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Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

By Andrew Maxwell

In a recent interview with Rick Drennan, the editor of the Mississauga Business Times, I was asked to explain the relevance of innovation to businesses operating in Mississauga. I made the comment that if you are not innovating your business, then someone else is. I suggested that more innovative companies created better solutions, better services, and ultimately better performance.

However, as innovation involves risk and the possibility of failure, Rick asked about attitudes to risk. I suggested that the risk of innovating, should be compared against the risk of not innovating, and that the risk of not innovating could lead your business, however successful, to long-term failure (or acquisition by more innovative companies).

Rick decided to lead the front-page story with the headline “Innovate or Die?” which at first surprised me. However, upon reflection, I began to see parallels with “Eat or Be Eaten” (Phil Porter, 2000), and reflected that in my experience more innovative companies are the usually the acquirer, rather than the acquiree.

The problem is, that while many companies espouse the need for innovation, they struggle to implement innovation, either because they are risk averse, or have processes and systems designed to protect their existing businesses, rather than to innovate their future.

In reality, organizations are designed to achieve a certain level of innovation, and changing this to increase innovation rates can require fundamental changes in the business that can damage the existing business. As a result, I suggest that companies recognize their own limitations and constraints to decide if they simply cannot innovate, are willing to change their internal processes, or can collaborate with third parties who can innovate on their behalf.

We have introduced a new certification course at the University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies, “The Foundations of Innovation Management” to help companies identify the innovation challenges facing their businesses, and develop appropriate innovation processes to help implement innovation processes.

We launched an introduction to the course at a half-day conference in Toronto last month (www.innovationcentre.ca) and discussed both the innovation imperative, and the importance of seeing innovation as a process.  The course is designed to change the mindset around innovation from product innovation in a small part of the company, to business innovation throughout the organization. The development of an innovation process helps both capture ideas inside the company and implement them, and as a result impact the bottom line. Importantly we focus not only on product innovation, but also process, service and business model innovation, all of which can increase company revenues and profitability.

One of my colleagues in the design of Foundations program highlighted an insightful example from their period as a senior executive involved in innovation and productivity improvement at Royal Plastics. He used the example that Royal Plastics adopted innovative production processes that allowed them to produce molded plastic components at lower cost than their major competitors. This competitive advantage built economies of scale for the company, which both improved cost (and hence financial) performance and encouraged the company to increase innovation levels. They created a virtuous cycle of innovation and productivity improvement that led to cost reductions that allowed them to become a dominant player in the industry, and acquire both market share and competitors. In other words, they put themselves in the position of eating rather than being eaten.

The Foundations of Innovation Management course (http://learn.utoronto.ca/bps/imc.htm) is designed to help people in small, medium, and large companies increase the rate of innovation in their businesses. First, it challenges assumptions about innovation that have inhibited companies from being more innovative. The most important observation, from examining innovation rates in companies, is that once the imperative of increasing innovation rates is established, the most important issue is that of introducing a more formal innovation process which can gather innovative ideas, select those worthy of consideration and implement those most likely to improve the bottom line, or enhance company value.

The creation of a more innovative company requires not only the creation of an environment and culture that successfully stimulates new ideas, but where those ideas are assessed through an open communication process, and the more promising ones implemented (at least in a pilot). In addition, the company must constantly review the process to identify opportunities for process improvement, and specifically to learn from failure.

Finally, outcomes from innovation initiatives must be visible, and used as a catalyst to stimulate further rounds of innovation. In my next blog, I will talk about some of the challenges of increasing innovation rates in companies, if you would like to find out more about the course, please check the link. http://learn.utoronto.ca/bps/imc.htm

Andy is currently working at the Canadian Innovation Centre and pursuing a Ph.D. in the area of new venture creation at the University of Waterloo. In his spare time, he enjoys teaching technology entrepreneurship at UTM and the University of Waterloo.


The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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You still have an opportunity to participate in Innovation 2 Growing Globally,’ a unique event at the Mississauga Convention Centre on October 5 that  explores innovation in manufacturing and international markets for small business.

The Honourable Perrin Beatty, President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and David Pascoe, Vice-President of Electric Vehicle Technology for Magna E-Car Systems, are the keynote speakers.

