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Alain Giguère

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Innovation—34% of Canadians love it; 22% demonize it! (And the mechanical doll from Jacques Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 05-29-17 at 4:50 p.m.

Innovation: a deep social schism in reaction to the pace of change

This post is a natural progression from last week's, on creativity. Whereas the latter alluded to C2 Montréal, a major celebration of commercial creativity, this post examines our attitude to innovation (artificial intelligence being a notable feature of C2).

Innovation fuels the economy. Its pace-and its spread-continues to accelerate. Many consumers see innovation as a fantastic playground, especially the "Innovators" and "Early Adopters," who are keen to be the first to take advantage of the latest innovations on the market. Here, I am using terminology popularized in the 1960s by Everett Rogers' diffusion of innovation model: from the Innovators to the Early Majority, to the most recalcitrant, the Laggards. Several survey questions must be used to reproduce his initial model, but when we need a quick estimate with an acceptable degree of accuracy, agreement with the following statement has proven quite effective: "Typically, I am the first person I know to try a new product or service." Despite the seeming ingenuousness of this question, our analyses indicate that it sufficiently predicts attitudes to innovation in many areas of life.

Innovation: 34% Enthusiasts, 44% Cautious, 22% Detractors!

The people in agreement with this statement, whether totally or somewhat, are a very homogeneous group. We find them among younger individuals, men, people in higher-income brackets, professionals, residents of large cities and especially in Ontario. By contrast, the most recalcitrant display the opposite profile: older, women, low income, etc.

In fact, our findings can be grouped into three categories, indicating a deep social schism in reaction to the pace of change in our lives today.


The first category comprises people in agreement with the statement, the "Enthusiasts" (34%), who unquestionably play a leadership role in the diffusion of innovation. (In the Rogers model, they correspond to the total of Innovators, Early Adopters and Early Majority.) Next come the "Cautious" (44%), who "somewhat disagree" and who display more wary attitudes. Before they get onboard, they are waiting for innovations to prove themselves.

The final 22% are "Detractors," individuals who find the frenetic pace of change threatening.

Note that the percentages are relatively consistent throughout the Canadian provinces.

Leverage for personal transformation or a threat of social exclusion?

An impressive cocktail of values and hot buttons influences the adoption or rejection of innovation.

Among Enthusiasts, we find a desire to transform one's life, make discoveries, express one's personal potential and creativity, a desire to change the world, but also a desire for status experiences, fun, to connect with others, etc. Depending on the areas affected by innovation, these underlying motivations will be activated to a greater or lesser degree.

Fundamentally, the idea of doing everything differently- listening to music differently, communicating differently, exercising differently-in order to stimulate one's creativity, express one's potential, play and have fun, undoubtedly constitutes the primary motivation underlying the enthusiasm for innovations and their adoption.

Conversely, the Cautious (who somewhat disagree with the statement) feel the world is moving too fast, that they can't adapt to or keep up with all the new demands. They want things to slow down. They remain wary of what they perceive as a flood of change, without necessarily denying its merits.

Finally, the Detractors (22%) see only evil! For them, innovation is a symbol, no matter what its utility. They see it as a cause of social exclusion: every innovation makes the world more complex, creating unemployment and leaving people behind. For them, innovation and technological change are the harbingers of immanent social apocalypse (many of them have lost their jobs to automation).


Opportunity, but also challenges

Change the world! That is what innovation promises to do. Changing the world for people on a personal level means giving them more control by transforming their daily lives, by making even the smallest quotidian tasks fun, more efficient, etc. Changing the world on a societal level means helping people connect to each other better, helping to mitigate our ecological problems, finding unexpected solutions to important issues, etc.

However, innovation too often leads to job loss and exclusion. Our society and institutions must find ways to counteract this collateral damage. Otherwise, the next wave of automation and artificial intelligence is bound to do a great deal of harm!

