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“Inaction in the face of opportunity is but an excuse!” – #Futurist Jim Carroll

Part of the role of a futurist is to provide people insight into the trends that will be a part of their future, but also to put into perspective the opportunities these trends present. A lot of people get excited when they see what I can offer in that regard.

But people are funny – and here’s a good story you can think about to see if you are suffering from a culture of inaction.

I recently had a call from a senior VP of a major company in the retail industry. She thought that it would be extremely helpful to bring me in to their upcoming corporate leadership meeting – with so much change in retail they need to be challenged in their thinking. With clients like Disney, The GAP, Pepsi, Godiva, and more, I certainly have a track record for doing just that – I spend a lot of time speaking to the massive and fast trends sweeping the world of retail. I even have separate keynote topics on retail and the Amazon effect.

Fast forward. She wrote back last week, indicating that their CEO didn’t think it was a good time to be doing this. As in, stay the course. Stick with the status quo. They didn’t need to be challenged right now ; they had a strategy and needed to see it through. They might think about doing a deep-dive future session next year. Something like that.

What’s that phrase people use? I was gobsmacked, particularly after she had outlined in a conference call all the issues that they needed to be thinking about!

Here’s the thing – I get a lot of situations like this! Where someone on a corporate team knows that the organization needs to be challenged out of their complacency — but then it goes up the ladder, where senior management puts a stop to the idea. I’m never sure why, but I know what the result will be.

This particular organization will now go on my fail-radar. I’ll watch them over the next decade, along with dozens of others, and will see the stumbles and failures and missteps they will make as they fail to align to obvious future trends. Not because they didn’t bring me in — but because they clearly are driven by a culture of indecision!

Remember this likely reality – 50% of the companies that you see around you today likely won’t be around you in but 10 short years. Particularly in retail!

Inaction is in the soul of many organizations. This might be you!

Why does this occur? With 25 years of effort in advising on organizations on trends and the future, I’ve become quite adept at spotting the culture of slow that kills initiative:

  • actions are based on lifelong lessons that no longer apply
  • variation in routine is abhorred
  • the strategies they have in place are often outdated by faster trends
  • they are structured by command and control structures that don’t allow for agility
  • outdated HR practices reward mediocrity
  • individualism is punished
  • risk is something to be feared, not embraced
  • collaboration is absent
  • corporate culture breeds change-resistance anti-bodies
  • they discount the big thinkers who are changing their industry – they think they know better!
  • they have allowed a leadership style of deferring decisions to overtake all activities
  • a belief that their company and product are invincible, and that their continued success is inevitable
  • It’s an interesting time to be in business. Disruption, fast paced business model change, technology! It’s all real folks – you can’t avoid it.

The future belongs to those who are fast, and yet many are structured for slow.

Rant over.

Follow Me!
January 17th, 2018

Get inspired, every day! I start my weekday morning with my coffee, my laptop, and a stage photo. I’m hitting the ground typing, thinking of the thought that should drive your day forward.

It’s the very first thing I do! And I’ve been doing this since September 2016.

Each business day, you’ll discover a new motivational stage quote posted to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN, Pinterest and Flickr, having to do with disruption, innovation, the future, trends, and your mindset. Over 50,000 people now get this little nugget of insight each and every day!

You can find me here!

  • Instagram : start here – it’s where I post the original photo early morning, usually between 530 and 7am EST
  • Facebook : they are autoposted here, but the page also includes blog posts and other insight
  • Flickr : a great option if you wan to search by phrase, concept, etc. (i.e. quickly search for my posts on ‘imagination’
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn: aka The Thinking Mans Facebook. I’ve been using LinkedIn more, and am posting a regular series of daily video clips there as well!

Ideas are the most powerful tool at your disposal.

Here’s something new – a variety of posts from my daily inspirational post on the value of ideas!

Click on any photo to get started – and get inspired!

For just over a year, I’ve started every workday morning with a cup of coffee, my laptop, and a photo from one of the stages on which I’ve appeared.

I’m thrilled to say that magically, this little bit of morning mediation has now turned into my next book!

Here’s the backstory – each morning, I find a photo from one of the countless stages on which I’ve appeared, where I’ve been busy talking about the future and trends. I spend some time, while sipping my coffee, thinking about the story that I was telling on stage for that particular photo. I wrap that story into an inspirational quote, work it into the photo, and release it into the world.

