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“Daddy, is that from the olden days?” That’s a question I would often get from my sons when they were small — around 3 or 5 or 7 years old. (They’re 16 and 18 now…)

"Is that a thing from the olden days, daddy?"

Way back in 2003 or so, I wrote an article around their unique view on the world.

I called it “10 Things from the Olden Days.”

Today, August 2011, I’m getting a lot of media calls around the theme of innovation and the pace of change in the world; I think it is all part of the story angle having to do with Steve Job’s retirement, and the blistering pace of innovation that has existed at Apple.

I mentioned this article in one talk moments ago with a reporter, and realized that it might be a good thing to repost the article in full.

So in that spirit, I’ll repost the article.

10 Things My Kids Think Are From the Olden Days
by Jim Carroll, October 2003
One of the most important roles for any executive today is ensuring that the organization is strategically positioned to deal with relentless, ongoing change.

Everyone is faced with rapidly evolving business models, new and unique customer demands, heightened competition, rapid product development and even faster product obsolescence, and increasing career specialization, not to mention dramatic rates of knowledge growth. It is important to be cognizant of the potential impact of all of these trends, in order to clearly assess how an organization should be responding to change.

It is important that you don’t become complacent about the rate of change that envelopes us today. That’s why it can be very useful to have a barometer that helps to measure the rate of change.

In my case, I track what my two boys – aged 8 and 10 – happen to think about the world around them. Their world is a very different one, in that there are a number of things that we take for granted that already to them, are “things from the olden days.”

  • 35mm film.

The other day, I headed out to a local photofinishing store with a Compact Flash digital camera card in my hand, in order to get a variety of digtal picures printed. “Where are you going with the film, daddy?” asked one. Think

….they’ve grown up in a world of pixels, not acetate.

Which made me wonder, did they know what “real film” looked like? Not at all – since I’ve been doing digital photography since 1996, they’ve grown up in a world of pixels, not acetate.

One day, I grabbed some negatives from an old set of photographs, and showed it to them. They were fascinated, but wondered how you got that thing into a computer in order to see the picture.

  • CD’s.

In my home, there are 12,000 (legally acquired) songs on various servers in the basement. Music is pulled through the home network and played through a “digital audio receiver,” a computer-like entertainment device that will be common in homes five years out.

That’s why my son commented to his buddy a few years ago, when he was visiting, that he had “some of those things from the olden days,” referring, of course, to CD’s. Since I converted all of my music back in 1997 to digital format, the CD’s have sat in various boxes, packed away, simply a form of backup.

A few months back, I showed them some of my old LP records. That really freaked them out.

  • Airplane tickets.

I’m serious! We travel a lot, and we’ve been using e-tickets for as long as they can remember having memories.

I had a recent trip that involved an honest to goodness paper ticket, and they thought the red and green carbon paper was really neat. They wondered if they could do some type of art project with it, while I had to patiently explain that it was worth a lot of money, and that we shouldn’t fool with it.

  • TV Guides.

Saturday mornings in our home are “cartoon mornings.” It is the only day of the week that my wife Christa and I will let them “veg-out” for a few hours and watch their favorite shows.

I came down one Saturday morning, only to find both sons with very sad expressions.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. “There’s no data, daddy” said one. “No what?” I asked? He pressed the button for the “electronic program guide” on the TV – we have digital cable – and all the boxes showed the description, “no data.” I guess there must have been some type of hiccup in the system.

I went to the front door, grabbed the newspaper, took out the tv listing section, and said, “here, I’ll show you how we did it in the olden days.”

They weren’t impressed.
  • Analog clocks.

Call these kids digital or what! We were fortunate enough to be out of town when the Great Northeast Power Failure of 2003 occurred, vacationing in Phoenix. But both boys were very curious as to what the power outage would mean and curious about its effects.

“How do people go to sleep?” one asked. That was a new one – we weren’t quite sure what they meant. Until we realized that both of them have grown up with a digital clock beside their bed — if they wake up at night, they check the time, and know it is time to go back to sleep.

We’ve learned that they can’t even sleep without one.

  • TV’s with knobs.

One day, I mentioned that we didn’t have such devices in the “olden days.” “How did people change the channel?” they innocently asked.

I realized that they had no concept that back then – what, twenty years ago at most? – that most people actually had to get up off the couch to change the channel.

The thought seemed completely foreign to them!

  • Store clerks who punch in prices.

When my boys were 2 and 4, they use to play grocery store checkout. One would hand over the purchases, while the other would run the scanner and go “beep.”

