Mediaplanet: What makes the Canadian landscape so unique when it comes to innovation?

Arlene Dickinson: Canada has several advantages when it comes to driving innovation. We have a strong education system that produces world-class engineers, scientists, and business people as well as extraordinary natural resources, from natural gas to precious metals. We have dependable technology infrastructure, a stable and transparent government, and the secret ingredient to driving innovation which is hard working, creative, and brave entrepreneurs. As a nation, we have all the raw ingredients to be the most innovative and prosperous country in the world. The task we have before us is to turn these raw ingredients into products and turn those products into international businesses.

MP: What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome to become successful?

AD: I’ve always said I wish I had dreamt bigger. People say to me, “But look at all you have done!” and I can only think of how much more I could have accomplished had I allowed myself to have a larger scale view. Ultimately, the biggest obstacle became myself and self-moderating my vision. I believe the bigger a vision you have — the more audacious a plan you have — the bigger your world becomes. 

MP: Why should Canadians care about entrepreneurs?

AD: Canadians should care about entrepreneurs because they are the most important element of the Canadian economy, and ultimately, help build our social and cultural makeup. When an entrepreneur creates a successful business, they generate incremental wealth for the country, which contributes to the tax base, which contributes to the social programs we as Canadians hold so dear, like public health care and education. If you’re a patriotic Canadian, you should be passionate about helping entrepreneurs succeed.

MP: How can we encourage youth to stay innovative as they start to think about their future?

AD: It’s important to let our youth know that innovation doesn’t just mean a tech start-up run out of your parent’s garage. Innovation isn’t just about technology. It’s about new ideas and new ways of doing things.  The reality is that innovation can happen anywhere. Innovation can happen at a marketing firm, it can happen in the food and beverage industry, or in agricultural and environmental practices.

To that end, it’s important to teach youth that innovation starts with how they think about how the world operates.  Seeing new ways to do things and exploring them is perhaps what youth are best at. Innovation is the fountain of youth of every industry and sector and is what’s needed in order for it to be competitive. If we take the broader idea of what innovation is and teach it to youth, they can begin to practice it no matter where they are, or what they are interested in.