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Innovation Disconnect


KPMG’s 2019 Canadian CEO Outlook

KPMG recently released the 2019 Canadian CEO Outlook which surveyed 1,300 CEOs of large companies from around the world, including 75 in Canada, to get their views on the highest-priority opportunities and most daunting challenges they and their businesses face.

Transformation and disruption have been recurring themes in previous CEO Outlooks, and this year is no exception. CEOs in every industry are acutely aware of the new technologies, competitors and workforce trends at their doorstep and many are making agility and innovation their priority. Canadian CEOs are no different, although their current strategies and concerns reveal room to grow before they can lead their international peers.

One thing remains constant, the appetite for innovation is healthy. Seventy-five percent of Canadian CEOs want their employees to innovate without fear of failure, and over two-thirds (69%) want to be the ones disrupting rather than disrupted. The fact these numbers are down from years previous, and below global averages, it is possible the meaning of innovation is being interpreted differently by different players.

Innovation from within

Canada’s leadership in the fields of artificial intelligence, blockchain, automation, and data analytics are globally recognized; and the worldwide success of homegrown companies like Shopify demonstrate we are more than capable of producing tech giants. This year's survey shows Canadian CEOs are waking up to the value of data in the decision-making process. Granted, 60% of domestic CEOs admit they have overlooked data analysis because it ran contrary to their experience (Global 63%), but this is a 16% improvement over 2018 and an indicator of changing perceptions.

The alleged ‘innovation disconnect’ between Canadian organizations and global may simply be explained by the fact Canadian CEOs are less overt about it in the marketplace, or more prone to innovating internally. Our clients have shown a strong desire to embed machine learning, automation tools, and more advanced data analytics within their operations. While this may not directly translate into ‘innovative new products’ at the onset, it has innovated how they structure their operations, empower their teams, gauge their success, and stay current with their customers.

Another perspective on innovation

Canadians themselves feel as though they are moving in the right direction, with 73% telling us they are confident in their ability to stay competitive in the face of disruption, compared to 69% of their global peers. CEOs can benefit from encouraging innovation throughout their workforce, driving incremental innovations that will drive long-term impacts, and look beyond determining what innovation means to them, and where it is needed most.

The 2019 Canadian CEO Outlooks reveals a country of big thinkers and even bigger ambitions. It also indicates that Canadian organizations are at different stages in their journey than their global peers. Chalk it up to less experience with new technologies or the cautious “Canadian way” but Canada has been slow to catch up to the new digital “normal.” We are on our way but now is no time to put our investments, workforce initiatives and innovation strategies on cruise control.

To dive deeper into the key themes from this report and learn about the biggest issues impacting Canadian business, go to: home.kpmg/ca/ceooutlook

Ruth Todd is the regional managing partner for KPMG Canada’s offices in southwestern, northern and eastern Ontario and eastern Canada, and is also the office managing partner for KPMG in Hamilton and St. Catharines. With over 20 years' experience in audit and advisory services, Ruth brings a practical and innovative approach to helping her clients further their goals and achieve success. Connect with Ruth on LinkedIn at