Why Does Canada Take so Long to Adopt New Technologies?  What can we learn from the US?

Why do Canadian companies take so long to adopt new technologies?  Is it generational or something that is bred into our corporate culture?  What can we learn from our friends in the US?

When it comes to decision-making and trying new things, Canadian’s tend to lag behind our peers in the US.  Canadians are generally more conservative in nature which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it can be hampering advancement and efficiencies and inevitably affecting the bottom line.
I have launched companies in the US and Canada and worked with clients both large and small.  I found that Canadian companies typically take much longer to adopt to new things.  We are we so hesitant to try new things especially when the information presented to us is so overwhelming?  In contrast with our friends south of the border, Americans always seem ready and willing to try something new.  Their agility in trying new things and adopting to new technologies is admirable.
Take Uber as an example.  Please note that I am not trying to promote Uber by any means but I would like to use them to prove a point.  Uber was operating in the US for many years before it entered Canada.  It wasn’t until Uber had entrenched its service in the US before Canada started using the service on a large scale.
Lets consider the facts of Uber.  It is less expensive (sometimes more than half the cost of a traditional taxi); provides faster service in picking you up; cars are much nicer and cleaner; the drivers are typically more friendly and welcoming; and all vehicles are equipped with GPS devices.  The benefits are overwhelming, so why were Canadians so reluctant to try it?  In looking back, I heard comments ranging from:

  • I don’t feel comfortable giving my credit card information (to an app).
  • How do I know if the drivers are insured?
  • I already use taxi’s and I have them on speed dial so why would I change?
  • What if the drivers are creepy?
  • I don’t feel comfortable having a stranger drive me somewhere.

Fast forward five years later and many us cannot fathom calling a taxi and dealing with a dispatcher who can never accurately tell you how long it will take to send you a car.
The point is, why did it take us so long to try something new?  In this case, there was no fear of failure, it was the fear of the unknown.
Similar to the example above, there are many more cases like this where we have access to better products and services but since the majority of us fear change, failure and the unknown, we stay with the status quo.  How do we overcome this?  Maybe we need to take a page out a millennials book and ‘just do it’ or maybe we just need to embrace change and just try new things.  Some will fail and some will not.  As long as we fail early and learn from our mistakes, we will advance faster.
Toronto is one of the top 5 fintech cites in North America now.  If Canada is on the cutting edge of technology why are we not embracing technology that was invented to help make our lives easier and save us money?  We have to stop fearing failure and the unknown.  It is important to note that not all Canadians are like this but the vast majority I have encountered are.
I attended an event last week and the guest speaker was one of Canada’s most successful CEO’s, Jim Estill.  One of his secrets to success is that he is not afraid to try new things.  He encouraged senior level executives to get out of their comfort zone and try new things.  He said its ok to fail.  Fail often, fail fast and fail cheap.  His mantra is to not to fail at everything.  It is to embrace failing as an opportunity to learn and grow from those experiences.  We are hesitant to try new things because we fear failure.  Once you feel comfortable with failing, you will feel comfortable to try new things.  Ask any successful business person if they failed.  All will answer yes.  We learn when we fail.  The old adage, live and learn could never be more spot on.
Why does technology scare us so much?
What is it that really scares people to change?  It is a well-known fact that we are creatures of habit.  We generally gravitate towards doing things we are comfortable with and stray away from things that are unfamiliar to us.  Let’s look at HR professionals as an example.  They tend to be on the forefront of change because that is their job.  They essentially have to manage change and the humans involved in the change which is no easy task.  They are inundated with new products and technologies designed to improve efficiencies and save money.  But along with the benefits of adopting new technology there is often the temporary discomfort of disrupting the status quo and potentially displacing some staff.  Our American cousins seem to have a much easier time embracing this reality than we do, and it’s a large part of the reason almost all the innovations in HR technology (MSP’s, LinkedIn, job boards, ATS’s, RPO’s, etc) got their start in the US and made their way north several years later.

Final Thoughts
There is a plethora of apps, platforms, software programs and automation awaiting our adoption. The time is now for Canadians to shed our conservative, risk-averse, wait-and-see mindset, and finally take a leadership position in the creation and adoption of new technology.   If we can make the leap, the impacts will be monumental on our economy, our quality of life, and our sense of national pride.
Posted by:
Jordan Greenspoon, Chief Technology Officer – Direqlink