Leadership in Digital Transformation: A Chain Reaction Panel

“Embrace the new technology, learn, fail, regroup, rethink, restart, and actually meet citizen expectation.”

A move to digital government changes what we deliver, and how we deliver it, in fundamental ways. When we worked with atoms, cost forced us to accept that one size fit many; now we work with bits, every product or service can be tailored to the user. And once, leadership meant convincing others to act in the absence of information; today, it means asking the right questions of oceans of data.

What does it take to “walk the walk” of digital transformation? How do we go beyond technology to the culture needed to turn shiny new ideas into meaningful societal change? In this unique interview format, three digital pioneers from the public and private sector discuss their perspectives on how governments need to adjust to the new realities of leadership.

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Please see the full transcript of the talk below.

Alistair Croll: [00:00:00] Morning! So, first up, what do you do? 

Claudia Thompson: [00:00:10] Well, you sort of alreayd said what I do. So I do have these two roles within Accenture. So I lead our Health and Public Service business across Canada, across all jurisdictions. And I lead Inclusion and Diversity for Accenture Canada.

I’ve been in the industry now 29 years. I joined right out of school and really all the reasons why I joined consulting are the same reasons why I’m there today. It’s really for the love of the work that we do- I’ve always had this great variety of work and variety of opportunities. I have the privilege of working with Canada’s leading businesses and governments to solve some pretty significant challenges. So that’s rewarding. 

And I’ve worked with some great talent and that talent comes from our clients, it comes from our ecosystem [00:01:00] partners, it comes from my colleagues at Accenture and Alvinod. And it keeps me on my toes. 

Alistair Croll: [00:01:07] We talk a lot at this conference about sort of digital transformation, but one of the things that’s really come across in the last couple of years is how much that transformation- to Afua’s point- is process and it’s culture. It’s these other factors that require that change to take place. 

What does leadership mean to you in a climate where people are realizing it’s not like throw a magic technology toy at it, but actually produce that? What does leadership actually mean to you? 

Claudia Thompson: [00:01:33] Right. Yeah leadership is critical in this day and age, and when I think of leadership, first and foremost, it’s not about a certain position or title- it’s really all the behaviors. That’s what defines a leader.

And well we obviously have leaders throughout an organization and that’s important, but the role of leaders needs to be to set a vision for the future of the organization, or even just part of the [00:02:00] organization. Really help people see themselves in it, so make it more personal so they can really engage and help derive that vision.

And then empower. We just heard the last speaker also talk about empowering your team and empowering people so they can really embrace change rather than creating this culture of fear. 

And what we’re experiencing is that, you know, the traditional leader- still valued obviously- but it was one more based on sort of the science of business, right? It was the leader who is analytical, critical decision making, the person who was focused on outcomes and key metrics. And all of that is still important, but there’s really now this human side to the business and in the rules of the leaders. So the leaders now need to also demonstrate empathy, they need to be able to actually inclusive leaders, a lot more self-awareness is required. 

And [00:03:00] most of that I think is being driven because we are facing a world where, you know, our customers, the citizens, our employees demand a very different experience. 

Alistair Croll: [00:03:11] How is it different? 

Claudia Thompson: [00:03:12] Well, because I mean, what you and I face just says consumers in a commercial world, sets the bar of what we expect when we are procuring a service or interacting with different levels of government, and engaging with them, that drives our expectations. 

And the same is true of employees. Right? What do they look into for leaders? So it really is the leaders and the mindset of leaders and kind of bringing this whole brain aspect of leadership that drives culture change. 

Alistair Croll: [00:03:41] So you alluded to the changes in technology and consumer expectations. And as a leader who’s more diverse and inclusive and empathetic and all those other things, rather than the sort of hard science, more of the manager as a leader, what is it about the rise of technology and consumer expectations that’s driving this need [00:04:00] for a diverse, inclusive form of leadership? 

Claudia Thompson: [00:04:03] Right. Well, so first of all, let’s just define the terms a little bit. So, diversity for me is, you know, certainly the makeup, the composition of our people being diverse in all the different ways that make us unique. And it’s a critical foundation for what drives innovative thinking, but it’s not in and of itself enough. And that’s where we get into what is the environment in which our people actually go to work? And are we creating an environment that drives creativity, innovation, that self-empowerment? Do we give people the freedom to actually hypothesize, experiment, right?Sometimes fail? You know, can we avoid, like, how do we as leaders respond when failure happens? And then to adapt. And really as we try then to understand, if you think about products and services needed for the future, you have a very diverse set of [00:05:00] consumers as well. 

