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It was pretty ironic to be doing a talk a month ago on the future of manufacturing – at the Trump Doral Resort in Miami nonetheless – at the same time that trade barriers were being put in place to try to take an industry back to where it was in the 1950’s.

What I’ve learned from 25 years on the stage is that some people will blame everyone else but themselves for their lack of success. And when failure comes, it is the fault of everyone else! The quote captures the essence of their mindset.

We live in interesting times, where some believe that with a wave of a magic wand, an entire industry can be transformed overnight and returned to its former glory.

It won’t happen like that, folks.

It will happen through constant innovation, big bold moves, skill set reinvention and challenging thinking that will – and already is — providing for significant transformation. The future of manufacturing is all about adapting to collapsing product lifecycle and reinventing products faster The connectivity and intelligence that comes to products through the Internet of things (IoT) connectivity Mass customization. Digitization, robotics and the cloud. Design based on crowd thinking. Rapid prototyping and deployment. Faster time to market. 3D printing or additive manufacturing.

My talk last month might have worked for some folks, and if I saved them from their thinking, I will have succeeded.

But I know that there were likely others in the room who would not have liked my message – they are on the train of thought that by trying to stop the future, you can return to the past.

In other words – they are likely doomed to fail in the future, because they will make little effort to actually get there!

 

“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.

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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?

 

The folks at New Equipment Digest interviewed me a few weeks back for an article on manufacturing,  ahead of a major keynote I had earlier this month.

You’ll have a 50-year old guy or lady in the factory, and you bring these tools to help streamline processes and they say, “Oh my God! This is terrible that can take my job away. I’m done; I’m toast.” And somebody in their 20’s is going to say, “cool.” It’s a much more agile workforce, much more willing to try new things.

It’s but one talk I do in this sector; on Monday, I’ll headline the International Asset Management Council on future manufacturing trends. They’re the folks from Fortune 1000 organizations who make the decisions on where to locate future factories, logistics locations and supply chain investments.

INDUSTRY TRENDS
Futurist Says “Fast & Furious” Changes Coming to Manufacturing

Forget your Magic 8-Ball or fancy-schmancy predictive analytics. Futurist Jim Carroll knows what lies ahead for manufacturing and technology, and we have the scoop for you here. Bet you didn’t see that coming.
John Hitch | Sep 21, 2017

Jim Carroll, a former accountant and current author/corporate speaker, is confident he knows what’s going to happen in the world of manufacturing. And the world renowned Canadian futurist doesn’t need a flux capacitor or any other sci-fi MacGuffin to make bold claims in front of millions about what technologies they need to adopt now, and what the world will look like for our children after we’re rocketed to our Martian retirement homes — where our corpses will no doubt be used as fertilizer for space yams. (You’re welcome, Elon.)

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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!

For close to 25 years, I have been relentlessly studying what makes organizations successful at dealing with the future and innovation. I know why some fail, while others succeed.

In those who fail, there are some common traits :

  • People laugh at new ideas
  • Someone who identifies a problem is shunned
  • Innovation is the privileged practice of a special group
  • The phrase, “you can’t do that because we’ve always done it this way” is used for every new idea
  • No one can remember the last time anyone did anything really cool
  • People think innovation is about R&D
  • People have convinced themselves that competing on price is normal
  • The organization is focused more on process than success
  • There are lots of baby boomers about, and few people younger than 25
  • After any type of surprise — product, market, industry or organizational change — everyone sits back and asks, “wow, where did that come from?”

Innovative companies act differently. In these organizations

  • Ideas flow freely throughout the organization
  • subversion is a virtue
  • success and failure are championed
  • there are many, many leaders who encourage innovative thinking, rather than managers who run a bureaucracy
  • there are creative champions throughout the organization — people who thrive on thinking about how to do things differently
  • ideas get approval and endorsement
  • rather than stating “it can’t be done,” people ask, “how could we do this?”
  • people know that in addition to R&D, innovation is also about ideas about to “run the business better, grow the business and transform the business
  • the word “innovation” is found in most job descriptions as a primary area of responsibility, and a percentage of annual renumeration is based upon achievement of explicitly defined innovation goals

The fact is, every organization should be able to develop innovation as a core virtue — if they aren’t, they certainly won’t survive the rapid rate of change that envelopes us today.

It’s that simple.

Here’s a simple list of companies that were once great successes. Then they weren’t: Blockbuster. Borders. Lehman Bros. Kodak. Circuit City. RadioShack. Pan-Am. Enron. E.F. Hutton.RCA. Tower Records. Polaroid. Woolworths. Compaq. Arthur Anderson. 

