Creative Calgary Congress — Exploring ways that the arts and artists can play a leadership role in making Calgary a more curious, compassionate and creative place for all citizens.

Jim Dewald

Dean of the Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary
In the future there will be no distinction between ‘regular’ businesses and social entrepreneurship…

Jim Dewald | Photo: Calgary Arts Development


Let’s put some Canadian context on things. Recent surveys about public trust show that there’s a widening gap that we see in the US and other places between how the general public trusts institutions and how the informed public does. But the good news is Canada is an anomaly.

There’s a 15% gap between how much Americans trust CEOs, the general public versus the informed public. In Canada that gap is only 3%. We have more cohesive thought across this country.

Canada really stands apart in the rest of the world and we have a great opportunity to become true leaders globally. And the arts play a significant part of that.

Let me go a little bit more into the idea of context. I want to ask a question: Do you think that we live in fast changing times? By show of hands — [everyone raises their hands] — that’s consistent with every time I ask this. It’s almost unanimous. But change is a relative thing. And you want to look at change that we’re facing today vs what happened other times.

To do that, I’m going to draw on the life of a true hero — a hero of mine — Nellie McClung, one of the Famous Five, women’s rights activist, legislator and author, best known for her involvement in the Person’s Case. She was born in 1873 and died in 1951. Think about what happened in her lifetime. She grew up in a world of horses for travel, candles for light, salting and canning for food preservation, and telegrams for communication. At the time of her passing, there were cars, and airplanes, electric light, refrigerators, telephones, radios, motion pictures, frankly almost everything she had, except for your little cell phone, we use the same today.

Here’s a quote I love from Peter Thiel — “We were promised flying cars and we got 140 characters.”

The bottom line is that every person feels that we live in a time of fast change but we haven’t experienced much change. And that’s why the creativity that comes out of a group like this is so critical because we’ve lost, as a human race, that understanding of what real significant change means. We think because there’s a new app out that somehow we experience change. That’s not change. So just in case there’s big change around the corner, we have to look at why, what drives change.

Change revolves around technology.

The driver of big change is general purpose technologies, which are defined as pervasive technologies that provide an inventive platform that will interrupt and accelerate the normal march of economic progress. Here’s an example: The wheel. Now that is a technology that has become pervasive and has really changed how things happen. Following that, the printing press — we probably wouldn’t have had the Renaissance if it weren’t for the printing press. Then there was the industrial revolution with the steam engine and the cotton gin.

But here’s what I really want to draw your attention to — these general purpose technologies usually happen 500 to 1000 years between each other. But in a three-year span from 1876 to 1879 there were three general purpose technologies invented: the telephone, the internal combustion engine and the light bulb. Those three drove everything that happened in the 20th century and into the 21st century. For example, the internal combustion engine turns into a car and then there’s mass production of cars and then you need steel manufacturers and you need the rubber and you need the roads and you need the gas stations and on and on and on. All of that industrial development and that’s why we lived through such great times. And that’s why when somebody like Donald Trump says, “I’m gonna make America great again” it’s because it was great based on those three general purpose technologies. And we’re still trying to hang on to those even though that time gone past its prime and it’s getting a little tougher. We need more creativity. We need something new.

And, in fact there are some new things.

Slide: Jim Dewald

How do we get ourselves ready for the next shift that’s going to come along? That includes things like 3D printing, and machine learning, and automation, like the automated car. If you have automated cars and they’re all communicating with each other, we don’t actually need three or six car lengths between vehicles, you can actually drive right up beside each other because they all know what they’re all doing, so we can actually make significantly different use of our infrastructure. And if we’re all using renewable power and we’re not polluting the environment, there could be some pretty massive changes in how things happen and how transportation happens. Nanotechnology, the strength of fibres, some very significant changes there, and energy transitions and bio technology, where we may be able to live for hundreds and hundreds of years.

There are some big things coming. How are we going to deal with that and how are we going to be able to cope with that? We need a lot of creativity. Because we’ve already seen what happens without that creativity. There was a general purpose technology that was created in the 20th century called the computer. And we spent about 60 years and all that technology doing what? Trying to pound it into a phone. Because we like phones. It’s only now that people are starting to think of what we can do with that technology and how we can branch into other areas. Thinking about actually going to Mars and thinking about how we can use it effectively in health care and in precision medicine. Precision medicine is that each individual — all nine billion people — have an individual health plan that fits with their unique DNA. That is the true power of computing technology that we can put into things. That’s the context that I see.

