Innovation Parkour

My good friends and sometimes collaborators Michael Dila and Matthew Milan delivered the latest iteration of the “Innovation Parkour” presentation recently, so I thought I would share the slides and video with you here.

Innovation Parkour – Toronto Planners Unite Conference from Matthew Milan on Vimeo.

I have seen this in earlier forms, and as you would expect of something that comes out of the Unfinished Business project, it is a beginning rather than an end. But I believe that it is a very important beginning, outlines a direction for transformative innovation as practice and highlights the kind of design thinking talent that we have in our Toronto community.

The part of the Unfinished Kernel that I tend to work and play in is called Participation. I’m looking forward to advancing my own thinking and practice in this larger context of innovation in order to work together to “get a better reality”.

If you like the presentation, vote for it to be part of the Reboot conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. Export Canadian design-tech thinking!

Ontario government is panning for NextGen Jobs

Digital Media is the hot sector du jour in Ontario, and for good reason. It is one of those rising sectors that are the great hope to support economic growth in an age of de-industrialization. In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a bit of a government-led gold rush going on.

At ICE08, we learned that Ontario’s Ministry of Research & Innovation is investing $9 million in OCAD’s’ Digital Futures Initiative to expand training and research programs in digital media. Sara Diamond, President of OCAD, is a remarkable force of nature and under her leadership, OCAD is aggressively pursuing a reinvigorated research agenda and building partnerships with technology and content industry partners large and small.

We also learned that $10 million is being invested in a new Stratford campus for the University of Waterloo, bringing UW’s acknowledged strength in technology together with Stratford’s vibrant arts and culture community, focusing on digital media.


Both announcements came out of are in addition to the new Next Generation of Jobs Fund, a $1.15 billion initiative modelled after Ontario’s Auto Investment Strategy, which put $500 million into strategic projects and leveraged private investment of $7 billion. The Next Generation of Jobs Fund focuses on three broad sectors: green/clean tech, bio/pharma/health and digital media/ICT. There are three program streams:

What is a “Strategic Opportunity?”

An opportunity where:

  • A large scale global market opportunity exists, coupled with a unique strategy to deal with the competition, or a niche global market opportunity where Ontario has significant capacity and little competition and;
  • Ontario has a demonstrated competitive advantage such as strong private sector strengths including global market leadership, and globally competitive research strength.

Now, here’s an innovation challenge for the Strategic Opportunities Program itself:

How do you identify and evaluate the best strategic opportunities?

The Ministry is holding a series of workshops and doing a SWOT analysis within each of the three focus areas. (sigh)

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good SWOT analysis as much as the next strategy consultant. But have you seen a SWOT analysis yet that provides the needed insight or foresight implied by the goal of developing “next generation jobs”, particularly in an environment of accelerating tech and cultural change?

In the auto industry, panning for job gold is pretty straightforward – you call up the Big 3, the major import manufacturers, the parts and auto technology makers and you’ve got a pretty manageable group to work with. Eventually BIGCO installs some equipment or builds a plant somewhere. Now look at a map of the 11,000 enterprises in the entertainment and creative industries in the Toronto CMA, including digital media and ICT, and you’ll see the problem: 77% of this $9 billion industry are sole practitioners or micro-enterprises. That’s a mighty big river to pan in!

In order for this strategy to be successful, strategic opportunities have to be found, validated by expertise and evaluated against investment criteria in order to be funded. Is there a community engagement strategy that could support this process? What role does strategic foresight, design thinking and collaborative innovation play in its execution? I’m interested in finding out. Leave a comment if you have some thoughts.

Innovation. Creativity. Enterprise.

iStock_000002456857Medium[ICE08] A vision for Canada’s future in digital and interactive media and technology…

In 2018, Canada has embraced its role as a model power of digital innovation and become a key node in the emerging global network economy.

Accelerating technological change has altered human behaviour patterns and radically reduced the transaction costs of communication, negotiation and enforcement between and among firms and individual creators.

