A Human Approach

Jae Rang Headshot

Innovation that capitalizes on our differences

Aha Moment Monday

I saw a picture of an old black rotary phone and I remember my grandparents had one in their home when I was a kid.

They lived on the Welland Canal, part of the St. Lawrence that joins Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, so if you asked for their phone number they would start by saying, “Canal 7 …”.  That was indication to dial  the prefix 227, or CA7, the abbreviation for “Canal”.


That phone had one purpose, well two: to make and receive calls.


Today’s phones perform thousands of functions.  In some cases their innovation over the years was simply modifications of the earlier version – like having the dial in the handset or configuring the apparatus to hang on the wall.

And in other cases the innovation took giant leaps as in push button “dialing”, wireless technologies and massive storage capabilities.  Innovation is how we move forward.


In a recent report published by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, how we support “innovation” deserves new attention.


“If you invest in research, you get research. If you reward professors only for publishing research papers, that is what you will get. If government wants more focus on markets, on commercialization, on innovation and societal impact, it needs to provide a system that rewards success in these domains.” said Dr. Wendy Cukier, former Vice President of Ryerson University.


Is it about supporting performers in R&D or are we looking for talent who have acquired skills that spark innovation?


Another thing: are the skills purely scientific and mathematic or are those skills required in problem solving and critical thinking?

And what about bringing those innovations to market to help people embrace and adapt to new technology?


Aha – innovation requires a collaborative approach


You see it’s not just the innovation that is the focus. “The rocket scientist may think of the idea, but it will need people from different backgrounds and disciplines and with different credentials to get it launched.”  Robert Luke, Vice President Research and Innovation at OCAD University (formerly of George Brown College).  I believe an added difference, in terms of levels of credentials, is different levels of “experience”.


Typically, when you want to accomplish something you look for someone who has been there before, ask advice and trace their footsteps.  In the case of innovation, you’re blazing trails and charting new territory, but experience – and the soft skills that come as a result of it – are irreplaceable.  Experience brings a perspective that is impossible to learn without any other means other than living.


In today’s workforce there are as many as five generations working together.

We’ve never been in a more profound space to take advantage of collaborative innovation.


“Uncomfortable?  It doesn’t mean you’re unqualified”. ~ Katya Andersen



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