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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.

 

We will see more change in every industry in the next 10 years than we have seen in the last 100 as transformation and disruption sweeps the world.

Every company is faced with the rapid emergence of new competitors, significant new business models, more challenging consumers, the acceleration of science a race to the pricing bottom, and a transition to the speed of innovation that will define their future. How do you get ahead? By turning on your innovation engine, firing your creativity thrusters, and strapping in for a rocket ride into your faster future.

In this keynote, futurist and innovation expert Jim Carroll shares the insight that he has gained by spending the last 25 years with a relentless focus on what turns organizations into high-velocity innovation heroes. None other than NASA has invited Jim in – twice – to share his insight on innovation strategies.

Innovative organization accelerate their creativity by turning their innovation engines upside down, focusing on customer oriented innovation and other unique models. They excel at sourcing ideas from the outside, turning that unique insight into fuel for their internal innovation factories. They challenge themselves on speed by getting into an iterative process of constantly rethinking, adjusting and redoing in order to discover the next best thing. They challenge themselves on business cycles, time to market and more.

In accelerated organizations, partnership is a key focus, collaboration is critical, agility is oxygen and imagination is relentlesss.

Launch yourself into the faster future with this unique, high energy keynote for global futurist, trends & innovation expert Jim Carroll!

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Disruption is real, it’s big, and it’s happening faster than you think. My job as a futurist has me doing an increasing number of CEO level events for Fortune 500 companies around the world, participating in leadership meetings which are focused on the massive transformations and disruption occurring in every single industry. Clients such as NASA, Disney, Godiva, Nikon, Mercedes Benz, Johnson & Johnson, and many more.

There is so much coming together all at once, and it accelerates everything. You might not understand the multiple trends that are coming together, so let me take you there.

Here’s what you need to think about today, as the pace of change picks up:

1. Multiple trends merge. There’s a lot going on! Individually, any trend is disruptive. Combine them together, and it’s transformative. 3D printing, exponentiating bandwidth, hyper-connectivity, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, robotics, neural networks, deep analytics, autonomous vehicles, Bitcoin and blockchain, self-learning systems. All of these trends and more are merging together,  leading to a massively new, connected, intelligent machine that will transform, change, challenge and disrupt every industry.

2 Every company becomes a software company. From healthcare to insurance, home appliances to automotive, manufacturing to packaging, retail to sports & fitness, energy to agriculture: every industry is seeing massive change as it becomes enabled, challenged and transformed by technology and connectivity. From precision agriculture to self-driving cars, smart clothing to connected microwaves, remote medical monitoring devices to active packaging  — every company in every industry is becoming a computer company, with software and technology at its heart and soul.

3. Moore’s law innovation speed defines every industry. It’s the rule that defines that the processing power of a computer chip constantly increases while the cost collapses at an exponential rate — and that speed of change is coming to drive the speed of innovation in every single industry as we all become tech companies. Companies are having to innovate and transform at a pace never seen before.
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4. Science exponentiates. The volume of medical knowledge is doubling every six years, and the number is going down. The cost for genomic sequencing is following an exponential downward curve. Battery technology innovation is moving forward at a furious pace with new methodologies, ideas and more coming to market. One single new chemical substance allowed Apple to miniaturize the hard drive for the original iPod, which led to the birth of a billion dollar industry. Science is the heart of the future, and the future is happening faster!

5. Edge thinking dominates. Crowdfunding networks allow for a world in which small upstarts don’t need to follow long-established ‘rules’ for changing the future. To move faster, they source ideas and inspiration through crowd-thinking, raise their funds through new forms of financing, and prototype products through 3D printing and other fast-to-market methodologies. Global R&D has moved from massive labs to globally dispersed idea factories.

6. Small beats big. Legacy is death: agility and speed are the new metrics for success. Big organizations are often encumbered by history and are suffering from the disease of  organizational sclerosis. New, aggressive upstarts can move faster, with the result that they can make decisions that provide for big disruption and challenge.