They’ve grown up in a world of bar codes, and it is a rarity when they see someone using an actual cash register where you type in the numbers.

  • Portable vacuum cleaners.

“What’s that?” the eldest asked the day we were moving into our ski cottage, pointing at our old portable vacuum cleaner. We’ve had a built-in vacuum system for almost a decade, and so he was mystified as to the nature of the device in front of him.

They watched in awe as we used it the first time, particularly as we pulled it around bumping into walls and doors. One observed that it was kind of a “dumb design,” in that it seemed to do more damage then good.

  • Analog thermometers.

For year, as soon as we saw the bare hint of a fever, we’d quickly measure their temperature with a fancy digital thermometer. Which is why when they saw an old-fashioned, mercury glass thermometer at their grandparents house they were fascinated.

How was it used, they wondered. Better yet, did it go beep when it was finished?

  • A sky without the Space Station.

Ever since they can remember, they’ve gone into our backyard at dusk on clear evenings, watching for the International Space Station and various satellites. They know that mommy and daddy will tell them precisely where to look, at what time, and in what direction the station or satellite will be traversing overhead.

That’s because they’ve grown up with a Web site called Heavens-Above, which will tell you the exact details, for any particular point on earth, where you can easily observe such orbiting wonders.

To them, this is a normal and expected part of life—to me, it is fascinating that a system has evolved that lets me discover such magic.

What does all of this mean?

The interesting thing is that each one of these examples, when examined in the larger sense, involves some type of sweeping industry, product or corporate change, and hence dramatic change upon the careers of hundreds of thousands of people.

In but a few years, the world has changed to a sufficient degree that my boys are growing up in a world that is dramatically different, even from that which existed five years ago.

I remain convinced that the rate of change is only going to increase, and that preparing people to cope with change is one of the most important skills we need to provide.

Ogden Nash once observed that “progress is great, but its gone on far too long.”

That might be a worthy sentiment for some, but those who think like that are ill-equipped to cope in a world of tomorrow that will continue to be unlike anything we know today.




It’s been a whirlwind of activity over the last two months, with about 20 major keynotes under my belt.

One of these was a corporate event for a food company with $7 billion in revenue and 24,000 employees ; my talk was on the key food industry trends of today that should be driving innovation from a marketing, product development and branding perspective.

Jim Carroll on stage at the Readers Digest Food and Entertainment Group Summit, in front of several hundred food and consumer product executives, advertising agencies, grocery and retail organizations and publishers of the world's most popular food magazines, speaking to the trends driving the food industry today, .

This is one of many events I do for food and consumer product clients – my global client list includes high profile keynotes or leadership meetings for the Readers Digest Food & Entertainment Division (the publisher of such innovative magazines as Everyday with Rachel Ray), the Produce Marketing Association Annual Fresh Summit, HJ Heinz, Nestle , FMC FoodTechnologies, Burger King, Yum! Brands and many more.

I was the keynote speaker for a meeting of their top 250 marketing executives; my mandate was to focus on how to innovate around the trends that are today impacting the food industry today, with a particular focus on consumer behaviour.

Below are a few of the many trends that I spoke about. I took on an extensive amount of research for this keynote, which is typical of how I approach these events.

In effect, I built my keynote around the theme “….these are the trends that will drive your brands……”, and from that, they could best learn how to change and innovate with their branding and marketing message.

1. Biggest trend: We are witnessing a changing relationship with food

My main observation is that we live in a period of time that sees consumers interacting with food, the purchasing of food, and the consumption of food in new and different ways.

An article, Observer Food Monthly in the Guardian Newspaper, 15 May 2011 caught this sentiment perfectly:

  • “… never before has our culture been so engaged in discussing and experimenting with and agonizing over and fantasizing about and plain enjoying what is on the end of our forks”

Consider what is happening:

  • we have a new form of interaction when purchasing food. Consider the number of iPhone apps by which we can research calorie counts, nutrition facts and other information while in the grocery store.
  • we have new influencers in how we make these in-store food decisions. Think about the Monterrey Aquarium Seafood Watch iPhone app, which will give you background that can help you with your ethical food decisions.
  • a change in how we manage our food intake. iPhone and Web sites apps such as Lose It, which allow us to track our food consumption on a calorie-by-calorie, product by product basis.
  • a change in food packaging: ““…..interactive packaging, intelligent and active packaging, multi-sensory packaging, edible packaging … packaging as mini-billboards…” as noted by the research firm Reportlinker. Paackaging is going from passive to active, and is becoming more than just the vehicle for branding – increasingly, it is defining our relationship with the food.
  • a change in our food relationships. Consider the impact of food traceability based on DNA. “Tonning’s restaurant is among more than 11,000 that Richmond-based food distributor Performance Food Group is supplying with DNA-traceable beef as an added value for customers of its premium Braveheart brand. The company, which has annual revenues of about $11 billion, said it is among the first distributors to use the technology.” Where’s the beef, Iowa Press Citizen, May 2011
  • A more direct involvement with the ethics of food. “Wal-Mart, which sells more than 20 per cent of all US groceries, is developing an eco-labelling program that will give a green rating to all items sold in its 7500 stores worldwide.” Unlikely alliance, Sydney Morning Herald, February 2011
  • and very significant transitional trends. Whole grains are the hottest trend in sliced bread, with whole wheat edging out soft white bread in total sales for the first time……… The whole-grain craze has, after all, raised the bar on what consumers are willing to pay for bread that’s perceived as healthy…..” Grains gain ground; Focus on healthy eating helps wheat surpass white in sliced bread sales 1 August 2010, Chicago Tribune

All in all, these are pretty significant, systemic, long term transformative trends that will have a major impact through the next 5-10 years. Smart food companies will recognize that the very nature of our relationship with food is changing and will innovative around that reality. Massive opportunities for innovative thinking exist here!

2. A need to respond to faster consumer preference/taste change

I’ve long been pointing out that consumer preference is changing faster when it comes to food, and that leads to the rapid emergence of new opportunity, or the rapid decline of existing product lines. A few of my observations:

  • behavioural change and food as fashion! Fresh-cut snack food grew from $6.8 billion in to $10.5 billion in one year. Notes one publication: “Snacks are like a fashion category…..People want a change. it’s going to be short-lived–maybe a quarter, maybe six months, then changed out” Private Label Buyer, May 2010.
  • We spend more of our day with our food – it’s not just breakfast, lunch and dinner anymore. Canadian consumers are snacking more frequently. Snacks were 24% of all “meals” consumed by 2010. Fruit leads in the category, and healthy snacks are driving growth – the top 7 snacks include yogurt and granola bars.
  • Food categories can explode in growth over night. US Greek Yogurt sales grew from $33million in 2007 to $469 million today!

The key point with all of these trends is that it reflects our busy, compressed lives — smart food companies will continue to learn how to innovate within that reality with new products, aligning themselves to health concerns, and other trends.

3. The impact of business model change and social networks on food and taste trends

Business model change with pop-up restaurants drives the more rapid emergence of new exotic tastes and flavors!

Clearly, massive connectivity is coming to influence the growth of new foods, brands, tastes, patterns.

I spoke, for example, how bacon has quickly become so trendy as something used to enhance countless recipes. It can be traced right back to an effective social networking campaign.

  • “If there’s one food trend that illustrates how top-down and grassroots phenomena combine it might be bacon….. in southern California about six years ago, Rocco Loosbrock paired peppered bacon with Syrah wine at a tasting….”swine and wine…..!” The mysteries of food trends: How bacon got its sizzle, Associated Press Newswires, March 2011
Social networks are also lining up with a change in business models in the restaurant sector, which helps to drive faster change in consumer taste trends…..
  • In the last few years, we’ve seen an explosion in the number of pop-up restaurants and “Eat St” food – street food!
  • what is happening here is a lower barrier to entry in terms of new restaurant start up cost — more people can get out and start out a restaurant as “street food”, and experiment with new, bold, and exotic tastes and flavors
  • there’s also a very big trend underway that links restaurants and markets together in one location. Go to the restaurant, like the food and want to cook it at home next time? Visit the market in the same building, and buy the exact ingredients for that exact recipe. We call these Resto 2.0’s : for example, Murray’s Market in Ottawa, based on locally farmed food, “….sells cheeses, meats, produce and house-made foodstuffs, providing customers with many of the same raw ingredients they use as their restaurant next door.” Globe & Mail, June 1, 2011
  • all of these trends involve a new breed of restaurateur / entrepreneur;  they’ve learned to link these efforts with very effective social network campaigns. The result is that we now have even faster emergence of new taste trends. Smart food companies will learn how to innovate around the sheer velocity of what is occurring here – ‘faster is the new fast!’

My key point? Innovation is all about time to market … and the brand message needs to match the new speed metric…

4. A new consumer volatility

Back in 2009, I keynote global events for both Burger King and Yum! Brands. One of the major points in both keynotes was the consumer and public health concerns would come to drive more of a focus on a healthier diet; hence, the need for more aggressive innovation around a balanced menu that offered up more healthier choices.

