On July 15th, 2017, representatives of Samuel, Son & Co., Limited and the Samuel Family Foundation hosted a discussion on innovation, diversity and inclusive growth in today’s manufacturing sector as part of the SHAPE North America Summit 2017 in Toronto. The event offered a unique opportunity to link the corporate sector with a group of youth leaders who are part of the broader Global Shapers Community.
The Global Shapers Community, an initiative of the World Economic Forum, is a network of Hubs developed and led by young people around the world who are exceptional in their potential, their achievements, and their drive to make a contribution to their communities. The SHAPE North America Summit aims to connect delegates with the tangible networks, capital, and resources necessary to magnify their impact in the four policy priorities for the Summit: NAFTA, Women in Business, Innovation and Artificial Intelligence, and Clean Growth.
Moderator Cecile Chung (General Counsel, Samuel, Son & Co., Limited) opened the event in Toronto by showing a video presentation on the use of 3D printing, highlighting the convergence of the physical and digital in today’s manufacturing sector. She then introduced panelists Bill Chisholm (CEO, Samuel, Son & Co., Limited), Dr. Ilse Treurnicht (CEO, MaRS Discovery District), and Dr. Adeola Olubamiji (Lead Material/Metallurgical Engineer, Burloak Technologies, a division of Samuel).
When asked what the digitization of manufacturing means to them, Mr. Chisholm remarked on just how much change and disruption is happening in the industry today — exemplified, he said, by the fact that Samuel presently utilizes a dozen robots in production, whereas just four years ago the company had none. Dr. Treurnicht also underscored the pace of change as well as the impact on entire systems, such as supply chains. Dr. Olubamiji mentioned that there are significant benefits to additive manufacturing and predicted an even more advanced digital future for the industry.
The panelists were then asked for their views on the people behind the machines and on what changes are needed in order to maximize human capital. Dr. Treurnicht explained that educational systems are also being disrupted by technology, forcing a shift in the traditional cycle of school-job-retire to one of constantly changing jobs and skill sets. Therefore, she added, schools, companies and countries need to become more flexible to facilitate ongoing learning. Mr. Chisholm highlighted the importance of marrying technology with human resources, especially in the process of data collection and cyber security.
The next question focused on what needs to change in how industry, education and government interact. Dr. Olubamiji argued that companies should be willing to provide their employees with the training they need to contend with changing technology. More broadly, she added, societies need to do better in promoting the field of engineering and science generally, especially among children. She recalled her experience volunteering with Let’s Talk Science Canada and how the kids she worked with were more willing to learn about the subject when it was taught in a friendly and fun manner.
For the discussion portion of the event, the Shapers were tasked with developing ideas in support of the Samuel company’s vision to hire a new Chief Innovation Officer (CIO), and with considering the conditions needed for the role to thrive. They were asked what skills the person should have, what the key mandate of the role should be, and how good candidates could be attracted and retained.
A number of Shapers agreed that a CIO needs to be an authentic facilitator capable of promoting collaboration and participatory decision making. Others emphasized the importance of creativity, passion, an ability to translate company values into behaviours, and to see ahead of the market. One Shaper argued that the role should sit at the intersection of innovation and entrepreneurship, with the focus being not only on inventing but also on commercialization.
Another key topic of discussion surrounded promoting cultural shifts and creating safe spaces for innovation to happen. As one participant said, successful companies tend to protect innovative projects from other core company work so that they can thrive. There was also discussion about common fears associated with innovation, such as job losses, and thus the importance of ongoing training and education for employees.
More broadly, Shapers in attendance put significant emphasis on the importance of companies fostering a sense of belonging in the workplace. As one participant said, when it comes to innovation, companies need to listen to their young workers, not only their most senior staff. Other issues facing millennials in the workforce were also discussed, including the all-important message of team building in larger organizations.
To learn more about the Global Shapers Community and get involved, please visit https://www.globalshapers.org.