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The folks at Farm and Dairy Magazine interviewed me on trends to watch in 2018 in the world of agriculture. It’s a good read – you’ll find it below!

On stage in New Orleans, I spoke about the idea of Spock having a medical tri-corder on the farm. It’s not as crazy an idea as you thinK!

As I write this post, I’m down in San Antonio, where I’ve got two events where I’ll speak about the future of agriculture to several hundred dealers for a farm and ag supplier about future trends.

I love talking to farming groups – it’s one of the most innovative industries that I know. Watch this video for the reasons why!

5 agricultural trends to watch in 2018
Farm and Dairy, January 2018

SALEM, Ohio — The top five trends to watch for in 2018 are sure to keep farmers on top of their game.

With an increased number of events causing hysteria, with the rise of “fake news,” an overload of news in general — thanks to the world being at our fingertips — farmers have to work harder to tell their story, said Jim Carroll, futurist.

“All producers need to be honest in explaining the humane treatment of animals, to explain what they do. We need real ag folks to tell our story, we’ve got to increase real news,” he said.

Social media is the key, and farmers haven’t been in the conversation enough, Carroll said.

This year, we need to keep our eye on emerging issues, agritourism and marketing, adds Brad Bergefurd, Ohio State Extension horticulture specialist and educator in Scioto County.

In addition to the continuous need to tell our story, experts believe these five issues will be trending in 2018:

1. Increased speed of change

We’ve been talking about it for years, and now it’s happening: Young people are returning to the family farm — the iPod generation is gaining the reins, said Jim Carroll.

“The speed of change will pick up; those returning to the farm are open to all these new ideas,” said Carroll, who travels the country talking about the future. “People are scared of the future, but want to understand it.”

The average age of farmers is 58. Their average age has been inching upward for approximately 30 years, according to the USDA’s Census of Agriculture.

The census shows that during the past 30 years, the average age of U.S. farmers has grown by nearly eight years, from 50.5 years to 58.3 years, but that is about to change, warns Carroll, and that change brings rapid innovation adoption.

2. Fitbits for cows

A world with animal and crop health sensors will continue to flourish this year.

“Fitbits for cows, chickens, pigs — we see it happening now, but it will expand,” said Carroll.

Using drones to fly over herds to check on the health is happening. Farmers are monitoring the gestation of an animal, getting notifications from their iPhone, he said.

“We’ll see connectivity as a management practice,” Carroll said. “Being connected can save time and money on animal health.”

“Data analysis in the year ahead will supplement what farmers know intuitively,” he said, “and, in some cases, challenge those assumptions.”

New products rely on aerial satellite imagery, greenness sensors, soil maps and millions of weather data points — this innovation meshed with a group of early adopters is sure to keep technology pushed to the limits.

3. Global trade advocates

Global trade matters, it always has and it always will, agree Carroll and Tanner Ehmke, a former wheat farmer who is now the Knowledge Exchange manger at CoBank.

“Of course farmers in the Midwest are saying ‘don’t take apart NAFTA.’ NAFTA does matter,” said Carroll.

“Without a global perspective, the cost of food will double or worse. Without NAFTA, markets will be lost, trading partners and labor forces will be lost,” Ehmke said.

“There is room to be optimistic in trade in 2018,” he said. “But, we can’t lose NAFTA. No bilateral trade deals can replace the benefits of NAFTA.”

4. Labor shortages

Labor shortages will continue for highly skilled stoop labor, which tend to Ohio fruit, orchard, nursery, hops and vegetable crops, said Bergefurd, who focuses on specialty crops across Ohio.

“There were major labor shortages on Ohio farms in 2017, resulting in many acres of vegetables and some fruit not being harvested due to shortage of hand harvest labor,” he said.

He foresees a shortage of high quality, locally grown fruit and vegetables. Several large farms don’t have the needed labor, and, as a result, they are changing operations and not producing as many — or any — specialty crops, and are growing more grain crops instead, Bergefurd said.

Bergefurd predicts the acreage devoted to mechanically harvested pickling cucumbers will increase in northwest Ohio and few acres of the 80-year-old traditional, hand-harvested pickling cucumbers of Ohio will be planted due to labor shortages.