7. Ideas accelerate. With the Internet, we have essentially built a big, global idea machine, and fast innovators know how to mine its riches. In every field, the pace of innovation and discovery is speeding up to an unprecedented level. What use to seem like science fiction just a few years ago is todays’ reality.

8. Revenue reinvents – regularly. With fast ideas comes faster innovation : 60% of Apple’s revenue comes from products that didn’t exist 4 years ago. That’s a blistering pace of innovation. Expect that to become the norm in most industries as the future accelerates, product lifecycles collapse, and disruption disrupts.

9. Attention spans collapse. All of this fast change is difficult to comprehend, and so we have become scattershot! We now scan some 12 feet of shelf space per second – a goldfish has a longer attention span than a human. We need to have constant, relentless innovation in terms of marketing, branding and consumer outreach, not to mention what we need to do to engage our workforce!

10. New interaction dominates. Mobile is everything; we live on our devices. It influences everything we do, all that we decide, and much of how we interact with each other. The next phase will involve smart, connected packaging talking to our devices, and a new era of hyper-connectivity that will make todays’ early attempts at mobile marketing seem like child’s play.

11. Business models realign. The Internet of Things (#IoT) doesn’t just result in cool new products – it redefines entire revenue models. The era of predictive diagnostics allows for a future in which appliance or automotive manufacturers can now design products that will tell you when they are about to break down. This changes the essence of the product from a physical device that is sold to the sale of a service with uptime guarantee revenue models.

12. Distributed technologies redefine. When everything connects, power disperses. Micro-grids will change the utility industry as backyard wind, solar and other renewables result in little, local neighbourhood micro-grids. Cars that talk to each other and to sensors in the highway result in a new concept of transportation. Everywhere you look, distributed connected technologies are redefining concepts and turning industries upside down.

13. Money disappears. Sometimes distributed technology have a bigger impact than you think – as is the case with blockchain, which essentially redefines money. Central banks are out, and distributed ledgers are in. Ethereum goes one step further than Bitcoin, by embedding the historical contract concept of an offer and acceptance into the very essence of money. It’s intelligent money, and we still don’t know how quickly this will change everything.

14. Flexibility emerges. Given all this change, companies are focused on agility in order to get ahead. At a manufacturing plant in Graz, Austria, Magna has built the ultimate in flexible assembly lines, with the ability to build different cars from different companies on one assembly line. Elsewhere, companies are busy moving the software concept of agile development into the boardroom, adopting it as a key leadership trait. The ability to change fast is now the oxygen that fuels success.

15. Gamers Game. 25,000 people showed up to watch 4 gamers play a video game tournament in the Los Angeles Staples Centre – and 43 million tuned in worldwide via Twitch, the hottest new social platform on the planet. They’re coming into the workplace, and live in a world that involves a constant need to ‘level-up.’ Nothing will ever be the same as new forms of motivation and reward come to drive everything – and in this world, Xbox-type rooms are the new office!

16. Virtualization arrives. AR and VR are here, and the era of virtual welding is not too far off – and any other skill can be undertaken anywhere, at any time. An example is the forthcoming disruption of trucking, which will happen when a driver in India can navigate a truck through the streets of New York through a virtual headset! Outsourcing of skills is one thing – outsourcing of physical work is a whole new level altogether!

17. Infrastructure risk exponentiates. One word – Equifax. We are busy building a big, elaborate machine in the form of massive connectivity and accelerated information, but don’t quite know how to secure it. The TV show South Park had a character do a shoutout to in-home Amazon Echo and Google Home devices — and exposed a new security risk that no one ever thought about. Expect things to get better much worse before it gets better!

18. Insight influences. Big data and analytics might be overused buzzwords, but not to everyone. We live in a new world of Amazonian insight, where those who have the tools and knowledge to understand what is is really going on are the ones to get ahead. Depth of insight drives disruption – actuaries are moving from a world of looking back to one fo looking forward based on real time medical device connectivity. Car insurance is no longer based on past driving performance, but real time behaviour based on GPS. Even the world of health care is moving from a a world in which we fix you after you are sick – to knowing what you will be sick with based upon your genetic profile, and acting accordingly.

