When you run an Innovation Centre, people often turn to you for clarity on what innovation means—or should mean—to their business. Problem is, innovation can be a vague term.  Worse, innovation is often an overused, overstated, and an under-delivered concept.

Do you need to create massive business transformation to be innovative? Or do micro-innovations count? Or how about incremental-innovations? Or could you just use existing technology in a new way to be innovative?

To help you decide, let me explain what innovation means to me.

Our Toronto Innovation Centre is a tech networker’s dream, aimed at start-ups, incubators, developers, customers, universities, ecosystem partners. You get the idea. It’s a busy place. We’ve become a community dedicated to innovation. Specifically, improving our customers’ digital capabilities.

Toronto hosts quarterly Art of the Possible, with recent focus on healthcare.

As a society, we have a solid understanding of major industry disruptions in our everyday lives. Uber has turned the taxi industry on end. Netflix has changed how we consume media. And Airbnb has the hotel business on edge. So what’s next?

No one knows for sure. But one thing is clear. Your business has to take steps now to innovate. Knowing which steps to take, however, can be complicated. At our centre, we untangle the innovation confusion by:

  • Demonstrating how digital capabilities will impact industries, business models, and routes to market
  • Stressing the value of mapping digital strategies to business goals
  • Applying new digital capabilities to existing operations, go-to market strategies, and customer interaction.

Digital Business Transformation is at the centre of our work, providing us the resources we need to take a thoughtful, informed approach to innovation. The team has done great work building awareness of the flood of new digital technologies and capabilities just around the corner. And one thing’s for sure. Digital is no longer a wait and see. Industries who want to stay in the game must transform.

And we agree. That’s why we work with industry to guide them on what products to offer customers and routes to those customers. We do this by working alongside our customers. We co-develop solutions for implementation in proof-of-concept settings, including a customer’s environment or our own test lab.

Understanding where we can help drive new solutions, we use Cisco architecture as a building block. We then add:

  • Third-party technology
  • Start-up solutions
  • Partner solutions
  • Customization/API integration
  • And more…

The results are brand new, innovative solutions. In our view, this is true innovation is—and what will carry an industry into the future.

And, yes, innovation sometimes comes through large, disruptive solutions. Uber, Airbnb and the like. But just as often smaller, incremental innovations have big impact. Helping our customers figure this out is an incredible opportunity for digital innovation.

So what’s it going to be? Sit back and wait. Or learn more?

What does innovation mean to your business?



Wayne Cuervo

Director of Innovation

Cisco Canada