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CEO's Shine at 2007 Canadian Business Leadership Forum


I was downtown yesterday attending the 2007 Canadian Business Leadership Forum. The forum featured insights from some of Canada's top business leaders, as well as a panel discussion of the 2007 All-Star Execs hosted by the editor of Canadian Business Magazine - Joe Chidley.

The general theme was "Creating Competitive Advantage", and each speaker gave us tips on how they are helping their companies stay on top of their competitive game.

Here is a quick summary of the highlights of each speech:

1) Martin Parker - Managing Director, Waterstone Human Capital - "How Corporate Culture Impacts Competitive Advantage"

  • The definition of corporate culture is "It's how things are done around here"
  • "We're in a war for talent - there's a growing scarcity of human capital in Canada"
  • Companies have to create an employer brand based on an employee value proposition
  • When companies hire, they are looking for "fit" (ie. which behaviours will work in our organization?)
  • Companies should get out of behavioural interviewing (often they are merely a performance) and get into business planning style interviews to give employers an idea as to how potential candidates THINK

2) Louie Mele - President, McDonald's Canada - "Keeping the Golden Arches Shining"

  • One reason that McDonald's failed in some cases with new product introduction is that we "took our eyes off our fries"
  • Three of the key elements of competitive advantage are: principles, business models and innovations
  • We build our business model on the principle of the 3 legged stool (Ray Kroc)...customers, suppliers and franchisors. If one leg fails, the whole stool falls down
  • "We operate a global brand in a local way"
  • Our brand mission is to be "our customers favourite place and way to eat"

3) W. Brett Wilson - Managing Director and Chairman, FirstEnergy Capital Corp. - "Partnerships, Priorities and Prairie Ethics: A Survival Guide For Success in Business and in Life"

  • "We partner with people, not assets"
  • You could describe our company as somewhat maverick with a lot of attitude
  • "We all ride for the brand"
  • Giving back and creating a legacy are very important (on the subject of charity work)
  • "Sometimes you have to give yourself permission to make changes in your life"

4) Kevin Dougherty - President, Sun Life Financial Canada - "Competitive Advantage in Financial Services"

  • "Competition for resources and glory can kill an idea in a large corporation"
  • You have to "shift the path of competition in your favour"
  • Business strategies should be cross-competitive

5) Doug Cooper - Country Manager, Intel Canada - "Leading in the Knowledge Economy"

  • On the subject of corporate blogs..."sometimes you just have to let the conversation happen"
  • "Engagement goes up dramatically when you allow your customers to talk to you"
  • "There's a shift from Assets to Values" (ie. from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0)
  • Web 2.0 is a commitment to participate - it encourages conversation across silos in an organization

6) Bill Buxton - Principal Researcher, Microsoft Corp. (author of "Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design") - "Great Ideas Are A Dime a Dozen. It's What You Do With Them That Counts."

  • A recent Conference Board of Canada report gave Canada a "D" in the area of innovation
  • We don't know how to communicate good ideas
  • We are taking all the play and creativity out of kids and then wonder why they're not entrepreneurs
  • "Safe and reliable" is the most dangerous thing you can do - it leads to certain death
  • Design is choice, and creativity can be brought to alternatives and to the heuristics of choice
  • Quote from Alan Kay - "It takes almost as much creativity to understand a good idea as it does to have it in the first place"
  • Innovation is an extreme sport, and involves the right: skills, tools, fitness and partners (just like in mountain climbing)
  • The stuff that will make a difference in the future is already 10 years old

How do you create competitive advantage in your company? How do you foster and encourage innovation and creativity?



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