Tales of Hoffman by Jacques Offenbach

Innovation and progress have long been a source of fascination. Here is a gem, the ultimate chauvinist innovation fantasy-a female robot!-from the Tales of Hoffman (Les Contes d'Hoffmann), the 1881 opera by Jacques Offenbach. Inventing a female robot, a mechanical doll, to fulfil every male desire with docility, was a 19th century fantasy-as if women in this period weren't subjugated enough! There is a slight suggestion of morality in this story: the mechanical doll revolts and breaks down completely in response to male demands!

Jacques Offenbach - Les contes d'Hoffmann: Neil Shicoff, Bryn Terfel, Jesus Lopez-Cobos, Robert Carsen, Opéra de Paris, 2004, TDK.

The creative class: 22% of the country’s population! (and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg by Richard Wagner)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 05-15-17 at 1:57 p.m.

Creativity as a form of personal expression

On the eve of next week's C2 Montréal, the immersive conclave combining commerce and creativity at Arsenal, I wanted to explore the expression of creativity in our country. There are several ways to measure creativity in a society. Richard Florida became famous in the early 2000s for pointing out the enormous economic value of the employees working in the companies that he classified as "creative" (The Rise of the Creative Class, Basic Books, 2002). Another measure is the number of patents filed, also a good indicator of a society's vitality, creativity and innovation.

But one can also measure a lesser-known phenomenon, one that I like to call the "need to create." Even though many people work in so-called creative companies, they don't all play creative roles (we wouldn't want bookkeepers in ad agencies to get too creative with their accounting, after all!). Of course, many do have tailor-made "creative" jobs that capitalize on their need to create.

The genius inventor has always been a fixture in society. He responds to "the need creates the organ" imperative by finding a creative solution to a specific problem (e.g., Joseph-Armand Bombardier and his invention of the snowmobile when he couldn't get help for his sick child because of snow-blocked roads).

In today's world, where many people are highly motivated by a need for self-expression, the need to create, to feel creative in one's daily activities no matter how trivial, has become inescapable and unstoppable (at work and at play), to the point where people will quit their jobs if they are unable to express their creativity.

One very simple statement in our surveys has allowed us to identify these individuals: "Throughout my various daily activities, it is very important for me to feel creative."

The need to express one's creativity: 22% of the population (perfectly equivalent throughout the country)

To use the expression coined by Richard Florida, I would consider people who "totally agree" with this statement to belong to our "creative class" because they need to be creative on a full time basis! No matter what type of work they do, these "creatives" represent an incredible force that companies, organisations and society need to find a way to capitalize on.

True, much of this creativity will find expression in recreational activities and hobbies, but we certainly have an opportunity to use it to create value in our society (no matter how you define it).

Younger age groups (those under 35 years of age) have the highest percentages of creative people. We know that many of the greatest artists, inventors and scientists have done their best work before their thirties.

Consequently, it should come as no surprise that creativity declines with age! It's as if, when people get older, they take comfort in the known, the predictable, the easily classifiable. Whereas younger people are excited by the unknown and want to reinvent the world!

Creativity is nourished by difference, by others, by novelty

Given the tremendous openness in the personal-values profile of the creative class, companies should be able to optimize the creativity in their organisations.


Those belonging to the creative class are very open to social diversity and continuously seek close and meaningful interactions with the people around them (whether they are well known or not). They want to discover other people, to be inspired by them, to feed on difference, to create a new world based on a "cultural melting pot." Difference and the stimulation arising from the human contact and discoveries associated with it seems to be one of the basic nutrients essential to creativity.

Openness to change also plays an essential role. Even when an organisation's business model is being disrupted, the novelty and new paradigms introduced by change become opportunities for different thinking and creativity.

The creative class has a strong desire for self-improvement. These people are aware of their potential and want to realize it at all costs. They have an irrepressible desire to express themselves, and creativity, whether they initiate or contribute to a creative project, is an ideal vehicle.

The "non-creatives" are also very interesting. They do not believe in the virtues of change; they only see the negatives! They decode what they see, or "discover," using ideas from the past. For them, creativity threatens the precious stability of their world order!