The reaction has been pretty remarkable – it seems to be touching people! When released, the quote goes up on Instagram, and is automatically blasted out to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and more. I figure that about now, the daily photo reaches about 50,000 people each day.

Those quotes have now morphed into my next book – an active work in progress – #38! I anticipate a release in the 2nd quarter of 2018. The working title? “Think Big, Start Small, Scale Fast: Stories from the Stage on Innovation, Disruption and the Accelerating Future.”

The books goes behind the scenes on many of these photos — which really are my observations that people have on hope, fear, the future and change. As a futurist and a speaker, you are in a really unique situation to observe how people choose to cope with what comes next. Some do – many don’t. There are powerful lessons to be learned from how people react to the future, and how they deal with change.

It’s been almost 5 years since I’ve released a book, and I am tremendously exited to be working on this one. What seems to be coming together is 25 years of insight from having the ability to share my thoughts on the future, trends, disruption and acceleration with over 2 million people from the stage.

Stay tuned!

Oh, if you want to see the quotes behind the book, take a look. And hit the links over on the right to follow me on various social networks and to see each new quote early every workday morning. Get inspired!

 

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Get Motivated!
July 6th, 2017

Every morning since last August, I’ve enjoyed my morning coffee by taking a pause first, spending some time thinking through a piece of guidance that I might offer up. The thoughts come from the various keynotes I’ve been doing all over the world and observations along the way, and are based on a stage shot.

If you want to start up your day with some interesting thoughts and observations, here they are! As of today, 160 of them! There’s some interesting thoughts in there!

Click on any of the images to start up a full-size screen show — which you can advance through manually or automatically. Enjoy!

One of my key responsibilities as a futurist is to help my clients — some of the largest associations and companies in the world — align themselves to the fast paced trends of today. One key question that always comes up? “When do we get involved with any key trend?”

I walk them through that issue from a variety of perspectives and with observations I’ve seen from spending time with countless Fortune 1000 organizations. However, I stress that when it comes to the issue of timing, it is critical that they get involved in some way with any new trend or technology.

Some don’t. History has taught as that some when it comes to key trends, some organizations don’t bother showing up at all or don’t show up at the right time — and end up missing a lot of opportunities. Hence, the quote in the picture!

How do you determine when to invest? The best guidance comes from something called the “Gartner Hypecycle.” Years ago, the global research company suggested that any new technology goes along a curve – it appears, hits the time of excessive hype and expectations. That is followed by the inevitable collapse of enthusiasm as people realize that it takes a lot of time and effort to implement the technology and determine the opportunity that comes from it. But inevitably, both the expectations and technology itself matures, and it becomes a key component for innovation and so much more.

You can take any technology and place it on the curve.

Consider e-commerce: it appeared, and people got carried away with the potential during the dot.com era of the late 1990’s. However, that involved a period of rather excessive and ridiculous hype, and so we had the inevitable dot.com collapse. Plateau of productivity? Amazon is steamrolling retail in North America, and Alibaba dominates retail trends in China. Everywhere, stores are closing and online shopping is accelerating. Amazon buys Whole Foods. Do you get the point?

Now consider the explosion of new technologies around us today: 3D printing, the Internet of Things (#iot), virtual reality, artificial intelligence, self-driving cars. A key component to your strategy is figuring out where they are on the curve, and hence, what you should be doing with them in terms of an innovation strategy. There are some useful observations to be found online, such as this one which takes the hype-cycle and places a variety of technologies at their current point on the curve.

But here’s the thing: if a key technology shows an opportunity, don’t ignore it if it is still early days. Otherwise, there is a good chance that you won’t be ready when it becomes real – when it hits the plateau of productivity. 

This is where my “think big, start small, scale fast” mantra comes into play. Even if it is early days, you should make sure that you are working with, experimenting with, and gaining expertise in any new technology. Fail early and fail fast! That way, you will be better positioned when it hits the “plateau of productivity.”

One thing I’ve learned? Some organizations don’t take this step. They don’t show up to the starting line. They are too dismissive of new ideas and new technologies The result is that they don’t even appear in the race, and miss out on building up the early expertise and experience with a key technology.

