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Queen’s School of Policy Studies welcoming new expertise

Former Senator Hugh Segal appointed Chair of the External Advisory Board and senior public servant William Bromm as the Executive-in-Residence.

The Queen’s University School of Policy Studies recently announced Hugh Segal has been appointed Chair of the School of Policy Studies External Advisory Board and the Donald Matthews Faculty Fellow in Global Public Policy.

In a second announcement, the School of Policy Studies announced William Bromm as the Executive-in-Residence, effective until September 2020.

Hugh Segal

Segal, the fifth head of Massey College at the University of Toronto, where he is a Senior Fellow, is a former chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, and the Special Senate Committee on Anti-Terrorism. He has also served as Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Associate Cabinet Secretary for Federal-Provincial Relations in Ontario under Premier Bill Davis, and as president of the Institute for Research on Public Policy. He was awarded an honorary degree at Queen’s University in 2018.

“The School of Policy Studies is very pleased to welcome the Honourable Hugh Segal back to Queen’s,” says Warren Mabee, Associate Dean and Director (Policy Studies). “He brings expertise in all aspects of policy development and analysis to the school and will be a tremendous resource for our students and faculty as the school evolves over the next few years. We are delighted that Mr. Segal is joining us and look forward to working closely with him to implement an exciting new agenda within the school.”

Segal’s public policy focus for many years has been reforming income security in Canada with a basic income guarantee. He has written seven books on public policy and holds honorary doctorates from the University of Ottawa and the Royal Military College. He is an Honorary Captain of the Royal Canadian Navy, and, most recently, served as Canada's Special Envoy. Segal was a member of the Eminent Persons Group dealing with human rights and rule of law in Commonwealth countries and recently wrote the proposal published by Ontario for a pilot project on a basic income.

William Bromm

He is also Senior Advisor at the law firm of Aird and Berlis, LLP.

The School of Policy Studies also welcomes Bromm to his new role of Executive-in-Residence. Currently serving as the Senior Director and General Counsel at the Office of the Secretary of the Cabinet for the Government of Ontario, Bromm brings a wealth of knowledge of government operations and the interactions between the executive and legislative branches of government to Queen’s.

“He will be a tremendous asset to the university, the School of Policy Studies, and, most importantly, our students,” says Dr. Mabee. “We look forward to working closely with Mr. Bromm in his new role here at the university and are grateful for the opportunity that his presence brings to research and teaching at Queen’s.”

For more information, visit the School of Policy Studies website.

Sustainable finance: Canada risks being left behind in low-carbon economy

Global investors are already mobilizing capital to take advantage of investment opportunities in climate-smart infrastructure, emissions-reducing technology and updated electricity grids. (Photo by Zbynek Burival/Unsplash)

Earlier this spring, the most in-depth analysis to date on Canada’s changing climate provided clear evidence that Canada is warming twice as fast as the global average. As we increasingly experience the physical impacts (flooding, extreme weather, forest fires), we will experience the financial impacts as well in the form of both increasing market risks and unprecedented investment opportunities.

For the financial sector, this is a pivotal moment where it can realign its structures to ensure global capital flows toward solutions that will protect Canada’s economy and our prosperity, more broadly. However, Canada’s financial community has yet to fully grasp the numerous challenges and opportunities that climate change presents for us in the transition to a low-carbon economy.

On June 14, an independent panel of experts released recommendations on what Canada’s financial system needs to do to support this transition. The key message: we must empower our financial sector to design a made-in-Canada sustainable finance system so that Canadian firms can compete successfully among their global peers over the long term.

In its simplest definition, sustainable finance means aligning all of our financial systems and services to promote long-term environmental sustainability and economic prosperity. That includes channelling investments toward climate solutions and managing climate-related financial risks.

Canada has the talent, resources and institutional muscle to define sustainable finance for our economy. We need to grow and harness that capacity now, if we want to captain our own ship through one of the most significant global economic transitions in history.

Much to lose, but more to gain

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, a 2C global warming scenario will trigger global financial losses of roughly US$4.2 trillion. With 6C of warming, those losses balloon to $13.8 trillion. That represents about 10 per cent of the global assets currently under management.