The opportunities for companies and organisations

We must harness this vitality. Give it its rightful place within the organization. Allow it to express itself, to emerge. Workplaces should be designed to encourage meetings and exchanges. Diversity should be promoted. Employees should be encouraged to express at work the same creativity they bring to their leisure activities. Organize meetings that bring people with different skill sets together to discuss creative ways of tackling problems. Bring together the most creative people from various backgrounds. Let them encourage other, less creative people who are still open to creativity, etc.

In this context, it is understandable that many "creative" companies in the United States are opposed to President Trump's immigration policies!

Architecture and design are crucial: open spaces, encouraging meetings and discussion, artwork, employee creations, common spaces, etc.

Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

A wonderful example of creativity colliding with tradition in society is this clip from Wagner's opera, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. A guild of artisans and mastersingers have, over the years, developed extremely rigid rules for their song contests. When one of their members introduces a newcomer with innovative and creative musical ideas, they reject him out of hand (although he triumphs at the end of the opera) ... Sublime!

Wagner - Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg / Heppner, Mattila, Morris, Pape, Allen, Polenzani, Levine, The Metropolitan Opera, New York, 2005, Deutsche Grammophon.

21% of Canadians believe it’s okay to disobey laws they think are stupid! (And Siegfried by Richard Wagner)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 05-01-17 at 1:51 p.m.

Fantasies of civil disobedience!

One in every five Canadians indulges in this kind of thinking. What's more, the numbers have been on a continuous uptick for the last 13 years! It's as if these individuals see a progressively fraying "social contract," which legitimizes disobeying laws and contravening the basic rules of civil society. However, we are not suggesting that this indicates a systematic path to anarchy. These citizens don't spend their time breaking the law. But this fantasy is undoubtedly an expression of their frustration with what they believe life has in store for them.

It is interesting to note that we find little significant variation on a regional level. This "defiance" is found in similar proportions from coast to coast, with the exception of Québec, where the proportion of people in agreement with this notion, at 25%, is significantly higher.

Specifically, we asked people in a survey representative of the entire adult Canadian population (18+ years of age) whether they agreed with the following statement: "When you think a law is stupid, it's OK not to obey it."

To this same question in 2004, 12% of Canadians agreed. Since then, we've witnessed a nearly 10-point rise (9%). People are getting bolder and bolder!

Young people and harsh socio-economic conditions

The demographic and socio-economic profile of these "potential lawbreakers" provides some context. We find a clear over-representation of this attitude among young people (under 35), the lowest-income earners in society, as well as among labourers and blue-collar workers. We can easily imagine how financial pressures lead these groups to feel this way.


But what we find most troubling about these results is the rise since 2004. If deteriorating socio-economic conditions are stoking this defiance, it's not all that surprising that, in our post-2008 world, the fantasy of civil disobedience on the rise.

Repeatedly, our research results have clearly indicated that the Great Recession of 2008 was unlike recessions before it. In the past, people expected the economy to recover after a recession. After the Great Recession, Canadians saw the world as infinitely more uncertain, complex and risky, and became convinced that this new world order was here to stay.

It is in this context that we need to interpret this fantasy of civil disobedience. People have the impression that they are facing an increasingly difficult world and that society simply isn't there for them. Hence, for them, the social contract is broken.

Feeling excluded

When we analyze the personal values and mentalities of these potential lawbreakers, what motivates this kind of attitude becomes even clearer.

Fundamentally, these people feel excluded from society. They are unable to find a place, goals or meaning there. They feel powerless, as if they have no control over their lives. They feel left behind, that no one gives a damn about them. Therefore, if society has abandoned them, why should they fulfill their societal obligations? More proof of a broken social contract.

They are also very cynical about the establishment, the business and political elites. They think everyone is lying to them. They trust no one. They are very pessimistic about today's world. The youngest have a jaundiced impression of the world left to them by earlier generations. In this kind of environment, disobedience becomes a legitimate way to adapt to today's society.


A social project

I can almost hear my marketing colleagues concluding that the answer is more rebellious, irreverent and politically incorrect brand marketing platforms. Indeed, for certain target groups, such a strategy when properly executed will definitely pay off.

