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Innovation remains the key to Canada’s future prosperity


Moving from talk to action on innovation in Canada was theme of the first day of the Business Innovation Summit 2013: Innovation for the Corporation, hosted by The Conference Board of Canada.

The Conference Board’s Centre for Business Innovation (CBI) hosted the two-day summit on how to re-think, re-new and transform firm-level innovation in Canada.

Daniel Muzyka, president and CEO of The Conference Board of Canada told the attendees that the time for innovation is now.

“One of the resonating themes of this Summit, that I agree with wholeheartedly, is we have many prescriptive reports about the nature of the innovation gap and how to close it. The real challenge is to get on with it.”

“A focus on cost-cutting and efficiency has helped many Canadian organizations weather the economic turbulence, but this approach will ultimately render them obsolete. Only the constant pursuit of innovation can ensure long term success,” he added.

Canadian firms have only limited formal innovation management systems, said Michael Bloom, Vice-President, Organizational Effectiveness and Learning, The Conference Board of Canada. Yet key findings of the Conference Board’s Innovation Metrics for Management 2012 survey indicate that firms that both allocate time for innovation and manage their processes get improved results.
 
“Spending time is not enough, formal innovation management is needed. This does not suggest that we argue for more control of innovation, but better coordination of innovation activities. It is something that should twig (in organizations), and it has not twigged yet,” said Bloom.

John Lutz, president of IBM Canada, described the five Vs of “big data”—velocity, volume, variety, veracity and vulnerability.

Lutz added that “we believe we can make a difference in Canada as a key part of a globally integrated enterprise that has innovation as its foundation.

“We apply our management system all over the world, and we get fabulous innovation results in Canada,” he said. “The Canadian university system is magnificent. Public-private partnerships can help accelerate investment and commercialization of innovation so we all can benefit."

Terry Stuart, chief innovation officer of Deloitte, highlighted how Canadian start-up firms are high-growth “gazelles” in the first five years of their existence, but slow down their innovation and become “water buffaloes” by failing to grow beyond a certain size after the first five years.

The leaders of two organizations that are taking action on innovation presented their approaches during a luncheon.

Suzanne Fortier, president of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, launched the Interim progress report of the Strategy for Partnerships and Innovation. “NSERC’s Strategy for Partnership and Innovation is a blueprint for action to increase Canada’s benefits from its investments in research and development.”

In his luncheon keynote address, Nitin Kawale, President, Cisco Systems Canada Co., said Canadian organizations need to let go of the old notions of work, and focus on productivity rather than work hours of 9-to-5. He added that organizations need to forego the concept of work-life balance for a different approach of work-life blending.

“People are not the problem. Productivity is not a Canadian worker problem…People are ready, but Canadians organizations are not,” said Kawale. “Canadians are extremely productive in their personal lives. If organizations allowed Canadians to be as productive in their professional lives as they are in their personal lives, Canada would be a lot better off.”

Amanda Lang, senior business correspondent with CBC News and author of the new book, The Power of Why, called on the attendees to ask hard questions about why Canada should be the “sweet spot” on innovation when compared to other countries. She stated that a culture of complacency and risk aversion may offer some of the answer.

“Our natural-born curiosity got drummed out of us. What got drummed into us was fear of the wrong answer,” said Lang.
www.conferenceboard.ca