Our two-hour session with Microsoft Canada‘s President: Eric Gales and DeGroote’s Benson Honig (Teresa Cascioli Chair in Entrepreneurial Leadership), began with Eric throwing out the term ‘risk’ to see how the MBA students would react to it. We happened to throw out some positive words in response, but most Canadians wouldn’t do that because Canadians are risk averse by nature.
Our super-insightful discussion with Mr. Gales and Dr. Honig highlighted the idea that because the Canadian population is so risk averse, their tendency to reject a new idea undermines their ability to innovate. It was suggested that we Canadians are not aggressive enough to assert ourselves. Risk is associated with negativity in this country and in order for that to change, the whole Canadian culture has to change. We are seeing a trend, as European-Canadian Immigrants mature in the workforce and as the Asian immigrants enter, a significant change will be visible. Dr. Honig clearly pointed out that it is not the educational system that shapes people, its people that shape the educational system.
The gentlemen also highlighted the strong relationship between risk and trust and Mr. Gales talked about how when ambiguous projects are assigned to individuals, it is very helpful to de-risk them and empower them by showing them that ‘I got your back’; perhaps by removing the liability of them being fired! Often times in the corporate culture, you will see individuals support an idea all the way till it has to be implemented and the idea gets dropped because it was ‘too risky’.
It was also pointed out that countries like UK (London specifically) breed innovation because they are so hyperactive, contrary to Canada where we see negativity associated with risk. Nevertheless, Europe as a whole may not uphold this mindset, it is only populated areas, like London or New York. The question is, which is the dominant culture. In the coming years, we will be seeing new trends. For example, Canada is finally globalizing. Every time an immigrant enters this country, a new opportunity to build a partnership with the country of origin of that immigrant arises.The coming years may pull us away from U.S dominant trade and make us more international. Its worth highlighting that Canadians will never push that they are ‘superior’. Canadians are quiet and confident.