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Despite the fact that I’m a futurist with a relentless focus on innovative thinking, I’m probably as guilty as the next person in making quick  judgement on people and companies – particularly with respect to the scope of what they do today compared to yesterday.

So it was when I saw that a company named Lewis Tree Services wrote a blog post about my recent keynote for the annual National Rural Electrical Cooperative Technology Show in Nashville. Read their post here; you’ll also find it below.

Hmm, I thought – what is a tree company doing at an energy conference, and why would they blog about my keynote with an observation on the future of that industry? After all, what do these people do – trim and cut trees?

In my keynote, I did speak about the emergence of new careers – including, location intelligence professionals! Watch it here:

That’s the type of limited thinking that I often accuse my clients of falling prey to! All too often, we miss the signs of significant change in an industry, unless we actually spend some time to work in that industry. Such it is with the cutting and clearing of trees….. who would have thought! Well, I should have!

I began reading the post (which does a great job in summarizing my talk!), and then started browsing their Web site. Tree cutting? It’s  no longer what it was. It’s bound up in spatial intelligence – location is everything. This organization provides utility, i.e. power companies, i.e. those at the conference, with intelligent mapping services that can provide for better overall municipal risk management among other things.  A key line in their service offerings caught my attention:

“The heart of the Intelligent Vegetation Management approach is a philosophy of leveraging investments in GIS, outage management, customer information and ERP systems to connect vegetation management operations into technology ecosystems – yours and ours.”

Of course! Intelligent vegetation management by location intelligence professionals. Of course their industry has transformed into  a technology driven industry – in which tech provides a pathway to the delivery of all kinds of innovative services and capabilities. And the fact is, this transition has been underway for a long time ; too many of us don’t spend time thinking just how quickly EVERY industry is being transformed.

Here’s the fun part – my entire morning before reading this blog post has been bound up in properly catching the essence of location intelligence as a professional service. Backstory: I’ve been talking about the emergence of the ‘location intelligence professional’ as a critical emerging career path for the last 20 years. Someone must have been listening, because my oldest son Willie Carroll went on to get a university degree and then a post-graduate college certificate in that very field!

And just as I was reading this blog post from Lewis Tree, I’m working with Willie in the home office as he rolls out his new freelance GIS company, Location Intelligence & Design.

Willie’s key skill set includes collection and interoperation of location / geospatial information with the leading such technology from ESRI, ArcGIS. Lewis Tree? The heart of their Intelligent Vegetation Management service is based upon ESRI’s ArcGIS!

I love this world. There is just so much coming together all at once.

I also love this line in their blog post: “We need to learn what we don’t know and fill our knowledge gaps.” Yup, me too!

The Future of the Energy Industry
Posted by Laura Ribas on Mar 13, 2018 12:42:22 PM

The fascinating keynote at TechAdvantage 2018 was given by Jim Carroll, a futurist, who spoke about the speed of change and provided some mind-boggling statistics. According to Carroll, seven out of every 10 kids today will work in a career that doesn’t yet exist. And half of all knowledge learned during the first year of college today will be obsolete by the time the students graduate. Carroll used the phrase “immediate obsolescence” which applies to new technologies, like digital cameras, that come to market and are out of date <6 months later.

The future belongs to those who are fast.

We’re in the midst of unprecedented change with more change expected in the next few years than has occurred over the last 150 years. The world will look vastly different in ten years than it does today.

Disruption and Innovation

The world is becoming hyper-connected and business models are shifting with this massive connectivity. Our smart phones are now digital cameras, credit cards and GPS devices. We can manage the heat and security of our homes from afar. Our kitchen appliances are connecting with food packaging and retailers. Home sprinkler systems have moisture sensors (because why water when we don’t need to?). We now have medical tricorders that provide an instant readout of our healthcare and physical condition. The science fiction of Star Trek and the Jetsons is here today.

When Napster introduced the ability to download MP3s, the music industry was threatened as their business model changed. The same will be true for utilities and those serving them. Will we see change as a threat or an opportunity?