There was one of my colleagues told a story recently being in India and they had put in a whole new set of washrooms, and it was all new technology- simple things really in today’s day and age. But what she found was interesting. She herself was the only white person and there were sensors for the water and she went to wash her hands and they worked fine. It was all new technology. She then heard there was several other team members complaining that they weren’t working. And what they actually discovered- so she took her an actually a piece of tissue and put it underneath the tap and the tissue was white and it worked. What would happen? It didn’t actually recognize the dark color of skin to trigger the water. Right? 

We have to recognize that the products we design, the services that we provide are there to service a number of different people with different ethnic backgrounds, et cetera. So if we’re really going to make societal change through technology, it can’t be [00:06:00] about what’s possible, because anything’s pretty much possible with technology, it’s really about what’s valued. Right? 

So do we really understand the problem we’re trying to solve and how do we identify problems? And then how do we identify solutions that actually add value? 

Alistair Croll: [00:06:17] So part of this is obviously retraining leaders and helping them to understand how to become like this. Part of it is going to be a regime change or retirement thing, and part of it is a pipeline issue. How do we address the pipeline so that we’re grooming the leaders of tomorrow who can fulfill that kind of role and have that perspective that notices the margins as well?

Claudia Thompson: [00:06:39] Right. So I could tell you what we’re doing within Accenture because Accenture is like any other organizations, a very large global organization. So when you’re trying to make culture change, it’s a pretty big ship to move. But we’re doing that because when we look at our own ambitions to grow and be relevant in our industry and to our clients, we have to [00:07:00] recognize that we have to have a talent ambition that supports our growth ambitions.

And so we have taking a check on our own, you know, what is our leadership mindset? And we’ve defined very specific  behaviors that we now expect of leaders, and those leaders of the future. And they’re different than when I started 29 years ago. The company has changed. The culture has changed.

When I started 29 years ago, it was a much more centralized decision making, policy base, compliance-based, a lot more risk averse. Today- and we’re not perfect, right? There’s more work to be done, but today it is a more flattened organization. We are really driving to create, encourage people in creativity and innovation, have those internal innovation challenges, the freedom to explore. And it comes with a fundamental: what do we expect of the people at the top and how they interact with people every day?

Alistair Croll: [00:07:59] When [00:08:00] you say freedom to explore, how do you make sure that people have the ability to make a mistake and, you know, be open about “hey, I made this mistake, this is what I learned” and not do it again- as opposed to like “bad, you made a mistake” and punishment?

Claudia Thompson: [00:08:12] Yeah. So it does come down to how do we respond when those events occur and how does it show up sometimes in a person’s performance. We’ve even changed our whole talent strategy around how we measure performance and it’s much more forward-looking around future potential, as opposed to, you know, what have you done for me lately or not done for me lately. But certainly our attitude is what fundamentally will drive the ability for people to take smart risks, right? Yeah, you can’t maybe take every risk, but you can be smart and informed. 

And yep we might fail, but I think if we also manage it in sizes, right? And that’s where we get into learning, even with our clients, do things sort of in a smaller size, test it out and then when it’s demonstrated to work, then you scale.

Alistair Croll: [00:08:59] Sure. [00:09:00] Got it. So it’s my turn to get off the stage and let you interview our next guest. So thank you very much, I’ll be back later.

Claudia Thompson: [00:09:12] So I am going to ask Sarah Paquet, Executive Vice President for Shared Services Canada to join me now. Thank you. 

So I have a few questions for Sarah as well, also on the theme of leadership. And we’ll just start with, so Sarah, you have a civil law degree, followed by a common law degree, and now you’re at SSC. So can you just share, how did you decide to pursue the career that you are working in today? What was your path and how did you even identify the path that you’re on? 

Sarah Paquet : [00:09:54] Well, people that work with me know that I always have a plan- and a B and a C and a D- for [00:10:00] everything. So of course I had a plan for my life and my career. It’s just that I was open to other opportunities and challenges. 

So all through my careers, whatever I was doing, if an opportunity was coming up to do something completely out of my comfort zone, if they were offering it to me, I was not going to challenge if I had the capacity or not. You trust me with it, I’m going to deliver on it and work on it until I’m done. And I will bring people around me to help me do it.

