Canada’s Secret Sauce…

Apr 26th, 2017

Canada sits at the precipice of an uncertain, dynamic & inter-connected world that shudders at each jolt to its global psyche.

Disruption, destabilization and dis-intermediation pound our physical and digital borders.

In this world, Canada can lead the way.

Here’s how.

In the 1980’s, the Government of Canada hired Harvard’s Michael Porter to scope out a national competitiveness strategy.

Porter basically said Canada should focus on clusters.

Whether you agree or not, the real gem in Porter’s advice was at its back-end.

“Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; its about deliberately choosing to be different.”

Choosing to be deliberately different, as a nation, matters.

And competitive advantage demands seizing, defining, owning & exploiting difference.

In 1867, Canada was created through a constitution unifying a nation, while institutionalizing silos, through division of powers, for example, in education. By design, it pitted provinces and regions against their national government, across a dynamic, diverse and demographically challenging expanse of physical space.

It may have made sense then, and did so for generations.

In 2017, Canada faces a hyper-uncertain, dynamic & inter-connected world disrupted, destabilized and dis-intermediated, across all aspects of life, especially in education. By design, provinces, territories & regions need to converge with their national government, across a dynamic, diverse and demographically challenging expanse of physical and digital space, in order to be different, and hopefully competitive.

What’s needed is the unleashing of our secret sauce, marinated for 150 years, across generations.

The sauce?


Raw, developed and developing talent. Indigenous, Metis, Inuit, multicultural, bilingual/multilingual, Canadian-born or not, parents, adults, professionals, students, teenagers, craftspeople, seniors and kids and anyone else.

Born or naturalized and built with diverse lived experiences and aspirations who inhabit a set of values and ethics that shaped and continue to shape this country.

We need to spiritually & intellectually vaporize silos that impede our people and talent so as to grow and empower our society so demonstrate that we are different and different is good and competitive.

Honouring our past, embracing today, and driving our future.


Canada is a gold mine.

Of polymaths. Multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary talent residing in each person across generations and experiences.

Our challenge is to take it, share it and export it to the world.

The Greek word polymathes means “having learned much”. Poly means “much,” and manthanein means “learn.”

Canadians are natural polymaths.

Created as a result of experiences throughout our culture, values, demography and institutional structures. Uniquely and deeply embedding our psyche reflected throughout the world where Canadians move, live and impact. And equally importantly, reflected in our imperfections as a people, culture and nation.

You might argue, many countries have the same ingredients.

But they don’t have our secret sauce.

Charter of Rights and Freedoms guaranteeing language, minority and legal rights, among others and importantly protecting human rights in the written Constitution Act of Canada, 1988. A Multiculturalism Act enabling support of education, language, and scholarship of communities, among others. And the reality and promise of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and its voice.

We are different and should re-shape our competitive advantage to take advantage of us, thereby driving Canadian innovation at its most basic.

How? Get rid of specific educational and institutional silos to truly enable innovation and competitive advantage to occur.

Like making interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary education at pre-kindergarten the core curriculum across the country by giving kids the chance to fix the world the way they want; like seeding an entrepreneurship culture at elementary schools by encouraging a better business plan for a lemonade stand with a franchise model that can be applied across provinces and recognized as curriculum (and maybe supported by tax credits); like putting the math whiz, the artist and the student council president in the same high school lab to figure out how to solve poverty in Canada using leading edge Canadian technology while talking to peers in real time across all provinces and territories as well as Canadian kids around the world studying in schools outside our school boards; like busting out federal science support for university social/humanities & pure/applied science funding and putting it on a transparent Blockchain that eviscerates the traditional model of university funding while embracing citizen science.

Canadians are natural polymaths, and polymaths are natural innovators.

Its our secret sauce.

We just need to enable us.


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