Smart businesses will see change as an opportunity.

What does this new world look like? It’s a world where big data and analytics are key. It’s a world where precision farming is conducted by drones analyzing plant health, soil composition and more. Where real-time information is provided to vehicles to inform lane changing.  Where street lights monitor air quality and offer car charging stations. Where highway control is intelligent. Where we’ll have 24/7 solar energy even when it’s dark outside.

Carroll believes that these are near-term, not long-term, trends. That self-driving trucks are five years away. That flying cars are simply drones scaled up in size and able to carry people.

Moore’s law of innovation velocity is happening before our eyes. The advancements in battery technology are staggering (and small always beats big).

And Carroll believes that we’ll achieve grid parity faster than we think. Think: portable charging stations. Think: glass in buildings that generates electricity. Think: growing solar cells in plants. (Check out this article that highlights a new thermal resonator device from MIT that can generate energy anywhere using natural temperature changes.)

With grid parity, customers will generate their own energy and share it with each other via micro grids. According to Carroll, the micro grid is not a fringe idea; it is fundamental to the future. (Check out this ComEd press release sharing that they’ve been approved to construct one of the first utility-scale microgrid clusters in the nation.) Think of Napster but for energy: cooperative energy networks. Distributed technology resources are growing three times faster than other technologies. Advanced technologies will reshape the industry and edge thinking dominates.

By 2020, every industry will be a:

  • Software industry
  • Technology industry
  • Insurance industry
  • Battery industry

Maytag used to sell appliances. Now equipment manufacturers sell service levels and uptime using predictive diagnostics.

Utilities are also becoming insurance companies, hedging customers against risk using real-time data to eliminate outages. Blockchain technology, like that used for Bitcoin, will have a massive impact on smart grid technology transforming the architecture of the grid itself.

We’ve seen the costs of LiDAR collapsing from $75K to $100. Carroll joked that pretty soon they’ll be selling LiDAR packs at Dollar General. A massive shift in location-based services is underway. And mapping requires location intelligence professionals.

And with customers using smart thermostats like Nest and Ecobee, utilities can also provide innovative ways for customers to receive rebates. Think of today’s kids. They don’t know mainframes and DOS. They’re wired, collaborative and global. They’re gamers. What happens when gamers buy houses with Ecobees? They compete against their neighbors to win energy rebates.

Devices with participatory data are the future.

The grid is a complex data engine and data is the new oil in energy.

We need to learn what we don’t know and fill our knowledge gaps. To be prepared requires garage-like thinking. We need to ask ourselves, are we leaders or followers? And how quickly can we change?

At Lewis Tree Service, we believe that one of the benefits of introducing our Intelligent Vegetation Management solution as a forerunner in the industry is that it enabled us to become more agile, flexible and customer-centric when it comes to technology and innovation.

We’re big fans of Carroll’s adage: Think big, start small, scale fast.

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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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.

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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On stage, I have a little bit of fun pointing out that the cartoon below seems to summarize  the state of the political situation in the US today. I used it a few weeks ago when I keynoted the Nevada Economic Development Conference, with a talk that look a look at the opportunities for growth in the state through trends other than gaming and tourism.

“We’re going to get to the 22nd century,” Carroll said. “We’re not going back to the 1950s. There are those who say, let’s focus on coal and wave a magic wand and bring back these manufacturing jobs, which are dead gone and not going to happen. If we look at the world of manufacturing, it’s all about robotics and 3-D printing. It’s all about mass customization and about the ability to design products faster and get them to market faster and highly intelligent connected products.”

Appropriately enough, my keynote featured the title: “The Jetsons Arrive 50 Years Early: What Are the Economic Development Implications?” (I love my job!). My talk examined the rapid evolution of science, business models, hyper connectivity, intelligent highways and autonomous vehicles, the future of agriculture and many other accelerating trends.

I guess it went well: the feedback just came in from the individual who booked me: “You were amazing.  Your presentation exceeded our expectations.  Your knowledge and insights were intriguing and inspirational!

