Crowdsourcing ideas for Canada’s future

Yesterday, I posted Canada’s Innovation Gap (part 3) where I discussed some ideas for solving the lack of innovation that exists in Canada.

This weekend, the Liberal Party of Canada is hosting a conference in Montreal focusing on Canada’s future.  The conference is called Canada at 150: Rising to the Challenge. It’s a non-partisan conference bringing people from different industries,  political views and areas of Canada together to discuss 5 key challenges related to the nation. Those challenges are:

  • Jobs Today and Tomorrow: the Productive Society of 2017
  • Real life issues for Canadian families: How do we care?
  • Energy, Environment, economy: Growth and Responsibility in 2017
  • The Creative and Competitive economy
  • A strong presence in the world of 2017: Commerce, values, and relationships

What’s great about this is the relatively open process they’ve used to get the participation from all parts of the country. Clearly with an agenda like this, the topic of innovation was discussed.

The following panel discussion, along with Q&A is well worth watching. Some really frank and honest comments are made.

(click on the image or click here to go to the video. NOTE: The first minute or so is in French and then it moves into an English discussion. )

A great comment from the early part of the discussion came from panelist Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto.  He gives his definition of innovation and invention.

Innovation does not equal invention.  Invention is producer driven. Someone says, I want to have some kind of gadget. And they dream it up in their lab or basement or garage. And it may not be of interest to anyone else. That’s invention.

Innovation is driven from the user or the consumer side…it’s about improving the experience of the end user or consumer.

Note the point that innovation is driven from the user or consumer perspective. It doesn’t mean they drive the innovation, but that their needs must be central to the innovation process.

Later on, when answering a question about the role of taxpayers and the government in helping spur innovation, Martin says quite bluntly:

I made the distinction earlier about invention and innovation. The problem for Canada and it’s been this way for a long time is we don’t have an innovation policy in Canada. Unless you call benign neglect a policy. We have an invention policy and in fact all of our money goes for invention and that’s the gross error.

I love this statement as it’s so straight forward and unapologetic. We need more people like Martin to speak out this way.

I strongly recommend listening to the full discussion. They discuss value of design in new product development, the reasons for lack of commercial success for Canadian “invention”, the sad state of the VC industry in Canada and much more. It’s very honest and in many places quite astute, and I feel, long overdue.



2 responses to “Crowdsourcing ideas for Canada’s future

  1. Here’s my cynical take. The real purpose of this conference is as follow:

    1. Devise a winning election platform for the federal Liberals. No more Green Shifts.

    2. Generate buzz that hopefully will be converted into donations. The fact is the Liberal party is so poor they simply cannot run a campaign if an election were called today.

    Don Martin sums it up:

  2. John,

    Thanks for the comment

    Without a doubt self-serving objectives are a significant part of reason they are holding this conference. But that is no reason to write-off the event. Yes, the Liberals want to devise a platform that will help them get re-elected. But, by doing it in a such an open manner, they are letting the entire country participate and that is a good thing regardless of who is running it.

    Aside from the conference in Montreal, there are over 50 simultaneous local events across Canada ( each day of the conference to allow local participation. I’m going to attend one today and see what it’s all about.

    Also, viewing the videos, there is a lot of very frank discussion of the problems and what potential solutions could be.

    e.g. Roger Martin gave incredibly straightforward and practical suggestions on the topic of innovation and really wasn’t pulling punches.

    Any forum such as this is open to criticism, but this is by far the most open forum that I’ve seen in Canada in a long time, from any political party.

    The conference itself is not the end. What the Liberals do with the information collected and what policies they propose will be.

    We don’t know that for some time, but it will be clear if they just used this for publicity and fundraising, or they took the discussions seriously and used them to forge a strong, coherent set of policies and proposals.

    The conference is embracing social media in way that I have not seen before in this country. My hope is that more of these kinds of events happen in the future at all levels of political discourse in Canada.