The half-day business forum brings together key industry leaders from the manufacturing and trade sectors to share best practices and insights on how to expand markets through innovation and international trade. As a participant you have two options to explore

1. Innovation in Manufacturing

Thinking Outside the Box
– Jayson Myers: Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters

Industry Champion Panelists
– Martin Harry: Virox Technologies
– Brad Bourne: FTG Corporation
– Peter Stein: Piller Meats

Solutions Through Research
– John MacRitchie: Ontario Centres of Excellence

2. Growing Your Business Globally

Growing Globally: Business Presentations
Featuring experts from leading local companies such as Pat Stanghieri from UPS

Resources and Services Presentations
– Debbie Walker – Ministry of Economic Development and Trade
– Bill Macheras – Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
– Robert Sanders – Export Development Canada

The Research Innovation Commercialization (RIC) Centre and the Mississauga Board of Trade (MBOT) are jointly hosting the forum from 7:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Registration is $75 and includes breakfast and lunch. There will also be a trade show featuring resources and programs to support innovation and international trade.  Register at www.riccentre.com

The forum is presented in partnership Business Development Bank of Canada, City of Brampton, City of Mississauga, IRAP, Sheridan College and Town of Caledon.

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers pro vide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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By Etienne Bruchet

Anyone looking to innovate within their organization or industry might be forgiven if he or she got a headache trying to follow the so-called ‘rules of innovation’. This is mostly because these very rules have a tendency to contradict one another.

Want a good idea? Have a lot of ideas! Don’t waste time on a couple of ideas and end up out of the loop! On the other hand, too many ideas can spread resources too thin. Allowing a thousand small initiatives to pop up, as the Economist notes, can leave managers constantly “sorting through the chaff to find a few grains of wheat.”

Innovation is change; it’s radical and random by definition. It necessitates risk-taking. And yet, the most successful innovators are the ones who do not go headfirst against the mould. The firms with disruptive ideas are often the ones headed to bankruptcy (like the early dotcom firms). As Richard Watson notes in his piece on the ‘Rules of Innovation’, the most profitable innovations are inherently conservative, and it’s often “the companies that avoid radical innovation that win in the longer term.”

As both Mr Watson and the Economist note, larger companies are more likely to be successful innovators. This is largely due to their vast resources, which gives them the power to invest to pursue ideas. It is also due to their focus on efficiency and incremental progress, which allows them to innovate slowly without getting too far ahead of the curve and scaring off the “fundamentally change averse” market.

But, at the same time, innovation can just as much be beginner’s luck, according to Business Week. A larger company tends to attract the risk-averse rather than rule-breakers, and this tends to mean it will hire experts within its own industry to find ways to innovate its operations or systems, or solve its problems. It would seem illogical and risky to hire someone who is markedly inexperienced in your field to be in charge of moving it forward. And yet, there exist dozens of examples of innovation originating from people who had little to no previous experience in the industry (eBay, Netflix, etc.). This does help to support the notion that innovation is random.

Nevertheless, at the end of the day, there are still tips (if not rules) that companies can follow to help boost their chances at successfully innovating. Collaborating with other firms and bringing in people from various fields brings new perspectives and greater overall knowledge capital to the firm or project. The myopia of experts (“…can’t read the label if you’re sitting in the jar”) within the field limits their chances at substantial or revolutionary innovation by restricting an outside perspective.

By using experts from outside your industry, the paradigms of your industry are challenged and you likely get more unique solutions from your problems.

You may well be injecting some beginner’s luck into your own company.

Etienne Bruchet is a University of Toronto student in the Communications, Culture and Information Technology program. He is currently completing his Specialist major in Digital Enterprise Management. He works as a Webmaster and Marketing & Communications intern at the RIC Centre.

LINKS:

Why Innovation is Beginner’s Luck

The Innovation Machine

Rules of Innovation

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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The Honourable Perrin Beatty, President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and David Pascoe, Vice-President of Electric Vehicle Technology for Magna E-Car Systems, are the keynote speakers at Innovation 2 Growing Globally,’ a unique event at the Mississauga Convention Centre on October 5.

