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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!

Welcome to the folks from FarmSecure – Great to see you here!

Over the last fifteen years as a futurist and innovation expert, I’ve spoken to a tremendous number of agricultural groups. This has often included large groups of farmers, attending an event where I’ve been asked to speak at a community economic development event.

These talks have long involved a lot of research into key agricultural trends. And one thing I’ve come to appreciate is that farmers can be some of the most innovative people on the planet. Here’s a video clip from a keynote to a US Military conference in Dallas — yes, the military — and I’m describing to them the unique innovation insight that can be learned from farmers.

What are the trends they are innovating with? Take a look at 10 Key Trends for Agriculture.

A newsletter is now up on the site with a short report about my keynote in Tahoe last month for this group. [ link ] Here’s what it had to say:
The sessions started up early the next morning. The first speaker was futurist Jim Carroll, who discussed Innovation and Strategies for the Future of Rural Telcos. He gave everyone a lot to think about with a number of insights into our generation, the next generation and innovation. Read more…

He pointed out that the attendees were part of the only generation not to grow up with computers at birth, but to have to deal with them. He discussed the fact that our faith in the future has been shaken by the challenges we have experienced in the telecom industry. We’re no longer excited about developments like distance education and telemedicine. It’s difficult to have the courage to go forward in today’s business climate.

This has led to new business realities:’ Aggressive indecision – it’s easier not to make any decisions than to worry about making the wrong one; ‘ Shorter payback expectations and short lead times to alleviate the risk ; ‘ Rapid product evolution (like Wi-Fi); ‘ Hyperinnovation (shorter product life cycles)

All of this has led to a corporate innovation gap. People are no longer willing to stick their necks out with innovative ideas. Carroll emphasized that it’s important to bring back the courage to innovate and think strategically about our companies and communities. The telcos are the folks defining the future of the community by virtue of the infrastructure they put into place. They need to be innovative to provide the best opportunities for our kids and for our community economic development. He noted, “Communities that don’t solve
the broadband divide will find increasingly negative implications.”

He suggested the following steps:

#1 Manage Your Attitude, #2 Accept Inevitability, #3 Anticipate – don’t react, #4 Experiment (again), #5 Take risks (step outside your comfort zone and plan to make a reasonable number of mistakes), #6 Restore your courage, #7 Take it one step at a time, #8 Innovate, #9 Make do and #10 “Just do it.”

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