time. The students’ ideas – everything from data-sharing methods to digital health-care buddies for patients – centred on ways to improve processes or the patient journey.

“It gives us fresh ideas and the students were not afraid to think outside of the box, which is what we want,” he said.  

Peter Goldthorpe, Vice President of Transformation at SickKids, said a combination of technological advances, lack of resources, and inefficiencies has created a burning platform for the health-care industry to move quickly on digital innovation, so the students’ input was particularly helpful.

“It was especially good to get views from different industry sectors that are further ahead than health care. The world is changing and we have to be nimble,” he said.

An experience that prepares students for real life

Wesley Hackl, an MSc ’23 candidate, worked on the SickKids complex care issue and the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog challenge, which looked at ways to extend dog therapy benefits without the dogs being there. He said it was rewarding to offer potential solutions that can improve people’s lives.

“It was an incredible experience to work with these companies to solve real-life issues that have broader societal implications and to create a comprehensive solution based on so many different considerations,” he said.

Fellow classmate Laura Haupt said it was challenging to quickly learn about unfamiliar systems. She worked on SickKids’ complex care project and with Denning's Funeral Homes, looking at ways to make funeral or cremation services more sustainable and accessible.

“It was challenging, but good because you experience what it will be like in the professional world, communicating with clients and adapting to their situations,” she said.

Ritchie said the 2024 IDIS will involve more clients and additional health-care providers have already shown interest.

View more photos below.

Ivey Digital Innovation Studio