Immigration, Diversity & Innovation in Canada

[Post initially published in LinkedIn]

For all the argument we are currently having regarding immigration throughout the world, when it comes down to innovation many governments are overlooking the huge opportunity that this flow of international talent brings. Innovation feeds off on diversity of thought, and shines when there are restrictive conditions that forces creativity. 

Countries, communities and organizations that recognize the potential in being inclusive, not only for the sake of doing something good in the world, but because they understand the advantages of diversity will win at innovating. Tapping into the current wave of multicultural, multi-skilled and multi-generational talent being forced to start anew is a historical opportunity that, if managed properly, is bound to boost invention, creativity and value in our societies. 

Allow me to elaborate:

  •  Innovation has been democratized: no longer it is required large R&D budgets to come up with a breakthrough idea or even launch a new product or service (especially if they are digital). Startup incubators and ‘digital academies’ are a dime a dozen nowadays all teaching how to start a business, and assisting a large number of 'international talent' in the path of entrepreneurship or freelancing in the digital economy.


  • Emerging technologies are becoming mainstream: want to access the power of machine learning? Sure, you can now use IBM Watson for your project, need a mobile app for your business? No problem, there’s a plethora of platforms for app development without the need of coding; setting up an e-commerce portal? Shopifyet al got your back. The access to emerging technologies is becoming increasingly within reach to almost anybody. We call it the consummerization of emerging technologies. 


  • Immigrants survival: Entrepreneurship as an option for immigrants is nothing new, it has been one of the traditional labour pathways for newcomers when they need to survive in a new country without an established network. But now, the options to become a ‘digital newcomer’ are improving even when they lack local experience and connections. While it is still certainly difficult to start fresh as an immigrant, for those newcomers willing to explore digital careers and accessible innovation pathways, the hill is not that steep anymore.

On the other side of the coin, we are observing more companies in Canada that are seeking ways of staying competitive, and that are looking at innovation as more than just the obligatory buzzword inserted in quarterly reports. In Canada, conservatism is the norm, although we are just starting to break out of our shell when it comes down to invest seriously in innovation. We observe a palpable sense of quiet anxiety in established industries as they witness the ubers and airbnb's of the startup world nibbling at their markets. It is this fear of disruption more than anything else that is prodding some industries from mining to banking to ponder ever more seriously to dive in with both feet and invest in innovation.

We see these forces converging slowly but surely in 2017 where we will witness a massive influx of foreign talent by immigration and refugees, and the awakening of corporate innovation in Canada. Diversity and inclusivity will play a central role in advancing the creation of new products, services and experiences from the Great White North. And we can't wait for that to happen.


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