“Farmers who will plant hand-harvest pickles will adopt the use of harvest aids and will continue to move away from the crop share method that has historically been used,” he said.

5. Hitting bottom

“2018 looks like we will hit bottom, with grain and dairy prices bottoming out,” said Ehmke, who works to provide strategic insights about trends, structural change, and policy directives within the key rural industries served by CoBank.

“In 2018, we will see farm stress get worse before it gets better. We need to be proficient thinkers and use our relationships to get by.”

The world supply of crops will get tighter this year as usage picks up — starting to match with production, he said.

“We see the world demand, especially in Southeast Asia going up, and that is a good thing.”

Politically, trade uncertainty looks to continue this year, which won’t help the markets. Dairy prices continue to be under stress, as we see expansion globally, he said.

As prices hit bottom, Ehmke is optimistic that they will start to go the other way in 2019.

“I hope to see the dollar soften a bit. It won’t be a game changer this year, but it will start to help,” he said.

It’s always fun to watch the crystallization of a trend that you’ve been speaking about on stage for over 15 years. And that trend is what I’ve come to call ‘complexity partners.’

I recently did a keynote for Quintiq, which is a company that builds a software platform that helps companies to manage complex supply chains and workforces. And while there, I did an interview with them on why the need for ‘managing complexity’ is becoming critical in the context of faster trends.


It’s kind of fun, because this is a trend I’ve been speaking about for 20 years, going way back to my book, “Surviving the Information Age.” I it,  which I coined the phrase, “complexity partners,” describing in it that one of the key things organizations would need to focus on in the future was managing increasing complexity. Nailed it!

And I’ve written many posts around the issue, particularly around complex workforce issues. For example, in a blog post on 21st century capital, I wrote this:

  • complexity partnerships: in the 20th century, organizations focused on hiring the skills that they needed to get the job done. You simply can’t do that today — skills are too fragmented and too specialized. That’s why successful organizations have mastered the art of complexity supply and demand. They provide their own unique complex skills to those of their partners who need such skills. And when they are short other skills, they tap into the skills bank of their partners. By selling and buying skills with a broad partnership base, they’ve managed to become complexity partners — organizations that spend most of their time focusing on their core mission, and spend less time worrying about how they are going to do what they need to do.

It’s a big and important issue, and if you look at the client list for Quintiq, you’ll know that the trend has matured and gone supernova. Here’s a clip from the keynote! Enjoy!

The folks at the Precision Metalforming Association were putting together their 75th anniversary issue of Metalforming magazine, and wanted to share with their readers that it’s better to align yourself to the trends of the future rather than the opportunities of the past.

And they found me! We had a long interview, which appeared in their July publication. Parts are reprinted below.

I do A LOT of manufacturing keynotes. The reality is, tomorrows’ manufacturing is unlike that of today.

You can choose to adopt to the future, or wish you were in the past. So — are you George, or Fred?

2017 and Beyond by Brad Kuvin
A futurist and expert in trends and innovation examines what he refers to as the “modern-day leadership dilemma”–heading toward the Jetsons when you have a bunch of Flintstones around!

Futurist Jim Carroll noted in a blog post earlier this year that “while the majority of my audience appreciates a whirlwind ride into the future, there are others who just wish the future would go away… Leaders today must steer their organizations into a fast-paced future—through the shoals of disruption, the emergence of new competitors, technology, automation and other challenges—while understanding that there is a core group that will do little to embrace that change. It’s the Flintstones and the Jetsons, in one workplace!

Carroll has been providing his insights and speaking to organizations about the future for more than 25 years.MetalForming asked him to help us commemorate PMA’s 75 anniversary by sharing his manufacturing outlook over the next 5 to 10 years, and explaining why it’s critical that we embrace and address the change that’s coming.

At the crux is the increasing need, he says, to react more quickly than ever to changing/evolving customer preferences, and the shortening of product lifecycles. Manufacturers must be driven to react quickly to new demands and requirements. In the shop this plays out as more tooling adjustments and changeovers, more flexible scheduling and the ability to react to a slew of design changes.

Upside-Down Innovation

This represents a complete turnaround from how manufacturers currently think about doing things, Carroll says. And, the impact ripples through the supply chain. Suppliers must, for example, become rapid prototypers, and master the iterative design process.

