How Corporations Can Innovate for Greater Prosperity, Resiliency, and Sustainability

Knowledge Hub

Tima Bansal

Innovation North

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Corporations typically seek to innovate solutions to problems primarily to improve market share or profits. But, when these ‘solutions’ are aggregated, they can inadvertently cause systems-wide problems, such as excess carbon emissions, suffocating toxins in soil and water, and social inequalities. In other words, what is good for corporations is not always good for society. My research team has partnered with corporate partners to innovate the innovation process—one from which corporations and societies can both benefit. At Innovation North, we are applying systems thinking to design thinking for more prosperous, resilient, and sustainable systems. In this session, I present the tool we created, called the Compass, illustrated by corporate examples and supported by published research.

How can corporate innovation be redirected toward wicked problems?

Although the principles of sustainable development are largely indisputable, businesses often find it challenging to subscribe to them. Most companies seek short-term profits, which hampers their ability to see systems and creative opportunities to solve systems problems. Those companies that are able to embed sustainability principles in their operations tend to be more resilient and generate long-term profits. When taking a systems thinking lens on business strategy and management practices, we encounter the complexity of dimensions of time, space, and scale. Each business is a system that operates in the system. The wicked problems we currently face in business are related to systems disruptions. These disruptions can be anticipated and mitigated through training and developing capabilities for systems innovation at the level of corporate strategy.


Dr. Tima Bansal has been thinking about business sustainability for the past 30 years. A globally recognized, award-winning researcher, her work has targeted the interplay between business strategy and sustainability, connecting theory with action.

Considered a pioneer in this field, she has led initiatives that shape business school curriculum and the management discipline. Tima has always been a strong advocate of the concept of sustainable development — that meeting the needs of present generations should not compromise the ability to meet the needs of future generations.

Led by this philosophy, at Innovation North, we believe that business success does not have to compromise the well-being of communities and ecosystems. They are interdependent.

Session notes


Tima’s slides


1-hour session video


Session summary


Innovation North is a research-practice collaborative that tackles complex problems. Tima references  The Compass, a tool (not a model nor a framework) that has been co-created with Innovation North practice partners, multidisciplinary (design, systems,
and business), iterative, and combines an organizational and systems focus to help solve complex problems by generating novel, actionable ideas.

What Makes Our Approach Different?

It is Guided by a North Star

It is Highly Iterative

Problems and Ideas are Nested

Actions are Probes to Learn About the System

—Innovation North | How to use The Compass