Abundance vs. Necessity

Enroute back from Iceland, somewhere over the Atlantic. It’s a beautiful sight, the vastness of our Canadian Arctic, true north strong and free, when compared to a small, isolated island state like Iceland. The contrasts were noticeably obvious, but the unexpected insights were like gifts which I will freely share.

I come back a little embarrassed about our abundance. We are blessed with resources that are the envy of the world – oil, gas, fresh water, rich soil, rivers, streams, lakes, sun, wind, trees, animals, crops, mountains, medicine, education, democracy, rule of law, and stable government – the things of which most only dream.

Visiting the harbour town of Grindavik, we witnessed innovation at its finest. Blessed only with resources of the sea, an abundance of cod and shifting tectonic plates, we were treated to a proud culture of ingenuity and innovation out of necessity. This small town of 2,800 people shared an economic vision based on five areas of excellence:

1. Innovation in Cod Fishing: Higher quality fish through historical salting techniques; excellence in packaging and logistics such that fish can be on a plate in Edmonton within 36 hours of being caught; and a pursuit of innovation by developing 25 uses for cod sub products – from collagen to protein supplements – such that every part of the fish is developed to its highest value before it is exported.

2. Clean Energy Production: Harnessing the power of the volcanoes, earthquakes and shifting tectonic plates, geothermal production has risen to be the dominant source of energy production in the country, and is soon positioned to be sold in export markets. Clean electricity drive energy intensive industries like aluminum shelters, data centres, food processing and industrial greenhouses.

3. Greenhouse Food Production: Capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from clean energy production and using it as an input into industrial greenhouse food production has expanded the available production of food in what is otherwise a challenging landmass.

4. Barley Biotechnology: Understanding that barley represents one of the most biotech-friendly crops for genetic modification, medicinal experimentation and cosmetic engineering, industrial greenhouse operations, using CO2 and clean energy inputs, is expanding to diversify a product-based export economy.

5. Rejuvenation Ponds vs Tailings Ponds: Silica and clay based water runoff from the geothermal plants has created a series of rejuvenation ponds that are beautifully marketed as healing lagoons for those challenged with ailments and a quest for youth.

This level of closed-loop local innovation with limited resources has enriched the brand of Iceland to be associated with words like clean, beauty, nature, healthy, young, and sustainable. Absolutely Brilliant.

I ask you to take a minute and contemplate the depth of innovation and thoughtfulness we apply in an economy of abundance. And I challenge you to ask whether we are thinking hard enough? We complain that we need more labour and more labour in order to ship more raw commodities – oil, animals, lumber, barley, etc. – for others to process, refine, productize and realize significantly more value. We have much to learn … and so much more value to capture … if we get serious about rewarding innovation and eliminating the very policies and incentives that produce a Banana Republic mentality and the absolute wrong outcomes.

As the Minister of Industry & Innovation outlined the Icelandic economic vision, a gift to us, I can only offer the following wish in return: That as your offshore oil and gas production continues to develop and produces riches yet unknown, I wish that your country never gets complacent through abundance (fat, dumb and lazy) and always maintains your wonderful culture of innovation that has come through necessity.

E-Town Edmonton

What would you ask one of the world’s most interesting people? That’s my task this week as Chris Hadfield, Guy Kawasaki, Hilary Mason, Tiffany Schlain, Bruce Croxon and David Usher all come to share their experiences with the attendees at E-Town (www.e-town.ca).

I started by taking some time to look back at the themes of this blog, and realized that they collectively make up the very themes that will be explored on Thursday (pm) and Friday (all day) this week. Themes like … Becoming Remarkable, Building [IT] Here, Entrepreneurial Thinking, Civic Branding, Festival Creation, Post Secondary Excellence, Powerful Women, Innovation, Commercialization, Competitiveness and the fact that our Capital Region Rocks … are not only what our city needs to be talking about, but they’re also the themes and ideas that need to be baked into the missions of our individual organizations.

How can you teach courage?
What do you feel least prepared for?
What differentiates those that succeed from those that fail?
How can a simple idea become a movement?
What’s coming next and how do we prepare ourselves?

Members of Edmonton’s entrepreneurial community have come together to create E-Town with the goal of stimulating the entrepreneurial discussion of “What’s Next?” and “How do we Capitalize on What’s Next?” We created this conference/festival specifically for those that want to be remarkable, and those willing to lead the charge in their own unique ways. It’s perfect for entrepreneurs, but it is even more perfect for aspiring entrepreneurs and those teams of people within organizations who embrace the mindset of “we gotta change.”

Thursday night we start with one of the great Canadians … Commander Chris Hadfield … and after his keynote he’s asked to stay around and jam with The Barenaked Ladies. How superfantastic is that? Then, Friday is an intense learning and networking experience …. continuously challenging you to think differently and act courageously. It’ll be a great show, with an abundance of energy.

Please don’t miss it. We designed it for you!! Registration will close quickly, so do so now as we are trying to finalize our numbers for the food trucks (Yum!).

See you there.