As humans, we’ve kind of forgotten, or we’ve had no exposure or no experience with how to deal with real change. When it’s come along we’ve crunched it into something that we’re comfortable with like a communication device, and it’s getting tired. Our industrial development is running out. Countries are borrowing way more than they can afford, they’re trying to live that dream that happened in the 20th century, and we need to move on to the next great thing. And that’s where the creative people, like the people in this room, are so critically important.

Illustration: Sam Hester

The Three Questions

For the purposes of the Creative Calgary Congress, Dewald was asked to focus on three questions:

  1. What kinds of leaders does this city need and how can the people in this room become those leaders?
  2. What has to happen for Calgary to become more entrepreneurial and innovative?
  3. The arts involve passion, collaboration, risk taking and creativity. What role can arts and artist play in achieving a shared prosperity for all citizens?

He started by introducing us to some of the numbers at the Haskayne School of Business: The number of Undergrad and Graduate students (3,477), Executive education participants (2,000), International students (200+) and the split between male (55%) and female (45%) students.

We have the ability to influence a lot of people—a lot of future leaders.

Let me tell you what we’re doing at our school to address those questions.

1. What kind of leaders does our city need and how can the people in this room become those leaders?

I’ll tell you what we’re doing at our school because we really believe that the integration of arts and business and government is critical. We teach something called Advanced Leadership which we believe is a combination of not just looking at profit for businesses but principles. We build competence, effectiveness and results into our look at how you manage a corporation, but those things are married up with character, ethics, building of relationships, building of communities like this:

Competence / Ethical character
Effectiveness / Practice of ethics
Results / Building of relationships
Corporations / Building of community

They can’t be separate going forward — they all have to tie together.

To do that we’ve built the Canadian Centre for Advanced Leadership in Business. It follows a “why” statement that is this: We believe that educating leaders in advanced leadership principles will transform business and its role in society. What that’s saying is that we believe very firmly that in the future there won’t really be a distinction between social enterprise and regular corporations. Everyone will have a social enterprise and there will be an ethical responsibility for any corporation or any organization to give back, to contribute to our society.

We’re working hard to teach those 3,500 people each year what we believe. We do something we call a guided path, which is teaching about leadership as an individual in the first year, then as a team in the second year, as an organization in the third year. And finally before they graduate we spend the whole year on what does it mean to be a leader in society in your community.

2. What has to happen for Calgary to become more entrepreneurial and innovative?

Well let’s start first by defining the word entrepreneurship. In the old days, entrepreneurship was all about starting a business, and we talked about doing business plans and so forth. But we don’t talk about that any more. And the very simple definition is this: Entrepreneurial activities are about creating new value. It fits in the social side as well as the for profit side and is part of this whole integration.

So to do that we’ve moved from teaching entrepreneurship to teaching entrepreneurial thinking. Which is very related to creative thinking and bringing new ideas. Typically, in business school or anywhere at a university you will be taught critical thinking. Critical thinking is the process of identifying the problem, being clear about the problem that we’re trying to solve, identifying three or maybe four options on how we can solve it, and then analyzing those options and narrowing them down to one and then implementing it. And that’s probably important for a lot of activities.

But we now realize that that’s not enough because then we just continue to get this reductive view and we continue to do things like taking computer technology and focusing all our attention on turning it into a telephone. You need to marry that up with creative thinking, which we call entrepreneurial thinking at the business school because it sits better with business students.

In entrepreneurial thinking we use a lot of different tools to expand people’s thinking. A very simple one is brainstorming and there are many other terrific tools to help people to think creatively and expand their minds. This helps them look for solutions that never would have even occurred to them, not to just pick the three or four off the shelf that have been used in the past and try to make one of those work. We need to find ways to expand our thinking not to just continue to reduce it.

