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Diversify or die?

Diversify or die?

Diversifying Alberta’s economy has been on the policy agenda since at least the mid-eighties. Over the next four decades, the file has been handed from one premier to another like a hot potato at a party game. Premier Notley is the latest. She’s appointed an Advisory Committee on the Economy and now created a new (again) department of Economic Development and Trade.

Notley defined her initiative as “a unique effort for a unique time in Alberta’s economic story.” Of course, there is nothing unique about it. From Lougheed to Redford, premiers have sliced this onion in countless ways—often leaving taxpayers in tears over the billions lost in failed investments. As Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid observes: “A familiar dynamic always defeats the good intentions; when times are tough, diversification is impractical. When there’s a boom, it isn’t needed. The initiatives sputter and die, time after time.”

So why should we believe that THIS time should be any different? Is it the potentially permanent “new normal” of $50-$60 oil—a price that is kicking the industry in the teeth—and throwing thousands out of work? Or perhaps it’s our collective exhaustion with a never-ending boom and bust economy?

A digital oil report produced by GE, Accenture, and JuneWarren-Nickle’s Energy Group says the energy sector isn’t facing a price war but a cost war, and innovation is the weapon of choice. But maximizing innovation isn’t just about technology—it needs the engagement of people and who can help refine processes and overcome existing inefficiencies like organizational silos. The greatest barrier to innovation is lack of knowledge about technology, its application, and the benefits. Those barriers are overcome with better communication, more focused leadership, and enhanced collaboration within and amongst organizations.

In a grassroots effort to promote collaboration and inspire innovation, the Alberta Council of Technologies is hosting a conference in Calgary on November 30, 2015. In addition to a variety of presentations, the conference will feature a panel of experts weighing in on this important question. Panelists include Jim Dewald (Dean of the Haskayne School of Business), Dylan Jones (President and CEO of the Canada West Foundation), Daniel Doz (President of ACAD), and Suzanne West (CEO of Imaginea Energy). I’ll be facilitating that discussion as moderator.

Innovation is as much about attitude as aptitude—an orientation toward discovery and sharing which needs to be reignited at the industry, corporate, and individual level. If you want to inspire your inner innovator, and meet others, please join us.