We used to be able to design a product, build a model, test it and then launch production,” Carroll says. “Now it’s design, test, redesign, test, redesign, etc…an iterative process that, thanks to disruptive technologies such as additive manufacturing, allow suppliers to efficiently optimize product designs and, ultimately, provide better-performing products.”

For suppliers living in this world of upside-down innovation, “it’s critical, looking toward the future, to become unstuck from the reactive mode,” Carroll notes. “Instead, suppliers must become active partners with their customers in this iterative design and rapid-prototyping cycle. Be more active and less reactive, and look for opportunities to innovate.”

Carroll’s above-referenced blog postnotes that “there remain folks who just refuse to participate in the inevitability of the future, and that can be a significant leadership, strategic challenge…Many people today feel that the world is moving way too fast for them, and that the pace of change is overwhelming.

In a recent poll of seminar attendees, Carroll found that many organizations do in fact feel overwhelmed by change, and that many executives believe that they don’t really need to do anything to deal with it.

“In other words,” Carroll says, “they believe that the future can be safely ignored. I use the ‘Jetsons-meets-the-Flintstones’ concept as a joke, but it’s not—this is a real and substantive leadership issue. As a CEO or senior executive, how are you going to align a fast-paced future—one full of challenge and opportunity—to an organization where a significant number of people don’t think that the future will impact them?



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!

I was interviewed the other day by the National Association of Colleges and Employers; this group is heavily involved in supporting career opportunities for college graduates. The focus of the interview was on generational diferences, and what happens in the workforce in the future.

Read the PDF! “Don’t mess with my powder, dude.” Such was the rather flippant response by an engineering graduate to a job offer from a leading architectural/engineering company. The CEO of the organization was explaining this story to me while we discussed the global trends that I should address during my upcoming presentation to staff of the organization. “What’s with these kids?” he asked.

Certainly there has been a lot of focus on how different the Millennial generation when it comes to the future of careers; I’ve been speaking about this issue for more than 20 years!

The article is below…… but read my article, ‘Don’t Mess with my Powder, Dude” for more insight on the work/life thoughts of the next generation. 

Also have a look at this video from an education conference, in which I speak about how video is the knowledge ingestion tool for the next generation.

Video: The Acceleration of Knowledge

Technology the Catalyst for Generational Differences
Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals
January 11, 2017

When we talk about generational differences, we no longer can just identify differences between generations, but we can identify differences within generations as well, according to Jim Carroll.

Carroll, a futurist and trends expert, says technology is the catalyst for the rapidity with which generations now evolve.

“It’s not politics or sociology, because they don’t move fast enough,” Carroll says. “The speed with which technology has come into their lives has made the differences within Generation Z that are amplified when compared to the Millennials.”

For example, Carroll says that there are definitely differences between a 30-year-old Millennial and a 25-year-old Millennial.

“There was a lot of technology coming at them as they grew up, but it wasn’t a huge amount,” he says. “But if you take an 18-year-old and a 23-year-old today—both members of Generation Z—it’s almost like they grew up in entirely different periods of time because they would have been exposed to different sets of technology.”

This carries over into the workplace. Carroll says Generation Z shares common traits with Millennials.

“They have very short attention spans,” he says. “They need multiple different things to do. These are all traits that were common with Millennials, but they are much more pronounced with the generation entering the work force.”

He says that a realization many organizations have not come to grips with yet is that this is the video generation.

“These young employees consume video like it’s oxygen,” Carroll says. “When it comes to training or any type of education or professional development, the use of video is paramount. These employees have never known a world without YouTube, so if you’re doing anything to engage them, it has to be video based. They are not going to sit and read policy and procedure manuals. Nor are they going to spend their time dealing with complex reports.”

They also have little time for what they consider unnecessary or unwieldy tasks or formats.

“They don’t subscribe to the idea of performance reviews or long, laborious processes in stages to move up the ladder,” Carroll says. “They don’t have a lot of patience for complexity and rules and structure. They get frustrated with antiquated practices. It has been a command and control workplace. Instead, they want to get in and get their work done without a lot of talking about it.”