19. Expectations accelerate. If your Web site sucks, so do you. In our new world, people want the simplicity of a Google query via a touch screen device. Gone are the days of complex online forms — in are applications that are instantly aware of who you are and what you want. The bar of expectations is increasing at a furious pace, and if you can’t keep up, you can’t compete!

20. Industries virtualize. No one company can do everything that needs to be done in an era of fast change. In retail, all kinds of new partners are emerging to support last mile shipping, drop shipping capability, drone delivery and more. In finance, there are more types fo Fintech startups than there are world currencies, helping banks to navigate the complex new world of cryptocurrencies and more.

21. Knowledge accelerates. Skills access is the new gold. Did you notice Ford paid $1 billion to get access to some experts in self-driving car technology? Enough said. Those who can access the skills in trend #1 above win. We’re in a global war for niche talent, and that pretty much defines a critical strategy for the future. If it is all about skills, then success involves a strategy in which grabbing them fast is the only path forward.

22. Experience is the new capital. Innovation is the new oxygen. There’s no time to learn, to study, to plan. It’s time to figure out what you don’t know, and do the things that are necessary to begin to know about it. Experiential capital is the new capital for the 21st century.

23. Generations transform. 1 out of 2 people on the planet are under the age of 25. They’re globally wired, entrepreneurial, collaborative, change oriented — and they are now now driving rapid business model change, and industry transformation, as they move into executive positions

24. Big, bold thinking predominates. There are people who grab all of these trends and do “big things.” We are seeing the emergence of an entire world of big dreamers and doers, individuals who dare to challenge the orthodox, and abandon routines. The concept of the ‘moonshot’ is no longer restricted to those with deep pockets — but is oxygen for those with big ideas.

25. Action is the best reaction. Put it all together, and what odes it mean? If you don’t disrupt, you will be disrupted. It’s your ability to quickly act, react and do that will allow for future success. There’s not a lot of time for debate, studying; inertia is abhorred. Simply DO. That should be you.

Remember that song by the Who? “I hope I die before I get old!”

You better change before you can’t.

You might be obsolete before you know it.

Quit talking about disruption.

Do something about it.

Here’s a clip from a recent keynote. It’s part of a talk where I cover 20 Disruptive Trends, and put into perspective why the future belongs to those who are fast! In this short clip, I cover trends involving batteries, self-driving, 3d printing, the space industry, genomics, health care knowledge, and more! Including why I can drink more coffee than other people!

I’ve got a keynote topic description coming around this, with a draft below.

Aligning Acceleration and Agility: The Business Case for Fast!

To say that we live in a fast world would be an understatement. Small, quick upstarts like Square are challenging the global credit card industry, at the same that GPS based driver monitoring devices are rewriting the rules of the auto insurance industry. The NEST Learning Thermostat morphs from a quiet startup to a worthy challenger to industrial energy device powerhouses. Autonomous vehicle technology leads us to road trains and a more rapid emergence of intelligent highway infrastructure. We’re in the era of the end of incumbency, in which small dominates big, fast trumps ponderous, and indecision spawns failure. Everywhere we look, we can see acceleration, speed, and velocity: and in times like these, time isn’t a luxury.

For any executive, these trends matter — because fast trends drive disruptive change. And disruptive change envelopes us in terms of fast trends: self-driving cars, 3d printing, crowdfunding, the sharing economy, blockchains, personal drones, swarm-bots, smart dust, vertical farms, the Internet of Things, cognitive computing, smart factories, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, quantum computing, intelligent farms, smart clothing! What seemed to be science fiction just a few short years ago has become a reality today, as time compresses and the future accelerates.