But the issue here goes beyond marketing opportunities. Our findings indicate the way that our society and our governments have been "managing" this exclusion. To curb it, our institutions and companies, via their social engagement, need to put their resources into programs that promote inclusivity, mutual aid and social integration.

The Ontario government is launching a pilot project in a few municipalities that will provide a basic minimum income to try supporting vulnerable workers and giving people the security and opportunity they need to achieve their potential. This could help them retrain or go back to school. Other similar initiatives should be put in place to halt the rise in fantasies of civil disobedience-and even stop them from becoming reality!

The Talented Mr. Robot: The Impact of Automation on Canada's Workforce, a recent report by the Brookfield Institute at Toronto's Ryerson University, concludes that nearly 42% of the Canadian labour force is at high risk of being affected by automation in the next 10-20 years!

If this scenario materializes, even minimally, we, as a society, will need a lot of creativity to fight the exclusion and civil disobedience it could engender (though, we hope, not anything as extreme as the world of "Mad Max"!).

Richard Wagner's Siegfried

Viewed from a more philosophical perspective, all eras undergo movements of civil disobedience. Youth tend to be critical of the preceding generation's regime and want to be rid of it, to take their rightful place. In their analyses of primitive societies, anthropologists talk about "symbolic castration," symbolic patricide-the father being the author of the laws and rules.

This is precisely the theme of the third act of Siegfried, the third opera in Wagner's four-part Ring cycle (The Ring of the Nibelung). Siegfried meets his grandfather, Wotan, the supreme god, who carries a spear engraved with the laws and rules governing the world. Wotan protects access to his daughter (Siegfried's aunt), who sleeps within a ring of fire. Siegfried breaks the spear, defeats Wotan (castration) and makes off with his aunt! When Wagner created this work in 1876, Freud's psychoanalytical texts had yet to be written!

The extract here is the overture to the third act, a magnificent orchestral foreshadowing of the drama to come (the castration, the aunt, everything!).

Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen - Complete Ring Cycle (James Levine, Metropolitan Opera), Siegfried Jerusalem, Hildegard Behrens, James Morris, Brian Large (Director), Deutsche Grammophon, New York, 2002.

65% of Canadians tell us they believe in God, while 49% consider their religious beliefs to be important to them (And St. Mathew Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 04-10-17 at 6:25 p.m.

Religious beliefs in continuous decline for almost 20 years!

For this Holy Week, I have decided to examine our data on the religious beliefs of Canadians. A substantial percentage of the public-49%, one in two Canadians-say that their religious beliefs are important to them. There are some interesting regional variations: the least religious reside in Québec and British Columbia (43%); the most religious, in Alberta and the Atlantic provinces (56%).

Nevertheless, the churches are empty. Religious belief seems more a case of cultural heritage than the expression of a sustained practice of worship. As such, the difference between believing God and religious beliefs is telling: people feel less need of a Church to "connect" with God.

The trends are telling, too. While 65% of Canadians say they believe in God, this percentage has been in continuous decline, down from 81% in 2005. A similar trend obtains for religious beliefs. The numbers who tell us that religion is important to them have dropped from 70% of the population in 2000 to 49% in 2017.


The future of religious beliefs in Canada

Despite the media attention given to religion as it relates to the influx of immigrants, in the population as a whole, religious beliefs have been steadily waning for nearly 20 years. Religious people are gradually disappearing from our lives. Whether we are talking about Protestants in English Canada or Catholics in Québec, the trend is the same. At this rate, "if trends continue," within a generation (25 years), religious beliefs could become a completely marginal phenomenon.

Of course, such a scenario is based on the current trend and doesn't account for the growing role of immigration in the coming years. Even so, the acculturation of immigrant children by the school system might still help maintain the trend. Even if immigration helps religious people maintain their weight in society, they will not be Christian. They will be Taoist, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslims, etc. And it will likely be a question of cultural heritage, a set of myths that give meaning to life without necessarily requiring ecclesiastical rites.

I admit that this scenario is based on the projection of current trends and that one must be cautious when attempting to predict the future. But we have been observing these trends for almost 20 years, and the younger people are in age, the less prevalent their religious beliefs (which surely offers some predictive value). Will immigration change the situation? We'll see.

