There’s no denying the huge impact small business entrepreneurship has on the economy. According to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), as of 2015 there were close to 1.2 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), employing 10.5 million people – that’s 99% of Canada’s private sector workforce. In fact, SMEs account for more than half of all formal jobs worldwide, according to a report by the International Finance Corporation.
It’s little wonder government officials want to do all they can to help that critical sector thrive. ISED focuses its effort on connecting with small business owners to hear firsthand about the challenges they face and what they need to overcome them.
A prime example of that consultation in action was an event it hosted last fall called Let’s Talk Business: #Tech2Grow. “We really wanted to hear from small business owners about their use of technology and how they use it to grow their businesses – what works, what doesn’t work,” says Sarah Reesor, a senior policy analyst with ISED and key event organizer.
Several key aspects of the event made it unique:
- It looked at entrepreneurship through the lens of three underrepresented groups: women, youth and Indigenous people
- It attracted a diverse network of people that included 85 business owners, would-be entrepreneurs and government officials. Nearly half of them participated virtually from different parts of the country.
- It featured a brainstorming session that harnessed the principles of design thinking to generate ideas, spark discussions and explore solutions
- It used Nureva visual collaboration solutions to help participants interact and brainstorm in real time, whether they were in the same room or joining remotely
Less talk, more action
Sarah says the goal was to make the event less about talking and more about doing. “We wanted people to feel like they were contributing to policy advice going forward,” she explains.
ISED has hosted events before and the format usually went like this: people arrive, listen to a few speakers, ask some questions, do a bit of networking and then leave. This time was different.
Following a panel discussion and Q&A session, participants broke into groups and then stepped up to the Nureva™ Wall's interactive canvas and got to work. She recalls how inspiring it was to see people so engaged and how quickly they became comfortable using Span™ Workspace's digital tools “writing on the wall with their fingers and bringing in images and playing around with ideas.”
Using design-thinking techniques, they collaborated and generated ideas around two key topics: the role technology plays in their business and how it can help solve some of their challenges.
The discussion was lively and fruitful. And Sarah attributes that to having technology that gave participants a new way to work together and brainstorm. “We were able to get the audience to step out of their comfort zone,” she says. “By breaking out into smaller groups, we also got more ideas faster and in an engaging manner.”
“We couldn’t have done it as well as we did if we didn’t have Nureva solutions. It was really an amazing dimension to have everybody interacting.” And it wasn’t only people in the room who were collaborating; the 40 remote participants were also fully involved in the brainstorming session, contributing their ideas in real time. This added more depth and diversity to the discussion.
A different way of thinking
The event took place in the ISED Design Lab, a unique meeting and collaboration space built around design thinking. Government departments go there when they face challenges that require “outside the box” solutions, explains Sarah. Two Nureva Wall systems have been installed in the lab, transforming walls into interactive workspaces. The technology is being tested as part of the government’s Build in Canada Innovation Program.
The suggestions that came out of the #Tech2Grow event are being reviewed and assessed and may influence future government policy. Sarah says it helped to have the ideas generated during the session captured as digital files, which were easy to reference when compiling the wrap-up report, making recommendations and planning next steps.
And Sarah is eager to use Nureva visual collaboration solutions again at future events, as ISED continues to look for new and innovative ways to engage business owners in the ongoing conversation about what they need to grow and prosper.
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Posted on Feb 28, 2017 7:00:00 AM