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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.

Beneath the surface of normalcy lies a hidden layer of complexity. And the fact is, we are building a big, global, complicated machine, and it’s obvious that people don’t know how to secure it, ignore the challenges, or take advantage of those who don’t understand what is going on.

What do South Park, Pineapple’s, the BBC and admin:admin have in common? Watch this!

 

If there was one word in the security industry in 2017, it was this: Equifax. I don’t even need to explain…..

Yet going forward, we will continue to see many more Equifax situations that will result in the destruction of billions of dollars of corporate value. Some CEO’s will be held accountable; others won’t. Yet the sad fact is that entire companies will disappear to avoidable negligence with respect to security and infrastructure issues. The trend will become accelerated as technology driven disruption comes to drive forward every industry. We might one day see a car company go bankrupt — not because of fraudulent diesel mileage manipulation, but because someone hacked into the internal IT engine of millions of cars through a known backdoor.

Add to that the fact that 2018 will probably be characterized by the emergence of cryptocurrency scams as one of the leading news computer related news stories of 2018. You simply can’t have an important trend go supernova without a lot of fraudulent activities coming to the forefront as people “rush in to share the riches.” Blockchain is a critically important and transformative trend, but as with any trend, the good will come with the bad. I suspect that we will see not only individuals make stupid mistakes as they work to cash in without knowing what they are doing — but corporations and government as well.

Add to this increasing hyper-connectivity. The Internet of Things (#Iot) is only going to make the voyage more challenging, as we continue to link billions of devices to this big global connectivity machine. As we do so, many aren’t paying proper attention to the issues that come with #IOT either — read my 2 posts on #IOt that cover some of these security issues here and here.

It’s not like we haven’t known about the risks. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, I regularly read Peter G. Neuman’s Risk Digest, and even contributed a few emerging risks to the regular newsletter. Looking back, most of was predicted back then has come to pass, including the hacking and hijacking of election systems and technologies. It’s only going to get worse; I covered these challenges when I did 2 talks for the chief legal officers for a vast number of Fortune 500 companies last month, as covered in my post, Understanding, Managing and Minimizing Accelerated Risk.

Why does IT risk continue to be an issue? Because the fact remains : companies simply do not pay attention to what must be done to protect themselves against KNOWN RISK, because it is not at the level of the Board. Most major companies do not have IT or security as a Board level skills matrix responsibility; they are still focused on legal, finance, executive compensation and the other same old stuff they’ve always been focused on as Boards. Yet I’ve long said that IT and risk management needs to be something dealt with at the Board – until then, things will not change!

Gosh, back in 2003 – 14 years ago — I wrote in a post: “There is a common theme here — companies continue to ignore security issues, and the result is significant business damage. And to be frank, this isn’t just a small issue anymore — we are witnessing the actual destruction of corporate value due to negligence! THIS IS A CEO LEVEL ISSUE NOW, FOLKS!” —> https://www.jimcarroll.com/2003/02/security-has-to-start-at-the-top/

I used CAPS!

Then I wrote in that same post: “Until senior management wakes up and realizes that without action, they can see their corporate value destroyed over night, we’ll see more of this.”

Sadly, I nailed that trend….

Sadly, for many organizations, nothing will change into 2018 and going forward.

If you do anything, pay attention to security. The future of your organization depends on it.

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.

We’re in the era of ‘connected energy,’ and everything is set to change in pretty dramatic fashion.

That will be the essence of my message when I speak to several hundred energy and water utility executives when I keynote the annual SAP Utilities conference in Huntington Beach, California. It’s great to spend some time with SAP again — I did about a dozen keynotes for them from 2003 to 2007, back in my “What I Learned From Frogs In Texas” days!


The session description reads:

“The future belongs to those who are fast! That’s the mantra of futurist Jim Carroll — and no where has this become a reality faster than in the world of utilities. There is no doubt that the next phase of the world of energy involves the convergence of a variety of trends, each of which is significant on their own, but combined, provide an opportunity for massive disruption — and opportunity. The era of massive hyper-connectivity at an industrial, commercial and residential level as a result of the acceleration of the Internet of things. The rapid advancement of energy science, particularly with battery storage, alternative energy sources and other leading edge technologies. Business model disruption through the fast arrival of technologies that support personal and local energy energy microgrids through backyard wind, solar, biomass and other forms of energy generation. New demand and infrastructure requirements arising from such significant trends as smart cities, self-driving cars and intelligent highway infrastructure. And then there are simple light poles — which are now becoming ‘fitbits for cities’ with embedded environmental sensors, car-charging technologies, Wi-Fi hotspot capability and traffic management technologies! But wait — there’s more! At M.I.T. they are even in the midst of research as to how to grow solar cells from plants! That’s why no less than the Edison Energy Institute has stated that going forward, ““The threats posed to the electric utility industry from disruptive forces, particularly distributed resources, have serious long-term implications for the traditional electric utility business model and investor opportunities.”

The challenges and opportunity in the energy sector are real, and it’s captured pretty accurately in that summary. Need a hint of what is going on? Simply take a look at what is happening with battery storage technology.

Quite simply, we are in a situation in which a centuries old business model – the centralized production of power, distributed one-way through a relatively unintelligent system — is set to change in so many ways.

I’ve spoken at numerous energy conferences through the years, including the global Accenture Energy & Utilities Industry conference. Just a few months ago, I spoke privately to the nuclear division of one of the countries largest energy utilities, literally with 20 nuclear engineers in the room. And a few years back, I was engaged by the CEO of PG&E to do a video on what happens if grassroots power production and micro-grids lead to the disruption of the industry.

 

Stay tuned: I’m sure I’ll have a lot to post, including an overview of why light poles are a harbinger of what’s to come with our connected future!

This fall, I’m headling a major retail event in Las Vegas – Xcelerate 2017! Details are here.

 

There’s a lot of change underway – and certainly, the Amazon/Whole Foods situation is a wake up call for everyone. I’ve been speaking about the decline and transformation of traditional retail for over 20 years. In the 1990’s, I even wrote a book about e-commerce that was translated into German and Russian, as well as being picked up and distributed by Visa USA to it merchants.

Retailers must scramble to keep up with fast paced change. Maybe that’s why Godiva Chocolates has had me to Europe twice this year for insight on what’s going on.

Here’s the description for my September keynote.

The Disruption and Reinvention of Retail: Aligning to the World of Speed  

It’s hard to discount the speed of change occurring in the world of retail and consumer products. Consider this: E-commerce could be 25% of the retail – grocery and convenience — experience by 2021. Shopper marketing,” which combines location intelligence, mobile technology and in-store display technology for a new form of in-store promotion, continues to move forward. Mobile payment involving Apple Pay and disappearance of the cash-register, providing opportunity and challenge with loyalty, infrastructure and disruption. Then there is Amazon Alexa, AI and shopping bots! Simply talk and products are added to your shopping cart, and delivered within an hour! Let’s not stop — there’s also the rapid installation of “click and collect” infrastructure (i.e. an online purchase, with same day pickup at a retail location). And last but not least, the arrival of active, intelligent packaging and intelligent (“Internet of Things”) products, collapsing product life-cycles, rapid product obsolescence and the implications on inventory and supply chain!

We are going to see more change in the world of retail in the next 5 year than we have seen in the last 100. Savvy brands, retailers, shopping mall and retail infrastructure companies are working to understand these trends, and what they need to do from an innovation perspective to turn them from challenge to opportunity.  Futurist Jim Carroll will help us to understand the tsunami of change sweeping retail.

When the GAP went looking for a trends and innovation expert to speak to a small, intimate group of senior executives, they chose Jim Carroll. He has been the keynote speaker for some of the largest retail conferences in the world, with audiences of up to 7,000 people in Las Vegas, including Consumer Goods Technology Business & Technology Leadership Conference • Subway • Multi-Unit Franchise Conference Las Vegas • Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit • Consumer Electronics Association CEO Summit • Retail Value Chain Federation • Yum! Brands (KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut) Global Leadership Conference • Burger King Global Franchise Meeting • VIBE (Very Important Beverage Executives) Summit • Manufacturing Jewelers Suppliers of America • National Home Furnishings Association • Do It Best Corporation • US Department of Defence Commissary Agency • Readers Digest Food & Entertainment Group Branding/Retail Summit • Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association • National Association of Truck Stop Operators • Convenience U annual conference • Point of Purchase Advertising International Association • Chain Drug Store Association of Canada • Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors • Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers

 

I spend a huge amount of my time dealing with senior executives in global companies; just hit my client list for a sense of what I do. This usually involves a lot of conversations with CEO’s of Fortune 1000’s, startups, and other C-suite executives.

With that, I’m always fascinated by the public promise of a company, and the eventual reality of what is delivered.  With that, I give you the public promise of Sir Richard Branson of Virgin when it comes to his staff:


That’s a good message for a CEO to promise. Treat people as you would like to be treated.

Sir Richard, maybe you should make sure your staff treats potential business partners with the same degree of respect. Just a thought…..

As a global expert on trends and innovation, I often see the dichotomy between the promise of a brand and the reality. So here’s a story for you to ponder. Is the promise above real?

Maybe not, from a recent experience of mine. Listen in: it’s not much a story, but I  find it interesting and want to get this off my chest…. and you might find it to be so too.

It was a thrill for me back in February of this year when I was contacted by the office of Sir Richard Branson to see if I might contribute to a “book”  his office was putting together, specifically:

Virgin is embarking on a project to consider the future of UK work and business 20 years from now. We’re keen to bring together some of the best minds in the country – to form predictions on the most pertinent emerging trends and recommendations for how we best work towards a thriving 2037.”

Their ask  was to see if I could contribute to a section on the future of the workplace, as in:

The How you Work chapter will focus on working environments, communication with colleagues, access to the office, commuting, global vs local, access to support communities”

The idea was that they would deliver this sometime towards the end of this month, with a number of contributors participating. They indicated that given my background with speaking and writing about the future of the workplace, workforce and the organization that I would have some ‘powerful’ insight.

I don’t mind saying that being involved in such a project would certainly be a thrill and probably one of the highlights of my global career, next to such things as doing talks for Disney, NASA and the Swiss Innovation Forum!

With that, an exploratory call was arranged by the folks at Sir Richards office to discuss my potential contribution. I took the call while out on a ski hill, and we kicked ideas back and forth for about 1/2 hour. The call certainly seemed to go well, and they indicated they would get back to me within a week to talk about ‘next steps.’

And then, silence. Nothing. So I followed up with an email. Then another, and then another. And ….nothing. Complete and utter — and baffling — radio silence. Not a simple, single response to several emails asking if the project was moving on. Not even anything telling me, ‘thanks for the exploratory call, but we’ve moved in other directions…..”

To this day, I still don’t even know what happened with the project. Who knows — maybe we’ll see something in the next few weeks, and I will know that I didn’t make the cut.

So what? Well, here’s the thing: what I see from Virgin in this case is complete disrespect from Sir Richards staff. The complete and simple lack of the courtesy of a response to several inquiries, following up on our original conversation. How do you square that with the promise of a CEO to treat his staff with respect? If that very staff can’t treat potential external business partners with similar respect….?

This isn’t sour grapes; it would have been a lot of fun to participate. Heavens knows I’ve got plenty of other things to do….

But what gets me is this: Sir Richard is known for establishing companies, and a culture, that thrives on the utmost of respect and service. Virgin Airlines, for example, can put many other companies to shame for its ability to be relentlessly customer centric. His promise in a quote such as above is to excel in establishing a staff culture based on respect…

Yet that respect doesn’t seem to trickle down from his office….

My question to Sir Richard is this — why can the staff in your office not carry the same attributes? It might be time for you to ask a few questions….

Just wondering.

Half of the events I do as a futurist and innovation expert are spent at corporate leadership events. I’m frequently engaged by a CEO or other senior executive for a global Fortune 1000 company to come in and challenge their team as to how to align to a fast paced, disruptive future. After all, the reality is that speed is a new success metric.

There’s a lot of work and customization that goes into each and every talk — just last week, I met with 20 executives in the nuclear industry, and spent a lot of time updating myself as to trends in the energy and nuclear sector so that I could guide and challenge their thinking in a powerful way.

While researching and preparing, or while delivering my insight, I’ve noticed an increasing number of organizations are seeking to set their innovation energies on fire by encouraging their younger, interactive generation to explore opportunities for the digital, disruptive future through what I’ve come to call an Xbox room!

Why? Because this generation gets-it, knows how to innovate, and is the most powerful force for change in our world today. Consider the reality:

  • half of the global population is under the age of 25
  • we know they are globally wired, entrepreneurial, collaborative, and change oriented
  • and they are now now driving rapid business model change, and industry transformation as they move into executive positions

With that reality, organizations are realizing they should allow this generation to light their creative energies on fire, even if they aren’t sure as to what they might do or where their efforts might go!

The idea is to set them up with an innovation facility by which they can explore and accelerate the adoption of leading digital tools throughout the organization that can accelerate innovation efforts, provide for better collaboration and so much more.

Case in point: I spent some time in St. Louis with Amsted Rail: they manufacture the ‘bogies’ which are the wheel-undercarriage assemblies found on railcars. It was a thrill for my wife and I to have a tour of their manufacturing facility before my talk to see what they are doing to realign themselves to opportunities for innovation in manufacturing.

And the tour included what they call their iLab — or, what I would call for the fun of it, an Xbox room! In this facility, they are continually examining a variety of ideas as to how to continue to move the organization forward. This includes exploring a variety of ideas and technologies, including:

  • state of the art brainstorming centres to facilitate ideas colliding from all corners of our company
  • real-time employee collaboration tools across geographically diverse sites (to promote “a collision of ideas”)
  • how to use connected SMART Boards to simultaneously write/draw/share over any application using “digital ink”
  • 3D scanning/modelling systems to enhance product R&D and quality capabilities
  • advanced tensile testing techniques for enhanced product strength & durability

I had a chance to chat with the young fellows in the Xbox room — and listen to their ideas. It’s obvious its a rocket engine for innovative thinking!

That’s but one example: the more I witness what organizations are doing to accelerate innovation, the more I discover some sort of ‘Xbox room.’ I recently keynoted a major conference on the future of trucking in Phoenix.

While on stage, I spoke about a company in Winnipeg, Canada — Bison Trucking. They’ve set up a facility to encourage younger staff to explore how to align the fast pace of technological change in trucking to opportunities for digital technologies — read an extensive blog post about their efforts in the post Trend: In Trucking, Aircraft Control Towers Are the New Offices.

There’s plenty of others – Xbox rooms seem to be springing up everywhere!

Here’s what you need to think about:

  • you should set up a digital facility with all kinds of ‘toys’ relevant to your industry, and set the creative energies of a group of young staff free to explore
  • don’t set any specific goals, objectives or deliverables on the project — simply set it free to explore!
  • explain the purpose and mission of the group to the rest of the organization, and encourage them to bring unique problems to the group

Go ahead – make an Xbox room!

 

 

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.

How many times does this happen – you have a great idea that you know will succeed – only to have it go to a committee, who proceed to destroy your idea?


As I dig into the culture and attitude of a client through interviews with the CEO and other team members, I’m always mystified to find  that some organizations just seem to do everything they can to shut down new ideas. Committees are one of the worst sources of failed innovation.

It happens a lot as a speaker and innovation expert. I will often be contacted by someone in an organization who is convinced that they need my insight in order to move ahead. We have a great discussion, form an outline of how I will help them, and then they try to move it forward. It goes to a committee, gets bogged down, and eventually, they end up booking a motivational speaker!

A few years back, on stage, I went through a list of what goes wrong when it comes to innovation. Innovation failures:

  • form a committee. An absolute sure fired way of shutting down ideas! The herd mentality takes over, and activity sclerosis soon sets in.
  • defer decisions. It’s easier to wait than to make any bold, aggressive moves. Uncertainty is a virtue; indecision is an asset.
  • hide failure. If anyone tries something new and doesn’t succeed, make sure that no one else sees it. You don’t want to set a message that it is important to take risks.
  • let innovators work in secret. You want to make sure that the concept of innovation remains some deep, mysterious process that not everyone can participate in. That will help to ensure that most of your team doesn’t pursue any type of fresh new thinking. They’ll just keep doing what they’ve always done.
  • banish fear. Make sure that everyone thinks that everything is going to be all right. You don’t have to deal with potential business market disruption, new competitors, significant industry transformation or the impact of globalization. Everything will look the same ten years from now, so just keep everyone focused on doing the same old thing!
  • accept the status quo. Things are running perfectly, you’ve got the perfect product mix, and all of your customers are thrilled with your brand and the levels of customer service. There’s no need to do anything new, since it’s all going to work out just fine!
  • be cautious. Don’t make any bold, aggressive moves. Just take things slowly, one step at a time. If you move too fast, things are likely to go wrong. Let complacency settle in like a warm blanket.
  • glorify process.  Make sure that everything is filled out in triplicate; ensure that process slows down any radical ideas.  It’s more important to do things perfectly than to make mistakes.
  • be narrow. Keep a very tiny view of the future. You can’t succeed with any big wins, because there aren’t going to be any dramatic surprises in the future. Think small. Act accordingly.
  • study things to death. Don’t let any uncertainty creep into your decision making process. Make sure that if you are to do anything, that you’ve spent sufficient time and effort to understand all the variables. Your goal is ensuring that any decision is free of risk, unlikely to fail, and will in retrospect be carefully and fully documented.

Wait! That’s 11 ways! And there are certainly more attitudes that help to destroy innovative thinking.

What do you think? What are the other attitudes and ways of thinking that manage to shut down organizational idea machines?

And do you want more insight like this? Check my Innovation Inspiration page!

 

Some of the most fascinating organizations in the world have brought me in to encourage their people to think about the future, and how to nurture a culture of creativity and innovation. Organizations like NASA (twice!), Johnson and Johnson, Whirlpool/Maytag, the Walt Disney Corporation and literally hundreds more!

 

One of my key motivational points for my clients has always been this idea.

Many people see a trend and see a threat. Smart people see the same trend and see opportunity

Think about that, and then ask yourself as to how do you keep yourself in an innovative frame of mind.

A good part of it has to do with the company you keep! To that end, I’d suggest that you surround yourself with:

  • optimists. You need to hang out with people who see all kinds of opportunity – not gloomsters who are convinced there is no future out there!
  • people who do. Action oriented people. Folks who accomplish things. Those that do.
  • people with open minds. Innovators aren’t prepared to accept the status quo – they are willing to explore and understand different viewpoints, and use that as a kickoff for creativity.
  • people who have experienced failure. Innovation comes from risk; risk comes from trying things. Try lots of things, and many will fail. That’s good. That builds up experience, which gives you better insight into a fast paced world.
  • oddballs and rebels. Some of the most brilliant thinking and best ideas can come from those who view the world through a different lens. They may seem odd at times, but they can be brilliantly creative.
  • good listeners and debaters. They’re willing to challenge ideas, analyze issues, and think through the possibilities.
  • people who think differently than you do. If you really want to be innovative, go to two conferences a year that have nothing to do with what you do. You’ll be amazed at what you learn, and how it will re-stir your creative juices.

In every single keynote, I focus on future trends and opportunities, and link that to the process and mindset of innovation. I’m an optimist, continually try new things, listen to other people, watch, observe, and listen.

Most important, I refuse to give in to the pervasive negative thinking that so many people seem to envelope themselves within. Maybe that’s why I see so many opportunities in today’s economy.

Think growth!

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