Since then, looking back, it looks like one chain took the message to heart, and the other didn’t. Can you guess which ones?

What’s happened since then? Restaurant chains — and by extension, food companies — are discovering that consumer activity has become very volatile. They might talk of the need to go out and eat healthier, but then go out and continue to buy big, fat juicy cheeseburgers.

But then the news continues to hammer home the cold realities of North American food lifestyles, and the impact of childhood obesity.

  • over the past 30 years, childhood obesity rates in North America have tripled
  • 1 in 3 children are overweight or obese
  • 1/3 of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives
  • many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma

Add to that new messages from Michelle Obama, Jamie Kennedy and other influencers around this debate — and all of a sudden, behaviour begins to change faster than people expect. Consider comments in the article Dining chains shape up menus ;Customers place low-cal orders now, 13 April 2011, USA Today

  • :Something odd is afoot in restaurants where Americans have typically gone to gorge: healthier grub. This nutritional U-turn is taking place at some of the unlikeliest of eateries, including Denny’s, IHOP, Friendly’s, Sizzler and even at the nation’s biggest casual dining chain, Applebee’s, where the numbers are eye-popping.
  • “For the first two months of 2011, the top-selling entree at Applebee’s wasn’t a gloppy burger or flashy fajita plate. It was a sirloin and shrimp entree from the chain’s diet menu. This marks the first time that a low-calorie item ever ranked as the chain’s best seller for a single month — let alone two in a row.
  • “I’ve been in the restaurant business for 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” says Mike Archer, president of Applebee’s.
  • “When Applebee’s launched the under-550-calorie menu in 2010, it didn’t immediately take off, says Archer. But after some tweaks, it caught fire early this year. It now accounts for up to 8% of sales”

8 percent of sales! For healthy options! The key innovation opportunity is to keep innovating with food and taste trends around trends such as health, local, regional. The consumer is volatile, and will change faster than ever before.

Key marketing and branding innovation points?

  • consumer behaviour is now more unpredictable than ever before!
  • sudden, dramatic shifts driven by sudden external influences or other pressures are the new reality
  • it’s easy to abandon marketing momentum / commitment due to slowness of trend (i.e. healthy lifestyle – consumers say one thing, and do another!)
  • yet success from ability to quickly rejig marketing message based on trend spikes – speed matters!

And  so branding innovation is … sticking to the message behind the key trends, even if the trends unfold at a curious and unpredictable pace….

I spoke about many other trends within the keynote, particularly the impact of mobile marketing and moving into hyper-nice marketing. I’ll cover more of that later.

This is typical of the type of unique research I often do for a keynote. If you are interested in bringing me in to a leadership meeting at your corporate organization, feel free to give me a call!

10 Rules for Working at Home
November 7th, 2007

In the area where I live, the school system has an annual “take your kid to work day” for Grade 9’s. Today was the day for my eldest son — and since I’ve been working at home for 18 years, I suggested it might not be a good idea to have him hanging around here for the day watching TV!

So we sent him off to work with the local grocery store……

18 years is a long time in a home office. Back in 2003, I wrote an article, “10 Rules for Working At Home.” Here’s the short list; you can also link to the full article.

  1. Make a daily plan, set a commitment. You’ve got a job like anyone else, and quite simply, you have to get things done.
  2. Make space. Your home office has to be just that — an office. … do things to ensure that your office is “someplace separate.”
  3. Don’t feel guilt Don’t feel bad if you take some private time here and there! It’s part of the balance…
  4. Set boundaries. Learn to shut the door. That’s got to be the most important thing when it comes to developing a healthy separation between your work day and your home life.
  5. Kick back. In your home office, you’ll have a desk. That doesn’t mean you have to do all of your work there!
  6. Educate your coworkers. Working at home means that you are in the vanguard of a workplace revolution.
  7. Talk to your mailman. When you work at home, you’ve got to make sure that you replace water-cooler chit-chat with something else. Get out and talk to people!
  8. Appreciate the rewards! Love your job! Realize that you’ve got the best of both worlds — you’ve got a great career, and you get to spend time with your family.
  9. Plant flowers outside your window and buy a birdfeeder. Take the time to make a home office that will drive you to results, and that will spur you on to enjoy your work!
  10. Recognize that you get a lot more done. That’s a simple truth.
  11. Have a laugh. Did we say a list of 10? I have 11!

  • read the full article, 10 Rules for Working at Home

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