Sunday, October 18, 2009

Innovation Requires Canadian Leadership

Innovation in Canada is being impacted and threatening Canada's future as we are sending far fewer of our young people to university than almost all of our international rivals.

The statistics are shocking:

1.) The latest OECD numbers for 2007 suggest that when it comes to "tertiary type A" graduation rates (most commonly universities), Canada ranked 20th of 24 countries, ahead of only Hungary, Austria, Germany and Greece. Countries such as Poland, Portugal and the Slovak Republic left Canada far in their wake.

The OECD numbers also suggest that Canada's relative position has slipped badly over time -- we ranked fourth in the number of 55-64-yearolds with a university education, but 12th in the 25-34-year-old age bracket.

2.) Perhaps most worryingly, in advanced research programs, Canada is being lapped by the competition -- Portugal has nearly four times as many PhD or equivalent students; Finland has three times as many; while the U.K. and Australia have double the number.

3.) Alex Himelfarb, who was clerk of the privy council during the Martin government and is now director of the School of Public and International Affairs at York University's Glendon College, acknowledges that governments of all shades have been "constitutionally timid" when it comes to leading dialogue on the future of higher education. "We can fully respect the primacy of provinces -- Ottawa wouldn't regulate education or pretend it knows how to deliver it. But that doesn't mean it couldn't facilitate a dialogue."

3.) Ottawa is already involved in higher education through Human Resources and Skills Development Canada's Learning Branch, which administers the Canada Student Loans program, and Industry Canada. In recent years, Ottawa has broadened its involvement in higher education -- under the Liberals, through the Canada Research Chairs program, which is designed to attract and retain research professors; more recently, under the Conservatives, in the form of the $50,000-a-year Vanier Scholarships, which seek to draw world-class doctoral students.

4.) Canada's performance in this area, when compared to English language competitors such as Australia and the U.K., has been in the words of one recent report "only slightly better than abject."

5.) While Canada has attracted 2,600 students from India, Australia and the U.K. have attracted 10 times that many. The British spent $50-million in the past two years on promoting its Education U.K. brand while Canada's effort -- the new Edu-Canada brand -- has stuttered out of the gate.

The Educational Policy Institute's examination of the likely effects of recession on post-secondary education said that Canada's universities have thrown away inherent advantages -- such as quality of life and proximity to the United States -- because they don't seem to understand the value of a national brand in education and have chosen not to co-operate with one another in recruitment efforts.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Innovation and Consumer Trends

A recent report completed by BBDO and Proximity Canada trendspotters believe consumers will focus on affordable self-improvement in 2010. Their 10 key predictions are summarized below:

* Smart is cool: Intelligence will beat popularity or attractivness
* Frugalista power: Comparison shopping and hunting for deals will become a sport among consumers
* Less is more: Consumers will seek out products with longevity.
* IMBY (In my Backyard): Local products, and for national brands local marketing strategies, will be critical.
* Consumerpreneurs: Consumers will participate in the economy by making money from what they currently possess or create.
* The new eco-no-me: Brands could once get by simply by being "green." Now consumers will look for products with immediate personal benefit that just happen to do so good.
* My Digital Brand: personal videos, pictures, gaming scores, opinions, and outbursts have spawned "digital fame." BRand status will go to those most viewed, followed or talked about.
*Hyper "On:" Marketers who want to engage the consumer will need to ensure someone can respond to him or her right away.
* "A Pro-Am World" Professional-grade products such as power tools will continue to gain traction.
*Word of Mouse" More consumers will research a purchase or seek an opinion online before buying."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Innovation Behaviorial Challenges

In most companies, the nurturing of innovation, especially disruptive innovations that leads to major changes in the marketplace and within the business is more often a weakness of organizational culture vs a strength.

Some of the behaviors that I have experienced or observed in leading companies (Citicorp, Xerox, Nortel Networks, Bell Canada) that I have grown up in have consulted to has some of these key behaviorial challenges.


Innovation is one of the top mantras of CEO and senior executives. However, when one digs into the depth of innovation capabilities more often one finds that more company's pay lip service to innovation, than really have substantive programs. It would be politically incorrect not to embrace innovation—but they do little beyond that.

A few questions to probe into your organization:
1.) Does your organization have a unifed clear definition of innovation (one sentence) and everyone knows it?
2.)Does your organization have an innovation governance process and sustainability model?
3.) Does your culture have innovation as a core value, and it is systemically measured?

