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Happy holidays

As is usually the case at this time of year, we will be taking a well-earned rest between Christmas and New Year’s Day. We’d like to take this opportunity to wish happy holidays and the very best for 2012 to all of our readers, our clients and our friends in the technology communities in which we work.

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Merry Christmas, and best wishes for 2012

By Francis Moran

As is often the case at this time of year, I am reminded of the tiny mission church pictured here. It is located in Roma, a rural village in Lesotho, a tiny country in southern Africa. Besides being the gateway to Lesotho’s majestic mountainous highlands, Roma is also home to both a long-standing Roman Catholic mission and the country’s national university.

And it’s where my family and I celebrated Christmas in 1968.

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New OCRI CEO shares his vision: Part 1

By Francis Moran and Leo Valiquette

It’s fairly safe to say that I struck a loud chord with my post of a few weeks ago that took Ottawa’s major economic development agency to task for preferring cheerleading from the sidelines to playmaking that would actually move the ball down the field. It wasn’t quite the best-read post of all time; it ran on American Thanksgiving, a day that saw our blog lose most of our south-of-the-border readers who typically account for about one-third of our daily visitors. But it did garner one of the highest PostRank scores of all time, a yardstick that measures levels of engagement — comments, tweets and the like — around posts. With the exception of comments from the new OCRI CEO and from the head of OCRI’s marketing agency of record — neither of whom is exactly what you might call a dispassionate observer — every comment, tweet and other reaction I received applauded my characterisation and concurred with it. Some went even further with my analogy, with, for example, one widely involved local angel investor telling me yesterday that far from simply standing on the sidelines cheering, OCRI has often stepped onto the field to take the ball away and out of play from entrepreneurs and others who are trying to score real goals for the technology sector in this community.

In a long telephone chat the day after my post ran, new OCRI CEO Bruce Lazenby didn’t argue with much of what I had written. Indeed, he told me, in the two weeks between the time he knew he was taking on the job and the time it was publicly announced, he conducted what he called some “mystery shopping,” asking people far and wide in the community what they thought of OCRI. “You must have been just appalled by what you heard,” I said, and he didn’t disagree. Nor did he disagree with my statement that OCRI was “a terribly tarnished brand.”

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I’m sick and tired of hearing that Canadians don’t take risks

By Francis Moran

More than two decades ago, I was working with a public relations agency in Halifax, Nova Scotia, that was helping a resource development company counter considerable opposition within fishing communities to its proposal to drill exploratory natural gas wells on Georges Bank. It was a classic case of a clash between a critically important but fading industry — the fishery — and a new and incredibly promising industry — offshore hydrocarbon extraction. We mounted an open and consultative information campaign in the fishing communities most dependent on Georges Bank. We held countless meetings in and around those communities. We hired a local lad, the son of a fishing family, who had become a geologist and had worked in oil and gas exploration to head up our community efforts. And we organised a critical political gathering — a dinner in Halifax to which we invited scores of influential business, political and community leaders to hear directly from the company CEO.

I wasn’t at the dinner but my colleagues told me what happened and I am paraphrasing in the quotes below.

The CEO, almost a caricature of the good old boy cigar-chomping American oilman, got to his feet after desert and, as part of his prepared comments, told the assembled dignitaries, “The problem with you’all is you don’t know how to take risk.”

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Cheerleaders don’t move the ball down the field

By Francis Moran

When the British Columbia Lions and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers meet in the 99th staging of the Grey Cup, Canada’s professional football championship, in Vancouver this Sunday, both teams will have squads of cheerleaders jumping and shouting from the sidelines in a loud and colourful effort to get the B.C. Place crowd roaring for their side. But while the young women in short skirts waving pompoms might be interesting for some to look at, nothing that they do is actually going to move the ball even a single yard down the field. They will score not a single point. Their contribution to the spectacle will not be captured in a single game statistic.

This morning, I was at the second event in as many weeks where the whole game plan seemed to be on pumping up the volume of the cheerleading rather than on the fundamentals of moving the ball down the field.

Speaker after speaker at these two events — last week’s kick off to Ottawa Entrepreneur Week and this morning’s regular monthly execTALKS event, both organised by the Ottawa Centre for Regional Innovation — spoke of the imperative that more “buzz” be created around Ottawa’s moribund technology scene as though sheer enthusiasm alone could overcome the very real challenges that face this critical sector of the local economy.

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