Canada’s Pandemic Response: Key Learnings for Building our Future

What if the entire population becomes vulnerable due a pandemic? COVID-19 took the world by surprise, then by storm, compelling us to adapt to new realities which considerably impact our individual, social and professional lives. The Canadian Federal Government, responsible for leading the pandemic crisis response, had to take effective and swift action in a rapidly shifting environment, driven by a new and mysterious threat. Implementing a multitude of effective responses across the country during COVID-19 posed a significant challenge for the Federal Government with regards to speed, agility and performance, and they proved up to the task, using an action learning, collaborative and iterative approach.

In this paper, Francoise Morissette explores Canada’s pandemic response, and how this fits into the Compassion Revolution Series. First, she looks at the pandemic response through the lens of the 4D action learning process – Define, Discover, Design and Do. Next, she explores how we are facing the storm in the present, how we have learned from experience and built capacity through past pandemics, and how a blueprint for the future is beginning to emerge. (Sections of this paper on the Past, Present and Future are also available on our website.)

The first article of the Compassion Revolution series explores a new trend: Why so many public and not for profit organizations are transforming their service delivery models to better meet the needs of vulnerable and at risk populations. These transformations require not only organizational and process redesign, but significant paradigm and culture shifts. While the organization featured in the first Compassion Revolution Series article (Peel Region), made a proactive and strategic decision to implement a new service delivery model (and could exercise more control over timing and actualization), this was not the case for the COVID-19 response. During a national emergency simultaneously impacting various sectors and population segments in different ways, multiple strategies are required, which must be implemented quickly and effectively.

Download PDF: Canada’s Pandemic Response: Key Learnings for Building our Future

Leveraging Pandemic Learnings (Part 3)

Building Capacity

A blueprint for the future is beginning to emerge: one that will involve greater use of interactive technology, system-wide collaboration, widespread innovation, improved systems thinking capacity, and stronger recognition and appreciation of the female leadership brand.

Interactive Technology

‘Necessity is the mother of invention’, declared Greek philosopher Plato, in Dialogue Republic, and COVID-19 proves him right. Inventive technology applications are emerging in droves. Here are examples from various sectors.

Download PDF: Leveraging Pandemic Learnings (Part 3) The Future: Blueprint for Sustainable Success

HR’s Role in Developing Innovative Organizations

Being an innovative organization is far more than developing innovative products. It includes developing services, processes, business model innovation and even societal and policy innovations. Most innovation discoveries occur through convening diverse employees, teams, departments and organizations that combine perspectives, resulting in new ways of thinking and operating. Organizations need HR to drive innovation through the creation of leadership capacities, diverse team and organizational methodologies that allow innovation to flourish.

Here are five areas of focus for HR’s role in developing innovative organizations.

1. Building Leaders of Innovation
HR drives innovation by building ‘leaders of innovation’. Leaders of innovation do not necessarily generate the innovative ideas themselves. Instead, they recognize innovation when they see it and work with diverse groups to gain insight and discover innovative solutions to complex issues.  HR needs to hire individuals who are inherently capable of being leaders of innovation, promote them and develop that capability. They also need to build succession plans to ensure that future leaders can be leaders of innovation.

2. Ensuring Diverse Teams Can Work Together on Innovation
Innovative insights and discoveries emerge from diverse groups of employees, teams, departments, external customers and even diverse organizations that share their perspectives and combine them in unforeseen ways. Typically, organizations that have “silos” struggle to generate innovative outcomes. HR has a fundamental role to maximize inclusion, cross-functionality and the elimination of silos. For example, HR must ensure diverse teams convene and work together on innovation in order to drive innovation throughout the organization. HR should also extend the role of its HR business partners to ensure their internal clients receive and hand-off work to other departments effectively so that silos are reduced.