After my talk, I had a chance to chat with a reporter for the Las Vegas Business Press, who ran an article about the conference. An excerpt from the article appears below. Obviously, the decision by Amazon to locate a 2nd headquarters somewhere had the attention of everyone in Las Vegas, as in every other jurisdiction in North America.

But the future isn’t just about Amazon! It involves a region aligning itself to the trends of the Jetsons in the 21st century, rather than trying to find hope in the era of the Flintstones of the past!

New Amazon headquarters buzz of Nevada Economic Development Conference
Las Vegas Business Press, September 2017

One of the speakers was Jim Carroll, a futurist and expert on trends and innovation and author of “The Future Belongs to Those Who Are Fast.” He said there’s a massive number of global trends and Amazon and online shopping is one that’s providing jobs and future economic growth. Robotics and artificial intelligence are part of the story line of the future as well.

Carroll said Northern Nevada landing the Tesla electric car gigabattery factory shows there are no limits of what the state can attract.

There’s an opportunity here, and Nevada is waking up to the fact that it’s not about agriculture, gaming and tourism,” Carroll said. “There’s a lot of other big trends going on in the world of which Amazon is just one. Why not get into the mindset that we can pursue all of these things?

Carroll said he speaks at conferences across the country, and there’s going to be a lot of competition to land Amazon and it seems that every state and metropolitan area is going after the headquarters.

“When it comes to Amazon, every jurisdiction in North America wants it,” Carroll said. “It’s going to be a massive competition. It got the attention of every single development group in North America.”

Nobody knows what’s Amazon’s preference is for locating the second headquarters, Carroll said. The company will be looking for skills, incentives and locations. It’s possible executives want a location closer to the center of the country, he said.

I think first and foremost any region shouldn’t get into defeatist mindset,” Carroll said. “We’re never going to get ahead if that’s the way we think. That’s why I encourage people to start with a positive mindset.

Carroll repeated that Amazon is only one of what will be many “big new initiatives” and companies that regions can pursue. He said the future will be about batteries, and it’s not just about Tesla’s electric cars but batteries in drones and for utilities and energy.

Amazon is but one thing of many things happening out there,” Carroll said. “What Nevada needs to do is get the mindset of how do we position ourselves for one of these many things beginning to unfold?

Carroll said the trends are heading toward “the world of “The Jetsons,” citing the 1960s futuristic cartoon. But instead of looking at the 22nd century, many want to stay in the world of “The Flintstones,” Carroll said of the 1960s cartoon depicting the dinosaur age.

We’re going to get to the 22nd century,” Carroll said. “We’re not going back to the 1950s. There are those who say, let’s focus on coal and wave a magic wand and bring back these manufacturing jobs, which are dead gone and not going to happen. If we look at the world of manufacturing, it’s all about robotics and 3-D printing. It’s all about mass customization and about the ability to design products faster and get them to market faster and highly intelligent connected products.”

Nevada is making the right bet focusing on solar and wind energy and microgrids, Carroll said. It’s about the acceleration of energy science rather than coal, he said.
Nevada shouldn’t worry about trying and failing like it did in landing a Faraday Future electric car plant in North Las Vegas, only to have the project stopped before it began, he said.

There’s a lot of angst about the car plant that didn’t go ahead, and my take is you have to try that,” Carroll said. “Some of that stuff works and some of it doesn’t, but you got to make sure you are out there and hitch yourself to a horse. Sometimes you fall off and have to get up again.


This November, I’ll keynote the National Automatic Merchandising Association Coffee Tea & Water Show. I did a little promo video teaser about the event during my visit to Walt Disney World last week. Give it a watch!

NAMA also issued a press release about my talk.

Chicago – Jim Carroll, futurist and innovation expert, will kick off NAMA’s Coffee Tea and Water show (CTW) as the keynote speaker. Carroll will lead the at the opening session on Monday, Nov. 6, at 12:45 pm.