Unfortunately leadership at the top of the house have typically achieved these positions because of their consistency in achieving operational results, meeting sales objectives, improving products and services to keep up with competitors, supporting existing customers and acquiring new ones, managing mergers and acquisitions, achieving the required financial results quarter after quarter, etc.

Unfortunately as executives rise up in the organization, they transition from being a manager to being a leader.

Management is about business results and processes. Leadership is about people.

The key quality you need in good leadership is passion—the urgency to explore, tackle with tenacity and solve the complex problems that allorganizations face.

To do so, you need to be surrounded by talented people, and you need to find a way to transfer your passion to them, so they will buy into your vision, perform at the high and empowering levels, and come up with innovative ideas to solve the challenges of achieving the vision. Developing a culture of barrier busters creates incredible energy excitement and empowering dynamics.

Typically managers are very very good at executing tactical, incremental strategies to help achieve operating excellence. However, their skills are typically not looking in all directions all one once, they are typically highly focused vs curious and exploratory. They like to set a course and focus on the course, and often missed complex disruptive signals. Unfortunately high performing leaders are often not typically resilient or innovative leaders.

Operating managers who do not actively encourage new ideas and innovations in their organizations do so because of indifference. They will typically listen politely to your new idea, provide some encouragement, and offer good advice. If they are being honest, they will tell you they barely have the time, energy, and budget to help much beyond a pat on the back now and then.

In other cultures they nod like it is a good idea, smile and take no action, or work to deflate the value of your ideas. At Xerox, they call this "grin f..king" - and it is part of the cultural folklore that has impacted their ability to harness their innovations successfully. Many of Xerox's inventions were the first innovations - but their own cultures could not embrace and bring these capabilities to market successfully.

Unfortunately often reliability managers that like to keep the ship on course often reactive very negatitive to new ideas, especially if the idea comes from someone outside their own organization.

Some of them also exhibit characteristics that many of us would associate with being a bully.

Organizational Silo Isolation

Isolating people in organizational silos is one of the biggest obstacles to innovation. Companies that are serious about innovation do everything possible to break down silos and encourage communication and collaboration across the organization and beyond.

Fostering innovation is very hard, especially if the innovation is disruptive in nature.

A spirit of innovation and collaboration does not come naturally to an organization.

For such a spirit to take hold, it must become an integral part of the company's culture. None of this is easy, but it is what a company must do if it truly wants to create a healthy culture in which innovation can successfully flourish.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Canadians Love the Web but Online advertizing lags Canada's adoption: Why?

Canada has had one of the highest broadband penetration rates in the world.

More than half of the adult population is on Facebook in Canada. Nearly 70% of Canadians watch videos online, while the average Internet user in Canada spends about 60 hours online a month.

In fact, English speaking Canadians aged 18-34 spend more than a third of their time online, more than they spend listening to radio, watching television, or reading newspapers according to Interactive Advertizing Bureau of Canada (IAB).

Across all groups Canadians are spending an increasing amount of time online. But the advertising dollars are not following them.

Although online advertising revenue has quadrupled over the past 5 years to move than $1.6B in 2009, spending on digitial advertizing accounted for only 11% of the overall marketing budgets of Canadian companies. Other studies have projected lower penetration numbers.

In the USA, markets spend as much as 14% of their overall budgets on online marketing, while the number is closer to 20% in Australia and as high as 23% in the UK.

Canada has world class internet penetration. It is in the leading markets in the world. What is fascinating is that Canada is not as competitive a business market, which basically suggests that there is not as many businesses online because they are not competing for share against each other, or there are not enough businesses competing in certain areas.

What is clear is that the online adoption of businesss is not on part with the online adoption of consumers, which is a challenge for Canda in the long term.

Why is this?

1.) Are we not innovating fast enough in internet web based models?
2.) Are we just too conservative?

My perspective is that our consumer purchasing base is ready but our business executives are not moving their advertising spending dollars to the web rapidly enough - this is partially generational leadership web know-how, but also the risk adversity that Canadians often personify.

These are some of the innovation challenges for increased knowledge and simply internalizing the dominant form of advertizing reach is web - centric..... What would happen if you moved 80% of all your precious advertizing dollars to the web......?

Who is up for this challenge?
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