Take a voyage with Futurist Jim Carroll into the world of tomorrow, today, as he outlines the key trends, technologies, ideas and initiatives that are transforming our world around us at hypersonic speed. A world in which the speed of change impacting every company and every industry is increasingly driven by the speed of technology and Silicon Valley hyper-innovation. One that demands faster innovation, agile response, flexible strategies, and most important, the ability to ‘think big, start small, scale fast.’
For the last 25 years, Jim Carroll has been speaking to and advising some of the worlds largest organizations on the trends that will impact them. With a client list that ranges from NASA to Disney, the Swiss Innovation Forum to the National Australia Bank, Johnson and Johnson to Godiva Chocolates, Jim has had a front row seat to the massive change being encountered in industries worldwide, and deep insight into the leadership mindset of organizations as they adapt to the era of acceleration.
 In just a few short years, it will the year 2025, and the world of tomorrow will be your reality of today. Are you ready for what comes next?

 

Companies that don’t yet exist, will build products that are not yet conceived, based on ideas not yet invented, with manufacturing methodologies that have not yet been conceived. Are you ready for the new world of disruption?

That’s the reality of manufacturing today, and that will be the focus on my keynote next week when I open the Canadian Manufacturing Technology show in Toronto, Canada.

The reality of our future is found in the quote above, and in this video clip here:

The folks at Canadian MetalWorking/Canadian Fabricating and Welding, reached out to me for an advance look at some of the topics and issues I’ll cover in my talk.

 

Seek Out Opportunities for Innovation
Canadian MetalWorking, September 2017

When reinventing manufacturing, the reality is that manufacturers need to focus on new business models with agility and flexibility while quickly raising up production. If the manufacturing sector in a particular nation wants to be the leader in the industry, it must start to think like a tinkerer economy by accelerating change.

This is the view of futurist Jim Carroll, who espouses the concept that prototyping and concept development will continue to mature in the near future, all while becoming more and more important to the manufacturing sector.

He says by building flexibility into the process, manufacturing companies can bring new technologies and new generations to the market faster than ever before and seeing their profits skyrocket.

Canadian Metalworking caught up with Carroll before his opening keynote speech at CMTS 2017. Here’s what he had to say.

CM: For a small and mid-sized Canadian manufacturing companies, where should they be in terms of technology adoption during this period of Industry 4.0?

Carroll: No. 1 they need to appreciate what is happening out there and be willing to accept that things are changing at a relatively significant speed. Some high-level trends such as robotics, digital factory, and 3-D printing may not be applicable for small industries, but this does not mean that they should not be aware that these trends can affect the future of their industry. Understand what is happening out there and start small.

There are a lot of opportunities out there, for instance, if you take 3-D printing, there are a lot of contract 3-D printing facilities. Last week I was talking about a company that is positioning themselves like the Uber for 3-D printing. If you can conceive a product using your CAM software and ship them the files, they will find a 3-D printer with the [needed] capability and match you up with them so that you can do your prototype. Where 3-D printing is accelerating fairly quickly is in rapid prototyping design.

You might be a 100 person or smaller company, but you can certainly experiment with this technology to figure out what is going on, rather than thinking 3-D printing is something farfetched from science fiction, because it is not. The best thing is to think big, start small, and scale fast.

CM: Some companies are dragging their feet and are not integrating advanced technology into their operations. What sort of warning would you offer up to these manufacturing companies?

Carroll: No matter who you are or what you do, fascinating things are emerging out there regarding these significant trends. So, spend time figuring out what you can utilize today and tomorrow to turn it into an opportunity.

Will the world of manufacturing be fundamentally different in the next five or 10 years? Of course, yes, pushed by the whole issue with jobs skills.

There is no shortage of employment in manufacturing. It’s just that some people don’t have the right skills. For instance, robotics company Genesis Systems, one of the largest robotics manufacturing businesses in Iowa, said to me that it is almost like the typical robotics machine operator in a factory today has to be able to do trigonometry in their heads because it has become so sophisticated.

