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Beyond Data and Models: Canada and the Pacific Northwest Cultural Experience

Yan Cimon

May 31, 2013

by Yan Cimon, Ph.D., 2012-2013 Fulbright Visiting Chair in Innovation

It has been said countless times that Canada and the United States have what may be the most integrated economies in the world. Our transportation infrastructure, our food supply, our energy, our manufacturing, in a nutshell, anything that matters to our everyday lives relies on the careful – yet too often ad hoc – management of our mutual interdependencies.

Since I arrived at the University of Washington, I have been privileged to participate in the Goods Movement Collaborative – a very dynamic group led by Anne Goodchild from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. My research here focuses on the way Canadian and American value chains mesh with one another, or to put it more bluntly: how we “build things” together. Such endeavors entail looking for – and into – a lot of data and models on how inputs travel back and forth from one country to the other and so on. Yet, as I have been living in Seattle and traveling through the Pacific Northwest, from Oregon to Washington and British Columbia (Canada), it quickly became obvious that there was more to it…

In fact, many will tell you that crossing the border at Blaine, Washington is a very different experience from crossing the border at Jackman, ME. Yet, everyone is submitted to the same processes and requirements administered by the same organization(s). This means that there are important cultural factors that may influence the cross-border dynamics at play when finished and unfinished goods travel from one country to the other. Furthermore, these need to be better understood so that Canada and the United States can innovatively leverage their unique relationship and interdependencies in order to remain competitive in a challenging global environment.

Our countries need each other to remain prosperous and competitive but we have yet to figure out how to manage our relationship for it to reach its full economic potential. With such issues to reflect on, I sure am glad to have a few weeks left on campus!

Yan Cimon holds the Fulbright Visiting Chair in Innovation at the UW College of Engineering’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He is Associate Professor of Strategy at Université Laval’s Faculty of Business Administration (Québec City, Canada) and is the Deputy Director of CIRRELT (Québec) – the Interuniversity Research Center on Logistics, Transportation and Enterprise Networks.