Carroll explains that, with members of Generation Z, organizations also have a powerful source of collaborative powers that they need to harness.

“By growing up with mobile devices and social networks, the skills they bring into the workplace for collaborative capabilities is profound compared to what we saw with Millennials just 10 years prior,” he says. “Employers have to support that and take advantage of these collaborative capabilities.”

While technology allows employees of all generations to work remotely, Carroll believes Generation Z still will value connecting in person.

“The common prediction is that the new generation of employees is going to unplug, work remotely, and not congregate in offices,” Carroll notes. “I might be proven dead wrong on this, but I think that’s going to flip around so we’ll see a trend back to the workplace and increased human interaction.

“The employees entering the work force have untapped tools and skills for the workplace. We have to give them more credit than we do. They have surprised us in the past and I’m certain that they will continue to surprise us in the future.”

"Who is going to fix the education system so that it works for me in the future?"

“Who is going to fix the education system so that it works for me in the future?”

I was recently interviewed about the future of knowledge and careers. It was timely; my oldest son has just completed a college degree but is immediately pursuing another educational path at a community college.

Does this make sense? Most certainly.

Here’s an extract from the article.

Want to future-proof your career?
The Globe and Mail, By LEAH EICHLER,
Saturday, 03 September 2016
Life-long education and training are increasingly becoming a key part of staying relevant in the employment world

For many, this week marks a new chapter in their lives: the first week of university. Like countless students before them, those first few weeks are a flurry of experiences and opportunities that sets out the road to independence. However, that expectation that in four short years their education will be complete is rapidly becoming a relic of the past. Rather, they will be entering a professional world where in order to compete, they must embrace the ethos of life-long student.

Jim Carroll, a futurist and speaker based in Mississauga, describes the work force that students can expect to graduate into as one of “rapid knowledge obsolescence.”

To adapt, professionals will need to possess “just-in-time knowledge” and continue learning in order to have the relevant information at the right time to suit a specific purpose.

“We are never going to have the right skills and knowledge to do what needs to be done. The only way we will is to continue to reinvent ourselves, by updating our skills in order to maintain our relevance. We need to accept that as our reality,” Mr. Carroll said.

That’s why it made perfect sense to him when his son, who graduated in June from Carleton University in Ottawa with a bachelor of arts in physical geography with a minor in geomatics, immediately enrolled in a certificate program in geographic information systems at Ottawa’s Algonquin College.

Yet, it’s not only employees that need to adapt; universities, colleges and employers need to change their approaches to in order to stay competitive.

“Everything is going to change,” Mr. Carroll said. “Universities and colleges aren’t really prepared to give us what we need. Employers aren’t really in the right frame of mind either since they rely on old outdated hiring models and recruitment. Also, if you are a graduate, and you don’t have the right frame of mind that you need to continually maintain your skills, then you are wrong as well,” he said.

The key, suggested Mr. Carroll, is to emphasize skill sets rather than degrees, but how? It’s a problem that New York-based Markle Foundation has been trying to solve.

The Unites States, they observed, has a critical need for a skill-based labour market. There are currently 5.5 million job openings, but 6.5 million people are unemployed. They attribute part of this disconnect to the outdated methods employers use to vet candidates and discern skills.


…. In other words, just-in-time knowledge, or as one of Mr. Carroll’s favourite quotes from a well-known educator named Lewis Perelman put it, “learning is what most adults will do for a living in the 21st century.”


An article from Meetings.Net on a recent keynote I did in Orlando….

Carroll digitalnow_0

The key to engagement? Not only to change up the seating and format, but to hire speakers who are not afraid to shake up the event, and who know enough about the meeting content to answer a variety of questions in meaningful ways.

DigitalNow’s creative Collaboration Sessions engaged the keynoter speakers with the audience in ways that felt fresh and unscripted.

Some 250 association executives and technology experts who gathered at the Hyatt Regency Orlando last week for digitalNow experienced a creative approach to the traditional keynote. Each morning’s general session, which featured a thought leader on a big idea, was followed by a “Collaboration Session.”

