Innovation

Shining a Spotlight on Barry O’Grady.

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Our Vice-President, Marketing and Brand Experience, Barry O’Grady brings global, award-winning marketing expertise to Spyder Works’ clients.

Everyone knows that the toughest battles in marketing are fought in the grocery aisles. If you can win market share from Procter & Gamble and Colgate, you’ve got what it takes. Barry has done both while managing domestic market and global marketing responsibilities for brand powerhouses like Unilever and Mars Incorporated.

His goal is to help your company connect with its markets more deeply and personally, using the best strategies, storytelling and interactive marketing tools. “After running major brands for multinationals, I now help clients find the true potential in their businesses,” Barry says. “It’s all about helping you see an exciting, achievable future.”

Barry is a decorated marketing veteran, having fought bravely in the Cat Food Wars and won the Battle of the Soaps. The minstrels still sing of his work for Dove Beauty in Canada, which had long languished behind Ivory, the market leader. He says he’ll never forget the day Dove passed Ivory as Canada’s No. 1 soap brand. More importantly, his work on “Canada’s Classic Beauty” which valued the holistic beauty of real Canadian women set the stage for Dove’s ground-breaking “Real Beauty” campaign. Coming out of Canada and spreading around the world, that campaign not only sold more soap, it rede ned how marketers engage with their target audiences. “Dove was 20 years ahead of its time,” says Barry. “It was exciting, fresh, di erent. We weren’t playing a conventional marketing role. We were empathizing with the reality of everyday women.”

Empathy drew Barry into consulting. He loves putting himself in his clients’ shoes, to understand their struggles and the needs of their customers. “I stand for input, dialogue, consensus, and high-trust relationships,” he says. “My clients sleep better at night knowing the consultants they’ve engaged are solving the real problem, not just putting words on paper.”

Barry’s rigorous approach to marketing and brand strategy is a catalyst for customer engagement. Or as Spyder Works CEO Ken Tencer puts it: “Barry transforms consumers into brand advocates in an age where the voice of the brand is increasingly coming from the mouths of its customers.”

“Spyder Works solves clients’ real problems in unique ways,” explains Barry. “I can start the change process by helping clients write a new strategy. The rest of the team can take it further, through design to production and leadership development. We’re operational and strategic.”

Barry’s dedication shone brightest the day he enrolled in a course on “Fundamentals of Digital Marketing” at Sheridan College. He was probably the oldest student in the class. He was by far the most experienced. But he was delighted when his prof, aware of
his background, con rmed that the role of digital media is to uniquely amplify all the principles of great marketing – establish connection, interaction and loyalty – that he learned from working with the world’s best consumer-product companies.

What else can we tell you about Barry? He’s into yoga, and mindfulness. And he’s happiest when the Toronto Blue Jays are winning.

But the wins he likes best are those of his clients. A few years ago, he was hired by an independent producer of creamy salad dressings to develop strategies for addressing consumers’ growing appetite for healthier foods. Soon after, the company was acquired by a major U.S. food brand. Barry was over the moon to learn this multinational had bought his client mainly for its strong position in the wellness segment, which would now be exported to the rest of its international divisions. Talk about impact!

Says Barry: “It blew my mind that I had created that much value for the client in eight months.”

We could tell you more: about the way Barry turned around the Whiskas cat-food brand in the United States for Mars, Inc.; how he launched six products for Green Giant; how he restructured the sales teams for M&Ms, Skittles and Snickers; and how he re-energized a whole division by implementing a “50 Day Challenge” that generated 300 new product ideas. But we think you should hear it from him.

Give Barry a call at <a href=”tel:9056088845″>905.608.8845</a> x 32, or email him at <a href=”mailto:bogrady@spyder.works”>bogrady@spyder.works</a>. Put all that success, experience and empathy to work for your brands.

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Halifax’s Springboard program turns academics into entrepreneurs

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Originally published on June 27, 2017 as a Guest Column in The Globe and Mail: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/small-business/sb-growth/halifaxs-springboard-program-transforms-academics-into-entrepreneurs/article35296361/

There’s an old saying that you can accomplish anything you want – so long as you don’t care who takes the credit.

