What will it take to make Toronto companies more innovative?


When checking my tweetstream on Monday, I came across this tweet by @LocalToronto ….

“GTA firms don’t highly rate the need to innovate, study finds.”

There was a link to a Globe and Mail article with the same name.

Fireworks at Nathan Phillips SquareBefore clicking on the link I thought “Hmmm, tell me something I don’t know.” This is not the first study that has highlighted concerns about the lack of innovation in corporate Canada.

I wasn’t surprised. You see I have lived and worked in the GTA for longer than I care to own. I’ve noticed a pattern is repeated far too often in local companies.

Groupthink prevails. Team members get promoted to management if they socialize and go along with the status quo. Team members with creative and innovative ideas are viewed as upstarts, a threat to team leaders and trying to show people up.

Naturally, I am not talking about all companies in the Toronto area. There are some truly exciting and innovative firms in Toronto. These are great places where people work hard but still remember how to have fun. My company has had the pleasure of working with some of them.

Unfortunately, in too many organizations, a spirit of conservatism and its twin brother nepotism prevail. Risk-taking is discouraged. Innovation is stifled. Expressing a point of view that is different from the rest of the team and, heaven forbid, the team leader is definitely a career limiting move.

Before you shake your head, think “there she goes again being negative” and click away, please read a little further.

On what was this study based that (sadly) confirmed my impressions? In this case, it came straight from the horse’s mouth:

“The study commissioned by George Brown College surveyed more than 300 Greater Toronto Area employers, and less than a third said they would invest in innovation to increase long-term profits at the expense of short-term gains. Half the companies said investing in innovation is primarily government’s responsibility, while 55 per cent couldn’t name a successful local innovator, and only 58 per cent felt fully confident they understood the very meaning of innovation.”

Ouch! This is what corporate leaders had to say about themselves and what they value. Clearly to admit to it, they must feel that these are admirable traits.

So what did the study find?

“Toronto-area companies show little interest in innovating and place higher value on efficient, hard work than creative skills despite expert warnings that Canada is lagging behind in the global innovation race, says a new report.”

This is not the first study about innovation in Canada that identified concerns:


What will it take for GTA companies to change and become more innovative?

It won’t be easy. It will take visionary leaders who value innovation and who have the courage and guts to re-shape corporate culture even if this means shaking things up. It will take corporate values that reward honesty and integrity and direct feedback rather than backbiting.

Real team building can help. Yes “real” team building, not just playing golf or going out for drinks after work and perpetuating the good old boys network that got companies into trouble in the first place. So can benchmarking, factory tours and visits to local and foreign companies with a reputation for fostering innovation to uncover best practices.

Can Toronto companies become more innovative? I am confident that they are up to the challenge.

For more ideas, check out some of our recent posts:

Photo Credits:   Harvey KBenson KuaThe City of Toronto


Now that you have sampled our innovative team building approaches through this blog, we hope that you will keep Executive Oasis International in mind the next time your company requires Toronto team building, an executive retreat in Toronto or on-site consulting to boost the effectiveness of your teams.

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