Yes, of course it does. But we need a new coordinated rallying cry.
Why would we be here if it wasn’t for the ability to innovate? We want to find a way to stay warm, trade, celebrate and worship together, all to build a stronger community. Our aboriginal ancestors call such a place “Pehonan”. A highly enlightened concept that has been the foundation of what makes Albertans great cooperators, and builders.
But, for some reason, the “Alberta Innovation Ecosystem” has been spinning its wheels. It has become a government funded set of institutions and competing interests which seem more interested in self-preservation than hitting the ball out of the park for a future diverse Alberta economy.
Today I was lucky to have been invited to a forum event, hosted by our new Premier and interim PC Party leader, Dave Hancock. The event, “Transforming Alberta’s Innovation System” was a very interesting opportunity to re-imagine this ecosystem. Sure many of the self-interested were represented, including President’s and CEO’s of schools, innovation organizations and of course bureaucrats; but also there were entrepreneurs and accomplished innovators. Which was a great start.
In one of the breakout sessions, we talked about what would make a successful new “Innovation Council”. I won’t get into what an “Innovation Council” is, because frankly I am still not 100% sure I know. But, I wanted to share with anyone who would listen what I think WOULD make a difference right away in a refreshed Alberta Innovation Ecosystem. My thoughts below:
- CORE PURPOSE. We need the Alberta Innovation Ecosystem, at least the one funded by government, to have an easily identifiable core purpose, which must be understood by all Albertans. Here is what I would suggest as an example of a solid core purpose:
“Alberta’s Innovation must maximize its resources and resource economy, so we may use the benefit to help fund other sustainable economies… ones which will secure opportunity for an alternative economy, and our future generations.”
- BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). Perhaps as important, I think this Province needs to rally behind a goal that matters, and exemplifies the above. An example we can all understand, was by US President John F. Kennedy, who stated the American goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade (1960’s). His goal was clear, easy to understand and measure. It had a number of outcomes that justified it, but perhaps most importantly, it was simply stated,In that context, what could Alberta’s goal be?
- Can we be a state that shoots to become a “net-zero” environmental jurisdiction? Setting a goal to produce ZERO WASTE in a generation? Asking our industry and citizens to find ways to reduce waste (physical and GHG), and innovate new ways to offset the waste we produce? Funding both innovations in existing economies and new waste reduction industries?
– Can we set a goal to be the healthiest place to live on the planet? Measured by quality of life, health programs and boasting the greatest LIFE LONGEVITY, achieved in a generation?
I don’t know the goal…. but I am sure that if it was an inspiring one, we will suddenly have a framework for which to structure all of our Innovation work around. I do know that our BHAG needs to be bigger than one cycle of any particular government, but achievable within one generation. Something we can all get behind, and hope to see happen within a foreseeable future.
A common goal is the chance to focus our innovation. It also may give us the social license to continue our core business of mining resources for the World.
I believe that our core-economy can fit in a World that demands our valuable resources, but it must be done in a way that ensures future relevance for our citizens and the consumers of our oil, gas, trees and food. If we are to use resources to fund our growth, we should also come up with a meaning that is bigger than the immediate economic impact for doing so.
Then, we have served our community in the long run.