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Thoughts on Innovation – Bruce MacLellan

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Bruce MacLellan, CEO, Proof Inc.

Bruce MacLellan is a veteran communications counsellor and entrepreneur, and in 1994 became the founding President & CEO of Proof Inc. He is also co-founder of sister company Proof Experiences Inc. Together, the Proof family of companies operate in five offices across North America with a team of over 180 people.
Bruce has provided counsel to leaders in business, government and professional sports and continues to apply his entrepreneurial thinking to existing and new opportunities with the firm and clients. He regularly provides media interview and communications skills training to senior clients. In 2016, Bruce was honoured with the Award of Attainment by the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) for his leadership and contributions to the profession. In 2019, he sponsored the creation of the CPRS Entrepreneurial Leadership Award. As an active volunteer, Bruce serves currently as Chair of the National Board of the Nature Conservancy of Canada, the country’s largest land conservation charity. 

What is your definition of “innovation”?

Innovation is the disciplined process of pushing for ways of doing something better, faster or cheaper, or some mix of all three. Ideally, there is a customer benefit, allowing the innovative organization to grow and prosper. At Proof, it’s about supporting people to experiment in doing things that are new or different in how we deliver excellence in communications for clients. We must expect mistakes and failure in this process, but the discipline is in not tolerating complacency, mediocrity or incompetence. Innovation should also be about excellence.

Why is it important for companies to innovate and invest in modern technologies?

The capitalist system functions by eliminating weakness and rewarding innovation. Without innovation, a company will fade away to nothing. Henry Ford watched other people trying to perfect faster horses or lighter buggies, and then he developed the mass-produced automobile. Innovation is not only important or the industry, it’s important for employee morale and company culture. The best talent wants to work at a company where change is encouraged and expected. In our business, innovation is about understanding client challenges trying different approaches and building new services (innovating) to meet those needs. With the Internet, tools and technologies allow us to be more efficient and learn faster than ever before – all to serve our clients better.

What advice can you give to Canadian businesses looking to make the most out of their investments in innovation?

Know your industry sector, observe your competitors, listen to your clients and deliver what they need. Innovation is a long-term play and requires lots of collaboration and willingness to fail. Leadership must set the tone. “Cool” offices don’t equal innovation – open and curious-minded people willing to try new things – with the leeway to try, learn, fail, try, learn, succeed. Invest in the right people, set a standard of excellence and skip the pool table!

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