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Ingenious: How Canadian Innovation Made the World a Better Place

What do the electric light bulb, peanut butter, the zipper, basketball, the Declaration of Human Rights, Saturday Night Live, the OpenText Index, recycling, Superman, and nuclear physics have in common? They are all examples of Canadian innovation. And they are all featured (along with 286 other innovations) in the book Ingenious: How Canadian Innovators Made the World Smarter, Smaller, Kinder, Safer, Healthier, Wealthier, and Happier.

Ingenious is available in both English and French

Authored by Governor General David Johnston and Tom Jenkins, Chair of OpenText and the National Research Council (NRC), Ingenious was written to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday and a heritage rich in innovation.

Canada is a nation of innovators. The country itself is perhaps the greatest example of innovation. Despite its harsh climate and uninhabitable terrain, people from many nations settled the country, giving it the diversity it boasts today as a cultural mosaic. Even before the first European settlers arrived, Canada’s First Nations were busy overcoming barriers to travel and communication by creating the first canoe, dogsled, kayak, snowshoes, and toboggan (to mention a few).

Ingenious moves through Canadian history to explore what events, insights, or happy accidents launched each innovation, and the collaborations that brought these great ideas to life. As the book points out, teamwork was often part of the original thinking and always part of the ultimate solution. The book draws from a broad spectrum of Canadian experience, from the wonders of aboriginal invention to more recent developments in medicine, technology, science, education, social work, humanities and the arts.

Canadians are some of the world’s most accomplished innovators, something that is (true to Canadian humility) often downplayed. The book sets out to provide a comprehensive and fascinating look at Canadian innovation, demonstrating how innovation is one of the primary driving forces behind Canada’s prosperity and identity. It also offers practical tips drawn from Johnston’s and Jenkins’ long careers fostering innovation for present-day entrepreneurs.

Co-authors Tom Jenkins (left) and Governor General David Johnston (right) at a book-signing at the University of Calgary. (Photograph courtesy of Sgt Johanie Maheu, Rideau Hall © OSGG, 2017)

What’s your favorite Canadian innovation?

But the book does more than just remind us that Canada is a nation of innovators. Another high-level objective of the project was to establish Canada’s first-ever database of innovators. As part of the project, over 1,000 stories of innovation have been captured online, crowdsourced on a digital version of the book at

Have a favorite Canadian innovation? Why not post it online and contribute to Canada’s history of innovation.

With its capacity to ignite the imagination and inspire a future generation of innovators, teaching modules are being created based on the book. The children’s version of Ingenious is due out in the fall of 2017.

Officially released on March 28, 2017, Ingenious is now available on Amazon and at other major book retailers.

Mark Barrenechea

Mark J. Barrenechea is OpenText's Vice Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Technology Officer. A prominent thought leader, he has extensive experience in information technology and his vision is to enable the digital world to help transform organizations.

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