The half-day business forum brings together key industry leaders from the manufacturing and trade sectors to share best practices and insights on how to expand markets through innovation and international trade.

The Research Innovation Commercialization (RIC) Centre and the Mississauga Board of Trade (MBOT) are jointly hosting the forum from 7:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Registration is $75 and includes breakfast and lunch. There will also be a trade show featuring resources and programs to support innovation and international trade.  Register at www.mbot.com.

The Honourable Perrin Beatty is the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the 192,000-member Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Canada’s largest and most representative national business association.

Prior to joining the Canadian Chamber in August 2007, Mr. Beatty was the President and Chief Executive Officer of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME).

His political career started in 1979 as the youngest person ever to serve in a federal Cabinet, first as Minister of State (Treasury Board) in the government of Joe Clark, and then in six additional portfolios in subsequent Progressive Conservative governments, including National Revenue in 1984, Solicitor General in 1985, National Defence in 1986, Health and Welfare in 1989, Communications in 1991, and Secretary of State for External Affairs in 1993.

David Pascoe is the Vice-President of Electric Vehicle Technology for Magna E-Car Systems where he participates in Magna International’s electric and hybrid vehicle development and integration programs.  He also manages Magna International’s Corporate Engineering group at Magna’s global headquarters campus in Aurora, Ontario, Canada.

Pascoe joined Magna in 1987 and has been involved in advanced engineering projects, business case development, production programs, company acquisitions and advising on business opportunities.

In 2009, Pascoe was elected to the Board of Directors of Electric Mobility Canada.

Pascoe will kick-off the forum with an address on “Managing Innovation Effectively for Growth”. Beatty will speak at lunch.

This forum will explore how innovation and creativity can lead to business growth and international trade, and provide strategies for growth in global markets.

Breakout sessions at the event will include:

  • Innovation for Manufacturing, which targets manufacturing firms (aerospace, automotive, food & beverage, and life sciences) seeking innovative ideas to grow their business
  • Growing Your Business Globally, which will help businesses looking to enter the international arena with finding trade and business opportunities, as well as with the exporting of information and services.

The forum is presented in partnership Business Development Bank of Canada, City of Brampton, City of Mississauga, IRAP, Sheridan College and Town of Caledon.

For more information and to register, visit www.riccentre.com

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers pro vide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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By Hari Venkatacharya

I have the privilege of serving on the Board of the Ontario Science Centre. As someone who was born and grew up in Toronto, I, as many of you, used to visit the Centre regularly while in elementary school. These visitations decreased steadily through high school, and then only occurred in adulthood when friends with children were visiting from out of town.

Over the last twelve years, Lesley Lewis, the current CEO, has done an amazing job of re-vitalizing and collectively re-envisioning not only the mandate of the Science Centre, but also implementing strategies to become further embedded and relevant to the surrounding neighbourhoods.

The professional and ethnic composition of the Board of the Science Centre is testament to the fact that Lesley and Mark Cohon, the Chair of the Board, are truly making this path-breaking institution inclusive and more representative than ever before.

Earlier this week I visited the Centre with some friends visiting from Mumbai, India. Harikrishna Kalyanasundaram and Vidya are a leading bharatanatyam dance guru and Carnatic vocalist, respectively; and their four-year old son, Chaitanya, is already showing signs of being a child prodigy. Chaitanya was very excited to visit the Science Centre to experience the Harry Potter exhibit- which is outstanding, and truly engages children and adults alike.

But most intriguing was how much time Chaitanya spent in making paper airplanes, in the Weston Family Innovation Centre, and how engaged he was at the various interactive exhibits, especially those that included a musical element.

In his young mind, you could see the creative wheels turning about how the experiences he had could lead to further explorations when he returns to Mumbai; and he was already asking his parents when he can visit the Science Centre again!

It is at this earliest of ages that we must engage young minds to experience as much about scientific exploration and artistic endeavour as possible, so that as they grown into teenagers and adults, the awe and wonder they feel about the world around them propels each of them to pursue the dreams that they hold most vividly.

The recent article by Anne Golden, CEO of the Conference Board of Canada, was very lucid in articulating the challenges that we face in Canada to commercialize the great technologies we produce. A significant element that I believe is the intangible quality that allows great success to happen is imagination.