We’ve created something called the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and we have a big prize for student projects that has been very exciting. Now every student has to take the entrepreneurial thinking course. Every year we get a few students who are going to business school because they want to be an accountant, their parents were accountants and so on and so forth. They’ll say, ‘Hey wait a minute why do I have to take a course on entrepreneurship? I don’t want to start a new company or anything like that.’ There’s always about 10% who push back. But by the end, they’re involved, they’re engaged, because again I really feel that we just lost this excitement about taking risks and about being bold and being creative. I’m on a bit of a mission to spread that to business people and business students so that they recognize how important that is.

Slide: Jim Dewald

3. The arts involve passion, collaboration, risk taking. What role can the arts and artists play in achieving a shared prosperity for all citizens?

I read a lot of business books so I have a bit of a narrow focus. But the word “passion” draws me to a few really key authors. The first one is Angela Duckworth who’s a psychologist at University of Pennsylvania. She wrote a fantastic book called Grit and a quote I really like is this: “Our potential is one thing. What we do is quite another.”

When she talks about grit, she defines it as a combination of passion and perseverance. These are things that are present in the art world — anyone who’s in the arts has passion. And one of the things I love about the arts, you set well in advance when that curtain’s going to go up, and you can’t plead to your boss for a deferral — people are going to come and you have to perform. And that drives a lot of the perseverance — we’re going to do it, we can’t back out, we have to do it. There’s so much in the business community we can learn from you.

Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers said, “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good, it’s the thing you do that makes you good.” And his big comment is the 10,000-hour rule. In my research I found something a little bit different than the idea that you start with passion, do it for 10,000 hours, and then become an outlier. What the research had found is that somewhere along that 10,000 hours is where you find your passion. It fits more with what Angela Duckworth said, that it’s the perseverance that’s important. It’s about trying things and moving forward.

And that’s where Soichiro Honda says: “Success represents the 1% of your work that results from 99% that is called failure.” And they actually have a saying at Honda that failure is the key to success. It’s so important to just try, try, try and keep going forward. Again it’s this message of perseverance.

So in answer to that question what I would like, what I think would be fantastic for Calgary, in this time, where we sit right now, is for the arts community to persevere, to push, to drive your ideas, to get them out there, boldly. To get our city moving in the right direction, to get our province and our country moving in the right direction, we need that creative thought process, we need to be very open-minded, we need to be very inclusive. That’s a big difference in Canada and I look to this group as having great leadership to be able to make that happen.

Illustration: Sam Hester

Jim Dewald

Jim Dewald is the Dean of the Haskayne School of Business, and Associate Professor of Strategy & Entrepreneurship.

In 1999, Jim was named Calgary’s Citizen of the Year, and in 2011 the Alberta Real Estate Foundation named him a Thought Leader.

Prior to entering academics, Jim held several senior executive positions, including President & CEO of Walker Newby & Partners Inc., Hopewell Residential Communities Inc., and StoneCreek Resorts Inc. He is on the boards of Boardwalk REIT, the West Campus Development Trust, CPA Alberta, Innovate Calgary, Junior Achievement Southern Alberta, and an Advisor to the Real Estate Development Institute. He has held several leadership positions, including Chair of HomeCo Inc., Chair of the Urban Development Institute, Lead Trustee of Boardwalk, Deputy Chair of SAIT, and Vice-Chair of Calgary Housing Company.

He is an Honorary Member of the Appraisal Institute of Canada, has won best teaching and best paper awards. For several years he was the Real Estate columnist for the CBC Eye Opener, and urban design co-columnist for the Calgary Herald. Jim has several research and teaching awards, three books, two book chapters, over 20 academic papers, and over 60 newspaper and practitioner articles to his credit. Jim’s newest book, Achieving Longevity: How Great Firms Prosper through Entrepreneurial Thinking was included in the Forbes list of 17 Summer Reads Creative Leaders Can Read at the Beach post, and received acclaim from major international business outlets, including CEO Magazine, Fortune, Globe & Mail, BizEd, Boss Magazine, and Business Superstar.

About the Creative Calgary Congress

Calgary Arts Development produced the first Arts Champions Congress in 2011 as a meeting place for people who make Calgary’s arts sector a vibrant and exciting place to work and our city a great place to live.

Renamed the Creative Calgary Congress in 2014, it returned on November 22, 2016 as a place to share ideas and explore ways that the arts and artists can play a leadership role in making Calgary a more curious, compassionate and creative place for all citizens.

Learn more about the day and add your voice