So that’s how I started in a small private firm in Gatineau to join the federal public service, which in my head, as a student, I would never have thought to join the public service. Not that I didn’t want to, I had no idea how to get there. 

Claudia Thompson: [00:10:44] Yeah. 

Sarah Paquet : [00:10:44] And when I went to my first interview, I had all the answers wrong and I didn’t prepare because I had nine trials that day- not that day, but that week. So I was like “Okay, I have two hours on Tuesday, would you do the interview then?” And he said yes. And I [00:11:00] showed up and I didn’t prepare and I didn’t have the answer. Went back to my office and they called in and said “Oh, I think you have the personality. We’ll hire you even if you were very weak in the interview.”

So then, I had to learn English because there were billingual requirements. I started studying. Anyway, they finally lowered the bar for my English because I was not CBC at the time and then started in the public service. 

But that’s just how I did it. You have a plan and then opportunities happen. You look into it. And you grow into all those different opportunities. So that’s how I went from being at a first level lawyer to being a manager, a team leader, and then at the end of legal services at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and after that Public Works. And then the DM at Public Works said “Oh Sarah, you will have a great career in justice. What [00:12:00] about you do something else?” I said “Why not?”

Claudia Thompson: [00:12:02] Sure.

Sarah Paquet : [00:12:02] And then I became the ADM service. And then the ADM service at Public Works didn’t talk at all about technology, but then a new Deputy Minister came on and she said “Oh Sarah, I would like you to do GC apps. Never been done before. I tried 20 years ago and they didn’t work out.” And I said “Great. Which part of my resume you didn’t get?” And she said “You’re able to do it.” and I said “Fine, I’ll do it.” And I failed and I learned and I start over. 

And when Ron Parker came to me and asked me to join the SSC I said “Ooh, I’m a woman. I’m a Francophone. I have three kids and I don’t speak tech or understand tech. Are you sure? And what is your community going to say if you bring me in?” He said “We think you’re part of our community.” There you go. I joined SSC and they’ve been fantastic with me and I got promoted to [00:13:00] VP. 

So the reason why I’m DVP is not because of my technological background or my path that I was planning for myself. It’s just about the opportunity, challenges and working with people.

Claudia Thompson: [00:13:13] Right. You raise a couple of good points. I mean, why not you, right? We sometimes doubt our own self, but when somebody’s asking you. Why not you. 

Sarah Paquet : [00:13:21] Yeah. You trust me. Why shouldn’t I trust myself. 

Claudia Thompson: [00:13:23] Right, exactly. Yeah. Good, good.

So through that leadership journey, can you tell us a little bit about who or what has inspired you and even now who or what continues to sort of encourage you and inspire you?

Sarah Paquet : [00:13:39] Yeah. What I look for in leaders is that A- they will leave their ego at the door because if you bring your ego into the room, then there’s no space for other ideas. So I look into leaders that will bring people together, hear their voices, have frank debates and then trust. You know, we had a good [00:14:00] discussion, we decided on a path, I entrust you to go and run with it. If you have issues, come and see me. I will remove barriers, that’s my job. Either I get out of the way or either I help you get there. So that’s what I’m looking for myself and that’s what I’m trying to do for my team. 

But those leaders that look into potential, that they trust their people and they are really looking to know what they don’t know and bring team together with different strengths that complete each other. I think for me, that’s really what inspired me because I’m always looking for results and that’s how you deliver results. 

Claudia Thompson: [00:14:37] Alright. Good.

So as one of our senior leaders in Canada’s public service, what are you experiencing? Sort of, some of the challenges and opportunities, in this digital transformation, in the public service of the future. 

[00:15:00] Sarah Paquet : [00:15:00] What I think is great about the pace of technology right now is the opportunity to leap forward. Having been in the government for 22 years, how many times did I hear “Oh, we’re the government. We’re 10 years behind. It’s normal.” Well, with technology, you cannot be 10 years behind. So I think it’s a great opportunity for us just to leap forward, to embrace the new technology, learn, fail, regroup, rethink, restart, and actually meet citizen expectation.

Claudia Thompson: [00:15:30] Right. 