As Albert Einstein famously stated:

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

Hari is a seasoned entrepreneur with over a dozen years of experience in building and exiting businesses in Canada, US and India.


The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers pro vide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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By Shantanu Mittal

“It is not the strongest of the species who survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change” – Charles Darwin

This was the quote that Steven Burrill used to end his talk on his state-of-the-industry address at the BIO 2010 convention. He was of course referring to the imminent need for biotechnology companies to adapt to the fast changing financial, political and regulatory environment in which they operate.

The biotechnology industry inherently suffers from extremely long product development cycles (10-15 years) and high capital requirements (over $1 billion), making it one of the toughest industries to operate in.

But my experience at the BIO convention, held in Chicago last week, showed me that this industry is far from the decline stage. With more than 15,000 people from all over the world attended. BIO is this industry’s largest gathering.  This year, the key words on everyone’s lips were innovation and change. Burrill mentioned that the economic downturn hit all industries, but the biotech industry has emerged stronger than all the other industries due to its ability to innovate. And indeed, innovation was clearly present across all the pavilions at BIO. Some notable Canadian innovations showcased at BIO were Spartan Biosciences DX-12 PCR, a smaller, faster DNA analyser that is ideal to use in laboratories and Oncogenex Technologies that won the BIOTECanada gold leaf award for the company of the year for their novel cancer therapeutics.

A lot of debate was also focused on the growth of the emerging countries, India and China and the opportunity and challenges they provide to this ‘western’ dominated industry. The rising population and the higher per-capita income of these economies provide a vast market for the biotechnology industry. The new technologies and innovations coming out of these countries have forced many well-established companies to turn their head and focus on these emerging markets as equals in this rapidly changing industry.

Walking about the exhibition hall at BIO and seeing the size of the India and China booths, it was very clear that these countries are doing a lot to promote their biotechnology sector.

Heal. Fuel. Feed the world. This is the only industry that is capable of achieving these essential goals and that was the promise that the BIO convention is working towards.

Shantanu Mittal is graduate student pursuing his Masters of Biotechnology from the University of Toronto Mississauga. He is currently the communications officer for the RIC Centre, a role which has helped him understand the world of entrepreneurship and business development. With his expertise in the life sciences and green technology sector, he has been able to provide valuable feedback to clients along with the entrepreneur-in-residence. Shantanu hopes to pursue a future in business development in the biotechnology or green technology industries.

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By Jeff Bowman

Most people recognize the name Dale Carnegie from the book “How To Win Friends and Influence People” or from the courses on self-improvement that have sold millions of copies since the late 1920’s. Some more closely associate him with ‘the elevator pitch”

Carnegie’s ideas on changing other people’s behaviour by adjusting your own reaction to them still hold true today especially in the field of sales and presentations. Listening, probing and showing genuine interest in a client’s needs is the basis for relationship selling or put differently, becoming a partner with your client as opposed to a simple supplier of goods or services.

According to Carnegie

You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.”

Carnegie was quite innovative in his ideas, and in understanding the needs of the common man. After a failed stint as a stage actor, he turned his attention to lecturing others in the art of self-improvement.  In the 1914, there was no one to fund his ventures, so as a successful salesperson would, he found an alternative.  He persuaded a manager of a local YMCA to let him speak, and he would keep 80% of the proceeds. He was soon earning what would be equal to about $10,000 a week, capitalizing on the fact that everyone wanted to improve themselves in some way to increase their level of confidence – a hidden need not often expressed openly even in the business world of today.

Carnegie operated on the premise that he would not fail.  As long as he put the effort into what he did, he would be successfully. A lesson not lost on entrepreneurs ever since.

Remember the old line “when fate hands you a lemon, make lemonade.”? That was him.  Always the positive thinker, and idea innovator.  Did you know that he even changed his name to capitalize on familiarity? Originally he was Dale Carnagey, however he changed to Carnegie because Andrew Carnegie the wealthy industrialist was already a household name.  Now that’s creative thinking!

Jeff Bowman is a Sales and Marketing Specialist with The Marketing Pad Inc.. Follow Jeff’s blog at Blogpad or visit www.themarketingpad.com.

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