The web is us. We are increasingly aware of each other, our interdependency and the artifacts of our physical lives made digital. We are also rediscovering lost aspects of ourselves through our heightened relationship with the Other. Canada’s digital citizens have embraced the creative age and are rediscovering their individual creative agency, sense of purpose and values.

Significant private and public investment in ultra-broadband fibre and the continuous march of accelerating technological change is reducing the cost of moving bits towards zero, both over fixed and wireless networks. This inevitable technosocial reality has reconfigured the relationship between creator, content and audience.

Infinitely abundant digital content itself has been transformed. Content is currency, signal and signifier of resources that are naturally scarce: attention, the rare and valuable relationship between creator and audience, unique experiences of transcendent collectivity and the appreciation of rare social and physical objects of culture.

Canada’s media and technology industry underwent a painful transformation process, remaking the supply chain from a few large companies into open commercialization networks of micro-enterprises building social web tools and embracing the economics of abundance.

The new Canadian broadband and media conglomerates embraced their roles as pools of brand-power and capital within a broader open commercialization ecosystem. They shifted their business models and attention towards the edges, embracing the 1% as important to their future adding new venture investment arms attached to their innovation groups.

Together, this tightly interwoven but loosely structured network economy is accelerating through time, projecting the cultural creative values of Canadians into a hopeful shared global future.

Enter the DEMOCAMP/ICE08 blogging contest.

experience!tech @ MaRS: glocal format innovation?

Postcard - Feb. 12-2008.pdf (page 1 of 2)

MaRS is offering an interesting new model in a tech conference: keynote sessions simulcast from the IDC Directions Conference Boston onto the state-of-art A/V setup at MaRS in the morning, followed by “Master Classes” that take the form of interactive moderated panel discussions featuring local talent and lots of audience participation in the afternoon. The day finishes with Tom Kelley from IDEO closing with another great keynote from Boston. I’m intrigued by the format, and I’m going to check it out.


I think they’re onto something here – linking the global to the local. Very cool. This an interesting format innovation, and I’m looking forward to seeing it in action.

I also appreciate how Peter Evans, who’s organizing this event, really understands that what people need in an era of accelerating technology change is not just some star keynotes. People also need depth that comes from the rabble rousers we have in spades in this community – people who have sector or tech focus and can accelerate insight into understanding, and understanding into action together with attendees.

Any ideas about other good global conferences the local community would like to see uplinked to MaRS and combined with local face-to-face interaction in this way?

Duh, Community IS the Framework!

A little more than 2 years after David Crow launched the BarCamp unconference meme in Canada with a mighty yawp, it looks like this “community thing” is catching on in Toronto’s technology scene.

The National Angels Organization has found religion, the Financial Post picked up the excitement, the Toronto Board of Trade loves being host to the energy of DemoCamp, Peter Evans and the crew at MaRS are great supporters of the community, John MacRitchie and the Ontario Centres of Excellence is actively engaged, the organizers of the Mesh Conference are kindred spirits and provide an important platform, Greg Wilson and the University of Toronto are onside, Rick Segal, Austin Hill and other VCs and Angels are joining in, Interactive Ontario sees the value and many other established institutions of the technology and business community are taking note of one of Toronto’s main sources of tech excitement.

The community is an open platform for collaboration, where the interests and resources of a diverse set of private industry organizations, educational and public sector support institutions can be pooled for shared benefit.

So who’s not getting it?

More after the jump…

Continue reading “Duh, Community IS the Framework!”

LIFT: William Cockayne, “Foresight to Innovation”

See Michele’s fantastic notes from William Cockayne‘s excellent talk at LIFT about foresight, it’s connection to innovation and the roles that people tend to take within a product innovation cycle. Great stuff. I’m embedding the video here: 😉

It’s a great talk which gave me lots of food for thought. Michele took the time to recreate some of Cockayne’s images from his slides, the most important of which is the following which describes the four common roles of expert, breadth + depth, breakout and innovator:


Michele builds upon Cockayne’s foresight to innovation role/actor model to offer an alternative view of an innovation process that more closely reflects the subjective impressions of being part of a open, creative and chaordic system, which I think is genius! She describes it as a model to deliver “timely awesomeness”. (Michele is herself timely awesomeness!)