Sarah Paquet : [00:15:30] You know, in our personal lives, what kind of services are we expecting from our government? It’s the kind of services we’re receiving in our personal life. As an employee of the government was kind of tools do you think you need to do your work? The tools you actually use at home to deliver on your personal life?

So I really embrace the fact that technology is really going to help the Government of Canada to be at the forefront of digital, offer citizens what they need, and then offer employees what they need [00:16:00] to deliver on them. And to do that, we’re all in this together. So it’s not about the government, it’s about us, all of us. We need to work together. We need to pull the strengths of the industry, build a relationship, work with them in a longterm vision to deliver better services to citizens. So I think it’s a great opportunity we’re living right now. 

Claudia Thompson: [00:16:22] Agreed. I mean, I think even when we talk about inclusion diversity, we seem to be focused sort of on within our own organization, right? But it really- the benefits and the reasons why we do it extend beyond the walls of our one organization to across organizations, right across that ecosystem where we can benefit when you bring together the governments, the not-for-profits, the startups, even those large multinationals.

You know, bringing the thought leaders, the experiences together, I think in the end makes for a better outcome for everybody. 

Sarah Paquet : [00:16:58] Yes. We cannot just say it’s [00:17:00] complex. We need to start. And where do you start? By bringing people together with all those different backgrounds, ideas, angle, perception, or even desire.

Claudia Thompson: [00:17:10] Yeah. 

Sarah Paquet : [00:17:10] And bring it together, work as partners. Everybody has to win because it needs to be a true partnership and that’s the way we’re going to deliver it. 

And just an example: FWD50 is having students here. Right? So this is just a great leadership to demonstrate that we’re all in this together. So I I’m really thankful for them to, to bring all of us together and have this discussion. 

Claudia Thompson: [00:17:35] Well I know you played a big part in having those students here today, so thank you for that too. 

Sarah Paquet : [00:17:39] Thank you. 

Claudia Thompson: [00:17:40] Okay, so I’m going to leave. Lisa’s gonna join you. And you can take it from there. 

Sarah Paquet : [00:17:46] Perfect! So it’s now my pleasure to introduce Lisa Carroll. She’s the [00:18:00] Canada Public Sector Representative for Microsoft. I probably missed a word there. 

Lisa Carroll: [00:18:05] No, no, no! That’s perfect.

Sarah Paquet : [00:18:07] So, welcome Lisa. 

Lisa Carroll: [00:18:08] Thank you. Good morning. 

Sarah Paquet : [00:18:09] Do you want to take it where we just left off? What do you think about the relationship between the public sector and the private sector?

Lisa Carroll: [00:18:16] So I think that’s a phenomenal question. So I guess a couple of things on that. To give a little bit of context on where my perspective or point of view is, I’ve been in the IT industry for the last 27 years. I have always in my career partnered with public sector, whether it’s federal government, provincial, municipal health care, education. And I think as private sector leaders, when you partner with public sector for all your career, I think I always say the P3s. 

So, what makes you successful is you need to be patient. You need to be persistent. But I think most importantly, you need a passion. You need to completely have a passion for public service. We [00:19:00] as private sector need to respect that it’s not just about ROI. It’s not just about budget and price. Those are important, but most importantly, it’s about how do we positively impact the quality of life in Canada. And so we thought frame of mind to be successful and build successful relationships with public sector leaders, you have to have that empathy, respect, and a partnership perspective.

I’m just looking at the clock’s not running. 

Sarah Paquet : [00:19:32] You have more time! 

Lisa Carroll: [00:19:33] Perfect. I’m going to have to stretch! 

So a couple things. This is my first day actually at FWD50 this week, and I’ve been here for the last three years. It’s an awesome event. I get to ask Alistair some questions shortly, but I was watching Twitter yesterday, and Twitter must love this event because everybody’s on there. So I almost feel like I’ve been part of the event. And there was one tweet yesterday that said it’s [00:20:00] not necessarily about digital government. It’s about public service reform. And I think when you look at that public service reform, that’s a lot to do. That’s a lot to undertake. It’s different skillsets, it’s different minds around the table. And I think the respectful partnership between public and private sector is critical for us all to achieve it. 

And I want to thank you, actually, because I think we’ve got a couple of fun little partnerships to do in the marketplace as female leaders in Ottawa to really work on that pipeline of young women in STEM and technology so I appreciate and respect that.