Losses at this scale will have wide-reaching implications for investors and the asset-management industry. Everyday people who are depending on investment income for their retirement will find themselves in dire straits. That includes every Canadian counting on the Canada Pension Plan.

On the flip side, there is tremendous value — some $26 trillion worth — to be gained by shifting economies to avoid worst-case climate scenarios. This represents massive and economy-wide investments in climate-smart infrastructure, emissions-reducing technology, updated electricity grids, to name just a few examples. Global investors are already mobilizing capital to take advantage of these opportunities.

The question for Canada is: how do we attract global investment while, at the same time, protecting Canadian assets, investors and firms from risk?

In essence, this is what sustainable finance is about — harnessing our financial systems to help accelerate the activities, decisions and structures that will put Canadian industries and our economy ahead of the curve without ignoring the environment.

[Wind turbines]
Climate change is expected to trigger global financial losses in the trillions, but there are also opportunities for investment. (Photo by Karsten Wuerth/Unspalsh)

We can’t afford to fall behind

Other global players are already acting. The European Commission has spent the past two years mobilizing expertise to build a financial system that supports sustainable growth. It has made significant progress in establishing disclosure rules for climate-related financial risk and creating unified definitions (a taxonomy) on what can be considered environmentally sustainable economic activity.

For example, this includes defining the labels and criteria for green financial products, which will, among other things, significantly shape the direction of the rapidly expanding green bond market.

The problem is these rules and definitions are being pioneered elsewhere and are unlikely to benefit Canada. They may even penalize us, because they are designed for economies significantly different from our own.

For example, there is a current gap, and huge opportunity, to pioneer financial mechanisms and incentives could be created to expedite the sustainable transition of higher-emitting sectors like oil and gas and agriculture.

This requires our leadership.

If we allow others to direct the innovations in sustainable finance, we will find ourselves without the financial tools and structures that Canada’s resource-rich economy needs to determine its own path through a global transition.

The expert panel’s report is our wake-up call. It is time to catch up and get ourselves to the table. Our financial sector — and the broader ecosystem including our accountants, lawyers and actuaries — needs to start answering some big questions.

What does meaningful, responsible and consistent disclosure look like in a Canadian context? How do we create incentives and opportunities to draw in private capital to boost clean tech innovation across our economy and to invest in climate-resilient infrastructure? How do we better assess risk and the value of assets through a climate-smart lens?

We must, and we can, build the knowledge, understanding and capacity of our financial system to rise to these challenges. We can do this by investing in the research, education, professional training and the collaboration necessary to lift our current generation of professionals to the next level, while preparing an emerging generation to lead.

For those of us in the financial sector, this is about the future of our industry. For all Canadians, it’s about the future of our economy and well-being. Let’s get started now.

_________________________________________________________The Conversation

Sean Cleary is BMO Professor of Finance, CFA, ICD.D at Smith School of Business at Queen's University, and Ryan Riordan is Associate Professor and Distinguished Professor of Finance at Smith School of Business at Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

Spring convocation comes to a close

Four ceremonies and an honourary degree round out 2018/2019 graduation events.

