‘We keep worrying about rationalizing and competing and we've just got to throw everything to the wall. We need a good spaghetti plan and see what sticks’

Jim Dewald is the dean of the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary. He spoke with Calgary’s Business about the economy and education.

Calgary’s Business: What did Calgary learn from the recent recession?

Dewald: I think we’re still in the process of learning and it’s a difficult lesson, which is one that we all know. Don’t take anything for granted. All the cliches. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Go for the long-term. On and on and on. There’s a lot of things that we’re still learning.

CB: What can Calgary do to diversify its economy?

Jim Dewald

Dewald: There’s a lot of things starting to happen in the innovation and tech space and we’ve got to continue to drive that. It’s hard. It’s very hard. We’ve just got to try a lot of things. I think the most important thing is to adopt a perspective of abundance. In other words, we keep worrying about rationalizing and competing and we’ve just got to throw everything to the wall. We need a good spaghetti plan and see what sticks.

CB: What industries are ripe for growth in this city?

Dewald: First of all, energy is not going to disappear. It’s just not going to be as prominent. So if we’re going to have an energy industry, we should think about whether it’s technology or other areas where we could leverage what’s happening in the energy industry and how that can work in different ways. I don’t really have the answer but it’s just try, try, try and something will work. Another area I might throw out though is I think we have some real strength in health care and in health-care research. If you look at demographics, health care is a really huge area. Everybody’s interested in it either from a physical perspective and from aging and their own health perspective, and I think that could be an area where we could pour a lot more thought and focus into.

CB: How important is education in the new economy as we go forward?

Dewald: I guess I’ve got a bit of a bias but I think it’s probably more important than ever only because of the changes that we see coming before us with automation, artificial intelligence and technologies. If you’re not educated, I’m not sure how you would be able to meet shifts and changes coming from all the disruptions and new technology and new changes that we’re seeing.

CB: How is the Haskayne School adjusting to the changing reality that’s out there?

Dewald: We made a lot of changes to our curriculum and programming mostly around three legs. One is we no longer focus on teaching people what to think but how to think. We don’t have any answers for the problems that our students will face in their future because we don’t even know what they are. But we can teach them how to address any kind of problem. Frameworks on how to tackle situations that they’ve never seen before. So that’s a big focus. Entrepreneurial thinking is one particular method that we drive very hard into all of our students. … You can’t come through this school without learning a lot about entrepreneurial thinking because we think it’s critical for everyone going forward. And the third one is ethical leadership because with a lot of this change it means people have to have a compass to be able to make the right decisions and to know what to adopt and why. Those are the things we’ve really thrown into our skill set if you will for all of our students. And then you kind of matrix that with some of the new hard skills that we’re teaching like data analytics and much more sophisticated approaches to finance and computing. So you need a very strong combination of hard skills and soft kills. That’s our approach to saying we don’t know what the future is going to be like for our students.

– Mario Toneguzzi

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