May 2017
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The Leading Edge - Taking Care of Business
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The Innovation Agenda - What Does it Mean to Your Company?

 

The Innovation Agenda - What Does it Mean to Your Company?
  • By 2025 more than 50 billion connected devices in a world of 8 billion people
  • Today 3 billion people connected to the Internet; 5 billion by 2025

Globally, we are in an innovation race. Every country wants to attract the best brains, develop the newest world or industry-changing technology. The Canadian government has recognized we need a wide-ranging innovation strategy and has created something called the Innovation Agenda. Engagement Leaders have been consulting with Canadians resulting in more than 100,000 engagements resulting in 1,752 ideas. The topic? How to encourage innovation.

But why is innovation important? The more effective we are at innovation as a country the higher our standard of living will be across all areas from employment, prosperity, health, and education, not to mention opportunities for future generations.

This is all happening at the same time our cost of living is rising, personal debt is increasing, we are experiencing slow economic growth and there is rising uncertainty about our trading relationship with our southern neighbor.

The government wants to mobilize Canadians for an inclusive innovation agenda which focuses on:

  • Fostering a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.
  • Building skills to embrace global changes.
  • Leveraging Canada's diversity and attracting the best global talent.
  • Supporting world-class research excellence from fundamental to applied science
  • Creating super clusters for business innovation and global reach, from idea generation to value creation
  • Developing start-ups and scaling innovative, high impact small, medium and large firms, to grow the next generation of job-creating global companies.
  • Harnessing the digital economy across sectors to encourage digital adoption.
  • Enhancing and aligning agile marketplace regulations and standards, and enabling market access so Canadian businesses can thrive globally.

Source: Industry Canada

Key Challenges

The Innovation Agenda focuses on the need for innovation at all levels if we are to compete in the global market. It recognizes four major challenges: slow growth; technology; globalization and climate change.

The global economy is slow with 2015 predictions for 2017 revised downward at the end of last year. In Canada we have an aging population; as boomers retire we don't have sufficient working-age people to replace them and this will affect our growth.

Technology is changing fast and if we don't keep up we are in danger of being left behind. Some of today's jobs are disappearing as new types of work and companies emerge. Technology is a great leveler and empowers emerging countries.

As the world gets smaller, more competition will come from both developed and developing countries - technology knows no borders.

Energy consumption continues to rise globally and with it increased risk to the environment. Those countries leading the way in clean economic growth - those showing greater levels of innovation - will create more jobs, develop new markets and ensure their country's long-term economic growth.

How Can Your Business Be More Innovative?

What actually is innovation? Is it always about technological advancement? Not necessarily, it's about changing or adapting something to make it better and more beneficial to people. That "something" could already exist, or it could be a new "invention." Some innovations are major and save lives such as penicillin or insulin (the latter is a Canadian discovery) others are more modest and make industry more efficient, such as a machine that folds paper more efficiently.

There is no reason why your small business, even a one-person business can't be part of the Innovation Agenda. In fact, entrepreneurs are by nature innovative. Here are six things you can do right now to start creating your own innovation agenda.

  • Review all your technology and software - how out of date are you? Upgrading can be a sound investment in the future and makes you more innovative.
  • Research new software and apps to see how they can help you improve your operations, products and services - think: mobile payments, order processing, anything that demonstrates innovation to your customers and makes their lives easier.
  • Everything is becoming mobile - people search for products and companies online, they purchase online, they check you out on line - how can you relate more to your customers through their cell phones and tablets? Your website should be responsive. If you don't know what 'responsive' means, you need to be more innovative, right now!
  • React quicker - customers, clients, suppliers all want everything right now. Be innovative around how you interact with the people who make your business successful.
  • Become an avid researcher of your industry and/or market and the global economy. The world is moving at lightning pace, don't get left behind - be a leader not a follower.
  • Bring your team together and brainstorm how you might reinvent what you sell, or the way you sell it, to better reflect today's world.

If you want more information on the government's Innovation Agenda, follow this link: https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/062.nsf/eng/h_00051.html.

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The Innovation Agenda - What Does it Mean to Your Company?

 

Truth and Transparency

My, how the world has changed radically over the last year. The Oxford English Dictionary's 2016 word of the year was post-truth. The definition, "… an adjective defined as 'relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief' (Oxford English Dictionary).

Add fake news too and it's understandable that consumers are becoming increasingly suspicious of businesses, especially big ones.