Brute force, manual routine skills are from the older days. All jobs now require higher level skills. If you are a manufacturer, you have to appreciate what is going on and what it is going to mean regarding the skills you have and the skills you are going to need.

CM: How does the changing pace of technology in a manufacturing environment change the way that these companies maintain and improve their employees’ skills levels?

Carroll: It is generational. There are a lot of baby boomers out there that struggle with technology. Growing up with a punch card, we grew up with a unique relationship with technology. My kids that are 28 and 24 are different, having never seen the world without the Internet. These new generations that are coming to the work force think differently and act differently.

Skills Canada and Skills USA have the initiative to help young people find a career path in skilled trades. Last year I opened their global competition in Saõ Paolo, and they have [hundreds of] kids competing in 75 categories in 400,000 sq. m of space. Advanced welding was among one of the competitions. They have folks who demonstrate virtual welding, how with technology in one room and can theoretically weld from a facility 1,000 miles away. So, get involved with Skills USA or Skills Canada. In the end, it all goes back to understanding what is going on out there and appreciating the acceleration of technology to make a conscious decision to get on board.

CM: Can you provide an example of an organization that is embracing Industry 4.0 and is a good example of manufacturing’s future in North America?

Carroll: I saw this when I was at Amsted Rail in St. Louis, which offers engineered system solutions that combine castings, bearings, wheels, axles, and energy management devices. They always think about what they can do in terms upgrading their technology.

Amsted Rail is frequently bringing new employees from younger generations and set up what they call an “Xboxer,” which means that they let these mid-20s engineers play with all this new technology and figure out how to bring in this new technology into the operation.

CM: Do you feel optimistic about this state of manufacturing in North America given the examples you provided with this mid-sized companies looking at their business at a different way?

Carroll: Things like collaborative robotics, digital factory, and additive are going provide a significant transformation of what manufacturing is. The rest of the world is going to go there, and you are not going to slow down the acceleration of science and the technology. There is a choice, either you get on board, or you don’t.

CM: What technologies do you think manufacturers should be keeping a close eye on?

Carroll: Two things. 3-D printing and accelerated material science will have the most impact in manufacturing for at least the next five years.

3-D printing is moving forward at a furious pace. For instance, there is one coming along called CLIP [continuous liquid interface production], which is almost out of the Transformers movie. Seeing that type of acceleration, what took something like 14 hours before now takes about 6.5 minutes with CLIP technology. Additive is real. It has a huge role now in rapid prototyping and iterative design.

Look at aerospace. Airbus and Boeing have figured out that they can 3-D print and develop parts of planes with a structure that are 40 per cent lighter. From that perspective, companies are starting to see what they can achieve with these fascinating new materials driven by science.

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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.

I’m off to New York, where tomorrow I will be the closing speaker at Nasscom’s inaugaural C-summit

The National Association of Software and Services Companies is a trade association representing the major players in the Indian IT and business process outsourcing industry. The event is taking a look at future trends and opportunities for innovation, and features a wide variety of other fascinating speakers, such as the CIO’s for Johnson and Johnson (also a client of mine), Praxair and Schneider Electric.

Of course, everyone knows that we live in interesting times, and that like many nations and organizations in the world, Nasscom is working hard to align folks to a new world order of crazy twists and turns, often illogical policy directions and massive uncertainty. Such is the world today!

Here’s what I know: every business in every industry is faced with unprecedented change through the next 5 to 10 years as disruption takes hold. Read my 10 Drivers for Disruption, and ask yourself how you will be affected.

Then ask yourself : will you have the skills, agility, strategy and capability to align yourself to a faster future? That’s what I will be covering in my keynote! A key part of that equation involves the skills equation. While there might be wishful thinking in parts of the world as to how to deal with a challenging skills issue, the reality is that having a great skills strategy is a crucial factor for success in the era of disruption.

With that thinking, here’s my keynote description!