  • Honorary degree recipient Gerald Sutton (Com'48) shakes the hand of Rector Alex Da Silva during the convocation ceremony for the Smith School of Business Commerce program on June 11, 2019. (Queen's University/Garrett Elliott)
    Honorary degree recipient Gerald Sutton (Com'48) shakes the hand of Rector Alex Da Silva during the convocation ceremony for the Smith School of Business Commerce program on June 11, 2019. (Queen's University/Garrett Elliott)
  • Smith School of Business Commerce graduates being hooded during a convocation ceremony on June 11.
    Smith School of Business Commerce graduates being hooded during a convocation ceremony on June 11. (Queen's University/Garrett Elliott)
  • Graduating Commerce students attending spring convocation on June 11, 2019.
    Graduating Commerce students attending spring convocation on June 11, 2019. (Queen's University/Garrett Elliott)
  • A graduate of the Smith School of Business Commerce class smiles after being presented with a Pendleton blanket.
    A graduate of the Smith School of Business Commerce class smiles after being presented with a Pendleton blanket. (Queen's University/Garrett Elliott)
  • A Commerce graduate shakes hands with David Saunders, Dean of Smith School of Business.
    A Commerce graduate shakes hands with David Saunders, Dean of Smith School of Business. (Queen's University/Garrett Elliott)
  • Engineering and Applied Science students arriving to June 12, 2019 spring convocation.
    Engineering and Applied Science students arriving to June 12, 2019 spring convocation. (Queen's University/Garrett Elliott)
  • Engineering and Applied Science students seated with their peers during the June 12, 2019 convocation ceremony.
    Engineering and Applied Science students seated with their peers during the June 12, 2019 convocation ceremony. (Queen's University/Garrett Elliott)
  • Daniel Woolf addresses Engineering and Applied Science graduates at Spring convocation; his last ceremony as Principal and Vice-Chancellor.
    Daniel Woolf addresses Engineering and Applied Science graduates at Spring convocation; his last ceremony as Principal and Vice-Chancellor. (Queen's University/Garrett Elliott)
  • Kevin Deluzio, Dean of Engineering and Applied Science, addresses graduates at spring convocation.
    Kevin Deluzio, Dean of Engineering and Applied Science, addresses graduates at spring convocation. (Queen's University/Garrett Elliott)
  • A graduate of the Engineering and Applied Science class being presented with a Pendleton blanket.
    A graduate of the Engineering and Applied Science class being presented with a Pendleton blanket. (Queen's University/Garrett Elliott)
  • An Engineering and Applied Science student shakes hands with university Chancellor Jim Leech.
    An Engineering and Applied Science student shakes hands with university Chancellor Jim Leech. (Queen's University/Garrett Elliott)

Spring Convocation has officially come to a close following four ceremonies this week.

On Tuesday, June 11, the season's final honorary degree was conferred upon Gerald Sutton, former president of Canada's first venture capital company.

Gerald Sutton arrived in Canada from England in 1941 and settled in Chatham, Ont. Two years later he joined the RCAF at the age of 17 and would be commissioned as a pilot. Following his service he enrolled in the Commerce program Queen’s University, graduating in 1948. A year later he graduated from the Master of Commerce program. Working in the head office of the Bank of Montreal he would become Assistant Economic Adviser but left in 1958 to be Director of Research at Nesbitt, Thompson And Company Limited, now BMO Nesbitt Burns. In 1961 he organized Canada’s first venture capital company, Canadian Enterprise Development Corporation Limited (CED). He was appointed General Manager in 1964 and subsequently President of CED. Throughout his career, Sutton was also a pioneer in organizing and supporting not-for-profit organizations to improve the quality of life for developmentally handicapped people. Sutton and his wife Margaret, also a graduate of Queen’s, are enthusiastic supporters of Queen’s and have established a number of bursaries, awards and scholarships. Two rooms in Goodes Hall bear their names.

Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science undergraduates were conferred during the final spring ceremony on the afternoon of Wednesday, June 12. The occasion also marked Daniel Woolf's final convocation as Principal and Vice-Chancellor, before he leaves the post on June 30 after 10 years of service.

A total of 18 ceremonies were held for Spring Convocation, with seven honorary degrees conferred by Queen’s during the events.

More photos of this season's convocation events can be viewed at the Queen’s University page on flickr.

Queen’s hosts diplomats from across Asia-Pacific

Annual Ambassadors’ Forum brings international representatives to campus for networking and knowledge sharing.

Queen’s representatives and international ambassadors pose together in front of Summerhill, a yearly tradition after the Ambassadors’ Forum.
Queen’s representatives and international ambassadors pose together in front of Summerhill, a yearly tradition after the Ambassadors’ Forum.

Diplomats from 10 countries across the Asia-Pacific region met at Queen’s University recently for the Ambassadors' Forum – an annual event that provides opportunities for international networking, knowledge sharing, and collaboration. Representatives from China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, South Korea, and Vietnam joined Queen’s academics and administrators for discussions of international education, partnerships, and economic and political issues.

