Last night, I attended the Upper Canada College Founder's Day Dinner. The keynote speaker was successful entrepreneur Reza Satchu, who is also the co-founder of The Next 36 (www.thenext36.ca). The Next 36 is a non-profit charity with a mission of "turning the country’s top students into Canada’s high impact entrepreneurs and nation-building business leaders."
Reza had some interesting observations (many of which were also discussed in a 2012 Profit Guide interview) including:
- The difference between the Canadian and US workforce is that we don't have nor encourage enough extraordinarily successful entrepreneurs which he terms the "right tail" problem. These entrepreneurs not only generate significant numbers of jobs and GDP growth, but also serve as role models and mentors to sustain this community.
- Potential entrepreneurs, especially students, need to be exposed to successful entrepreneurs so they can learn, and build expectations of similar successes.
- His definition of an entrepreneur is someone who undertakes “the relentless pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.” "It basically means you’re willing to make stuff happen—you won’t let what you want to build tomorrow be constrained by what you have today."
- Canadians in general, he believes, have a fear of failure (which presumably includes the associated difficulty of recovering from such setbacks to reestablish your career). This, in turn, drives the desire for perfect information (to minimize risk) before proceeding; something that is obviously impossible and self-defeating for entrepreneurship.
- Reza also believes that schools at all levels need to teach and encourage more students to study STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), as well as business and entrepreneurship. He also encourages successful Canadians to support these activities through mentoring and investing, which is the mission of The Next 36.
I share his concern about the need to foster entrepreneurship and innovation to ensure Canada's future prosperity. Having taught STEM subjects, business courses and entrepreneurship at the high school, college and university levels, I also agree that these courses need to be offered, promoted and enrolment encouraged. Relating core STEM material, especially mathematics, to real world issues and opportunities as opposed to just providing drills with no context, goes a long way to making it more appealing. Also, a heavy school focus on testing and marking for the purpose of grading as opposed to self-assessment and learning, encourages cramming and memorization while discouraging risk-taking and the true understanding that comes with setbacks (which some term - incorrectly - as failure). Here's hoping Reza and the rest of us can get the Canadian innovation engine into a higher gear!
© Duncan Jones Hexagon-Innovating.com (2015)