Canada has been at a crossroads for some time now. Look one way and you’ll see opportunities presented from the Digital Revolution. Look the other, and it’s business as usual. Truthfully, ‘business as usual’ is not really an option right now. Times are changing and there is an urgent need for the Canadian market to move beyond extracting natural resources and capitalize on the opportunities presented by the knowledge-based economy.
Our country is in the perfect position to succeed in the digital era – the only thing holding us back is our unwillingness to change. We all need to start thinking like entrepreneurs and startups. Large or small, Canadian businesses need to start adopting the start up mentality – being lean, nimble and innovative.
As of late, our federal government has recognized the urgency of the situation. The Innovation agenda is aimed solely on helping Canadian businesses globally, not locally. The gems lie in small to medium sized businesses, or SMEs, on Canadian soil.
SMEs with fewer than 500 employees account for 97.9 per cent of Canadian businesses and employ 91 per cent of Canada’s private sector workforce.
In the past, a large number of small businesses was considered a disadvantage; SMEs don’t often have deep pockets or the resources to make it globally. But, in the time of digital disruption, where a team of 55 can capture a market of over a billion people, SMEs have the agility to seize opportunities that large enterprises do not.
Think about it this way, would you rather be driving a motorcycle or an 18-wheeler when you have to change course quickly?
It’s not just the role of government and large corporations to make the change to innovation. It’s time for SMEs to step into a leadership position and use their nimbleness to their advantage. The only way that’s going to happen is if Canadians change their attitude in these four ways:
- Increase our tolerance for risk. Traditional Canadian caution needs to become a part of our history and not our future
- Adopt a startup mentality in organizations of all sizes – large and small, public and private sector. The small business model runs on a sense of urgency, with intense customer discovery and ceaseless experimentation. If you don’t have that sense of urgency and intensity, you’re going to have a difficult time transitioning and adjusting to this new age of uncertainty and digital disruption.
- Actively invest in true innovation. Innovation is not tweaking an existing process for cost reduction. True innovation comes from disruptive thinking and daring to create completely new business models.
- Think globally. Businesses that succeed are pursuing global opportunities. As a nation, we need to think big and recognize our ability to compete in markets around the world.
In order to compete, however, Canada needs to nurture and develop the talent to compete globally in the Digital Revolution. Despite having an acute focus on our natural resources, we have do have several advantages. A strong education system, a highly skilled workforce, and some support workers that were displaced by change such as automation.
Woman remain an untapped resource in the SME space. Investors need to start paying attention to female entrepreneurs because they can do more with less funding. Government must also understand they have to develop regulatory and policy agendas that are in sync with and moving at the pace of this new digital economy.