Anyone can be an Innovator

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In "Thank You for Being Late", Thomas Friedman explores the challenges and opportunities of living in a rapidly changing world amidst technological advances, globalization, and climate change. He argues that the pace of change is accelerating faster than our ability to adapt and that we need to develop new skills and strategies to keep up. He explains how these changes are affecting individuals, communities, and the world at large. He also offers solutions and suggestions for how we can navigate this complex landscape, including the importance of lifelong learning, building relationships, and embracing innovation.

In 2021, we launched an innovation strategy in the Toronto Studio and went global a year later through bdplab. Like Mr. Friedman, we see innovation as integral to our business strategy, investing in our ideas to bring insights and value to our clients. We understand that we must constantly iterate and embrace the forces of change to create a better future for ourselves and our communities.

bdplab has three functions: to lead the research and thought leadership program, to embed innovation across business functions and to facilitate the bdplab Innovation Hub.

The bdplab Innovation Hub is our vehicle to put innovation into the hands of our people. Who better to guide our evolution than the people that know our business best? Our people have great ideas. You don’t have to take our word for it, it’s clear from the quality of the work and the recognition we’ve received. As a company of 1,325 people in 19 studios and practicing multiple disciplines, we have access to interdisciplinary solution ideation across the world. The bdplab Innovation Hub pulls it all together.

Picture2 - bdplabFig. 1 The Process – Having a repeatable process for innovation is key. The bdplab Innovation Hub is a place to gather, vet and track ideas through implementation in a transparent way.

The bdplab Innovation Hub is a digital innovation management tool that we use to gather, manage, and track ideas across the firm based on business challenges from those charged with making our business strategy a reality.

Practice leaders sponsor a challenge and pose a question to the entire firm within the bdplab Innovation Hub. The challenge remains open for anyone to submit a response for 4-8 weeks, depending on the complexity of the question. During this time, people can read other idea submissions, vote, comment, and build upon the ideas.

Idea submissions are then reviewed by a diverse and qualified team of evaluators that represent different geographies, expertise, and professions. The evaluation is a two-step process with each evaluator reading and rating every idea to create a shortlist. This list is then put to a stronger test that usually involves hearty debate amongst the evaluation team. There can be ideas that are contentious, ideas that overlap and ideas that may be beyond the current ability to implement. Most challenges involve all three of these factors.

The entire process is transparent. Winning ideas are announced and then handed over to the challenge sponsor for implementation. Idea submitters are invited to be part of the implementation and roll-out team, offering them an opportunity to work closely with business leaders and to raise their profiles and engagement within the firm. Ideas not currently selected remain on the hub for all, opening the door to future implementation.

The most challenging and most impactful element of this strategy is creating a culture of innovation. The bdplab Innovation Hub is our cultural engagement platform, inviting our people to be part of our firm’s development. The Hub is a tangible action that signals our desire to hear from our people and our commitment to investing in our ideas.

We did a soft launch in the Toronto Studio and had good uptake to our first few challenges. The best part was hearing from voices we hadn’t heard before and seeing those voices amplified by the wider studio.

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Fig. 2 By Geography – Following the soft launch in the Toronto Studio, we launched the bdplab Innovation Hub Globally and have seen engagement from across geographies.

The Toronto launch was followed by a global technology focused challenge called Repeat/ Repeat/ Automate – Computer Says YES! sponsored by our Director of Technology. Once we have done a task, once, twice, it is time to see if there is an easier way to do it.

Stats 2-01

Fig. 2 By the Numbers – Since our soft launch of the bdplab Innovation Hub in Fall 2021, 83% of our BDP team have visited and 30% have participated. We have launched three Toronto specific challenges and three challenges globally, two completed and one currently underway. We have received 109 new ideas, implemented five and have four others underway.

We received 50 submissions to this first global challenge. We have implemented three solutions and have another one underway. Beyond real solution takeaways, the benefit of the enthusiasm and new lines of communication generated across studios, debating ideas, and sharing knowledge was the true win. The challenge sponsor’s level of engagement grew throughout the process and led to discussions of where and how to embed innovation into the central technology strategy going forward, a huge win for all of us. Embedding innovation in strategy is one of the best possible legacies of working with a challenge sponsor.


Innovation is integral to our business strategy. Investing in our ideas allows us to bring insights and value to our clients. We understand that we must constantly iterate and embrace the forces of change to create a better future for ourselves and our communities. Our bdplab Innovation Hub is our vehicle that puts innovation into the hands of our people.


Michelle Xuereb, Director of Innovation, co-lead of bdplab with Steve Merridew