This is not just a powerful insight into human nature. It may also be the clue to solving Canada’s innovation problem.

The consensus is that Canadians are great at coming up with new ideas, but we’re not so good at commercializing them. That’s the hard part: turning new insights into products and services that people want to buy, and then building smart, well-financed companies to profitably bring those products to market.

In Atlantic Canada, however, a below-the-radar not-for-profit is finding commercialization success by helping other people turn college and university research into winning businesses. The secret to Springboard Atlantic’s winning record: it serves as a catalyst, bringing business resources and commercialization expertise to bear on ideas coming out of 19 Atlantic-region postsecondary institutions. As a government-funded community builder, Springboard CEO Chris Mathis doesn’t seek credit; he only wants results.

“These universities create IP [intellectual property] on a daily basis,” says Mathis, himself a mechanical engineer turned entrepreneur. “We help these educational institutions decide which ideas can best be commercialized, and then help them connect with the people and partnerships that can bring them to fruition.”

Take the case of Fredericton-based Eigen Innovations, an internet-of-things (IoT) company that helps manufacturers reduce defects and boost productivity through machine learning and data analytics. The company was founded on thermal-vision analysis algorithms developed by Dr. Rickey Dubay, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of New Brunswick (now Eigen’s chief scientific officer) and one of his grad students, Scott Everett (now CEO).

“Eigen’s IP was initially supported by funds within the business office at University of New Brunswick, as well as Springboard,” Mathis says. “Now they have more than a dozen employees, and major customers working with their technology.”

In fact, Eigen has raised more than $1-million in venture capital, and it’s now embedding its technology with Tier One automotive manufacturers and industrial equipment suppliers. The company won awards from industry leaders such as Cisco and Dell, and it has been named one of the 100 top influencers in the industrial Internet of Things.

Starting a business is never easy, and bringing them out of university labs is a special type of hell. There’s no easy road. Researchers are often driven by curiosity rather than market need, and even when they develop a commercial idea, many would rather simply publish their results than turn them into a business.

Most colleges and universities have technology-transfer officers, but their efforts are often frustrated by isolation within the halls of academe and a lack of business contacts. According to Mathis, a group of Atlantic universities saw these problems 12 years ago, and created Springboard to develop and share commercialization best practices. “They realized they should work together to build up their research, industry engagement and commercialization capacity,” says Mathis says.

Funded by the universities, colleges and the federal government’s Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), Springboard has a staff of five but serves clients directly and through a network of institutional industry liaison and technology transfer officers. Its role is to help on-campus commercialization and develop better relationships with faculty members, to sharpen their own abilities to analyze IP and evaluate market potential. In practice, Springboard also helps the network explore the process of commercialization with their academic colleagues, to determine their interest in partnering with industry, licensing or venturing into business themselves.

Most crucially, Springboard’s network serves as a matchmaker between academics and business, opening doors to help them find the companies, business leaders, consultants or investors that can guide them to market success. “There are multiple points where research discovery can lead to social and economic benefits, or go by the wayside,” Mathis says. “We try to show them what’s working well, and what isn’t. We end up with communities in the region that interact.”

The results speak for themselves. Springboard has been a catalyst in supporting the development of numerous Atlantic companies with global growth potential and impacts, from helping a Halifax firm that creates screens to protect pilots from exposure to lasers, to research in St. John’s that drew on Newfoundland’s population data to develop a technique for evaluating who should be screened for hereditary genetic heart issues. Mathis says Atlantic Canada is starting to develop global leadership in specific niches– not just ocean sciences and aquaculture, but sustainable energy, smart grid technologies and cybersecurity.

Canada is always wrestling with its innovation gap. I think it’s because we don’t realize that successful innovation, while difficult, starts with fig a series of easy, practical steps. What can this discovery do? Who needs what it does? What will it cost to develop this product or solution? How much will the people who need it pay for it? No one academic, entrepreneur or hired consultant can answer all these questions. We need more catalysts like Springboard to explain the process, make introductions and help these solitudes find each other.