“I want to thank our guests for joining this year’s Ambassadors' Forum, and for sharing their invaluable perspectives on opportunities and challenges we all share,” says Tom Harris, Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic). “Effective partnerships are built on communication, so this annual gathering serves as a fantastic opportunity to deepen these connections and explore untapped potential for future collaboration.”

First held in 2003, the Ambassadors' Forum was developed and nurtured by Hok-Lin Leung, Professor Emeritus in the Queen’s Department for Geography and Planning. The yearly event hosts ambassadors, high commissioners, and national representatives, as well as Queen’s academics and administrators for a luncheon and private guest lecture. This year, David Detomasi, Adjunct Associate Professor at Smith School of Business addressed forum guests with a talk entitled “The New International Trade Order”.

“I want to thank Dr. Leung for continuing to devote significant time and effort into building and strengthening Queen’s University’s relationships with this important community,” says Dr. Harris.

Dr. Harris was joined by other administrators in representing Queen’s at the forum, including Fahim Quadir, Dean of the School of Graduate Studies; Kent Novakowski, Associate Vice-Principal (Research); and Jill Scott, Interim Associate Vice-Principal (International).

“We must continually strive to set the bar higher for ourselves as we work to equip our students with the tools they will need to become global citizens,” says Dr. Scott, who closed out the luncheon with remarks about the social mission of universities like Queen’s.

The spring edition of the annual Ambassadors' Forum took place at Queen’s on Friday, May 31.

Membership of Principal’s Advisory Committee, Smith School of Business

On behalf of Principal Daniel Woolf, Tom Harris, Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) has announced the membership of the committee that will advise him on the deanship and the present state and future prospects of the Smith School of Business.


  • Kandice Baptiste - Director, Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre
  • Joanna Bitharas - MBA Candidate 2020, President, Student Executive Council
  • Yolande Chan - Associate Dean (Research, PhD and MSc Programs) and E. Marie Shantz Professor of IT Management
  • Shawn Cooper - Managing Director and Regional Leader, Russell Reynolds Associates, member of the Smith Advisory Board
  • Tina Dacin - Stephen J. R. Smith Chaired Professor of Strategy and Organizational Behavior
  • Tom Harris (Chair) - Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic)
  • Yuri Levin - Professor & Stephen J.R. Smith Chair of Analytics; Executive Director, Analytics and AI; and Director, Scotiabank Centre for Customer Analytics
  • Rebecca Luce-Kapler - Dean, Faculty of Education
  • Bertrand Malsch - Associate Professor & PricewaterhouseCoopers/Tom O'Neill Fellow of Accounting and Director of the CPA Ontario Centre for Governance & Accountability
  • Lynnette Purda - Professor & RBC Fellow of Finance
  • Laurie Ross - Executive Director, Dean’s Office
  • Stephanie Simpson - Associate Vice-Principal (Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion)
  • Lori Stewart (Secretary) - Executive Director, Office of the Provost and Vice Principal (Academic)
  • Ann Tierney - Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs
  • Maryann Turcke - COO of the National Football League, Chair of the Smith Advisory Board
  • Wei Wang - Associate Professor & RBC Fellow of Finance and Director of Queen’s Master of Finance (Beijing) Program

Commerce Society leadership will participate by meeting with the committee to discuss undergraduate student considerations. Principal Woolf thanks the members of this committee for their willingness to serve.

Funding new scientific frontiers

New Frontiers in Research Fund fuels Queen’s research in topics ranging from Lyme disease to climate change.

Early-career researchers are the backbone of Canada’s research infrastructure. Recognizing this area of research strength and its potential, the Government of Canada has launched the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) to support early-career researchers as they pursue the next great discovery in their fields.

[Minister Kirsty Duncan]
Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport

Seven Queen’s University projects earned a $1.72 million portion of the $38 million in NFRF funding announced by the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, earlier this week. The successful Queen’s researchers are: Chantelle Capicciotti (Chemistry) and Mark Ormiston (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences), Robert Colautti (Biology), Samuel Dahan (Law), Lindsay Morcom (Education), Jessica Selinger (Kinesiology and Health Science), Kevin Stamplecoskie (Chemistry), and Laura Thomson (Geography and Planning).