Our relationship to the sacred

People tend to construct their own image of God, and he is more like a guardian angel than an "old man with a long white beard." A plurality of almost two out of five Canadians (37%), and the same percentage in Québec, believe in their own constructed image of God. Only 22% of Canadians believe in the God depicted by their church (14% in Québec).

On the other hand, a belief in a "force" that connects us to nature, the cosmos, the universe, is one of the strongest rising trends. We are witnessing a depersonalization of the divine, a kind of postmodern Buddhism that makes people feel that they are participating in the divine, that they are a part of it, just as nature is ("May the force be with you!"). Adherence to this pantheist vision has grown from 11% of the Canadian population in 1998 to 21% in 2016 (up from 14% to 28% in Québec).

Finally, atheism-a vision of life as merely a biological phenomenon-rose from 7% in 1998 to 20% in 2016 in Canada (from 8% to 21% in Québec).

Personal values and hot buttons as they relate to the divine

Examining people's values helps us better understand why the God of our churches is taking such a beating in popular beliefs. Those who believe in a traditional deity have very traditional and very conservative values. They respect the authority of institutions; they are fatalistic, have little control over their lives-and turn to God for leadership!

Those who construct their own personal God have difficulty living with the complexity and uncertainties of today's world. They feel potentially excluded from society, and threatened by it. Therefore, their God becomes a kind of guardian angel who watches over them.

The believers in a divine force and atheists, the two groups in continuous growth mode over the past 20 years, are in total ideological opposition to the Church (whether Catholic or Protestant). They reproach the Church for basing its role on prohibitions, submission, sin and punishment. They insist, to paraphrase Mr. Trudeau (the elder), that the Church has no place in people's bedrooms. They feel in full control of their lives, and aspire to independence and self-fulfillment.

A challenge for organized religion (especially the Christian, Catholic and Protestant Churches)

If they want to stay socially relevant, these institutions have some serious catching up to do to get back in sync with people's values. The gap between the tenets of organized religion and the reality of most people's lives has widened to an abyss! Only a tiny minority of Canadians believe in a Church-sanctioned God. Over the years, the notion of God has exploded into a myriad of different forms, culturally better adapted to the times.

This is an ironic situation if we consider Christ's message-to bring the subject back to Holy Week. Christ preached compassion, openness to others, kindness, generosity, selflessness and love, virtues that the Church does not represent for those who oppose the Church vision of God. But these virtues are precisely the ones so desperately needed in our times. Despite the marginalization of the Christian churches, perhaps these holy weeks can reconcile us to Christ's wisdom.

St. Mathew Passion by Johann Sebastien Bach

Of all the musical pieces appropriate for Holy Week, Bach's St. Mathew Passion is probably the most moving. This work oozes pain, tears and contrition. The excerpt I have chosen is in fact "the contrition aria": the mezzo-soprano sings the pain of the apostle Peter when he realizes that, as Christ predicted, before the cock crowed, he denied Christ three times ("I do not know this man"). Sublime!

J. S. Bach, St Matthew Passion, BWV244: Mark Padmore (Evangelist), Christian Gerhaher (Jesus), Camilla Tilling (soprano), Magdalena Kozena (mezzo-soprano), Topi Lehtipuu (tenor), Thomas Quasthoff (bass), Berliner Philharmoniker, Rundfunkchor Berlin, Knaben des Staats- und Domchors Berlin, Sir Simon Rattle, conducting; staging by Peter Sellars

One out of ten fantasize about joining the holy war in the Middle East! (And the War Requiem by Benjamin Britten)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 04-03-17 at 5:14 p.m.

A Fantasy: Going to war!

At least that's what 12% of Canadians are telling us!

The idea of probing such a topic came to us because of all the media attention given to radicalization lately.

I don't blame the media, but just the fact that they have been discussing this issue, giving it first-page prominence, may have given the public the impression that the phenomenon is much more significant than it actually is (in terms of numbers of mobilized individuals). For example, although Muslims represent 3% of the population, our surveys have shown that people believe their numbers to be much higher. The media coverage has undoubtedly played a role here.