A brand today can go from hero to zero in a matter of months….” In that context, you’d better get ahead of the fast future, before it gets ahead of you!

Consider Sony. Once they were a really cool company with the coolest technology on the planet — the Walkman.

Then they weren’t, because they didn’t keep up with the future, and didn’t innovate fast enough.

We live in an era of instant obsolescence. I often tell the story on stage of how my sons — now 24 and 22– perceive many of the things which were once a part of my life as being from the “olden days.” We’ve actually come up with a pretty long list.

Sony once had a really cool brand name, and the Walkman had deep, deep brand value. Yet Sony seemed to lose its innovative spirit, and started going wrong in a big way. It ended up destroying a good chunk of the brand value behind the Sony name — when I think of Sony now, I think of a company that is slow, behind the times, ponderous.

Which begs the question : are you operating with enough agility and rapidity in order to ensure that your own brand doesn’t become a “brand from the olden days?”

The rate at which the Sony brand lost its value is nothing short of stunning — and was due to a series of well known missteps (among others):

  • they failed to keep up with the rapid growth and demand for flat panel TV’s and other hot new technologies: they failed with market agility.
  • they decided that going to war with their customers (by slipping destructive software onto their music CD’s) was more important than developing great technology that caught the next wave of consumer electronics. Look up “Sony rootkit” for the story from over a decade ago.
  • they dropped the ball on the necessity for continuous operational excellence , as evidenced by a disastrous recall of laptop batteries some years back.

The list goes on. Are you making similar mistakes that is costing you brand image? You certainly are, if:

  • Your brand looks tired, because it is tired. Case in point — many companies in the automobile industry missed out on the revolution as the dashboard becomes a computer, because they weren’t watching what their customers were doing. They were busy releasing automobiles that were some five years behind the living rooms of their customers — and that certainly brought the brand sheen off of some of the biggest auto companies. They are still trying to catch up.
  • Customers see a lack of innovation: Consumers today are immersed in a global cloud of new ideas. They’re witnessing constant, relentless, awe-inspiring forms of innovation all around them, as they deal with a flood of new consumer technologies, packaging based product innovation, and ongoing advancements in retail environments, both offline and online. They’ve come to expect that the brands they deal with are at the leading edge, in design, functionality, message and purpose.
  • Lousy, ineffective customer service: Guess what – when it comes to interaction with your customers, they measure you up against the world’s best. If you don’t add up, you are doing some significant damage to your brand equity right there. Customer support is no longer good enough — fanatical support is better.
  • You don’t know that you customers know more about your brand than you do: Your customers today are immersed in the global innovation idea feedback loop. They busy sharing ideas on what’s really cool, and they are even busier taking apart the folly of those who have been left behind. In doing so, they are rapidly reinventing products, services, brands and image. If you aren’t listening, you are guaranteeing that you’ll fall behind.
  • A lack of purpose or urgency: I’ve studied many organizations who still don’t have the key information they need for market agility. They don’t have instant feedback mechanisms which tell them of rapid developments in specific markets. They don’t know how to regroup quickly “when bad things happen.” They still operate blind, as if it’s 1990: their sales force goes into a customer meeting, oblivious as to what that customer has been thinking about them. They approach every day as if it were the same as yesterday; meanwhile, their market and their customers have run away from them!
  • A lack of market and competitive intelligence: It’s the information-age, get it? There’s no shortage of information to be had. Yet I see companies who seem shocked when a competitor drops a ‘bombshell’ announcement — only to realize that they were the only one who thought it was a bombshell. Everybody else knew what the competition was up to, because in this new hyper-connected world, everyone knows what everyone else is doing!
  • A regular series of fumbling missteps: The saddest thing is that Sony has messed up in so many ways, that some customers now look at as if it has a “L” on its forehead. Today, small mistakes can be instantly compounded. Take the concept of compounded financial interest. Now realize that a small PR mistake, a lousy executive decision, or poor execution, can lead to the same type of instant, global brand devaluation — that can compound on itself at an extremely high interest rate!

A brand today can go from hero to zero in a matter of months. How do you avoid such a fate?