Carroll inspires organizations to reframe the opportunity for innovation in the context of significant, transformative change. He is a worldwide authority on global trends, rapid business model change, business model disruption in a period of economic uncertainty and the necessity for fast-paced innovation.

Carroll can offer deep insights into the cutting edge trends of our time, including:

• Autonomous vehicle technology
• Sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT)
• 3D printing
• Virtual reality
• Artificial intelligence
• Block chain and virtual cash
• Machine learning and robotics
• Crowd-thinking
• Next generation R&D

“Jim’s keynote address will help CTW attendees understand the impact of innovation and disruption on their businesses and explore the possibilities the Internet of Things brings for growth,” said Rori Ferensic, NAMA’s director of education in a press statement. “Audience members will gain the tools required to stay relevant in today’s changing business landscape. We’re delighted to welcome Jim to CTW.”

Carroll is also an author, with books including Surviving the Information Age; The Future Belongs To Those Who Are Fast; Ready, Set, Done: How to Innovate When Faster is the New Fast and What I Learned From Frogs in Texas: Saving Your Skin with Forward Thinking Innovation.

People interested in attending CTW can register today at https://www.coffeeteaandwater.org/registration-details/. Look for early bird rates and special group rates for operators. The early bird rates end Oct. 2. Attendees can also register for the WIN Boot Camp as part of their initial event registration.

This October, I’ll keynote the MacKay CEO Forum 2017 Edge Summit in Vancouver, with about 500 CEO’s in the room. I’ll take a look at what happens when accelerating technology trends result in every company become a technology company.

I just wrote up a new keynote topic description, modified from a few of my other topic outlines.

Aligning to Velocity: Key Trends and Strategies for the Era of Acceleration

We have a new vocabulary! 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?

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 spent the morning yesterday with the Board of Directors of a multi-billion dollar credit union, taking a good hard look at the trends sweeping the financial services space. They know that disruption is real, and that it is happening now.

And disruption is everywhere: every business, and every industry is  being redefined at blinding speed by technology, globalization, the rapid emergence of new competitors, new forms of collaborative global R&D, and countless other challenges.

The speed with which these changes occur are now being increasingly driven by he arrival of a younger, more entrepreneurial generation; a group that seems determined to change the world to reflect their ideas and concept of opportunity. They’ve grown up networked, wired, and are collaborative in ways that no previous generation seems to be.

And therein lies the challenge.

Most organizations are bound up in traditions, process, certain defined ways of doing things — rules — that have helped them succeed in the past. Over time, they have developed a corporate culture which might have worked at the slower paced world of the past — but now has them on the sick-bed, suffering from an organizational sclerosis that clogs up their ability to try to do anything new.

Those very things which worked for them in the past might be the anchors that could now hold them back as the future rushes at them with ever increasing speed.

They are being challenged in a fundamental way by those who think big, and by some really big, transformative trends.

How to cope with accelerating change?  Think big, start small and scale fast!

I’m doing many keynotes in which I outline the major trends and opportunities that come from “thinking big, starting small, and scaling fast,” by addressing some of the fundamental changes that are underway.

1. Entire industries are going “upside down”

One thing you need to know is this: entire industries are being flipped on their back by some pretty big trends.

Consider the world of health care. Essentially, today, it’s a system in which we fix people after they become sick. You come down with some type of medical condition; your doctor does a diagnosis, and a form of treatment is put in place. That’s overly simplifying things, but essentially that is how it works.

Yet that is going to change in a pretty fundamental way with genomic, or DNA based medicine. It takes us into a world in which we can more easily understand what health conditions are you susceptible or at risk for throughout your life. It moves us from a world in which we fix you after you are sick — to one in which we know what you are likely to become sick with, and come up with a course of action before things go wrong. That’s a pretty BIG and pretty fundamental change. I like to say that the system is going “upside down.”

So it is with the automotive and transport industry. One day, most people drove their own cars. One day in the future, cars will do much of the driving on their own. That’s a pretty change — sort of the reverse, or upside-down, from how it use to be.