The list could go on…. companies that were leaders in their time, and then failed, due to a lack of innovation; a failure to adapt; ethical problems; or other factors that could have been avoided.

In the next 10 years, we will see a number of established companies added to the list. Right now, some of them could be making decisions to avoid that fate.

They aren’t.

Here’s some interesting food for thought from a great article on the trend in which every company is becoming a computer company:

“The S&P 500 lists the 500 most valuable companies in the United States. Dick Foster, a McKinsey consultant, studied their average lifespan. It is a sobering tale that reminds just how fast-paced business innovation has become. In 1937, the average tenure of companies on the list was 75 years. By 1960, it was 61 years. In 1980, 37 years. In 2000, 26 years. Today, an average of 15 years.”

If you are a senior executive, you need a serious gut-check. Here you go:

Your chance for longevity and survival is shrinking.

Disruption, business model change, technological transformation is real, and so you have a simple choice: innovate, or die.

Are you doing enough in your organization to encourage a culture of failure? It not, why not?

Failure is often a prerequisite for success. In other words, many times, you can’t there from here, unless you take a diversion to there…..

That’s an important lesson when it comes to innovation, and it’s always good to keep the idea of failure in mind.

History is littered with examples of massive failures which later led to astonishing success. Consider, for example, the Apple Newton. I remember being given one at an Apple launch event in 1993. I wish I had kept it!

Thinking back, it was an iPhone/iPad long before its time. Yet the Newton failed miserably: it didn’t work well, when it worked at all, and was crazy expensive for it’ feature set. Because of its handwriting analysis capabilities — which really did not work well at all  — Newton was fodder for jokes from late night TV hosts, comic strips, and tech publications. Everyone had a grand old time making fun of the Newton — and of Apple — for bringing to market such a failure!

Years later, Apple would go on to become the world’s largest company with  what some might say is the most successful technological invention of all time, the iPhone. Apple positioned itself for success from failure: many of those who originally worked on the Newton went on to develop the iPhone. They learned a lot from their earlier failure, applying those lessons to succeed the next time around.

That wasn’t the only failure in the orbit of companies that surrounded Apple at the time. NeXT Computers, established by Steve Jobs after being unceremoniously dumped from Apple, was but a running joke to many people, because it failed in the market in a pretty big way.

But the operating system for NeXT became the foundation for OS/X, the operating system at the heart of Apple’s Mac products today.

It gets better. When Apple went to develop the Newton, it couldn’t find a computer chip with the processing power to do the advanced work required of this first PDA (personal digital assistant – remember that phrase?). The result was that they invested in a small chip company, Advanced RiSC Machines —  with a 43% share bought for a $2 million investment.

They sold their share in ARM years later for $800 million. Not a bad return!

And what did they do with that $800 million? It went part way to allowing Apple to buy NeXT form SteveJobs, which led to the reinvention and rebirth  of the company. The largest company in the world!

So … Apple failed with Newton. Steve Jobs failed with NeXT. Two failures led to a massive winner.

Failure. We need more of it!

Innovation? Take risks, and be willing to fail!

As the wild year of 2016 draws to a close, and 2017 arrives, what can you expect in the coming year?  Rather than a list of predictions for 2017, let’s simply focus on some of the words and phrases that will become a bigger part of your life next year and years beyond.

The big phase for 2017? “Destructive, impulsive unpredictability.” Get used to it: and align your strategies, capabilities, skill sets and business plans to deal with this reality as it comes about. It will happen a lot — and a new kind of volatility will be the new normal. I think the early stock-market driven euphoria will prove to be just that…..

Beyond that, what can you expect? Accelerated change! If you do anything in 2017, expand your mind and learn about the things that you don’t know. After all, “you don’t know what you don’t know, until you try and do something you’ve never done before. Then you know!

Here are some of the phrases that indicate what I’m watching carefully in 2017, and advising my global blue chip clients on. Watch this space in 2017, since I’ll be certain to be speaking, writing and blogging about them.

  • smart buildings
  • robotic hype cycles
  • scientific exponentiation
  • virtualized hospitals
  • intelligent infrastructure
  • vertical farming
  • connected energy
  • prognostic diagnostic maintenance
  • extended experience partnerships
  • predictive loss mangement
  • shared mobility
  • generational velocity
  • yottabit pipelines
  • small prototyping
  • magnified cynicism
  • diversity of ideas
  • sketch to scale
  • hypecycle divergence
  • crowd-thinking
  • accelerated disruption
  • digital garage innovation
  • mind-into-matter manufacturing
  • upside down idea generation
  • innovation inertia
  • experiential capital
  • iterative innovation
  • avoidance failures
  • predictive storytelling
  • bionic construction methodologies
  • 4d printing
  • end of runway manufacturing

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