When people start to believe rhetoric rather than the truth, there is bound to be a kickback and in a recent survey almost three-quarters of respondents said they research a company before making a purchase.

Trust has taken a hit in recent months as consumers begin to realize a lot of what they read or hear is not necessarily true. Fake news, hyperbole, propaganda and downright lies have become so commonplace it's hard to know which way is up. Consumers are beginning to think the system is failing them.

We are all guilty in some part of propagating fake news; emails, photographs, videos are forwarded without a thought or concern as to whether the information is correct. Often this fake news is forwarded again and again and becomes de facto truth along the way. No wonder consumers don't know what, or who, to believe anymore.

This has led to intelligent consumers doing their homework and researching products, services and companies long before they decide to make a purchase. Not only that, they often dig deeper and research you as the business owner.

The Internet makes it difficult to hide. If on your Facebook page, Twitter feed, or LinkedIn messages you have been either vocally pro, or vitriolically against someone, or something, it's likely your customers will learn about it. At that point you may become a hero to some and enemy to others. Not a position a small business owner wants to put themselves in. The frightening thing is that your personal persona can easily become part of your business brand - for good or bad.

Then again, if your company's product or service is poor you have nowhere to hide. There are far too many places for people to tell the world what they think of you.

Going back to post-truth, there are challenges when fighting against a consumer perception which is coloured by the rhetoric spouted by competition, the Internet, or even media. Who are your customers supposed to trust?

By becoming more transparent you can start to build trust. Here are six ways you can help your customers have confidence in you and your company.

  • Provide more stats and facts. Be open about what you sell. The more you can tell them the greater they will trust you.
  • Quantify whenever you can. Never say, "our product has less calories" find out the facts and say, "our product has 400 calories fewer than..."
  • Be overly honest - far more honest than your competitors.
  • Provide your customers with insights into your industry, manufacturing process and the like - make your transparency obvious.
  • Keep on top of both positive and negative comments such as those posted on sites like Yelp. Reply to all comments and be honest if your company performed poorly. No one is perfect and forgiveness is often not difficult to obtain if you handle it correctly.
  • Promote your corporate culture and values and live them, locally, nationally, globally - and of course in your online presence.

Take a long, hard look at your values and ensure you can be proud of them. It's no good just appearing truthful and transparent, you have to be so to the core of your business and the root of your soul.

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The Innovation Agenda - What Does it Mean to Your Company?

 

Coach's Corner - Patience and Persistence

Recently, Seth Godin wrote a blog entitled, "Like riding a bike," in which he said that people often say that once you've learned to ride a bicycle, you don't ever forget. He then goes on to say that we learned to ride it by doing it. We didn't learn to ride a bike from a book or a video. His final statement summed it up by saying, "… You learn by doing it wrong, by falling off, by getting back on, by doing it again." His post-script stated that for most things we learn this way-by doing it.

Patience and persistence are certainly tied to this idea of accomplishing things in life, of being successful. Whether it is learning to walk as a toddler, ride a bike as a child, or accomplishing many tasks in our work or personal lives as an adult, we need to remember that the combination of both patience and persistence will see us through to our goals.

In most activities we do, success does not always come easily or even quickly. By having a goal in mind with a plan or strategy to achieve that goal, we need to add patience and persistence to the mix. As self-help author Napoleon Hill said, "Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success."

If our goal is realistic and we have thought out the activities we need to perform to attain that goal, we often need to have the patience and persistence to keep going. Too often people become disillusioned and give up too easily. If we as toddlers gave up trying to walk after the first fall, we'd still be crawling.

The sales process is a good example of the need for persistence and patience. More often than not, sales calls to prospective clients result in a "No." It is about not giving up when the first calls do not bear fruit, but to keep at it, to keep on calling. We need to remind ourselves of our goal and our strategy and keep on track.

This does not mean the strategy will always work. You may have to readjust the goal and/or the strategies, if you continually meet with negative responses. At these times we have to stop and reassess by asking ourselves some questions. What are we trying to accomplish? What is not working with our strategy? Is there another way we can do this? Sometimes by taking time out to ask ourselves these sorts of questions, we find some minor adjustments that are necessary to achieve the goal.

Patience and persistence are about sticking with the plan. It's about not giving up easily but it is also not about blindly following a path without some reassessment or tweaking. Like riding a bike, we need to remember what we are trying to achieve and keep that goal in mind.

Paul AbraM
Motivated Coaching

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