Or think about education: at one time, most people went to the place where education is delivered. But with the massive explosion of connectivity and new education delivery methods involving technology, an increasing number of people are in a situation where education is delivered to them. That’s upside down too!

You can go through any industry and see similar signs. That’s a lot of opportunity for big change.

2. Moore’s law – everywhere!

Another big trend that is driving a lot of change comes about as technology takes over the rate of change in the industry.

Going forward, every single industry, from health care to agriculture to insurance and banking, will find out that change will start to come at the speed of Moore’s law — a speed of change that is MUCH faster than they are used too. (Remember, Moore’s law explains that roughly, the processing power of a computer chip doubles every 18 months while its cost cuts in half. It provides for the pretty extreme exponential growth curve we see with a lot of consumer and computer technology today.)

Back to health care. We know that genomic medicine is moving us from a world in which we fix people after they are sick – to one where we know what they will likely become sick with as a result of DNA testing. But now kick in the impact of Moore’s law, as Silicon Valley takes over the pace of development of the genomic sequencing machines. It took $3 billion to sequence the first genome, which by 2009 had dropped to $100,000. It’s said that by mid-summer, the cost had dropped to under $10,000, and by the end of the year, $1,000. In just a few years, you’ll be able to go to a local Source by Circuit City and buy a little $5 genomic sequencer – and one day, such a device will cost just a few pennies.

The collapsing cost and increasing sophistication of these machines portends a revolution in the world of health care. Similar trends are occurring elsewhere – in every single industry, we know one thing: that Moore’s law rules!

3. Loss of the control of the pace of innovation

What happens when Moore’s law appears in every industry? Accelerating change, and massive business model disruption as staid, slow moving organizations struggle to keep up with faster paced technology upstarts.

Consider the world of car insurance — we are witnessing a flood of GPS based driver monitoring technologies that measure your speed, acceleration and whether you are stopping at all the stop signs. Show good driving behaviour, and you’ll get a rebate on your insurance. It’s happening in banking, with the the imminent emergence of the digital wallet and the trend in which your cell phone becomes a credit card.

In both cases, large, stodgy, slow insurance companies and banks that move like molasses will have to struggle to fine tune their ability to innovate and keep up : they’re not used to working at the same fast pace as technology companies.

Not only that, while they work to get their innovation agenda on track, they’ll realize with horror that its really hard to compete with companies like Google, PayPal, Facebook, and Apple — all of whom compete at the speed of light.

It should make for lots of fun!

4.  “Follow the leader” business methodologies

We’re also witnessing the more rapid emergence of new ways of doing business, and it’s leading us to a time in which companies have to instantly be able to copy any move by their competition – or risk falling behind.

For example, think about what is going on in retail, with one major trend defining the future: the Apple checkout process. Given what they’ve done, it seems to be all of a sudden, cash registers seemed to become obsolete. And if you take a look around, you’ll notice a trend in which a lot of other retailers are scrambling to duplicate the process, trying to link themselves to the cool Apple cachet.

That’s the new reality in the world of business — pacesetters today can swiftly and suddenly change the pace and structure of an industry, and other competitors have to scramble to keep up.  Consider this scenario: Amazon announces a same day delivery in some major centres. Google and Walmart almost immediately jump on board. And in just a short time, retailers in every major city are going to have be able to play the same game!

Fast format change, instant business model implementation, rapid fire strategic moves. That’s the new reality for business, and it’s the innovators who will adapt.

5. All interaction — all the time!

If there is one other major trend that is defining the world of retail and shopping, take a look at all the big television screens scattered all over the store! We’re entering the era of constant video bombardment in the retail space. How fast is the trend towards constant interaction evolving? Consider the comments by

Ron Boire, the new Chief Marketing Officer for Sears in the US (and former chief executive of Brookstone Inc.): “My focus will really be on creating more and better theatre in the stores.”