Since we obviously can't interview the people who have already left to fight, to get an idea of the scope of the phenomenon, we wanted to hypothesize a similar phenomenon to stand in for radicalization. Consequently, we have turned our attention to those who "fantasize" about joining the holy war. It is clear that before freshly converted disciples leave the country for such an "adventure," they undergo a kind of psychological "ripening" process in their minds. Before heading off to war, these radicalized individuals probably spend a great deal of time coming to terms with the idea, imaging their prospective "mission," imbuing with it meaning. They idealize and romanticize their commitment, which gives them a motivation previously lacking in their lives before embarking on this path.

The question then became: How many Canadians entertain this kind of holy-war fantasy?

In our last survey of the values of Canadians (a survey reflecting Canadian society as a whole), we therefore asked people if they agreed with the following statement: "I feel envious sometimes of young people who go to Syria or the Middle East to join the holy war or sacrifice their lives for a cause they believe in."

The results obtained were a source of "radical" astonishment for us: 12% of Canadians said they agreed with such a statement (4% "totally" and 9% "somewhat" agreed). Interestingly, there is no regional variation on this question, with the exception of Québec, which stands out as the province least in agreement with the statement (9%), even though the media there has given the subject a great deal of coverage.

Youth searching for meaning

Not surprisingly, young people are the most in agreement with this statement. But what's amazing is their level of agreement: 29% of 18-24 year olds and 20% of those 25-34. Note, too, that even though the percentage of people in agreement declines proportionally and significantly with age, it is still 3% among people 65 and older. (There is something surreal about imagining a 70-year-old fantasizing about holding a Kalashnikov. An aging Baby Boomer!)


We also find the highest percentages of people who fantasize about fighting in a holy war among immigrants, labourers, individuals with lower incomes and education, and men.

Therefore, it appears that challenging economic circumstances can produce conditions favourable to radicalization-or at least for fantasizing about it. These types of social conditions provide fertile ground for indoctrination. Ardent young people who struggle constantly with major social and economic barriers might easily end up fantasizing about jihad as an "exciting project"!

The values and mentalities associated with jihad fantasies

Which brings us to the value profile of these "aspiring jihadists." They express a complex kaleidoscope of motivations and mentalities. They feel excluded from society; they believe that they have no place, purpose or meaning in society; they feel powerless, with no control over their lives.

Consequently, they feel a keen need to boost their social identity, for their own feelings of self-worth and in the eyes of others. They want to become someone in society, to boost their low self-esteem.

Unlike the people who normally feel excluded from society, these jihad fantasists display a unique combination of traits: they see themselves as full of promise, as able to meet challenges, but feel that society is preventing them from achieving their potential.

Therefore, in their fantasies, a "holy war" seems like a wonderful project. It would give their life meaning, let them achieve their full potential, enhance their status and social identity, and help them become someone important on the social scene.

Obviously, only a tiny minority of those who periodically indulge in this kind of fantasy ever end up radicalized, but the psychological/sociological portrait described here suggests an entryway to the radicalization process.


A societal project for brands and organizations

In my opinion, radicalization is an issue offering a great opportunity for companies to demonstrate their commitment to a social cause. Of course, there are a lot of intervenors working actively to prevent radicalization. But if, in addition to these initiatives, brands and companies also tackled it as a community-engagement project, we might see some significant progress. Jobs, integration, community support-whatever the initiatives-the social problem is certainly important enough to warrant devoting the necessary resources to it.

Benjamin Britten's War Requiem

Britten's War Requiem is the ideal classical musical piece to accompany such a problematic issue. This requiem, beyond its liturgical associations, constitutes a fervid condemnation of the abominations of war. Britten composed this work in 1962, for the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral in Britain, which had been destroyed during the Second World War.

The clip suggested here is "Agnus Dei." The text is a poem that makes various connections between the butchery on the battlefields of the First World War and the crucifixion du Christ.

Ian Bostridge, tenor, Antonio Pappano conducting, and the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, in rehearsal: