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Here’s a video clip from my opening keynote for the 94th Annual General Meeting of the PGA of America, in which I talk about the necessity of “thinking big, starting small, and scaling fast,” and of the importance of the concept of experiential capital as a foundation for innovation.

I’ve written and spoken about the concept of experiential capital quite a bit through the years – I think in a fast paced economy its one of the most important innovation strategies
that we can undertake.

One particularly good post which can help you get thinking about this concept is “Understanding 21st century capital: Why it’s not just financial capital anymore“, in which I wrote”

Experiential Capital. In a world in which Apple generates 60% of its revenue from products that didn’t exist four years ago, it’s critically important that an organization constantly enhance the skill, capabilities and insight of their people. They do this by constantly working on projects that might have an uncertain return and payback – but which will provide in-depth experience and insight into change. It’s by understanding change that opportunity is defined, and that’s what experiential capital happens to be. In the future, it will be one of the most important assets you can possess.

I also write about the idea in my book Ready, Set, Done: How to Innovate When Faster is the New Fast, where I made this observation:

“Innovation comes from risk, and risk comes from experience. The most important asset today isn’t found on your balance sheet – it is found in the accumulated wisdom from the many risks that you’ve taken. The more experiential capital you have, the more you’ll succeed.”

I close with the observation: “Investing in experiential capital is one of the most important things you can do.”

When people ask me about the “secrets” of innovative organizations, this is one of the key attributes I outline. They realize they are immersed in a world of fast-paced ideas — and they take on many different projects, some of which are doomed to fail, in order to build the overall experience of the organization.

Which begs the question: how many experiential oriented projects do you have underway that involves new technological platforms, social network and branding or marketing projects; business model innovation or any other number of ideas?

Last week I was invited to speak in Cincinnati, Ohio by Techsolve, an organization that provides assistance to the manufacturing sector in Ohio

It was a tremendously fun keynote, because my talk was being transmitted — with both video and slides being shown — to remote locations in Cleveland, Dayton, Akron and elsewhere. Overall, we had about 350 people participating, representing a good cross-section of small and medium sized manufacturers from throughout the state.

My theme was “What do world class innovators do that others don’t do,” with a sub-theme of “Manufacturing 2.0” – what is it that leading manufacturers are doing to ensure they can thrive despite challenging economic times?

As with many of my keynotes, I used a series of text-message based polls to interact with the audience. It’s a very effective way of delivering a keynote in which the audience is fully engaged and active throughout my talk.

And as with most keynotes, I led with an opening survey in the first few minutes, to gauge the attitude in the room, in which I asked, “When do you think we’ll see an economic recovery. In moments, I had close to 100 responses.

And I must admit, the majority response surprised me. I do these text messages across North America to a huge range of organizations, and for the last two years, the consensus answer everywhere has been “2 to 4 years.”

Not in Ohio — almost half the respondents see that they see a global economic recovery happening now! That’s a lot of optimism!

They're more optimistic in Ohio than you think!

To be fair though, half the respondents also believe that the recession is still hanging on and that we won’t see progress for at least six months or more.

Which gave me a chance to hammer home a key point I often use with my audiences — and that comes from a study by GE which found that organizations who chose to innovate during a recession often emerged as breakthrough performers “on the other side.” In other words, the time to focus on innovation is now!

On to the next issue — I often frame innovation for the audience as pursuing a wide variety of opportunities to “run the business better, grow the business, and transform the business.”

What’s the priority in Ohio? Again, the results might surprise you!

Focused on growth and transformation!

Innovation aimed at “running the business better” is often the major focus for organizations in a recession – it involves cost cutting, and often major steps to save money for mere survival.

Clearly a good part of my audience had moved beyond that, and were thinking about growth and transformative opportunities!

This is great stuff, since it shows a real mind-set of innovation in the state of Ohio.

I was feeling playful by this point — and zipped in another text message poll further into my talk. Given their mindset, I asked the room, was there a fair picture being portrayed in the media about the state of manufacturing in Ohio? Not at all!

What do they think about the media?

Fascinating stuff. Overall, it was a great day, and I will post a longer blog about the manufacturing trends I focused on. Did it go well? I put up a slide part way through, to see how I was doing with the audience. The results came flying in:

Reaction to Jim Carroll's keynote

I received quite a few email messages, including this one from particular fellow — so it’s great to have an impact and provide some encouragement!

I wanted to drop you a quick line and thank you for a great morning this past Wednesday when you spoke at theTechsolve/Magnet Ohio simulcast.

Your presentation was outstanding and really validated much of what I am trying to do at my company. I am the General Manager at a company that has been very out of touch with innovation and has been a sleeping giant. Our new team is driving significant change. I needed a dose of motivation and your presentation certainly provided it to me!

Thanks for taking the time to share your exciting views and vision with us, Ohio companies certainly need it!

Is there a manufacturing sector in Ohio! You bet!

A quick little video from a keynote in which I outline what organizations often do — with good intentions that go horribly wrong.

Think about what happens — suddenly, a message is established that only ‘special people’ on the ‘special team’ are responsible for innovation.

Here’s what I wrote in What I Learned From Frogs in Texas — which, by the way, you can now buy for your Kindle from Amazon or for your iPhone/IPad on iTunes.

Three Simple Ideas

The essence of innovation is really quite simple. It is all about coming up with new ideas that help you to run the business better, grow the business and transform the business. But it isn’t just about idea generation—innovative companies excel at implementing these ideas and making them work.

Let’s examine each of these areas.

Run the Business Better

There is plenty of opportunity in every organization for operational innovation; that is, doing what you can to “run the business better.” This type of innovation involves a continuous effort to change, improve and redefine business processes, whether they involve customer service, HR practices, logistics and shipping methodologies, purchasing processes or just about anything else.

Never think there isn’t huge room for improvement—most organizations are inherently inefficient, with outdated or illogical processes in place. There is countless potential for improving the way organizations work, and plenty of opportunities for innovative thinking with respect to the way things are done.

Add it up and look at the benefits from doing things smarter or more effectively and there can be a huge return.

Grow the Business

Second, make sure you understand the opportunities from “growing the business,” or what might also be called “revenue-focused innovation.”

Most often, new revenue comes from new products and the ability to enter a new marketplace. Yet that isn’t the only way to enhance revenue. Think about business model innovation, for example: new business ideas involving expansion in existing markets or new ways of reaching the customer that weren’t previously possible (or that no one had thought of before).

Revenue enhancement can also come from changing the nature of existing products, such as adding a service component to a product that can bring in additional revenue. It might involve enhancing the perceived image of a product so it is more valuable to the customer, resulting in the customer being willing to pay more for it.

The key is, don’t think about “growing the business” and revenue enhancement as simply coming from new products or new markets; there are plenty of other methods for innovative thinking that can lead to revenue enhancement.

Transform the Business

Last but not least, always keep in mind the concept of “transformational innovation.”

Transformational innovation involves taking a look at the way the organization is structured, and thinking how it might be able to work smarter, more efficiently and with better results by changing the skills makeup of the organization. It involves constant, probing questions that continually assess the organization and its skills, such as:

Do we have the people we need in the right places/positions?

Do we have the right people with the right skills available at the right time?

If we are suddenly faced with rapid market change, do we know how to access specialized skills and talent we might need?

With the global connectivity that has emerged over the last few decades, there is plenty of opportunity to do today what couldn’t have been done even five years ago, in terms of how an organization accesses the skills, resources, talents and capabilities that it needs to get the job done..

Organizational transformation also recognizes the concept of “partnership” as a key corporate structure for the future. In a world of mammoth complexity and constant change, organizations must focus on their core competencies and partner with others to accomplish the things they cannot or should not do. In essence, they must recognize that the path to the future is to concentrate on what they do well and on what is critical to their central mission, and to seek partners to help out with everything else.

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