Franco Varriano

Technologist & Entrepreneur, Head Of Product Discovery & Innovation At Workshopx & Executive Director - Fresh Founders

It’s a powerful, attractive and evocative concept.

We all have ideas and conceptions on what innovation is all about; usually centering around new products, novel technologies, or advanced patents. But innovation comes in many forms.

And from the outside, innovation may even appear similar to other skilled endeavors: easy enough that anyone could do it.But the truth of the matter is that true innovation is so distinct that it is in no way simple or straightforward. Even for the most seasoned practitioners. Innovation is a discipline steeped in-between Myth & Method.

Perhaps the root of this gap stems from the fact that we haven’t been able to codify it in quite the same way as other business functions. True innovation has no unique blueprint or how-to process that can be universally applied and expected to deliver results like clockwork.

However, the innovation mindset and guiding values that have been documented can be applied across sectors, industries and even cultures.

But for this mindset to take hold, there must first be space and desire for these values and ideas to exist freely. Innovation is of no use to anyone if its practice isn’t innately clear to the individuals and organizations who champion it.

“Why innovation?” is just as critical as the rest of the equation.

Knowing the answers to seemingly simple questions like What do we want to accomplish? What resources do we need? Who is the team? How do we keep them motivated? How do we measure the outcomes? may seem trivial and straightforward but evolve quickly in our modern market environment. Fostering the core proponents of innovation is the outcome of your why.  These broadly include:

  • Keep risk low & iteration high (lots of small bets)
  • Experiment like crazy (momentum)
  •  Merge patience and passion (Innovation is hard. Having a ‘why’ is critical)

But above all, the cardinal rule of innovation is the classic and cliché-sounding “think outside the box.” Because innovation isn’t just about solving the problem at hand; it’s about pushing everything forward and doing something better than what can be imagined.

And that brings us to Ottawa.

A city that is often placed upon a balance and weighed against many others—both near and far—for what it lacks in comparison. Ottawa has largely been written off and labeled as a “boring” city to those looking for a flashy spotlight. But this is a label that we natives are quick to revoke. Instead of fighting to be “the next” anything—we are authentically Ottawa.
A true multidisciplinary community of creators, makers, artists, researchers, public servants, entrepreneurs, and everyday people making a difference.

We aren’t like other cities. And we don’t want to be like them.

Just as innovation isn’t the same within all organizations, we all embrace our uniqueness—constraints and capabilities alike—knowing that we are capable of building on the momentum that’s gotten us here and continue to innovate forwards.

Today, we have a rich ecosystem that has grown from decades of effort.

As a technologist & entrepreneur, the Head of Product Discovery & Innovation at WorkshopX, and the Executive Director of Fresh Founders—I am fortunate enough to have a unique perspective into the many outlets of innovation—both here in Ottawa and around the world.

From small startup teams, to enterprise, to academics, to government—and to passionate creators and do-ers that make everything happen in-between those labels.

Innovation isn’t a zero-sum game, and while the book that follows looks at Ottawa in particular, like the overall project, it’s about how we all contribute into a larger narrative and global story of humanity.

We’re all pushing everything forward and doing something better than what can be imagined—together.

Fresh Founders
709 Laurier West Ottawa,
Ontario K2K3G4, CA

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