We are going to see a linking of this ‘in-store theatre’ with our mobile devices and our social networking relationships. Our Facebook app for a store brand (or the fact we’ve ‘liked’ the brand) will know we’re in the store, causing a a customized commercial to run, offering us a personalized product promotion with a  hefty discount. This type of scenario will be here faster than you think!

6. Products reinvented

Smart entrepreneurs have long realized something that few others have clued into : the future of products is all about enhancement through intelligence and connectivity. Nail those two aspects, and you suddenly sell an old product at significantly higher new prices.

Consider the NEST Learning Thermostat. It’s design is uber-cutting edge, and was in fact dreamed up by one of the key designers of the iPad. It looks cool, it’s smart, connected, and there’s an App for that! Then there is a Phillips Hue Smart LED Lightbulb, a $69 light bulb that is uber-smart, connected, and can be controlled from your mobile device. Both are sold at the Apple store!

Or take a look at the Whitings Wi-Fi Body Scale. Splash a bit of design onto the concept of a home weigh scale, build it with connectivity, link it to some cool online graphs and you’ve got a device that will take your daily weight, BMI and body-fat-mass tracking into a real motivational tool.  Where is it sold? Why, at the Apple store too!

Do you notice a trend here?

7. Careers reinvented

For those who that the post-2008 North American recovery from the recession was slow, here’s an open secret: there was a significant economic recovery underway for quite some time, as companies in every sector ranging from manufacturing to agriculture worked hard to reinvent themselves. It just didn’t involve a lot of new jobs, because the knowledge required to do a new job in today’s economy is pretty complex. We’ve moved quickly from the economy of menial, brute force jobs to new careers that require a lot of high level skill. The trend has been underway for a long, long time.

Consider the North American manufacturing sector, a true renaissance industry if there ever was one! Smart engineers at a wide variety of manufacturing organizations have transformed process to such a degree, and involved the use of such sophisticated robotic technology, that the economic recovery in this sector involves workers who have to master a lot of new knowledge. One client observed of their manufacturing staff: “The education level of our workforce has increased so much….The machinists in this industry do trigonometry in their heads.”

Similar skills transitions are underway in a wide variety of other industries….

8. The Rise of the Small over Incumbents

We are living in the era that involves the end of incumbency. Companies aren’t assured that they will own the marketplace and industry they operate within because of past success ; they’ll have to continually re-prove themselves through innovation.

Consider Square, the small little device that lets your iPhone become a credit card. What a fascinating little concept that has such big potential for disruption. And it’s a case where once again, small little upstarts are causing turmoil, disruption and competitive challenge in larger industries — and often times, the incumbents are too slow to react.

Anyone who has ever tried to get a Merchant Account from Visa, MasterCard or American Express in order to accept credit cards knows that it is likely trying to pull teeth from a pen – many folks just give up in exasperation. Square, on the other hand, will send you this little device for free (or you can pick one up at the Apple Store.) Link it to your bank account, and you’re in business.

So while credit card companies have been trying to figure out the complexities of the future of their industry, a small little company comes along and just does something magical! No complexities, no challenges, no problems.

* * * *
There are people who are making big bold bets, big bold decisions, who are going to change the world and who are going to do things differently.” That phrase was from my opening keynote for the Accenture International Utilities and Energy Conference in San Francisco some years back.

It’s a good sentiment, and is a good way to think about the idea of ‘thinking big.’

A brand today can go from hero to zero in a matter of months….” In that context, you’d better get ahead of the fast future, before it gets ahead of you!

Consider Sony. Once they were a really cool company with the coolest technology on the planet — the Walkman.

Then they weren’t, because they didn’t keep up with the future, and didn’t innovate fast enough.

We live in an era of instant obsolescence. I often tell the story on stage of how my sons — now 24 and 22– perceive many of the things which were once a part of my life as being from the “olden days.” We’ve actually come up with a pretty long list.

