After all the fireworks are over, the speeches have ended and the parties have wrapped up, Canadians might have a moment during the 150th anniversary celebrations where they look at each other and ask, “Now what?”
That’s actually an excellent question to pose, because the answers could be really exciting.
Of course, Canada’s milestone birthday is a wonderful moment to cheer everything that has made and continues to make this country great. It’s also an opportune moment to take stock — not only of our history and where we’ve come from, but where we’re going. The one thing we know for sure is that, while physical stamina and manual effort may have been key to overcoming Canada’s wilderness and forming early settlements, our future will be based on the quality of ideas we generate, and on which we execute.
Today, Canada ranks 15th on the Global Innovation Index. Rather than wring our hands, why not use the 150th as a catalyst for reimagining our ability to stimulate breakthrough thinking? The best news is that we already have the tools to make it possible, and you don’t have to be a fortune-teller to see that they’re only going to have greater impact from here on in:
The past 150 years have largely been the story of Canadians building out and up — not just buildings, but expensive and complex IT infrastructure that requires significant upkeep. More recently, however, the arrival of cloud computing has meant startups can launch and begin competing almost overnight with some of the world’s largest companies. It has also meant that those large companies can trim their costs and be more agile like a startup as they pursue new business growth opportunities, focusing on what they do best rather than managing technology infrastructure.
As we look at the next 150 years, cloud-based tools such as Salesforce’s Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud are poised to become the de facto choice for organizations that want to run sales, marketing and service in a way that’s more flexible and dynamic than anything that came before. This is the moment when Canadian firms should double down on the cloud.
In Canada’s earliest days, governments and businesses alike were laser-focused on trying to cross great distances. This included the creation of our first railways, as well as innovative inventions like the Ski-Doo that could overcome snowy terrain. Being able to move around our vast geography was critical to connecting us as a nation.
What connects us today goes beyond the ability to travel physically. It’s being able to reach anyone, anywhere with the mobile device of your choosing. Smartphones have revolutionized not only the way we talk but the way we buy, learn and organize our time.
Mobility will continue to define Canada’s next 150 years by allowing us to do more of the things we need and want, whether in Nunavut or St. John’s. Canadians will come to have greater expectations of what’s possible via their devices, while business professionals will be so busy that running their company via smartphone apps is a prerequisite for success.
We laugh about our tendencies to say sorry, but we’re secretly proud of being considered so nice and polite by the rest of the world. Canadians have a well-deserved reputation for being open-minded, eager to welcome others and embrace new ideas from other cultures. Friendliness is part of our heritage, eh?
That same sensibility helps explain why Canadians were among the quickest to adopt social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, forming virtual relationships that would never have been possible for most of the past 150 years. Now they’re looking to Canada’s businesses — even small and medium-sized firms — to become part of their network. Our future will be one where we brainstorm about customers’ challenges and even begin troubleshooting issues via social platforms, and empower our internal teams to communicate in a similar way to increase the flow of ideas in every corner or our organizations.
No one knew for sure that Canada would survive as a country. When Confederation took place in 1867 it was based on the risk that a loose group of provinces — with two different languages — could find common ground and expand to include others over time. There was no empirical data to guarantee success. We just took the chance.
The decisions we make today don’t necessarily have to take into account all of Canada’s 150 years, but analytics allows us to derive insight about what we’ve done in a business, what’s working and what’s not. Canada’s courageous, risk-taking spirit will endure as the sesquicentennial passes, but it’s a spirit that will be made much stronger by the strategic use of data to move forward with even greater confidence.
The beaver, the maple leaf, hockey — some of our symbols are so well known they seem integral to our national identity. Though it may be more difficult to illustrate, artificial intelligence could soon be something we revere as quintessentially Canadian, too.
Just look at all the investments being made in research institutions and labs here to further the development of AI. Now think about the chance for local companies in Canada to be the first-movers of using AI such as Salesforce Einstein to take over tasks that free us up to be more productive, more creative, more innovative. Even if AI doesn’t make it onto a Canadian coin, it could be the tool that helps shape the kind of country we’ll become.
Canada’s 150th birthday is, without question, an incredible culmination of our achievements so far. In hindsight, though, we may see it as just the beginning of our next wave of growth.