An ‘innovation’ mindset welcomes change, continuous improvement, and exploration into uncharted areas of discovery. By adapting a forward thinking approach and utilizing tools and frameworks such as design thinking and agile methodologies, organizations can create an ‘innovative’ mindset that drives stronger growth. A survey by Accenture reported that in 2020, innovation leaders increased the revenue growth gap by 47% over the rest of the market, with a predicted gap of 115% by 2023.
Research by Boston Consulting Group demonstrated that the pandemic has highlighted the critical importance of innovation and at the same time identified a readiness gap. While 75% of executives surveyed placed innovation as a top-three priority, a 10% increase from before the pandemic, only 20% of companies are ready to scale innovation. Creating a culture of innovation does not stop solely at management levels, it requires the inclusion and collaboration of all employees, as well as a diversity of perspectives, backgrounds and skill sets.
Yet the new work environment brought on by the pandemic has created challenges for cross-collaboration and over 60% of managers feel that they haven’t effectively learned how to empower remote teams. So how do organizations foster creativity and innovation, and how do employees and job seekers embrace and participate in an innovative culture?
Introduced by Florence Rousseau, Senior Manager, Marketing & Communications, Magnet and moderated by Chantal Brine, CEO, EnPoint, the event featured panelists:
We encourage you to check out the organizations listed above and watch the recording of the session to form your own opinion on what stands out for you.
About the panelists:
Here is our summary of key takeaways from the session:
1. What comes to mind when you think about ‘building future ready communities’?
When we think about what we can do to be more innovative at work, one of the biggest obstacles to originality is that we don’t consider enough ideas. We try to solve problems with one of two options that are the most obvious, but the more ideas we generate the more creative we become and the more likely we are to come up with out of the box, or unconventional options.
Iron & Earth uses social innovation to bridge mindsets and communication gaps. By reaching out and speaking with everyone in the community, they are able to better understand fears, concerns, perspectives on future trends, etc. As an example, using a poll directed at fossil fuel workers, Iron & Earth identified that many workers in the oil and gas sector are unemployed or underemployed; workers want to move into the new energy economy but need upskilling opportunities.
It’s not until you are in a room with people do you understand what resources are truly accessible. The sharing of knowledge and resources, such as the Climate Career Portal, is of critical importance in building a future ready workforce.
COVID-19 changed how things are traditionally supposed to work; for example, one of Windmill’s partners is a dental school that had to quickly pivot their program structures in response to COVID-19. They not only developed a number of emergency responses that they would never have previously attempted or imagined before the pandemic, but are also now implementing some of these into their permanent programming.
COVID-19 is a catalyst event that has opened up new opportunities and allowed organizations and communities to rethink what’s possible. By putting us in a situation of experiential learning and rapid implementation, we are able to refine, integrate and improve processes.
It takes a supportive ecosystem to build an innovative mindset.
An innovative mindset includes: seeing opportunities not problems, looking forward not looking backwards, rethinking the way something works and repurposing to achieve greater impact.
2. What is the most memorable “success story” or “lesson learned” you’ve experienced when you think about how your organization/group has contributed to ‘building future ready communities’?
An Atlantic success shared by ICTC was the story of four University of New Brunswick students who founded a precision agriculture company. The students have now graduated and are successfully running their start-up.
ICTC’s iAdvance Pathways provides career coaching and accelerates the employment prospects for internationally educated professionals (IEPs) that are unemployed and underemployed in Canada, while simultaneously helping Canada’s industries accelerate their digital advantage, and further expand their employment prospects. The program includes skills mapping to in-demand occupations, customized short duration training, career coaching, soft skills training, and micro-credentialing.
ICTC’s EDGE UP (Energy to Digital Growth Education and Upskilling Project) is an award-winning, multi-stakeholder program launched in Calgary in 2019 to test new approaches to skills development for workers to re-engage with technology jobs being created in all sectors of Calgary’s economy.
One of the graduates of the program stated that after completing the program and entering the job market, he felt relevant again.
Iron & Earth shared a success story of student innovation. They were approached by a group of students whose pitch discussed how people don’t know how their skills can be used in the new energy economy. Their idea was to build something that would help people inform themselves as to how their skills are needed and can be used, and where they can find relevant projects located across Canada. Now, the Climate Career Portal brings over a thousand jobs and hundreds of projects in the green space into one platform. Iron & Earth is also developing a mentorship program; they want to create every resource possible to ensure people can succeed in their careers.
Minister Seamus O’Regan was the plenary speaker at the project launch and spoke to how the project was exactly the kind of thing that we need in Canada to help workers feel empowered and to let them know that they’re not alone and that they’re not going to be left behind.
