How to Cultivate a Culture of Innovation – Toronto Panel Event Key Take Aways

On October 2, 2018 Stratford Managers and Welch LLP co-hosted an expert panel series on How to Cultivate a Culture of Innovation. Hosted by the Globe and Mail’s Josh O’Kane, the panel consisted of Alan Fong, CTO of Fleet Complete, Jonathan La Greca, Strategic Growth and Brand Building of Hotspex, and Jim Roche, President and CEO Stratford Managers. Kirstine Stewart was scheduled to be part of the panel, but due to illness was unable to attend. In her place, we were fortunate to have Aamer Siddiqui, Manager at Welch LLP. Here are a few of our key take-aways from the session broken down into Strategy, People and Process:


“Innovation is an idea that adds value” – Jonathan La Greca

When an organization approaches innovation or is seeking to add value through innovation having a clear understanding about what you want to achieve is paramount. A lot of companies tend to react to the market versus taking strategic steps to define what it is they’d like to achieve.  It’s important to commit to developing a strategy to set and reach your organizational goals through innovation. Organizations then have to have the commitment to set aside the time, resources and planning to make them happen.

“A lot of companies are bloated. They’re suffering from idea indigestion not starvation” – Jonathan La Greca

The struggle is not to come up with new ideas, but what do you do with the idea once you have it? Perhaps related to process as much as it does to strategy, organizations need to define what successful innovation means and how you are going to reward your innovators. Rewards can be as simple as recognition or as complex as bonus incentives, but the innovation needs to relate back to the strategic goals and objectives defined by the business.


Innovation is going to come from the collective. If the people and the environment aren’t set to facilitate the organizations’ strategy and innovation processes the ideas aren’t going to progress. Ultimately they’ll end up wasting time, money, and resources that could’ve been fruitful. A few of the people challenges organizations experience that hinder innovation include: having a leader or executive team that’s scared to fail, team members don’t speak-up and share ideas, or office politics hinder an idea’s ability to move forward.

“Change the people or change the people” – Jonthan La Greca

So, how do you encourage a culture of innovation among your people so that innovation can flourish? According to the panel it was about risk management. You need to create a culture where taking on risk is ok and there is some success in failure. Innovative ideas are going to come from everywhere in your organization: your customers, your competitors, your executive and the members of your team in the “trenches”. Your people need to feel supported and empowered to bring ideas to the table.


“Driving intrinsic value is key” – Alan Fong, CTO Fleet Complete

Once organizations have developed their innovation strategy, how they communicate to their teams is key. Panelist and Stratford Managers’ CEO Jim Roche referred to the shareholder letters written by Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon as an illustration of setting tough goals and holding teams accountable for the results. Putting a process in place and having the willingness to stick to the positive ideas is what sets the successful organizations apart.

“It’s necessity that drives innovation” – Jim Roche

Organizations looking to have an innovation focus need to be pragmatic and purposeful with how they approach innovation and that means putting an innovation process in place. Lean methodologies were suggested as a great way to facilitate innovation.


Following the panel event, Jonathan put together a LinkedIn post series on Creating a Culture for Innovation with the key take-aways, insights, and thoughts he obtained during the evening’s session. In the first post of the series, Jonathan asks and answers some tough questions around defining innovation.

“The definition of innovation being “an idea that adds value” provides the flexibility of including both the”disruptive” and “revolutionary” innovations, while also including some of those simpler and “evolutionary” innovations that build on something that already exists, but add value in a new way.”

The first part of the series “Defining Innovation” is currently available on LinkedIn.