3. Focusing on User Experience and Iteration
Most issues that require innovative insights are characterized by ambiguity and uncertainty and often have little precedent. As a result, best practices and research are not very helpful for these issues.  An alternate method that has a higher probability to reveal insights into an issue and thereby yield much better innovative solutions is to analyze user experience. HR needs to champion user experience as an equally valid source of insights as best practices and research. However, insights gained from user experience can be imprecise and provide conflicting evidence. That’s why an innovation team will need to be effective at iteration. Iteration is the process of generating partial solutions that an innovation team can test on early adopt users to see if it generates any positive movement to resolve the issue. They then isolate the element in the partial solution that seems to work and expand and deepen it to produce another slightly better solution to test on users again. HR needs to promote iteration as a way to rapidly generate innovative solutions to complex, ambiguous and uncertain problems. They also need to debunk the myth that perfect solutions are possible and normalize partial and imprecise solutions designed to advance the discovery process.

4. Leveraging Change Management Practices to Implement Innovative Ideas
Innovation needs an implementation track record so that people will believe their efforts are meaningful and not a waste of time. Implementing new ideas also reinforces a culture conducive to innovation, which will help sustain the focus on innovation. HR should reframe its role in innovation as a ‘prequel to change’. Many HR leaders already focus on change management. By adding a focus on developing innovative organizations, HR extends its role earlier in the process to generating insights, ideation and iteration. HR should also ensure that leaders of innovation apply change management best practices so that employees and teams effectively and rapidly adopt innovative solutions that become the new business as usual.

5. Developing Organizational Practices That Drive Innovation
HR needs to develop practices and programs that drive innovation and do not make innovation harder to do. For example, HR needs to develop practices to help leaders to become leaders of innovation and programs to reward and reinforce diverse team collaboration.  HR should also review its current practices and programs to ensure they are not inadvertently making innovation more difficult. For example, HR should investigate if their job descriptions inadvertently create rigid job definitions that prohibit employees from working on diverse teams. They should also look at other parts of the organization and champion the removal or modification of various organizational practices that inadvertently make innovation more difficult. For example, if finance has a budgeting process that only allows innovative ideas to be implemented at the beginning of a budget cycle, then that will limit the willingness of employees to generate innovative solutions within the year. If parts of the organization require four or five signatures for approvals to proceed with innovative initiatives, then HR can champion the removal of those barriers because they slow down the implementation of ideas.

Overall, HR has a fundamental role in developing innovative organizations. HR should build leaders of innovation, create an openness to diverse thought, emphasize user experience and ensure that innovative ideas are implemented effectively. HR also needs to lead the way to remove or modify the organizational practices that are barriers to innovation and that make innovation more difficult.


About the Author

David Weiss
Dr. David S. Weiss, ICD.D is President and CEO of a firm specializing in innovation, leadership, and HR consulting for many Fortune 500, social enterprise and public-sector organizations. David has provided consulting on more than 1000 business and organizational projects, delivered over 200 conference presentations and he has written over 50 journal and trade articles. He is the author or co-author of seven books including Innovative Intelligence (Wiley) which was reported by CBC News as a “top 5 business book” in the year it was published. David has conducted executive sessions in Canada, USA, China, Russia, Israel, Uganda, South Africa, Malaysia, Chile, Hungary, France and England. David currently teaches at three university executive development programs, including Queen’s University, Schulich, and St. Mary’s University. David’s doctorate is from the University of Toronto and he has three Master’s degrees.

Dementia Care Innovation in the Region of Peel

The first article in this series focuses on the Region of Peel’s bold decision to pilot and implement a ground breaking approach for dealing with people living with dementia. This model of care has proven effective at dramatically enhancing residents’ quality of life and wellbeing, their family’s satisfaction and involvement, as well as employee engagement, fulfillment and retention, all while reducing the number of incidents, and creating more positive relationships all around.

Key information for this piece comes from an interview with Mary Connell, Project Manager for the Butterfly Initiative Implementation at the Region of Peel.

In the series, we will look at the methodology used by these innovative organizations leveraging the 4D Process – Define, Discover, Design and Do, created by IRC’s Brenda Barker Scott. But first, a look at why today’s organizations are transforming service delivery, and the increasing role that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Spiritual Intelligence (SQ) play in design and implementation.

Download PDF: Dementia Care Innovation in the Region of Peel

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