“I am pleased today to celebrate the very first researchers to benefit from the New Frontiers in Research Fund. Our government’s vision is for our researchers to take risks and be innovative,” says Minister Duncan. “We want our scientists and students to have access to state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment, and we want the halls of academia to better reflect the diversity of Canada itself. This new fund will help us achieve that vision.”

Drs. Capicciotti and Ormiston are studying how cancer cells change the sugars that they express on their surface to avoid detection by the immune system. The researchers will work to develop technology to screen hundreds of sugar structures, with the ultimate goal of creating new cancer therapies that function by boosting an individual’s immune response.

As a member of the Canadian Lyme Disease Research Network (CLyDRN) based at Queen’s, Dr. Colautti is leading a diverse and multidisciplinary group of researchers to disrupt the way that tick-borne diseases are identified and managed in Canada. Their approach includes the use of handheld DNA sequencers and cloud computing for rapid detection of known or potential tick-borne pathogens, summarizing this information into a risk assessment framework for medical practitioners, public health officials, and the general populace.

Professor Dahan, in collaboration with Xiaodan Zhu (Electrical and Computer Engineering) and a team of 25 data scientists, Artificial Intelligence researchers, and law students, is working on an open source AI-tribunal for small claims in Ontario. This digital dispute-resolution platform will provide predictive legal services and negotiation support for self-represented plaintiffs. The NFRF funding will help develop the first stage of the product, focusing on severance pay and termination negotiation.

Using the skills of an interdisciplinary team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars and visual and digital media artists, Dr. Morcom and her team will work to create a network of virtual reality spaces across the country. The newly-created spaces will be used to stage cross-cultural, interdisciplinary, and cross-generational encounters.

Dr. Selinger has formed an interdisciplinary team that combines expertise in fundamental human biomechanics, clinical rehabilitative medicine, and applied robotic control. The research has the potential to revolutionize the next generation of rehabilitation strategies by focusing on how people re-learn to walk after a stroke.

Focusing on a new area of research, Dr. Stamplecoskie and partner Guojun Liu (Chemistry), are researching new electrochemical devices, capable of capturing the tremendous amount of energy available in rainfall, waves, and evaporating water. The research is working to create new devices capable to meeting global energy demands.

Dr. Thomson has amassed an interdisciplinary team that will integrate modern glacier research practices and inter-generational perspectives on climate, to improve environmental monitoring in Canada’s high-Arctic. This initiative will provide open-access, real-time climate data for the first time in this part of the Arctic, and provide public access to rare historic data.

All of the Queen’s projects are funded under the Exploration stream of the NFRF program. The second stream is the Transformation stream that provides large-scale support for Canada to build strength and leadership in interdisciplinary and transformative research. The third stream, International, will come online later, according to Minister Duncan.

“Through the NFRF program, early-career researchers at Queen’s are bringing new ideas and methodologies to critical issues from Lyme disease to climate change,” say Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “Importantly, they are increasing the potential impact and application of their work by collaborating across disciplinary boundaries.”

For more information, visit the NFRF website.

Don’t miss out on research funding opportunities, subscribe to the University Research Services Funding Opportunities listserv.

Queen’s economist wins second Donner Prize

Award for book on Indigenous rights makes Thomas J. Courchene the first two-time recipient of top Canadian public policy writing honour.

Left to right: David Dodge, Donner Prize, Jury Chair; Thomas J. Courchene; Deborah Donner, Governor, Donner Canadian Foundation (Photo by: Will Putz)
Left to right: David Dodge, Donner Prize, Jury Chair; Thomas J. Courchene; Deborah Donner, Governor, Donner Canadian Foundation (Photo by: Will Putz)

Two decades after winning the first-ever Donner Prize for best Canadian public policy book, economist and Queen’s Professor Emeritus Thomas J. Courchene has done it again. On May 1, 2019, his latest book Indigenous Nationals, Canadian Citizens: From First Contact to Canada 150 and Beyond was recognized by award jurors as a “masterful work on one of the most important themes of our country’s public policy history” – securing Courchene the top prize and $50,000.

“The Donner Prize serves as a beacon for aspiring writers, so when I won it the first time it was truly an inspiration,” says Dr. Courchene. “In being recognized a second time, I sincerely hope the publicity will allow my book to contribute to a greater, broader understanding of the challenges and policies that affect the lives of Indigenous peoples of Canada.”

