TEDxUW 2016 goes to the Waterloo Innovation Summit

Two of our ambitious team members, Outreach Manager Sam Hashem and Co-Chair Munin Kim, had the amazing opportunity to go to the Waterloo Innovation Summit, which was joint-hosted by the University of Waterloo and Communitech. The conference spanned three days, from September 14-16, and brought together some of the nation’s leading influencers and entrepreneurs to discuss disruption, product development, and growth.

Sam and Munin had the chance to attend three lectures at the summit by Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development, Emma Sinclair, Co-Founder of Enterprise Jungle, and Walter Isaacson, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute. Below, they outline their key learnings.

Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development

During his lecture, Bains outlined his vision for Canada’s future: making Canada the global innovation hub of the world. He believes that Canada must adopt innovation as a national value. Since part of his title is ‘Minister of Innovation’, Bains outlined his responsibilities and those of the federal government in fostering innovation in Canada:

  • Ensuring that Canada’s middle class thrives
  • Committing to ‘investing in the people’
    • Developing work-inclusion programs
    • Nurturing diversity and inclusion
    • Developing a talent pipeline
    • Focusing on workplace training and technologies
  • Attracting original thinkers and doers via the immigration process
  • Supporting the private sector to make risks smaller and more manageable
  • Using government purchasing power to support startups
  • Investing into high potential industries to allow corporations to research and test their ideas
    • To make this easier, the government is also streamlining the process to gain government support.
  • Fighting climate change by investing in green technologies across different industries

Emma Sinclair:

In her lecture, Sinclair asserted that she attributes much of her entrepreneurial success to having ‘grit’. This quality manifested in her when she was a young girl, and can be seen in many of her astounding experiences: from investing her first student loan in Pizza Express, to manually sending her trading sheets to almost every bank in her city. She started her own business at the age of 29, by buying multiple businesses and scaling them up. Sinclair ended up being the youngest person to IPO on the London Stock Exchange.

During her lecture, Sinclair asserted that innovation is something that we do every day. Further, ‘innovation is simplicity’; complexity slows us down, while minimalism pushes us forward. She also discussed a key philosophy that guided her to success: being able to put her money where her mouth is. If she promised a deliverable, she made sure it was ready on time, and exceeded expectations. This type of behaviour fosters trust and fidelity in professional relationships. Finally, she told the summit about the importance of valuing people over businesses, as individuals are ultimately what is behind a company’s success. It’s important not to forget about building relationships and their role in the corporate world.

Munin and Sam resonated the most with the following advice:

  • ‘Numbers never lie’ - be able to back up assertions with data.
  • Everyone is accessible, so reach out! You’ll be surprise who will get back to you and give you their time.
  • Do your homework on a company/industry/person before reaching out. It shows them that you’re professional, and value their time.
  • Don’t be afraid of failure, as it provides many valuable learning opportunities.
  • We are very privileged compared to many other places on Earth - it’s important to remember this and be grateful.

Walter Isaacson:

For his lecture, Isaacson focused on the role of humans in innovation. That is, thinking and imagination. While machines are capable of incredible things and continually push technology and innovation forward, they will never have the human faculties of creativity and imagination. Thus, humans will always have a role in continued innovation.

He envisions innovation as an ‘X’, an intersection between art and science. The driving force behind innovation, however, is succesful team building. Isaacson states: “Building great products is not the hard part, what’s really hard is building a beautiful team. A great team will always continue to build great products”. To illustrate this, he uses the example of Apple. Steve Jobs managed to build a collaborative,dynamic team that continually put forth great products. Jobs offered us ‘symbiosis between machines and humans’. As a result, Apple has become one of the most powerful companies in the world, and is seen as a lead disruptor of technology. Innovation is a collaborative effort.

Munin and Sam’s key takeaways from Isaacson’s lectures were:

  • A key part of building a great team is knowing what you lack, and then bringing it into the team.
  • Ultimately, imagination is more important than knowledge - anyone can gain knowledge, but imagination is what really encourages people to push boundaries.
  • Do your homework on a company/industry/person before reaching out. It shows them that you’re professional, and value their time.
  • Creativity and innovation are team sports.

Did you get a chance to attend the Innovation Summit? Let us know what you learned via social media.