OTTAWA—It takes courage and discipline to execute great ideas.
And it takes constant innovation to keep those ideas alive in a world where a global leader like BlackBerry can become a painful lesson about those that fall behind.
While Elyse Allan, President and CEO of GE Canada and VP of GE, didn’t mention BlackbBerry in her speech last Friday, Sept. 27, the advice she gave participants at the Ottawa business breakfast with the mayor might have once helped the struggling telecom giant.
The breakfast series is a monthly event hosted by the Ottawa Business Journal and Ottawa Chamber of Commerce.
Attendees get a buffet breakfast with Mayor Jim Watson and the chance to talk shop with community and business leaders about issues critical to the city, like economic development, the environment, and transportation.
On Friday, it was all about innovation. Allan has an impressive reputation and is known as a passionate champion for Canada’s competitiveness.
“In a slow-growth volatile market that we anticipate to be living in for quite some time in the future, my message is this: Canadian business organization leaders must move the innovation conversation from ideas to action, and accomplishing this requires courage, conviction, and sustained leadership,” Allan said.
The CEO called for a commitment to innovation as a core part of regular business operations, a point raised often by those who lament Canada’s comparatively lax productivity, due in part to a failure to innovate.
Besides leading GE in Canada, Allan is widely lauded as one of the country’s top women in business, winning awards and acknowledgement for her work.
In 2009, Canadian Business Magazine named her among the 25 Most Powerful People in Canada. She’s made a name for herself in pushing for scientific and technological advantage, both in the boardroom and on advisory boards within the community and government.
In her speech she provided the framework of GE’s approach to innovation and how the company fosters and executes lessons learned. Here it is in a nutshell:
1. Find new markets and approaches by better evaluating risk and whether that risk limits or enables new ideas.
2. Collaborate with universities or others in the industry to gain value and find new opportunities.
3. Set high goals and have good ways to measure whether you are succeeding.
4. Do it all fast. Bring products to market sooner to get feedback that will let engineers perfect those products, rather than trying to perfect them on their own.