Posted By admin / 17th May 2010
This week on Collaborative Corner, Nicole Sheldrake who is a creative writer and the founder of Vancouver Innovation Camp discusses exploring ‘Capitalizing on Change’: A Forum for Women Entrepreneurs event.
Last week I attended the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs Spring Roundtable event, my first with the FWE. The topic was ‘Capitalizing on Change’ and the schedule called for a panel discussion then breakout groups with the panelists and finally, networking time. I was most attracted to the breakout groups part since I wanted to do something more interactive than listening to speakers.
Panel Discussion and Change
The 5 panelists were:
- Jay-Ann Ford, Chief Human Resources Officer, Coast Capital Savings
- Susan Yurkovich, Senior VP – Corporate Affairs, BC Hydro
- Zahra Mamdani, President, Wear Else
- Tony Stewart, CEO, Quail’s Gate Winery
- Stan Fuller, President, Earls Restaurants Ltd
The aim was for the panelists to discuss questions from the audience but ended up with the panelists answering 1 or 2 question each without any discussion between them. I think perhaps the set up contributed to this; it’s difficult to have a conversation when you are sitting down the table and across the podium from someone and can’t see their face very well.
Hearing their answers to questions about how they deal with change was motivating because they confirmed that the activities I run at Innovation Camp are teaching the right skills to succeed in the constantly changing world of business.
There were no new insights however. The advice was basically: plan for as many different outcomes as you can think of, a recession is a good time to re-brand and innovate, prototype rapidly, learn from your failures and always, always treat your customers respectfully and with honesty.
Breakout Groups and Innovation
Stan Fuller, president of Earls Restaurants, was our discussion leader for the breakout group. A bright bunch of women and a couple of men shared their experiences and asked each other for advice with their businesses. Issues ranged from how do I get new clients buying my product to tips on starting a franchise. Overall, it was inspiring to hear how motivated and supportive our local female entrepreneurs are!
One particular conversation with Stan Fuller that I found fascinating was about promoting innovation within his company. Until that point, the group had been discussing innovation at the executive level. Stan mentioned that he does not promote innovation at lower levels (i.e. servers) because the employees do not understand the complexity of the business.
On one hand I understood where Stan was coming from but on the other I wondered if he was missing some opportunities – the first one, to educate his staff about the business, the second one, to utilize the different perspectives and individual talents that employees bring to a company.
Earls does promote innovation in some areas however. Every kitchen manager is required to have a certain number of new ideas being developed and prototyped each month.
A Culture of Innovation
It’s clear there is a culture of innovation at Earls but only at certain levels, i.e. executive and management. The question is, is it worth the time and effort to promote innovation at all levels?
What do you think? Let us know your experiences and thoughts!