  • Recognize that brand longevity is now a critical issue
  • Ensure your sales, marketing, development and customer support team are relentlessly focused on the currency of the brand
  • Make sure that continuous brand innovation is part of your corporate mantra
  • When confronted with the new and challenging customer, learn from them rather than running away
  • Be incessantly focused on the likely innovations that will come to impact your brand
  • Learn to think five to six product lifecycles in advance — and plan to do them all within six months.
  • Make forward oriented intelligence a critical aspect of what you do.

Back in 2006, I keynoted the Society of Cable Telecom Engineers at their annual conference in Tampa. At the time, YouTube was only just beginning to have an impact, and social networking was still in a nascent stage. It was January — Twitter wasn’t even around!

My job was to alert them that forthcoming trends would mean that they would be  faced with the need to accelerate the bandwidth on their networks. I spoke to the trends I predicted in my book of 1999, Light Bulbs to Yottabits, which took a look at the forthcoming world of online video.


My job, as opening keynote, was to get them in the right, innovative frame of mind to deal with an upcoming tsunami of change.

I ended up writing an article for Broadband Magazine, on my keynote theme, Are We Thinking “Fast” Enough? I recently dug the article out the other day with respect to another upcoming talk within the industry.

It still makes for good reading today, starting with the observation that “in this era in which new developments and technology are coming to the market faster than ever before, everyone must become an innovator, whether it be with new business models, skills partnerships or customer solutions.”

Some of the key points I raised are even more critical today:

  • Innovation has moved from the corporate to the collective, a trend that is causing absolutely furious rates of discovery.
  • This rate of scientific advance is such that a world of yottabits and zetabits is going to arrive faster than you might think,
  • Things are happening so fast that some industries are beginning
    to witness the end of the concept of the product life-cycle
  • Rapid innovation and technology development means that new competitors can now come into a marketplace and cause fundamental, significant and long lasting change at the drop of a hat
  • Rapidly evolving technology is resulting in an increasing shortage of critical skills

Run through that list, and ask yourself if that is your industry situation today.

Read the full article below.

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IBM’s Think Marketing blog found my site, and interviewed me on some of my thoughts around innovation and culture. Give it a read!

 

Hatching your next great idea: 5 ways to set the stage
by Jennifer Goforth Gregory, IBM Think Marketing Blog

Sometimes, you wake up and it feels like it became spring overnight. But when you stop to think about it, the change of seasons happened gradually over the course of a few weeks, and you missed the subtle signs. The daffodils started blooming last month. You started leaving the house without a coat. And, last week, you noticed a few trees sporting light green leaves.

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Over the last 25 years as a speaker on future trends and innovation, I’ve seen many cases where companies have jumped onto a trend simply because everyone else. Or, they’ve suddenly decided that ‘innovation’ is important, without really defining a purpose or goal behind such a focus.

Rather than by just jumping on a bandwagon and doing what others are doing , try asking better questions as to why you should or should not be doing something!

Innovation that is based on “jumping on the bandwagon” is doomed to fail, for many, many reasons:

  • it’s lazy: true innovation takes hard work. It involves massive cultural, organizational, structural change. It involves an organization and leadership team that is willing to try all kinds of radical and new ideas to deal with rapid change. An innovative organization can’t innovate simply by jumping on a trend. Trying to do so is just trying to find an easy solution to deep, complex problems.
  • it involves little new creativity: by linking a new approach to doing things with a “hot topic” or trend means that people end up shutting their brains down. Creativity is immediately doomed through commonality.
  • it’s just a bandaid: bandwagon based innovation causes people to look for instant solutions and a quick fix, rather than trying to really figure out how to do something differently.
  • it’s misfocused: it involves putting in a solution is sought without identifying a problem. It’s backward in terms of approach.
  • it encourages mediocrity: it reduces innovation to an “idea of the week,” and does nothing to encourage people to really look at their world in a different way.
  • it reduces innovation to sloganeering: truly creative people within organizations are tried of slogan-based management. They’ve seen far too many ‘radical right turns’ and ‘new beginnings’ — and when they realize that their management team has jumped onto the latest hot trend, their faith and motivation goes out the window.
  • it destroys innovation: after the bandwagon effect ultimately fails (as they always do for the reasons above), people end up feeling burned out, cynical, demotivated — and they’ll be prepared to do little when the “next big thing” comes along.

 

It’s more important — and more difficult — than that.

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