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Perspectives | Issue 6

Navigator’s folio of ideas, insights and new ways of thinking

Making Change

Jaime Watt
Jaime Watt | Executive Chairman
July 14, 2016 lnkdn_btn-svg

For many Canadians, 2016 was the winter of their discontent. It was characterized by stock market volatility, stagnation in the energy sector and corresponding anxiety around economic growth and job prospects.

All of that makes the change of season a welcome time to review, reassess and rethink what lies ahead.

While those who ascribe to conventional wisdom often cite the adage, the more things change, the more they remain the same, in the early 21st century we may have to concede that, at least in some areas, the more things change, the more they change.

The leaders of successful businesses understand the need for constant and vigilant reassessment of and adaptation to changing market forces, consumer tastes, and societal and economic shifts. They recognize that if they are unable to continually satisfy their clients and customers and implement new means of responding to customer needs or demands, a fickle market will move on to The Next Big Thing or to whatever comes along that strikes a chord.

A critical part of that process is a reconsideration of the tools available to deliver the products and services that meet client or customer needs. In Navigator’s business, one of those key tools is research. Both qualitative and quantitative research—in conjunction with our proprietary techniques—have, for many years, provided us with the means to discover the thinking behind attitudes and opinions, to explore strategies and to test and refine our hypotheses. In fact, our “research-guided” approach has been a fundamental underpinning of our response to crises, to the development of campaigns, and to the crafting and execution of high-stakes strategy.

But, things have changed.

More than ever before, digital services, technologies and capabilities provide a new means of understanding public thinking, motivations and behaviours. While it may be clichéd to point to the mastering or harnessing of digital technology (and its output in the form of social media) as critical to business success today, these technologies and their imaginative uses present practical applications and genuine opportunities.

At Navigator, we could not ignore the richness of digital data about everything from purchasing preferences to real-time assessments of breaking issues. In our on-going re-evaluation of our service offering, we recognized that a marriage between our rigorous research capability and the effective mining of social media in our digital practice would provide a rejuvenated and more powerful tool in understanding public opinion, consumer behaviour and stakeholder engagement. In this instance, change has wrought something entirely different.

Of course, the adage about change does hold in some circumstances: As we in Canada struggle with the repercussions of a world-wide oil glut and its sharply negative influence on our oil-producing provinces, we have to remind ourselves that we have been here before. The boom and bust cycle is not new. While each trough in the cycle stings in new ways—and its inevitable upturn offers only limited consolation to the many affected today—we should remind ourselves that prices will rise and the sector will recover.

The downturn affords an opportunity to reconsider, to determine strategies for recovery and to understand how circumstances that have brought us to today’s tough reality will be managed or addressed in the future.

Perhaps one of the most heartening and least likely affirmations of the adage about change is the recent news about the resurgence of the humble, hard-copy book. Many had accepted the demise of the printed text, displaced by the advance of technology that provided a wave of Kindles, Kobos and other e-readers as the definitive and improved alternative.

But, it appears that the ephemerality of words on a screen could not replace the satisfying crack of a spine or the tactile pleasure of paper. As hard-copy sales rise, maybe some things do remain the same, even in the digital age.

In this issue of Perspectives, we explore all of these changes and the importance of opportunities to rethink, regroup and re-examine. As we look ahead to summer, we hope this issue provides an opportunity to reflect on change in its many forms, the implications, and our ability to assess its permanence.

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About the author:

Jaime Watt
Jaime Watt | Executive Chairman
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Jaime Watt is the Executive Chairman of Navigator. He specializes in complex public strategy issues, serving both domestic and international clients in the corporate, professional services, not-for-profit, and government sectors.

Widely regarded as Canada’s leading high stakes communications strategist, he is a trusted advisor to boards of directors, business and professional leaders as well as political leaders at all three levels of government across Canada. Jaime has led ground-breaking election campaigns that have transformed politics because of their boldness and creativity.

Jaime has been involved in corporate governance education and thought leadership throughout his career and regularly provides expert opinion in challenging governance situations. He is an adjunct faculty member of the Directors Education Program, jointly developed and administered by the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD) and the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. He is also a guest lecturer for a variety of Rotman School programs, and the Ivey School of Business at Western University.

Currently, Jaime chairs the board of OCAD University. As well, he serves on the board of University Health Network, the Literary Review of Canada, CANFAR and the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

He is a past president or chair of the Canadian Club of Toronto, the Albany Club, Casey House – Canada’s pioneer AIDS hospice, Canadians for Equal Marriage, Canadian Human Rights Campaign and Canadian Human Rights Trust among others. Additionally, he is a past director, trustee or governor of many organizations including the St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation, Stratford Festival, TD Bank Private Giving Foundation, Clean Water Foundation, Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, and the Canada Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington D.C.

In his board leadership activities, he has frequently been elected to strategic planning, audit, succession planning, search and crisis management committees.

Deeply involved with efforts to promote equality and human rights issues, he was the inaugural recipient of Egale’s Lifetime Achievement Award and has been awarded the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals for service to the community. He recently received Out on Bay Street’s Leader to be Proud of Award. Jaime has been elected to the College of Fellows of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, is a Toronto Heritage Companion, and was named one of Toronto’s most influential citizens.

A highly regarded speaker, Jaime appears often as a public affairs commentator in the media. He is a regular contributor to all CBC platforms across Canada. He also writes a weekly column for The Toronto Star and is a Policy Magazine contributing writer.

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