Think Big, Start Small, Scale Fast: Innovating in the Era of Disruption

We live in a time of massive challenge, and yet one of fascinating opportunity, as every business, and every industry is  being redefined at blinding speed by technology, globalization, the rapid emergence of new competitors, new forms of collaborative global R&D, and countless other trends.

In this keynote, futurist Jim Carroll outlines the key drivers of disruption, but offers a path forward. Undeniably, we must align ourselves to the realty of multiple trends: hyper-connectivity, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, robotics, neural networks, deep analytics, autonomous technologies, self-learning systems. All of these trends and more are merging together,  leading to a massively new, connected, intelligent machine that will transform, change, challenge and disrupt every industry. As this happens….every company becomes a software company, and speed defines success. That’s why the New York Times recently indicated that the methodologies of agile software development are increasingly becoming a key general leadership requirement.

In this new world in which the future belongs to those who are fast, experience is oxygen. There’s no time to learn, to study, to plan. It’s time to figure out what you don’t know, and do the things that are necessary to begin to know about it. Experiential capital is the new capital for the 21st century.

How to cope with accelerating change? In this keynote, Jim outlines his simple but transformative structure : Think big, start small and scale fast! Jim has been working with and studying what makes organizations survive in a fast paced world. His clients include NASA, the PGA of America, the Swiss Innovation, the National Australia Bank, the Wall Street Journal, Disney, and many, many more.

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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I work with many of the world’s leading bureaus, one of who is the Washington Speakers Bureau. They represent such people as Condoleeza Rice, George W. Bush, Tony Blair, John Kerry, Magic Johnson, Terry Bradshaw — global political, sports and other leaders. They’ve just run a blog post that I wrote on trends in the speaking industry. (Many of the worlds leading bureaus book me ; not only Washington Speakers, but also National Speakers Bureau / Global Speakers; Gail Davis & Associates; Leading Authorities; the Harry Walker Agency; Keppler Speakers ; Executive Speakers and many more!)


You can’t open a newspaper without seeing an article on the impact of ‘disruption.’  We now live in a period of unprecedented change in which your business model and the assumptions by which you operate are set to be forever disrupted.

In my own case, I spend a tremendous amount of time with different organizations in a vast range of different industries and professions, helping executives to understand and respond to the disruptive forces around them. And in the last several years, I’ve noticed some pretty significant changes in the speaking industry as organizations struggle with disruption.

If you are someone on your team responsible for organizing corporate or association meetings, you need to think about and react to the trends and forces at work. Quite simply, change is occurring several ways: with the speed with which speakers and topic experts are being booked, the topic areas that insight is being sought for, and the short time frames that everyone is working within.

As a speaker who focuses on how to link trends and innovation, my tag-line has become ‘the future belongs to those who are fast.”

The world is speeding up – and organizations need to respond faster

Consider the changes that everyone is impacted by today. Business model disruption. The rapid emergence of new competitors. The challenging impact of social media. Products that are almost out of date by the time they are brought to market. The digitization of everything and the impact of the Internet of Things.  All of these trends — and more — require that organizations pick up the pace when it comes to their strategies, actions and innovation efforts.

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Supertramp — a band from the 80’s — had a minor hit with the song “On the Long Way Home,” which featured the memorable line, the line, “when you’re up on the stage, it’s so unbelievable.” It is, quite. And when you’re up there, you realize how lucky you are to be able to share with the audience the wisdom you’ve picked up by observing some of the world’s top innovators. When the PGA of America had me in for the 2nd time, one of my key goals was to lay a foundation for the fact that growth in the game will come from innovation!

Recently, after a presentation to an audience of 3,000 people, I was approached by a CEO who was quite inspired by my remarks. He then asked me a fascinating question: “what would you do if you took over the leadership of my company right now?” We chatted for a while and I believe I provided some pretty succinct insight; but since then, I’ve been thinking about that question. Here’s a part of my answer.

