The Value of People

Isabel Campbell diligently tracked the history of Grande Prairie area people
Isabel Campbell diligently tracked the history of various Grande Prairie area people as they appeared in local newspapers from 1913 to 1961.

I want everyone reading this to take a moment and participate in a small exercise.  Get comfortable in your chair, close your eyes, and think about the people you know that could be considered innovators (unless you find this unsettling – in that case, think of kittens).  For those still with me, ask yourself this question: who are these people?  By that, I mean, where did they come from? What were their families like?  How were they brought up?  What is it about innovators that makes them ‘innovative’?  Is it opportunity?  Is it personality? Is it luck?

Living in the Peace region, it is easy to see innovation take many forms, from ideas and inventions to groups and policies.  What all these things have in common is people – people are the bedrock of innovation.  Without people, well, no innovation, obviously, but also, no exchange of ideas and goals, and no working towards creative solutions in communities, jobs, and lives.  Getting the notion that people are pretty important?  Read on.

People create history, and the Peace Region is home to a history that is complex and dynamic.  I believe that part of the reason innovation is so ‘built-in’ and occurs so often in real-time here is due to exactly such a history.  In my research, I’ve read about settlers and pioneers, people such as Mary Percy and Frank Jackson, and their daring pilot friend, Wilfrid ‘Wop’ May.  I’ve traveled to Manning, Keg River, High Level and beyond, and spent a good deal of time speaking to people in the Region who have been here multi-generationally.  Through all this, I’ve been struck by the sheer fortitude and know-how of the people who persevered here, who built lives and raised families, and who met the challenges of living and prospering in the north with resolve and inventiveness.  These same qualities inform the spirit of innovation.

Peace Region Innovators (left to right): Reg Isley, Randy Galbreath, Dave Fenton, Paul Dagesse, Mike Dika

As an anthropologist who studies work, I know that people often find creative solutions to problems.  I also know that people who are under-challenged or under-valued in their work lives tend to be less innovative – a warning sign for potential employers and collaborators.  Innovation is only robust, inventive, and adaptable when people are given the opportunity to let their ideas, passions, and insights flourish.  So, take note employers, companies, groups, and governments: create spaces where innovation can be nourished, and then encourage the resultant growth.

Given the opportunity, people can and will meet challenges, with inventiveness and versatility.  Help create those opportunities today, and witness the innovation revolution.

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