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Thoughts On Innovation – Sheri Somerville

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Sheri Somerville is CEO of Atlantic Chamber of Commerce (ACC), the largest accredited business association in Atlantic Canada representing more than 16,000 businesses through its network of 93 chambers and 25 corporate partners.

A successful entrepreneur, leader and award-winning PR consultant to some of the nation’s leading companies, she is a globally certified communications professional with more than 21-years of multi-sector business experience. A proud Atlantic Canadian, Sheri partners with ACC’s member Chambers and businesses to drive advocacy and programming which influences growth and prosperity for business and people in the region.


What is your definition of “innovation”?

Innovation can be a very subjective term for people because it can describe a range of things. It can take the form of a revolutionary new product that disrupts the market or be a simple tweak to a process that produces new efficiencies. For me, innovation means developing and implementing new ideas or ways of doing things that ultimately yield results or create value for your end user or customers.


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

Successful companies continuously evolve to grow—it’s that simple. If businesses in Canada wish to remain competitive nationally and internationally in the coming years, they’ll need to increase their rates of innovation and adoption of new technologies.

Interestingly, Statistics Canada recently revealed that larger enterprises are reporting higher rates of innovation across Canada at nearly 90% compared with only 78% of small enterprises. This is particularly important here in Atlantic Canada when you consider that 98% of our businesses are small to medium in size. And although we’ve made great strides in the last five years, moving from 45 to 69% of our companies reporting innovating, our region still lags behind other provinces by about 10% when it comes to innovation rates. Cultivating the spirit of innovation and investing new ideas and technologies will be critical to the sustainability of our businesses and economic growth in Atlantic Canada.


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

You just never know where the game-changing idea that maximizes the benefit of your investment dollars is going to come from. One of my favorite things as a PR consultant were the brainstorming sessions we’d have to develop solutions for clients. They were always fun, and as a result I learned early on that there are no bad ideas, you just have to put them all out there and see what works best.

The key is to develop an open culture of idea generation that engages a variety of contributors. I’ve seen employees suggest new approaches to their daily tasks which created unique safety and productivity improvements, but also, new people outside an organization who’ve recommended a novel solution that opened up new markets—all you have to do is keep asking for and listening to ideas that can be effectively executed within your business model.

 

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