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Department of Business


Innovation has at least 40 definitions, many of which can lay claim to being reliable and valid guidelines for organizations to make improvements by doing something new and different. Towards the goal of providing insights to facilitate fruitful pursuit of supply chain, the Third Annual World Class Supply Chain Summit focused on the theme of Innovation in a Complex, Uncertain World. At this invitation-only summit on May 9th, 2018 in Milton, Ontario, executives, scholars, and students discussed a range of innovation topics. The core of those discussions sought clarity on the following:

  1. The complexities, uncertainties, and challenges that are prompting the need for innovation in contemporary supply chains
  2. Effective ways for tapping into the potential to innovate
  3. New ideas from the next generation of researchers and practitioners
  4. Questions that demand rigorous research about innovation in supply chains

The summit addressed those four issues with two keynote presentations, a panel discussion, and three-minute lightning talk presentations by five students (from the doctoral through to the undergraduate level). In addition to giving voice to the next generation (via the students’ 3-minute presentations), the summit was also designed to uncover perspectives from business disciplines outside of supply chain management (SCM). This was reflected mainly in the inclusion of panelists whose expertise on the subject of innovation was built in the field of entrepreneurship. Incorporating perspectives from the next generation and from beyond the traditional scope of SCM proved useful in generating some insightful conclusions. Among those conclusions, four of the main ones are:

  1. Effective usage of supply chain analytics has the potential to yield meaningful returns for transportation services providers
  2. The creativity necessary for innovation can be learned so employers should invest in cultivating creativity and its application to challenges of interest, particularly for new and young employees
  3. Though seemingly bewildering, the complexity and challenges in modern supply chains represent opportunity for innovation
  4. Innovations need not be revolutionary in order to be of real value to an organization firm and its stakeholders

This white paper reports on (a) the underlying details of those points (e.g., specific real world examples presented to reinforce those points), (b) some critical unanswered questions that surround those points, and (c) potential research projects to address those questions. These helped to solidify the summit as a valuable contributor to industry-academia deliberations of relevance to the SCM field.