Fear, ignorance, walls and silos are the enemies of innovation – not a failure of research or business will. We’re all better off when governments stop trying to pick winners, and invest in community and humble catalysts instead.

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To become truly innovative, Canadians need to become better at thinking creatively

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Originally published on March 20, 2017 as a Guest Column in The Globe and Mail: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/small-business/sb-managing/ottawa-can-help-but-to-become-truly-innovative-canada-needs-to-embrace-entrepreneurship/article34348521/

With the federal government getting set to unveil its new innovation strategy in its March 22 budget, a scholarly article on “Canada’s Low-Innovation Equilibrium” has asked whether anything short of a crisis can jump-start our efforts to produce the better, smarter products and services we need to keep our economy growing.

The author is Peter Nicholson, one of our brainier Canadians: a physicist, computer-science prof, banker, former Nova Scotia MLA and policy adviser to former Prime Minister Paul Martin. In a highly readable article in the journal Canadian Public Policy, he points out that the business community’s generally downstream, “branch-plant” status has enabled Canadians to maintain a prosperous standard of living despite neglecting the necessary business of developing new products and services. That would explain why a century of policy efforts to stimulate innovation have failed.

But we may not be able to coast much longer. Pointing to “transformative” new technologies such as IT, biotech and nanotech, as well as the need for more and benign energy solutions, he publicly asks how long our business and political leaders can keep neglecting innovation.

I do not question Dr. Nicholson’s analysis. But he is an intellectual, firmly tied into our academic-government-corporate elite, and I believe he’s missing something. Innovation isn’t just corporate R&D flowing out of tax policy. Innovation is an attitude. It’s a way of looking at all aspects of life around us – problems, constraints, delights and discoveries – and wondering how you can use them to create new and better ideas, processes, products and services.

For most of us, business or individual, the greatest innovations will not spring from laboratory experiments or quantum computing. They come from finding new ways to do things better.

Case in point: two of the best-selling products coming out of the ABC-TV show Shark Tank are as humble as you can imagine. Consider “Scrub Daddy,” a smiley-faced scrubbing tool that changes its texture with the temperature of the water you wash with. Inventor Aaron Krause has now built a company around his silly sponge with a portfolio of innovative household products, many sourced from an inventive public.

The other breakthrough: the Simply Fit Board exercise board, developed by a mother and daughter team. The simply curved balance board lets you strengthen your core while doing basic twists and squats. The plastic, neon-coloured boards cost $9 (U.S.) to produce and sell for $40 at Amazon and Wal-mart, a profit margin that enticed investors Kevin O’Leary and Lori Greiner into a bidding war.

I’m not saying that big science and corporate R&D aren’t important. But as the politicians and economists argue over policies and incentives, Ottawa must acknowledge that individual Canadians and entrepreneurs have a huge role to play in boosting innovation. Let’s find creative ways to turn Canadians into more active, curious, creative thinkers and tinkerers. (Look at how the CBC’s Dragons’ Den, the precursor to Shark Tank, has stimulated entrepreneurial creativity.)

And let’s also remember that to become expert innovators, Canadians must do more than come up with good ideas. They must actively bring them to market – which means learning more about business models, market research, production, finance, selling and marketing. These skills must be taught in schools and inculcated throughout society. The federal government is not responsible for education, but it has many levers it can pull – such as workforce development and corporate incentives to better understand market need and product potential, and sponsorship of national pitch contests – to expose more Canadians to the fun and profit of entrepreneurship and creativity.

Bottom line: Innovation is about asking questions, defying social norms, creative thinking, understanding other people’s needs, brainstorming new business models, and learning to be flexible and resourceful when market testing shreds your dreams. These are all apolitical but essential life skills that we will need to prosper in an increasingly competitive world. Innovation is not just for ivory towers, but for kitchen tables, spare bedrooms and garages across the country.

Ken Tencer is chief executive officer of design-driven strategy firm Spyder Works Inc. and the co-author of two books on innovation, including the bestseller Cause a Disturbance. He holds the Institute of Corporate Directors certification (ICD.D). Follow him on Twitter at @90per centRule.

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