Sarah Paquet : [00:20:37] Yeah! And what about leadership? We discussed it a bit earlier. Would you like to add something? 

Lisa Carroll: [00:20:47] Yeah, I got a few  things to add. What Claudia said earlier that resonated with me was the human aspect, but I guess I’ll look at it from a couple of perspectives. 

One is when I [00:21:00] think about technology 10 years ago, 15 years ago, technology was in the back room. It was behind the curtain. It’s really bright people saying words none of us can understand. We’ve seen costs increase, and as business leaders trying to understand, and government leaders trying to understand what’s going on with technology. I think today it is no longer an enabler. Technology is that public service reform and opportunity that we can do.

So as leaders, number one, I do fundamentally believe that we must have a baseline and technology knowledge. I understand that Canadian Public Service School recently did a curriculum for the deputy ministers across government of Canada. We need to do more of that. I think that’s phenomenal because I think to adopt and do this digital journey, leaders need to know what cloud is. Don’t need to know the wires, but we need to understand what are the pros and cons, what’s the technology workforce [00:22:00] we need to build for the future in this technology environment. We need to know what data sovereignty is, what security is, what data privacy is. And as leaders, that’s very important. 

The other part of the technology skills is we need to help our teams evolve their capabilities and their technical skill sets. And you need to make that important. One of the things we’ve done across Canada this quarter is we actually, we booked in every single one of our colleagues calendars, over a three month period, one day a month, everyone’s cleared their calendars. And we’re sitting in our own desks or with groups, there’s lots of people working together and we’re developing our skill sets.

Sarah Paquet : [00:22:39] Wow!

Lisa Carroll: [00:22:39] And very important we emphasize the importance of that.

Claudia also talked a little bit, I’ll call it “growth mindset” is the phrase that we use as an organization. With the world changing so often I think as leaders, not just manager skills- those are important to operate and lead our [00:23:00] businesses- but really to lead the future is to have a growth mindset, curiosity, to always recognize that you’re never the brightest person in the world. It’s all about continuous improvement, not staying where you are today. And so that’s a tremendous piece.

And then last but not least, I’ll say coaching. We call it “model coach care” in our company, and it’s moving away from that directive leadership or measurement, and modeling the behavior, coaching the behavior. Our teams are going through change. There’s so much coming at us with technology, we need to provide clarity. We need to provide some focus so that people can develop their own growth mindset. 

Sarah Paquet : [00:23:43] Excellent. And what about diversity in a big corporation like yours? 

Lisa Carroll: [00:23:51] Diversity is diversity and inclusion. Absolutely critical. I am extremely passionate about gender diversity, [00:24:00] but one of the things I love about our company is that we try to be as inclusive as possible. And we think in so many ways and are continuously developing that. We’re not perfect. Everybody makes mistakes, but I think it’s important to have that focus of continuous improvement. So diversity and inclusion means to me race, culture, sexual orientation, disabilities. 

Disability is very interesting. And as a company, we’ve been focusing on that quite a bit. So if you look in Canada, we are about what? 6.2 million people in Canada have disabilities. 70% of those are not visible to us. That’s almost 17-18% of our citizens in the country have disabilities. And so when you think about designing and technology, how do you think of those? That’s actually a lot of people, but they’re out, they’re not in that normal curve, they’re out here. How do you, you think [00:25:00] about designing for those people so that you’re inclusive?

And so I want to share one technical design. One of my colleagues keeps bringing this example and I love it. Think of elevators. Think of the big office buildings in downtown Ottawa, downtown Toronto, and you go to press the elevators now, right? It’s really efficient. We’ve got the technology: press the pad, and it says elevator B, C, or D. Now think of that if you have a visual impairment. Think about, there are some elevator platforms now that do have braille or will speak to you and say “Go to elevator C, D or E.” But what I haven’t yet seen is, great which one is it? So that importance, I’ll say that it’s a lot of fun working with a company that’s really trying to look at those people who are excluded so that we can actually figure out how to best include in our technology. 

Sarah Paquet : [00:25:58] Excellent. [00:26:00] And so you’re using technology to help them? Are you using AI? 

Lisa Carroll: [00:26:04] Absolutely. Lots of artificial intelligence. And if anybody wants to come to a workshop later on today, I think we’ve got a team for about two, two and a half hours. But I think the artificial intelligence, that acceleration of technology, makes that responsibility so much more, that we design that exclusivity in from the start. Otherwise it could be dangerous.