Sony once had a really cool brand name, and the Walkman had deep, deep brand value. Yet Sony seemed to lose its innovative spirit, and started going wrong in a big way. It ended up destroying a good chunk of the brand value behind the Sony name — when I think of Sony now, I think of a company that is slow, behind the times, ponderous.

Which begs the question : are you operating with enough agility and rapidity in order to ensure that your own brand doesn’t become a “brand from the olden days?”

The rate at which the Sony brand lost its value is nothing short of stunning — and was due to a series of well known missteps (among others):

  • they failed to keep up with the rapid growth and demand for flat panel TV’s and other hot new technologies: they failed with market agility.
  • they decided that going to war with their customers (by slipping destructive software onto their music CD’s) was more important than developing great technology that caught the next wave of consumer electronics. Look up “Sony rootkit” for the story from over a decade ago.
  • they dropped the ball on the necessity for continuous operational excellence , as evidenced by a disastrous recall of laptop batteries some years back.

The list goes on. Are you making similar mistakes that is costing you brand image? You certainly are, if:

  • Your brand looks tired, because it is tired. Case in point — many companies in the automobile industry missed out on the revolution as the dashboard becomes a computer, because they weren’t watching what their customers were doing. They were busy releasing automobiles that were some five years behind the living rooms of their customers — and that certainly brought the brand sheen off of some of the biggest auto companies. They are still trying to catch up.
  • Customers see a lack of innovation: Consumers today are immersed in a global cloud of new ideas. They’re witnessing constant, relentless, awe-inspiring forms of innovation all around them, as they deal with a flood of new consumer technologies, packaging based product innovation, and ongoing advancements in retail environments, both offline and online. They’ve come to expect that the brands they deal with are at the leading edge, in design, functionality, message and purpose.
  • Lousy, ineffective customer service: Guess what – when it comes to interaction with your customers, they measure you up against the world’s best. If you don’t add up, you are doing some significant damage to your brand equity right there. Customer support is no longer good enough — fanatical support is better.
  • You don’t know that you customers know more about your brand than you do: Your customers today are immersed in the global innovation idea feedback loop. They busy sharing ideas on what’s really cool, and they are even busier taking apart the folly of those who have been left behind. In doing so, they are rapidly reinventing products, services, brands and image. If you aren’t listening, you are guaranteeing that you’ll fall behind.
  • A lack of purpose or urgency: I’ve studied many organizations who still don’t have the key information they need for market agility. They don’t have instant feedback mechanisms which tell them of rapid developments in specific markets. They don’t know how to regroup quickly “when bad things happen.” They still operate blind, as if it’s 1990: their sales force goes into a customer meeting, oblivious as to what that customer has been thinking about them. They approach every day as if it were the same as yesterday; meanwhile, their market and their customers have run away from them!
  • A lack of market and competitive intelligence: It’s the information-age, get it? There’s no shortage of information to be had. Yet I see companies who seem shocked when a competitor drops a ‘bombshell’ announcement — only to realize that they were the only one who thought it was a bombshell. Everybody else knew what the competition was up to, because in this new hyper-connected world, everyone knows what everyone else is doing!
  • A regular series of fumbling missteps: The saddest thing is that Sony has messed up in so many ways, that some customers now look at as if it has a “L” on its forehead. Today, small mistakes can be instantly compounded. Take the concept of compounded financial interest. Now realize that a small PR mistake, a lousy executive decision, or poor execution, can lead to the same type of instant, global brand devaluation — that can compound on itself at an extremely high interest rate!

A brand today can go from hero to zero in a matter of months. How do you avoid such a fate?

  • Recognize that brand longevity is now a critical issue
  • Ensure your sales, marketing, development and customer support team are relentlessly focused on the currency of the brand
  • Make sure that continuous brand innovation is part of your corporate mantra
  • When confronted with the new and challenging customer, learn from them rather than running away
  • Be incessantly focused on the likely innovations that will come to impact your brand
  • Learn to think five to six product lifecycles in advance — and plan to do them all within six months.
  • Make forward oriented intelligence a critical aspect of what you do.

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