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Centre for Building Sustainable Value

HBA students reflect on the Ivey Innovation Learning Lab

  • Catherine Goncalves and Madison McNevitts
  • |
  • Jan 31, 2020
HBA students reflect on the Ivey Innovation Learning Lab

Catherine Goncalves (right) and Madison McNevitts (left) are members of the HBA Sustainability Certificate and are supporting the Ivey Innovation Learning Lab, a consortium of business, government, and academic leaders that want to transform the innovation process. Learn more about the Lab here.

Shifting from Silos to Systems: Key Learnings from Otto Scharmer

As a current HBA2 student who will soon be graduating, there have been a handful of times in my university experience where I have been fortunate enough to attend events that have extended my knowledge beyond the classroom walls. Recently, I had the distinct pleasure of attending the second Ivey Innovation Learning Lab alongside participants from different business organizations and various educational institutions from around the globe.

The day began with participants being asked to describe what they planned to contribute or take away from the session.

Words such as "foresight, reflection, optimism, connection, and vulnerability" filled the Ivey Donald K. Johnston Centre in downtown Toronto, setting the stage for what would be an inspiring and thought-provoking keynote presentation from the world-renowned author and academic, Otto Scharmer.

The growing presence of disruptive innovations indicates the future of our world will be radically different than the past, giving birth to new and complex challenges. This rapid change calls for business leaders to pivot away from reactive approaches that only address symptoms, and instead identify holistic solutions by using systems thinking frameworks.

Early on in his keynote, Otto shared three critical principles needed to create systemic change:

  1. You cannot understand a system unless you change it.
  2. You cannot change a system unless you transform consciousness.
  3. You cannot transform consciousness unless you make a system see and sense itself.

Considering that I am approaching graduation, Otto's input on self-reflection carried significant importance for me. He encouraged us to examine who we are as individuals by envisioning the best version of our future selves, and the purpose we hope to achieve in life. Regardless of our current status or job title, this question is worth keeping central and frequently revisiting.

Otto went on to invite us to address the issues we face as business leaders by "linking the head and the hand with the intelligence of the heart" despite the judgment, cynicism, and fear that continues to surround and resist radical change.

As I enter the workforce shortly, I will continue to reflect on Otto's thoughtful insights, lean into opportunities that enable self-awareness, and intentionally foster opportunities for co-collaboration.

By Catherine Goncalves

Witnessing Change in Practice

As each day passes, media headlines continue to emerge putting responsibility and pressure on our business leaders to help solve some of the world’s most complex but pressing problems. This expectation of business leaders is only increasing and it is inevitable that this will be my soon be my expectations as I enter the workforce.

As a student, my experience understanding leadership and organizational change has been confined to the classroom and extracurricular activities and I have not yet been exposed to such complex, worldly issues from a managerial perspective. However, my recent opportunity to observe participants at the Ivey Innovation Learning Lab taught me that businesses are beginning to change their thinking, structures and mentalities to solve these complex issues during a period of unprecedented disruption.

During the day, I witnessed leaders from sectors across Canada come together to learn, listen and grow from each other. In only four short hours, I watched the energy in the room shift when participants took the theory of system thinking and transformed it into tangible business tools for both themselves and organizations they represent.

As a student, ready to enter the workforce, it makes me confident that organizations are willing, dedicated and preparing themselves to change their perspective and frame their organization using a multi-stakeholder approach that creates shared value not only for their business for financial-benefit but for everyone. Let’s just hope I can continue to live in their legacies.

By Madison McNevitts