Building Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship in Ontario

How do you teach innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship? These global competencies for tomorrow are relevant not just in one subject area, but important for all the jobs of tomorrow. The Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) program is a part the Ministry of Education’s Student Success strategy where students in grade 11 and 12 select bundles of 8 to 10 courses that allow students to focus on a specific economic sector while acquiring their high school diploma. The Ontario Ministry of Education’s Student Success/Learning to 18 Strategic Policy branch, French-language Education Policy and Programs Branch chose to collaborate with the I-Think Initiative to create a framework and toolkit to scale innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship across Ontario.

Defining Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship

The concepts of innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship (ICE) are inextricably linked.  None can exist without the others. Innovation is the generation and realization of a new idea in the world; this means that innovation contains within it elements of both creativity and entrepreneurship. Creativity comes into play in the generation of ideas to meet a need in the world, based on a fundamental belief that there is more than one right answer to a given problem. Entrepreneurship is the set of activities aimed at building, scaling, and sustaining the new ideas into an organization, whether extending an existing organization or creating a new one. Creating a shared understanding of the definitions of the three central terms is key to creating powerful ICE training.  

The Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship (ICE) element of the Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) program was delivered to 2,000 students in 2014-15. The new program was a partnership between the government and the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. the government is investing an additional $1 million in 2015-16 to support expansion of the ICE component of the SHSM program.
— Government of Ontario, 2015 Ontario Budget

As a program that equips students with the tools and mindsets necessary for future economic prosperity, ICE has drawn widespread interest. Listen to Roger Martin, Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute, talk to two students about the importance of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship to their future.

Every society needs entrepreneurship, to build its economy and increase its shared prosperity. No wonder school boards across the world are working to find ways to teach entrepreneurship. It isn’t easy. What’s needed is a systematic approach to innovation - a process and set of tools that help students become entrepreneurial, no matter what job they eventually hold. In my view, Ontario should be the first jurisdiction in the world to implement a systematic way of teaching innovation to every child.
— Roger Martin, Director, Martin Prosperity Institute 

ICE training takes a process-based approach to innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship; it encourages the application of key skills to a unique experience solving real-world, sector- relevant challenges, developed in consultation with sector partners. With the aim of developing engaged and contributing citizens, this training seeks to have students consider the impact and consequences of their innovations in the world. These experiences will allow students to try the tools, which will lead them to reflect and develop an understanding of their stance in the world. Will students be entrepreneurs after this training? No. And that is not the goal. This six-hour experience aims to expose students to ICE training skills and to inspire a shift in mindset. 

Creating a clear definition of each ICE concept (Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship) is an integral step in providing more widespread training. But only by adopting a creative, innovative, or entrepreneurial mindset can students begin to make a palpable change in the world around them. These mindsets are the intended outcomes of the SHSM ICE training.

We ground the ICE training in 3 Gears of Innovation, the systematic process for enabling ICE:

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The first stage is known as Empathy & Need Finding. The goal of this step is to create empathy in order to find an unmet need in the world.

The next stage is Ideation & Prototyping to generate many ideas and possibilities of how we might serve the user’s unmet need.

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Finally, we then explore Strategy & Testing to help our ideas come alive in the world.

Get to know the 3 gears:


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One of the most difficult parts of any program is getting started, watch this video to see what students and teachers have to say about the experiences as beginners in the ICE program.


If your school is interested in SHSM ICE, please contact the SHSM lead at your school board.