  • maximize your best revenue opportunities. I’d make sure that any existing revenue relationships remain intact, and then some. I’d work on having my team obsess on growing existing high value customer relationships through service excellence. Let’s make sure that we meet their needs. It will likely be easier to keep existing revenue flowing rather than finding new ones, particularly through a time of economic challenge.
  • obsess over time to market. I’d work hard to accelerate product innovation; market life-cycles are collapsing, and I’d make sure every member of the team reoriented themselves to that reality. I’d focus on getting R&D to think in terms of faster cycles; I’d ramp up sales force education so that they were better aware of what’s coming next. I’d have the team thinking in terms of 3-6-9-12 : here’s what will be doing in the marketplace 3, 6, 9 and 12 months from now. I’d layer on top of that some insight into 1-2-5-10: what we might be doing 1, 2, 5 and 10 years from now.
  • reduce product costs through process improvement and better project execution: there is no shortage of innovative ideas, structures and concepts involving process and production methodologies. I’d make sure we were looking at finding those who are doing leading edge work in this area, inside or outside our industry, and learn from them.
  • align to customer oriented innovation: go upside-down, in fact. Take a look around and you will probably discover that your customers are inventing your future faster than you are. View their ideas, strategies and actions not as a threat, but as an opportunity for ideas!
  • reduce structural costs through collaboration: at this point in time, in a global world that allows for instant, smart collaboration among teams, there is no reason for massive duplication of skills and talent throughout an organization. I’d start a rethink those silos, and restructure for a new skills deployment approach. Right off the bat, I’d encourage a few cross-organizational collaboration efforts, to get people used to the idea of tackling fast new problems rather than arguing about structure and hierarchy.
  • focus on the pipeline of talent innovation: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The depth the bench strength is critical to future success. I’d have everyone take a good look at our pipeline, to see if it will meet upcoming needs. If not, I’d get a program in place to fix that fast.
  • relentlessly and aggressively chase costs: I’m not talking about spontaneous slash and burn spending cuts: I’d refocus on transitioning the role of staff from tactical efforts to a strategic role. I’ve spent time with the CIO’s and CFO’s of some pretty major organizations: Hunt Oil, Adobe, J Crew, Under Armor. All of them have provided in-depth insight onstage during customer panels that have focused on the role of IT in the business to run the business better, grow the business and transform the business. There remain countless opportunities for IT oriented innovation to rip unnecessary costs out of the business, and it involves this tactical to strategic transition.
  • enhance quality and reliability of product: Last year, I spoke to 2,500 global quality professionals on the challenges that the high velocity economy presents to the concept of quality. The fact is, new issues hit us in the marketplace faster than ever before. And the global idea loop means that quality challenges can become a sudden, massive worldwide PR nightmare faster than we’ve ever been prepared for. That’s why avoiding quality problems remains a critical focus. I’d take a look at how well we’re dealing with quality issues, and whether we’ve got the agility to respond in this new world of heightened PR challenges. I’d also have a group prepare an immediate outline of challenges and problems with customer service and satisfaction.
  • partner up: no one company can do everything on its own anymore. Take a look t the world of self-driving cars — every single auto company is partnering at a furious pace, because they know that access to specialized skills is the defining success factor for the future!
  • capture new emerging growth markets faster: I’d begin to orient the team so that we knew about which market opportunities might come next, and then spend time aligning ourselves to innovate faster in such markets. I recently spent some time with one client, and the focus of our discussion was how a new market was set to unfold in the next three months. Expectations were that the market — for a unique consumer product, with potential sales in the billions of dollars — might last for a period of eighteen months, before being eclipsed by the next stage of development. Essentially, the CEO was looking at a situation where they had to figure out how to jump into this new fast market, and make the most of it in an extremely short period of time. That’s a new skill structure to wrap an organization around, and one that every organization must learn to master.

That’s a good starting point. The key issue: I’d begin by aligning the organization to the concept of “thriving in the high velocity economy.”

Oh, and one of the first things I’d do? I would immediately convene a senior management/leadership meeting, and bring in a futurist and innovation expert to wake my people up to the potential that can come from energizing ourselves towards future opportunities.

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