Last week I saw a special on Innovation within Canada on CBC. They had four experts on the panel: Dean at Rotman School of Business in Toronto, CEO of Mars an Innovation Centre in Toronto, Polar Mobile CEO and an economist with Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Some of the definitions they had for innovation included:
- Changing the way things are done
- Leading to productivity and to wealth
- Trading ideas
The main issue at hand is how can Canada get better at innovating. There were a number of great thoughts brought forward. The one most talked about, and my favorite, was understanding the customer; work backwards from what the customer wants and then work to bring them what they want.
Other great points were that innovation works best in a connected system, it starts with creativity and coming up with solutions to problems.
Some of the advice for companies in Canada, from the panel, were :
- Market to the rest of the world, rather then just the US, especially for smaller companies.
- Companies need to spend more time commercializing.
In terms of how we could help start ups get their products and services going, the advice given was to make it easier for small firms to do business with larger firms. For start-ups, the key is in getting their first and second customers.
A major human issue that was brought up is in today’s environment employers are not as readily willing to train their work force. Employees are being treated as disposable and companies bring them in for what they need and then get rid of them.
Ideas for Long Term solutions included:
- Need to focus on talent.
- Drive innovation education, even at high schools. Some universities are starting to teach innovation and understanding consumers.
- Canadians need to have an appetite to go global, especially for small companies.
- Potentially think about altering tax structure for small businesses. Provide tax breaks for demonstrated growth rather than for just being a small company.
I think innovation begins with culture and the people within an organization. The same goes for product success, it is about the people purchasing your products and services. To create the culture we need to focus on customer challenges and needs. To maintain our people and have a healthy culture we need to invest in our people.