Sarah Paquet : [00:26:25] Okay! Well, thank you very much, Lisa. 

Lisa Carroll: [00:26:27] Good, thank you. 

Sarah Paquet : [00:26:27] Looking forward to seeing you soon.

Lisa Carroll: [00:26:31] Alistair! So Alistair’s on the hotspot now. 

Alistair Croll: [00:26:39] That’s where I like to live.

Lisa Carroll: [00:26:41] Good, good, good. 

So one of the things I’ve learned, so diversity inclusion, very, very important. But one of the things I’ve learned over the last couple of weeks, I will say you’ve got a small and mighty team that organizes this event. Phenomenal and passionate people. 

Alistair Croll: [00:26:58] Thanks!

Lisa Carroll: [00:26:59] I’ve [00:27:00] recognized that diversity inclusion is very important to  FWD50. And so I’ve got two part question. 

First is, why is it important? What is it that you do? And would love you to give a little bit of context around that. 

The second part of it is, and I have been watching Twitter, you’ve used the phrase “white dude”. On Twitter, I’ve seen someone tweet that this week. So I’m going to use that phrase. So as we look at diversity and inclusion, sometimes there can be conversations these days with white dudes feeling excluded and that we need to respect that, understand that. Would love your perspective on that. What do we think is the role and why is it important to white dudes that embed diversity and inclusion?

Alistair Croll: [00:27:47] Let me see how many eggshells I can break. So I was raised by my mom who’s somewhere here in the room as a single parent. I have a phenomenal sister and a nine year old daughter. It makes it pretty easy to see three generations of that. [00:28:00] I think that if you were in a school of football players and half of them weren’t allowed to play. And you were doing okay in the local football games, and then you said “Alright, we’re going to let everybody try out this year.” And guess what? You’ll probably do better because the normal curve simply says that now you can sample from twice as big a pool. 

If you’re a white dude, you’ve probably had an unfair advantage for a long time. It’s not that anyone’s taking anything away. If you’re good at what you do you deserve that job. If there’s someone better than you, you don’t deserve that job. 

I’ll tell you something that a VC once told me, and he got a lot of grief for this. He said “I invest in minority and women led companies. Not because I want to change the world.” This is why he got the grief. “But because women and minorities tend to produce better outcomes and startups, and tend to receive less money. That makes them an underutilized asset. And as a capitalist, that’s a good investment.” And so people are like “I love you. I hate you.” Right? But [00:29:00] the truth of that statement is that- and literally you and I were sitting back there  and I’m like “Okay, ask me real questions.” I just looked at the lineup- I’m the only guy on the stage today, but the best part about that is I didn’t notice until I looked at the list, which is weird. I’m literally the only loud white dude on the stage. I count as three or four loud white dudes- I’m so loud and white. But I think that the reality is that if you have a bully pulpit, it is your obligation to use it for change you want to see in the world. 

And I live in constant fear of doing something wrong. So I’m going to say something that sounds a little, maybe risky. I’ve noticed that in politics, especially South of the border, in certain political circles for certain political parties, you are bad until you do something good. You may be someone who’s done a lot of terrible things, but you do a certain thing that the [00:30:00] political group thinks is wonderful and now you’re a hero. And there are other political circles- and I’m not naming names because I want to remain nonpartisan- where you’re good until you do something bad. At which point the cancel culture says “We’re done” and walks away. And that’s obviously a very politically charged conversation. 

As a loud straight white dude, I’ll add straight to the list, I am constantly aware that- especially this event- lives on a knife edge. We have people making ads for us on Twitter cause they love the conference. We have people saying “I want to set up a Reddit or a Wiki” and that’s amazing, I’ve never had that kind of support. But I’m also like, I know I’m one dumb remark or one stupid decision away from that crumbling. And I don’t want that to crumble because this is a pretty good community. And I think that you have to say to yourself, it’s not that you’re in fear of doing the wrong thing, but as she was saying, it’s about failing openly once and then moving on and being transparent. 

