The news is full of stories about Canada's innovation gap. The Public Policy Forum has published a report that blames Canada's weak innovation and productivity growth on our relative inability to "connect the dots."
An editorial in the Globe and Mail citing the PPF's report, states "...(this) is not so much a matter of any supposed lack of inventiveness, or of deficient economic policies, as of a characteristically Canadian difficulty in making contacts and establishing practical collaborations among innovators and investors."
Last night on The National, CBC's flagship news program, host Amanda Lang called innovation "a missing component in Canada's economic recovery."
A panelist on the program, Professor Roger Martin described innovation as "something missing that the customer would love to have."
Another panelist, Kunal Gupta, Chief Executive Officer of Polar Mobile, defined innovation as "taking a solution to market and having customers adopt it."
I think both definitions– probably limited by the sound-bite timing of tv talk show– miss the basic driving force of innovation which is not relationship-oriented: the adventure of creating something from nothing!
But wait a minute! Aren't we the people that invented:
• canola • the walkie-talkie • the television camera • java programming language • the BlackBerry • the telephone • the hydrofoil • the electric streetcar • the Canadarm • the snowmobile • bixi • sonar • basketball • hockey • lacrosse • the goalie mask • insulin • the elctron microscope • the garbage bag • the alkaline battery • the electric oven • kerosene • poutine • butter tarts • nanaimo bars • peanut butter • Marquis wheat • Canada Dry
And that's just a few.
Okay. That's a hell of a lot of innovation.
If there's something wrong, as the pundits and media suggest, maybe the answer is less about lacking creativity and more to do with the culture that we have created as a branch plant economy?
More thoughts on this coming up.
© Patrick O’Neill 2012. All rights reserved.