Saturday, July 20, 2024

Embracing Failure, Change, and the War at Work at IncentiveWorks

You can, and must, allow yourself to fail – and fail often, in order to succeed. That’s the advice of Cameron Algie, of Play With Fire Improv, who also told participants at the recent IncentiveWorks conference that “being OK with failure means you’ll have the confidence to move forward with your next challenge.”

His workshop, called “Improv to Improve: practical ways to polish your presentation skills,” was aimed at helping people better communicate, connect with an audience, and face their fears of public presentations.

Algie’s was among 40 sessions at the annual IncentiveWorks, dubbed “Canada’s meetings and events show”, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

According to organizers, roughly two thousand attendees came through the doors, who visited more than 350 exhibitors representing over 700 companies on the show floor.

“The 2017 IncentiveWorks was a great success, hosting a robust conference and show floor, where meeting planners had the opportunity to learn, network and discover new suppliers and destinations all under one roof,” noted Melissa Arnott, show manager.

One exhibitor sought to attract business and entrepreneurs to an otherwise off-the-beaten locale for corporate gatherings.

“We wanted to bring a new aspect to your average meeting or conference, by adding an element of outdoor adventure,” remarked Maureen Way, general manager, Best Western Pembroke Inn.

“We have big city style here at the hotel, but with a small town charm. It is refreshing for big city clientele to get out of the city, and into the Ottawa Valley. We hope that over the next few years, planners and conveners will start looking outside the city centers.”

seth mattison

Keynote Seth Mattison, business strategist, spoke on the topic of The War at Work, also the name of his most recent book.

Mattison has advised a spectrum of thought-leaders, from Fortune 500 companies, to major-league coaches, and is an internationally renowned expert on workforce trends and generational dynamics.

For the past year, he has been working on the launch of what he calls a “massive new digital community” called Luminate, with an exclusive focus on leaders and influencers operating inside traditional organizations, using their corporate positions to create remarkable change.

In his talk, he pointed out that “there’s a whole list of unwritten rules that we’ve all agreed to play by” both in our personal lives, and in the corporate world.

Some of them have a familiar air as “start at the bottom, keep your head down, your mouth shut, work your tail, and eventually you get to the top.” But, he insisted, these assumed rules of hierarchy often stifle productivity.

He recalled one particular time he discovered that a CEO had a four-walled makeshift office, propped up at a corporate event.

These and other demoralizing symbols – “such as separate bathrooms, separate lunchrooms and separate parking lots” for higher level staff, reinforce the “us versus them” persona, he insisted. They place an invisible barrier between employer and employee, discouraging engagement.

What’s essential, is that the brass are “relating and being relatable.” With those traits absent, especially if the relationship with management is rocky, do not expect employees to be particularly motivated.

michele romanow

Michele Romanow, Co-Founder of Buytopia, and one of TV’s Dragons’ Den judges, keynoted as well, on the topic of “Getting to Success: Embracing change, encouraging disruption, and incentivizing innovation”.

She spoke of her post-university “scrappy start” as Co-Founder of Evandale Caviar in New Brunswick, to her eventual launch of Buytopia, the online discount portal for travel, brands and restaurants.

To begin the caviar company, Romanow and partners had to literally scout out and hunt for fishermen, fishing boats and licensing. Buytopia had its humble beginnings at a convention booth, with merely a screenshot of the website-to-be, due to the fact that the site wasn’t fully developed yet.

Her advice to the budding entrepreneur is to know that “you just have to do whatever it takes to succeed” and oftentimes that means the, “CEO isn’t ‘Chief Executive Officer’. It’s ‘Chief Everything Officer.’”

Currently heading and Whistler Blackcomb, Romanow noted how the business landscape today changes so rapidly, the only thing that is possible to know is to expect breakthroughs occurring more frequently.

“The rate of disruption is just so substantial now,” she said. “If you look at the time of a company on the S&P in 1952 it was 50 years; today it’s 20 years… So you are getting disrupted at double the rate you used to be.”


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Dave Gordon
Dave Gordon
Dave Gordon is a Toronto-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in more than a hundred publications globally, over the course of twenty years. More about him can be found at