Check it out:


not flowing along a regulated path, each eddy is an iteration, receptive to changes in external and internal environs, and accept the nature of ambiguity as something to work with. larger eddies flow towards foresight and visioning, smaller eddies flow towards prototyping and design. research does not stop. the process ebbs and flows between the two.

And now you know why I want to work with Michele Perras, Super-Genius. I’ve always found linear innovation pipeline models to be not terribly useful to reflect the ambiguity observed actual creative work. While some industry innovation cycles do look like your standard pipeline or funnel model, the remixability, permanent ambiguity and limitlessness of digital materials mean that old models don’t offer much insight for a new world of digital objects and subjective human experiences of those objects. Michele is onto something here.

Harvard Business Review Breakthrough Idea: Toronto TransitCamp


Along with my co-authors Jay Goldman and Eli Singer, I am proud to announce the publication of our article titled Sick Transit Gloria in the February issue of Harvard Business Review. The article shares the story of Toronto TransitCamp with a general business audience and is included in the 2008 edition of HBR’s annual The HBR List: Breakthrough Ideas section. There are many great ideas in there, so do yourself a favour and pick up a copy. (TransitCamp is also nominated by BlogTO in the Best of Independent Toronto Survey. Vote here!)

This short piece tells the tale of a community and a public agency coming together to solve problems in an innovative new way, using social web technology, social media and design methods together with the Barcamp unconference framework. The approach helped to shift the relationship between the organization and its customers and community stakeholders. That organization was the Toronto Transit Commission and the event and the open creative community that emerged from it was called Toronto TransitCamp. You can read the article in Harvard Business Review, or visit this wiki page for links that provide a comprehensive overview of the background, the design, the experience, the media coverage, the conceptual foundations and the influence of TransitCamp.

The authors want to make clear that while our names may appear in the byline of the article, the ideas and the event itself come from a community of participants and peers. We were also inspired by many talented global thought leaders. We would like to acknowledge these contributions and inspirations here: Continue reading “Harvard Business Review Breakthrough Idea: Toronto TransitCamp”

ip neutral and why the ceeb will NEVER be the beeb. le sigh.

Read Michele’s post on BBC Innovation Labs initiative and the lament of our poor CBC:

so not only do they get funding from regional agencies as a means to stimulate growth in particular areas, they will then go and provide the resources to at least prototype or build a business plan out of the idea. which is great! and we do see this sort of thing at home, sort of, with good projects such as the omdc videogame prototype initiative, the innovation demonstration fund, projects at banff and any number of grants available through the canada council. BUT the bbc innovation labs provides the potential get-to-market resources, and is willing to support the project for various terms without any guarantee of making back a return – essentially paying for and supporting early stage r&d, as well as delivering the resources to where the ideas are rather than having the ideas travel to the money.

[From ip neutral and why the ceeb will NEVER be the beeb. le sigh. « shot from the hip]

Canada, the Martin Paradox, and The Opposable Mind

A fascinating consideration of the “Martin Paradox”, Roger Martin’s observation that Canadians are incredibly creative and innovative as individuals, but often not creative in groups. (Hat tip: Kevin Stolarick at The Creativity Exchange)

My guess is that what is happening here is that Canadians suffer here from the devotion to consensus. Much more than Americans, Canadians think they have to agree. Much more than Americans, Canadians think they have to approve. One of the things I love about Americans is their pragmatism. You will be hammering away at a problem in a boardroom and it becomes clear that we are not looking for a consensus, we are looking for something that is “good enough for television. Let’s get on it.”

[From This Blog Sits at the Intersection of Anthropology and Economics: Canada, the Martin Paradox, and The Opposable Mind]

My thoughts after the jump…

Continue reading “Canada, the Martin Paradox, and The Opposable Mind”