Mark Goldberg


Innovation needs more than just engineering

Sara Diamond, President and Vice-Chancellor of OCAD, and Karel Vredenburg, head of IBM Studios Canada, wrote a piece in the weekend Globe and Mail, entitled “There’s no innovation agenda without design thinking“.

Today, competitive success is determined by the ability to understand human needs and desires and to deliver richly imagined ways of addressing them. Many organizations recognize the importance of innovation, but they don’t know how to achieve it. The answer is design.

Now, of course the head of Ontario’s college of art and design will say that the “answer is design.” But there is merit to considering the need to include the arts, humanities and social sciences together with the typical focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

A few years ago, I wrote “Is your recruiting smart enough?” in which I extolled the virtues of increased diversity in hiring. I recall that at Bell Laboratories, we had geography and music graduates working alongside engineering and mathematics grads as we designed new capabilities for the AT&T long distance network. Our customers weren’t all engineers; we needed to make sure that human factors were part of feature design work, not just engineering elegance. I wrote about how we used to recruit at Bell Labs in a post “A diversity of views“.

We need to do better leveraging the diversity that makes Canada such a great country. Our technology companies need to do a better job hiring from non-traditional areas including the arts, humanities and social sciences. And we should do a better job reading resumes from our military veterans, leveraging their experience and leadership develop under the most trying conditions.

As Diamond and Vredenburg write, “This would be a profoundly Canadian tack, using our creative talent and culturally diverse know-how to effectively address and build markets and ensure a competitive advantage against purely STEM plays in other jurisdictions.”

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