The book, published by the Institute of Intergovernmental Relations in the Queen’s School of Policy Studies, examines the historical, legal, and socio-economic evolution of Canadian policy initiatives relating to Indigenous peoples. In doing so, Dr. Courchene puts forth a new policy prescription that seeks to reconcile the goal of recognizing Indigenous rights with that of promoting Canadian economic and resource development. Jurors lauded the book’s compelling case for significant change and its vision for a brighter future.

“My work has long been a blend of economic analysis, political reality, and constitutional perspectives, so I always felt that my public policy research had to, at some point, address issues facing First Peoples,” says Dr. Courchene, who is also a founding member of the School of Policy Studies. “In the final chapter of my book I propose we depart from existing models in which Indigenous Canadians are effectively under the control and stewardship of another political authority, and move to one that would give them provincial powers on their own lands.”

The Donner Prize, awarded annually by the Donner Canadian Foundation, encourages and celebrates excellence in public policy writing by Canadians, and acknowledges the role good public policy plays in the country’s success.

“To win the Donner Prize a second time, two decades after being recognized with their inaugural award, speaks to the rich and enduring quality of Dr. Courchene’s academic work,” says David M.C. Walker, Executive Director of the Queen’s School of Policy Studies. “On behalf of the School of Policy Studies, I want to commend him for crafting a truly impactful book; one that not only embodies the spirit of our school’s mission, but that can also inform and inspire public policy that advances the well-being of Canadians.”

The award results were announced during a gala at The Carlu event space in Toronto. Dr. Courchene was selected over four other finalists, chosen from more than 70 submissions. Chairing the Donner Prize jury was David Dodge, who served as Queen’s University Chancellor from 2008 to 2014.

Smith School of Business and Peking University offer new dual-degree program

Smith School of Business at Queen’s University and Guanghua School of Management at Peking University in Beijing, China, have announced a partnership that will see commerce students from Smith study in China and earn two undergraduate degrees: one from Queen’s University and the other from Peking University.

Peking-Smith Partnership
Officials and faculty members of Peking University and Smith School of Business at Queen's University celebrate the launch of a new partnership called the “Future Leaders” International Undergraduate Dual-Degree Program.

Starting in fall 2020, up to five Smith Commerce students each year will be selected to take part in Peking University’s “Future Leaders” International Undergraduate Dual-Degree Program.

The students will spend two years studying in the commerce program at Smith, then two years at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management in Beijing. They will earn a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Queen’s and a Bachelor of Arts in Management from Peking University. Classes are taught in English.

“This partnership will give Smith students the opportunity to experience first-hand China’s fast-growing and dynamic economy,” says David Saunders, Dean of Smith School of Business. “We are proud to partner with Peking University in our mission to develop outstanding leaders with a global perspective.”

Through the partnership, Smith becomes a founding member of Peking University’s “Future Leaders” program, alongside 13 other top universities from around the world, including schools in Italy, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Brazil, Singapore, Japan, and Israel. Smith Commerce students will study with students from these countries while attending classes in China.

Peking University launched the “Future Leaders” program in order to develop global leaders equipped with an intimate understanding of China, and who can navigate inter-country exchanges created through China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

“The Belt and Road Initiative has injected new significance into globalization, and Peking University wants to give young people from around the world the opportunity to pursue their dreams while simultaneously making a contribution to the field of education,” says Peking University President Hao Ping.

Earning two degrees from two leading universities will give Smith students with international career aspirations an advantage in the marketplace. Students will have a unique opportunity to develop a broad global management perspective and experience truly cross-cultural learning, both from classmates and professors.

With 115 top international business school partners in 38 countries around the world, Smith provides students across academic programs with the opportunity to study abroad through international exchanges, dual-degree programs and global business projects. 

Facing the AI perfect storm

[Artificial Intelligence]
We are in the middle of a winner-take-all industrial revolution powered in part by artificial intelligence. Many of our leading companies and employers are blowing it.

