HomeSpeech by Tim Banks delivered to APEC Conference

Speech by Tim Banks delivered to APEC Conference

Nov 21 2001

Ladies and Gentlemen: Thank you very much for affording me the opportunity of speaking to you today.

Innovation plays a big role in business success, unfortunately most people believe innovation is tied to technology. I believe there is a closer link to success thru innovative thinking. Our business is like a lot of businesses. It is very simple by nature; we build buildings and develop property not unlike a lot of others. Yes, we use technology to succeed but more importantly we practice… VISION and just what is vision, it is the ability to creatively think outside the box and apply ones thoughts in practice. In other words innovative thinking is an applied mechanics.

A soft-spoken fellow from Kansas – a guy who was turned down by MIT because his math scores were too low and who never had much formal physics training – received the Nobel Prize in physics. Jack St. Clair Kilby grew up in Great Bend, Kan. His father ran a local electric utility, and Kilby decided at Great Bend High School that he, too, would be an electrical engineer. He set his sights on MIT and, in the summer of 1941, boarded a train to Cambridge, Mass., to prepare for the entrance exam. He flunked. Six decades later, with five dozen patents in his name, with his picture hanging along with Edison’s in America’s National Inventors Hall of Fame, with virtually every engineering prize on his shelves, Kilby still remembers that failure. "The minimum passing grade was 500", Kilby recalls. "I got 497".

He went to work for Texas Instruments who are already an important company, although not nearly as big and rich, as Kilby would make them. The firm put him to work on the most important problem in electronics – known as the interconnections problem, or the wiring problem. Inspired by the transistor, engineers were designing circuits for new electronics devices – high-speed computers powerful enough to run worldwide communications networks or steer rockets to the moon. But these high-tech marvels existed only on paper and called for kilometres of wire and millions of soldered connections. Nobody could build them.

All over the world, engineers were searching for a solution. But Kilby had one great advantage: "I was the ignorant freshman in the field. I didn’t know what everybody else considered impossible, so I didn’t rule anything out". Kilby did come up with the most valuable invention of the past half-century: the microchip. Kilby’s idea sparked the Information Age.

Just 44 years ago, the microchip did not exist. Today the integrated-circuit market is a $273-billion dollar global industry. Jack St. Clair Kilby, a man who improved the daily lot of the whole world with a good idea won the Nobel Prize in physics through innovative thinking.





We can all put a few of these innovative thoughts to practice, which can help Atlantic Canada succeed in what could become an Atlantic Revolution.



Lets think of a concept of supporting and promoting our competitor. Most business operators would shun at this general business practice; but, if we all look at it a little differently, it is very easy to make a case for it. An example at APM is we really try to make an effort to support our competitors. Our competitor, Williams, Murphy & MacLeod own, Pre-built Steel, is a steel company across town. We may invite eight different steel companies to bid on a steel contract. But whenever we have the chance we try and award the work to the source physically closest to ourselves, even if they are our competitors, as we know that the men and women who work there get a pay cheque and there is a good chance they may spend some of it back at our business. If our competitor’s business is healthy it puts a lot of money back into our community and spreads the burden of tax around. Providing a vehicle to sharpen our company’s skill set as we both compete in the local market place. If we all took the effort of supporting the businesses in our Community, followed by the business in our Province, followed by the businesses in our Region, followed by the businesses in our Country, etc. and let go of the concept "not to let our neighbours get ahead", we would all be a little further ahead and would stimulate our own local economies, which in the end would stimulate our region, etc.

Lets try another sample of innovative thinking. Most people would suggest that hiring the most experienced individual, with the most education, from the best school is the key to success. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. There is no proof that a Yale graduate who’s made the Dean’s List has any more of a chance of helping your business succeed than a graduate who has just made it thru a local post secondary technology school. Nor is there any proof that someone with 20 years experience can help your business move forward any quicker than an inexperienced youth arriving on the job. The Yale graduate, although capable of doing the job, is more likely to leave to pursue another challenge elsewhere as is the case of the experienced individual who cannot get around the concept of changing his thinking from his/her previous experiences. So let us not always follow the conventional way of thinking when hiring. Try giving people a chance, not necessarily based on their academic achievement, what school they went to and how much experience they have, but look past all of that and look at who the individual is, where they come from and what they want to do. You may very well find that the "great new employee" you just hired may have come from your own community and went to your local school, which may not have ranked in "MacLean’s", but it is more likely this employee will appreciate his/her job and will be with you a much longer time. Do not be afraid to hire youth.

When I started out, many years ago, a local businessman gave me a break. So, every year I made it a practice to hire the first engineering student who asked for a job. A lot of those kids have moved on to work elsewhere or start their own businesses, but I am happy to say that a lot of them have stayed with us and there is not a more productive team anywhere.

I urge each and every on of you to adopt a local student or recent graduate and try to give them some work or just take an interest and guide them on their way. I promise you, they will put it back in our community, and we will all share in this success.

I could spend all day talking about innovative thinking but with the last few minutes I have I would encourage us all to become "builders". Look at what you do as developing a professional sports team and think about starting in the minor leagues and working your way to a winning team thru the building of youth, by teaching them and giving them a place to play, nurture them, pay attention, let them try new things and when its time for them to move on, let them go, so they can reach their dreams.

Thank your very much.

Tim Banks

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