Windmill has been working with skilled immigrants and refugees for many years. At multiple levels, international talent is often dismissed or considered secondary. In the face of labor shortages, e.g, in the health sector and particularly in nursing, Windmill has had closer collaboration between government (federal and provincial regulatory bodies) and service providers than ever before. A lesson learned is that now that we know that collaboration is possible, we need to continue to work together to build a better future of work.
Windmill has seen great outcomes with 98% repayment rate on microfinancing loans and over 3.5 times income increases for clients. A question that Windmill has asked themselves is how much of these outcomes are because they are working with dedicated and motivated people, versus how much are they directly contributing to the outcomes? Over the last three years, Windmill implemented a Client Success Department that sought to directly contribute to long term career outcomes for clients. They launched and have seen success with their in-house coaching, financial literacy training and the Windmill Microlending Mentorship Program, resulting in over 3000 hours of volunteer time by incoming Windmill clients and Alumni.
ICTC has seen success in reimagining themselves. In the early 1990’s they were a part of the federal government; when the sector councils were disbanded, ICTC pivoted to become a not-for-profit organization and continued their focus on research ICTC’s research team, the Digital Think Tank, studies and shares publications that are highly relevant to topics of the future of work. A success that they’re starting to see is that people recognize the importance of supporting and guiding students at a younger age to have workers that are ready for the careers of the future.
3. (Audience Question) What advice would you give to organizations in terms of creating and fostering a culture of innovation in a manufacturing facility (or other older economy business)?
Create internal champions; instead of using a top-down approach, have internal champions that can directly see the value of innovation and incorporate that value into their everyday work. Pick the people you see that are already buying into that idea, cultivate the innovation with them, and they will start to create that culture from the ground up.
Sometimes there are challenges that management does not see. Reach out to the folks you are trying to foster that innovation mindset in and ask them what are the barriers they are facing.
If someone comes up with a fantastic idea, don’t hold them responsible for implementing it. It’s not that people don’t have ideas, it’s that they don’t always have the time or desire to pursue it.
To create a culture of innovation you need a foundation of trust. Digital Body Language by Erica Dhawan talks about how to build trust in a remote environment, how to build authentic relationships with a team you have not met, and how to show care and concern in an environment where your employees are more vulnerable.
Consistency and clarity is critically important when communicating with your employees. It’s not always the earth-shaking ideas that go the furthest or make the biggest impact, its consistency and clarity with a strong sense of ownership is what builds trust and buy-in to an idea.
4. In your view, what do you see as the primary role that each of us has to play in building future ready communities?
The shelf life for technical skills is relatively short, but soft skills are always necessary regardless of the functional role you have in a company or how rapidly the tech ecosystem evolves. ICTC has created a skills training program to help with this; Agile Industrial Mindset (AIM), builds self-efficacy and resilience. Lifelong learning is always important, and understanding what your value and what you want is essential in career discovery.
You need an agile mindset; you need to be able to pivot and adapt to different situations.
Be consistent in bringing everyone together to foster ideas. More ideas mean more innovation.
You need a provoker and an enabler: A provoker is a force that will spark a change in state or mindset, such as COVID-19, research that inspires curiosity, or even a thought-provoking idea from a book; an enabler creates an ecosystem of support, for example by providing financial resources, such as Windmill’s microlending, or development opportunities such as with ICTC Programs or Magnet Programs.
Curiosity is a key fundamental characteristic in building future ready communities; it can be a simple question of “Why are doing things this way”, but requires the courage to ask the question out loud despite possible resistance.
Leverage your network and connect with mentors, professional associations, and industry and community leaders.
5. What would be your biggest piece of advice to talent in Canada trying to start and/or advance their careers and navigate the future of work? (Audience Question) Is professional development required for growth, or is it better to invest in professional experience?
Keep an open mind; you never know what new types of job positions will exist in the future. The rate of change is so fast nowadays, and you need soft-skills that will enable you to be adaptive and agile.
Get curious and understand the importance of self-reflection; know yourself, know the world of work, and conduct a career analysis to identify your goals, your skills inventories, your hopes, your fears, and your concerns. Look at patterns in your life so that you can authentically understand and share your career journey.
Gather labour market information through people, print and practice:
People – The healthiest networks are diverse and include mentors, previous employers, colleagues, friends, etc.
Practice – Gather information from work experiences as well as volunteer and extracurricular activities.
To entrepreneurs looking to develop an innovative mindset; when you’re living and breathing your job you can get caught up in the things that you are doing, but a different path can help you get a better view of the larger picture. So spend 80% of your time getting the tasks done and 20% of your time letting yourself wander.