Artificial intelligence is a game changer. We all know that. But is it good? Is it bad? There’s no shortage of opinions. On one hand, media and social channels are full of dire predictions: AI is killing jobs, robots will soon be in charge…and did you hear about that self-driving car that crashed? But then you learn about new advances in life-saving drugs powered by AI, and how AI is improving customer service and efficiency within organizations.

For leaders and strategists, AI poses both opportunities and challenges. How to choose what to focus on? What to try? What to fund? And is AI even ready for prime time?

Facing the gut-check moment

All this uncertainty is killing AI for many companies. We’ve done it to ourselves by building inflexible organizations and processes. Even worse, we have turned risk management into a core function of most major enterprises.

As a result, many organizations are not set up to handle game-changing and complex technologies like AI. The AI “virus” is often expelled by an unwelcoming corporate immune system that seeks to destroy it in a misguided attempt to preserve the status quo.

Uncertainty around AI’s future is used as a weapon to stop all forward progress. It often sounds something like this:

I would love to invest in AI-technology X. But how do we know it will work? What’s the ROI? What’s the payback period? What if it doesn’t work – will our brand suffer? Show me the full business case. Who else is doing this?

It’s enough to beat even the toughest AI innovators into submission. What we have is a perfect storm: AI prompts reinvention, reinvention takes time, and reinvention success is uncertain. It’s a gut-check moment for strategists and leaders alike.

Risk takers and rule breakers wanted

All one has to do is look at GE’s recent performance and the revolving door of CEOs to see what gut check moments really look like. Jeff Immelt, former CEO now twice removed, set GE on a new path, by refocusing on a few core businesses. He also moved GE from a pipeline (old school) to a platform (new school) business, one capable of offering advanced customer-centric AI products and services.

It seemed like Immelt was on the right track, certainly for the long term. Problem is, neither the market nor the board had enough patience, backbone or belief to stay the course. So, they tried another CEO, but he didn’t work out either (after just over a year on the job). Now there’s a new guy, Lawrence Culp Jr., the first outside CEO in GE’s 126-year history. His remit is turnaround. All of a sudden, we’re not talking innovation, customer centricity and AI, we’re talking about fixing problems. And that’s depressing…or is it?

Entrepreneurs have found a way to capitalize on AI. You don’t see Apple resting on its laurels, milking the iPhone for all its worth. Sure, recent announcements about new credit cards, streaming and news services are risky, but Apple CEO Tim Cook knows well how the game is now played. Apple doesn’t have outdated internal approval processes, and it doesn’t have a board asleep at the switch.

We are in the middle of a ‘winner take all’ industrial revolution powered in part by AI. Many of our old and largest companies and employers are blowing it. But there are glimmers of hope. Even a so-called old-economy player like Hudson’s Bay is figuring it out, so it can survive and thrive beyond its current age of 348 years. We can figure this out. It’s pretty simple.

We need gutsy boards that will truly tolerate risk-taking and even mistake-making. We need resilient rule-breaking CEOs. We need tech-savvy visionaries. We need to find them – or create them. Quickly. We live in extraordinary times. We need extraordinary people. As George Bernard Shaw once said:

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

Of course, we now have women to throw into the mix, but you get the point. What we need are a few more unreasonable people.

This column was first published by Smith School of Business.

Elspeth Murray is an associate professor at Smith School of Business, associate dean of MBA and Masters Programs, and director of Queen’s Centre for Business Venturing.


Input sought on future of Smith School of Business, search for next dean

Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Tom Harris announced today that David Saunders’ term as dean of Smith School of Business ends on June 30, 2020. 

Provost Harris will chair a committee to advise the principal on the future direction of the Smith School of Business, and on the selection of the next dean. 

“I encourage all members of the Queen’s community to provide input regarding the Smith School of Business, and to suggest individuals to serve on the advisory committee,” says  Provost Harris.

Please send all submissions and advisory committee suggestions to the Office of the Provost, via e-mail, to provost@queensu.ca, by Tuesday, May 14. Respondents are asked to indicate whether they wish to have their letters shown, in confidence, to the members of the Advisory Committee.

More information about Smith School of Business is available in the Smith Strategic Framework, the Smith Year in Review and on the faculty website


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