And I’ll tell you a quick story about this. The first year for [00:31:00] FWD50, we had a form that required you enter email. And in the email, it verified that it was a real email. So if you type in my address, you type in a, and it would give you a message saying “Must be a valid email address” and you type in C, “Must be valid email”. I got a mail from David Best, who’s blind, saying “Hey bonehead. Every time I type a letter in that form, it rereads me the webpage!” I didn’t know that was the case. That’s horrible, right? So I’m like, okay let’s not make that a required field, let’s fix that. Cause I didn’t know. And I wrote a blog post about here’s what I learned doing outreach for this. And I think as long as, if you’re in a position of power, as long as you accept hey, we’re learning and here’s what I’m learning, and share it- then I think people will support you trying to get it right. And the reality is that when you get to choose from the whole school instead of half the school, you have a better football team. And those people who are on the team, they may have to try out again. Let’s hope they’re good. 

Lisa Carroll: [00:31:57] Good. You did a good job on that.

[00:32:00] Alistair Croll: [00:32:00] Long answer to a short question. 

Lisa Carroll: [00:32:01] But I love the failing recognition. I think the reality is none of us are perfect. All of us have our unconscious bias, no matter what our great intent is, there is no perfect organization leader. And I think it’s that growth mindset of learning and adopting and continuous improvement.

Alistair Croll: [00:32:21] But I think there’s a risk of being accused of, and actually virtue signaling. And like, I have a pronoun pin on here despite the fact that apparently Twitter knows I’m a loud, straight white dude now. And I have a trans friend and I said to her like “I’m wearing this pin, but it’s pretty clear what I am”. She said “You’re not wearing it for you. Everyone knows who you are. You’re wearing it so that when I wear mine, it isn’t weird”. And I think that’s a really important lesson that it’s not about, sometimes it’s not about you. It’s about accommodation. It’s about inclusion. And if you’re the person who gets to choose which washrooms are non nonbinary, you better do that, right? Because the nonbinary person may not be in charge of the washroom allocation. [00:33:00] These are stupid little things. There are, I guarantee you for those of you that are here, there are a thousand little things behind the scenes you didn’t know are being fixed constantly by a team of seven. 

I think there’s a moral obligation if you have a bully pulpit to use it for the change you want to see in the world. And I think it’s really hard to do that without being accused of virtue signaling by people who don’t want to give up their place on the football team, shall we say.

Lisa Carroll: [00:33:23] Good. So I want one last question, change tacks a little bit.

So you’ve been all over the world. You have been talking to governments all over the world. You’ve come up with this phenomenal environment over the last three years. What worries you the most? What should we be doing more of faster? What concerns as we look at how to improve the quality and continue to improve the quality of life for Canadians?

Alistair Croll: [00:33:49] I think that we are, I believe that the big battle in the universe- and I do mean universe like science fiction, Malka Older universe- is between individualism and [00:34:00] collectivism. Like Star Trek’s the Borg. We live in a Western liberal democracy where individuals have agency. There is a bill of rights. There’s a constitution. The bill of rights is there to protect the individual against the masses. We are faced with species level extinction problems that are better solved by collectivism. And I said this in my Ignite talk last night, we tend to want a hero to come and save us, and then we rally behind them.

I read a great post the other day about most of the progressive changes we see in the 20th century are the result of World War II. You have women entering the workforce, the G.I. Bill, civil rights, all came from World War II. It’s incredible. We needed an almost world ending catastrophe to get our shit together. We are a sentient species. We got to learn how to get our shit together without coming to the brink of extinction. And unfortunately we wait for a Greta Thunberg or a Robert Mueller, whoever that may be, to show up and then we rally behind them. 

There are other [00:35:00] societies where individuals don’t have agency, don’t have rights, but those societies can say “Electric cars now. No more meat today”. And I think one of the things I think a lot about is let’s say we all decided no more meat. First of all, steaks are nice. If I said no more meat, people will be like “Oh, that’s horrible”. But I guarantee you that within a year of no more meat, first of all, all vegetarian food, be delicious. We’d be growing stuff in vats that would be fine and ethical and sustainable. 

We view the changes we have to make with the lens of today, rather than saying, if we make those changes, how good can the world of tomorrow be? And until we collectively, rather than as some loud person broadcast it, we collectively say, if we make these changes we must make, how do we then make life better for all, we will fail.

So I worry about the need for individual heroes. And I worry about our inability to make decisions about tomorrow based on the lenses of today. 

Lisa Carroll: [00:35:59] Great. [00:36:00] Thank you. Thank you for having me. 

Alistair Croll: [00:36:01] Thanks for doing the panel.