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I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Monday, May 1, 2017

"The quest for a culture of innovation"/ US parent firm asked my husband to fire me"

Apr. 3, 2017 "The quest for a culture of innovation": Today I found this article by Harvey Schachter in the Globe and Mail:

The Holy Grail these days is a “culture of innovation”. Everybody wants one. Nobody quite knows what it is or how to arrange it for their firm.

Soren Kaplan, a consultant based in San Francisco and affiliated professor at University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, agrees with the desire for a culture of innovation. Indeed, he believes it’s crucial, arguing competitive advantage is transitory – it will inevitably be challenged. The only sustainable competitive advantage is a culture of innovation.

Dr. Kaplan calls such a culture, in the title of his new book, The Invisible Advantage. It’s soft, difficult to discern stuff – norms, values and behaviour. But the soft stuff is the hardest for competitors to copy. It can be powerful. Better yet, he has a formula – or, at least, a path to follow – that can help get you on the right track to build a culture of innovation in your organization:

Be intentional with your innovation intent

Define what you want and then reshape assumptions around it. “You need to decide what the positive focus is that you want to make on customers and the world,” Dr. Kaplan says in an interview, noting that it should be something that gets your staff excited when they come to work, which doesn’t happen when enhanced shareholder value is your goal.

Determine the percentage of small, incremental change you expect to be pursuing in your innovation portfolio; the percentage of sustaining innovations, major advances in the core business for existing customers and markets; and the percentage of disruptive innovation, breakthroughs that change the game. All are important – Google aims for 70 per cent, 20 per cent, and 10 per cent respectively, but you can choose a formula that’s right for you. And don’t forget that innovation should happen throughout the firm; HR and the financial department should be looking for helpful changes, not just product developers.

Step in – then step back

You need to create a structure for unstructured innovation, as some companies attain by allowing employees a certain percentage of time to work on ideas of their own. Google and 3M have designated 10 per cent to 20 per cent of staff time as free for such purposes.

Indeed, keep in mind that time is the fuel of innovation. “Without time, you won’t get a lot of innovation,” Dr. Kaplan says.

Even 20 minutes once a month in a management meeting can be valuable to raise new ideas or ask what problems are keeping customers up at night. If you only focus on today’s operational practices, you won’t innovate much.

Measure what’s meaningful

After you decide what you want, measure how you’re proceeding towards those goals. You can measure inputs, the efforts being put towards innovation, or the actual outputs, the tangible achievements. Examples include percentage of funding designated for game-changers versus small tweaks to existing products or services; percentage of revenue or profit coming from new products or services introduced in recent years; and royalty or licensing revenue from intellectual property.

“Leaders like this. They can see what’s measured and its importance to the organization. They know they’ll be measured on it as well,” he says.

Give “worthless” rewards

By worthless, he means recognition, not money. Dr. Kaplan points to KQED, a public television and radio station in San Francisco that hands out attractive – and treasured – trophies to those who author both small and large innovations. Intuit has an Innovation Wall of Fame with photos and descriptions of people and teams it wants to salute.

Formalize a series of informal, non-monetary rewards. “The worthless rewards are the most valuable rewards,” he says.

Get symbolic

Rewrite the unwritten rules in the firm so you are communicating the innovation you wish to encourage. This can revolve around who has the biggest offices and largest windows – the big bosses or the best innovators (often in Silicon Valley, Dr. Kaplan says, executives have small cubicles).

Watch your language, so you don’t make fun of innovations or send anti-innovation messages like, “we don’t have time to innovate” or “we tried that before and it failed” or “we can’t do anything before we have more data.” He stresses this is the toughest area for leaders; they often have a blind spot to the symbols they have created.

Following those steps can be critical to your company’s success. “An innovation culture shouldn’t be mysterious. There are specifics things you can do to shape it and it’s your only sustainable competitive advantage for the future,” he says.


5 hours ago

"Give “worthless” rewards."

Good God, you can't be serious. I work in engineering R&D and this is the biggest killer of innovation. If you don't expect to compensate in terms of a percentage ownership of patents and patent royalties expect just baseline effort from employees.

"U.S. parent firm asked my husband to fire me. What can I do?": Today I found this article in the Globe and Mail:


Recently, I was let go from my full-time position as a sales, merchandising and design manager after 11 years. My numbers exceeded expected targets and percentages over prior years consistently.

The problem: we were partnered in a franchise. My husband and partner wore the designation; I was considered a partner by marriage and an employee with a salary, but shared equity and profit. We recently sold the brand to a U.S.-based company that hired my husband as a corporate manager in Canada. The publicly traded company instructed my husband to let me go. What am I entitled to? I don’t want to embarrass my husband or burn bridges, but feel battered, humiliated and blindsided.


George Cottrelle
Partner, Keel Cottrelle LLP

The fact that your husband owned the franchise, and that you participated in equity and profit, in addition to receiving salary, did not affect your rights as an employee. Under Canadian employment legislation, notwithstanding the sale of the business, your employment with the Canadian franchise is treated as continuing with the U.S. employer.

You retained the same rights to notice, and severance if applicable, arising on termination of your employment, against the U.S. company as you had against the Canadian franchise, based on your 11 years of employment.

In addition to your statutory rights, you have a claim for damages under common law arising from the termination of your employment, reflecting your 11 years of employment with the Canadian franchise.

If your employment was terminated on the basis of your marital status, this would be discriminatory under human-rights legislation in Canada. There are permitted exceptions, for example, where an employer has bona-fide reasons for anti-nepotism policies, but there is no evidence of this in your case.

It appears that the U.S. company may have induced you and your husband to sell the business, partly on the understanding that you would remain employed in the same role, and then required him to terminate your employment, resulting in humiliation and reluctance in pursuing your rights. All these matters may be grounds for additional damages against the U.S. company.


Kyle Couch
President and CEO, Spectrum Organizational Development Inc., Toronto

Moving from partner, whether by marriage or otherwise, to employee through a change of ownership changes the game considerably. While you were able to make the key decisions before, the sale to a new parent company dramatically changes your situation. The new parent company is within its rights to restructure the organization or implement its own set of policies. When family members either own businesses, or work for the same company, they often rely on trust and loyalty as opposed to legal documentation and contracts to outline working agreements. Therefore, your situation could have possibly been avoided if you had formalized your role as co-partner, and had written in your employment as part of the sale of the brand.

Many organizations implement family policies to avoid a myriad of potential negative situations. Your marriage could create resentment from your co-workers due to perceived preferential treatment or conflicts of interest. If your marriage were to fail, it could lead to sexual-harassment claims. The new parent company is only looking out for its best interests.


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