7. What are some resources, books, Ted Talks, or podcasts, that have been instrumental in shaping your view on the future of work?
A theme that resonated strongly with our panelists was the importance of keeping an open mind and not limiting ourselves to one or two conventional ideas or solutions. Life-long learning is an essential part of innovation; be curious and ask the simple as well as the hard questions, do your research, and leverage your network by connecting with mentors, peers, industry leaders, and professional associations.
Employers need to build a supportive ecosystem that fosters an innovative mindset. Consistent and clear communication with employees plays a big role in building trust and creating internal champions who will help develop a culture of creativity.
Guiding discussion questions:
What steps has your organization taken to create a culture of innovation in the workplace? What’s worked? What’s failed horribly?
What benchmarks, success stories and/or resources discussed by the panelists can you adapt/apply to your organization and/or community?
Have you found a particularly helpful resource related to the theme of building an innovative mindset that we can share?
Tim is based in Halifax and works closely with businesses, not-for-profit organizations, post-secondary Institutions, government, industry groups and associations across Atlantic Canada to raise awareness of ICTC’s capacity building programs to help grow the Digital Economy in the region.
Based in Calgary, Sashie spearheads the growth of ICTC’s iAdvance programming. iAdvance is an initiative designed by ICTC as an end-to-end workforce development solution to enable evidence-based pathways to employment. A program Sashie is supporting in Calgary is EDGE UP (Energy to Digital Growth Education and Upskilling Project) to support displaced mid-career Oil and Gas professionals to take short-duration training and pivot into tech roles.
Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC)
ICTC is a not-for-profit national centre of expertise for the digital economy. They are the trusted source for evidence-based policy advice, forward looking research, and creative capacity building programs, with a team of over 90 qualified professionals across Canada.
ICTC’s mission is to strengthen Canada’s digital advantage in a global economy. Their vision is to foster globally competitive Canadian industries and a prosperous society empowered by innovative digital solution. ICTC is committed to providing an atmosphere free from barriers that promotes equity and diversity. ICTC also supports a workplace environment and a corporate culture that is built on TRUST values that encourage equal employment and career prospects for all employees.
Luisa Da Silva, B.Sc, P.Geo, MBA began her career in the fossil fuel industry of northern Alberta, and has over 20 years experience in the energy, mining, education, and not-for-profit sectors. After a successful career as a professional geoscientist, Luisa moved to the United Kingdom to work in digital transformations and to pursue an Executive Master’s of Business Administration. She has been influenced by her experiences in mining and exploration both in Canada and abroad. Luisa worked with one of Canada’s top environmental charities before joining Iron & Earth as their now Executive Director. In her spare time, Luisa is an outdoor enthusiast and spends as much time in nature as possible; transitioning to green solutions has been a lifelong journey. Along the way, Luisa learned that she is enthusiastic about educating others and enabling them to transition to fulfilling careers.
Iron & Earth
Iron & Earth formed around the lunchroom tables of the Canadian oilsands during an oil price crash which resulted in over 100,000 oilpatch employees losing their jobs between 2015 and 2017. They realized that trade skills were transferable to the renewable energy industry and recognized the urgency of diversifying into these technologies. So, in Spring 2016 they launched Iron & Earth to create a better future for themselves, their coworkers, and the planet. Since then they have built a base of over 1000 fossil fuel industry worker members and have carried out a wide range of innovative initiatives.
Iron & Earth is a worker-led organization whose mission is to empower fossil fuel industry and Indigenous workers to build and implement climate solutions. Their overarching intention is to help create an environmentally and socially prosperous planet. Their vision is that the fossil fuel industry and Indigenous workers will play a leading role in building the policy and infrastructure required to reach global climate targets. Their top-level goal is to help ensure a prosperous transition towards global carbon neutrality by 2050.
Shawn McCarty has the privilege of working with skilled newcomers across Canada to build a thriving career success network of educators, service providers, and employers. As Manager, Key Partnerships for Canada’s largest non-profit lender for newcomers, Shawn closely follows the forces and trends impacting immigrant career success across all major professions.
Windmill Microlending is a registered charity serving newcomers since 2005. They offer microloans to help skilled immigrants and refugees continue their careers in Canada. Funded by the public and private sector, Windmill is Canada’s largest and most successful microlending program for immigrants and refugees.
Windmill Microlending empowers skilled immigrants to achieve economic prosperity by providing microloans and support. They support immigrants and refugees who come to Canada with education, skills and experience but struggle to resume their careers here. Their clients may be under-employed in “survival jobs” because they cannot afford the cost of Canadian credentials or licensing. Windmill helps clients to obtain the Canadian licensing or training required to work in their field, or to secure a position which matches their level of education, skills, and experience.