Fusion Productions, the Rochester, N.Y.–based company that organizes the forum, and which specializes in new communications technologies aimed at educating and motivating, crafted the staging and format for these creative Collaboration Sessions. They were an interesting blend of a panel, which asked follow-up questions, interspersed with questions from the audience, all facilitated by a skilled moderator.

The staging made for interesting engagement. For example, for the opening morning Collaboration Session, keynoter Jim Carroll, futurist and innovation expert, sat on stage in a director’s chair, with the moderator standing just off to his side. The room was set in crescent rounds. The three panelists, all association CEOs, and thought leaders in their own right, sat in director’s chairs positioned approximately in the middle of the room, spread out in a semi-circle. They posed a variety of smart questions to Carroll, which were seemingly unrehearsed and which he candidly answered (as candidly as one who foresees future trends can answer). The audience piped in on occasion to ask questions, or sent questions via text messaging to the moderator, who skillfully interspersed meaningful comments and questions throughout.

The key to engagement? Not only to change up the seating and format, but to hire speakers who are not afraid to shake up the event, and who know enough about the meeting content to answer a variety of questions in meaningful ways.

Carroll, who in a later interview said he prides himself on being the “content guy who loves to get into the meat of the issue,” when hired by an association or company to keynote. “There’s always an overriding theme or challenge when I talk to the association CEO,” he says. “I get frustrated when an association confronted with big challenges hires ‘Shark Tank’ people as their keynoters. They’re choosing that over content?”

Because he’s hired by so many associations, and writes columns for association magazines, Carroll understands the association business. “Many associations’ annual events are on autopilot. Same old title, same old speakers, they talk about the same old stuff,” Carroll continues. “I see a need in the association world for short-term strategic meetings.” He also sees the need for video learning, particularly among younger people.

Bottom-line, says this futurist, face-to-face meetings will always be part of our future, because “at the end of the day, it’s about getting together for a wine or a beer” to discuss the day’s events and the business at hand. “You can’t do that virtually.”

JimCarrollOver on the CPA Success Blog at the Business Learning Institute, there’s a good article on the future of knowledge and careers.

It’s based on a keynote I did for the DigitalNow 2016 conference, in which I spoke to 300 association executives on future trends affecting their organizations.

Want to stay relevant? Learn for a living
April 23, 2016  /  by Bill Sheridan

Change and complexity? We’ve talked about this stuff to death, but nobody has illustrated for us how quickly things are changing quite like Jim Carroll.

The futurist — who also happens to be an accountant — keynoted the 2016 edition of the always-awesome DigitalNow conference in Orlando by scaring the crap out of the association professionals who paid good money to hear him speak.

Consider these nuggets from Carroll:

  • Sixty-five percent of children in preschool today will eventually work in jobs or industries that do not currently exist.
  • Half of what freshmen learn in their first year of college will be obsolete by the time they graduate.

“We live in a world of acceleration,” Carroll took the DigitalNow crowd. “The future is becoming the present faster than ever.”

“That future,” he added, “belongs to the fast.”

The culprit for much of this complexity? Technology. Moore’s Law marches on … much faster, in fact, than our ability to keep up.

That’s just the changing nature of the world today. And really, for the youngest generations, it’s not complexity at all. It’s just life, and they’ve been raised to roll with the punches.

For the rest of us, things are getting a little crazy.

Carroll says we’ve lost control of the pace of change within our respective industries. That control now lies with the tech geniuses in Silicon Valley.

What we can control is our ability to learn new skills — and to teach our clients what we’ve learned in the process. That might be our new competitive advantage going forward.

“We live in a world of rapid knowledge obsolescence,” Carroll said. “Our job is to deliver just-in-time knowledge to our clients and customers. We must help them confront their new reality and embrace the opportunities it presents.”

Put another way, Carroll quoted American writer Sidney Perelman: “Learning is what most adults will do for a living in the 21st century.”

Put still another way: The most important skill any of us will have going forward is the ability to learn new skills — to outlearn the pace of change, and help our clients do the same.

As I said earlier, Carroll is an accountant, so he speaks a CPA’s language. In a brief interview after his DigitalNow keynote, he tied his thoughts directly to the CPA profession. Here’s what he had to say.

DowChemicalI was recently interviewed by IN Magazine, the global publication of Dow’s Packaging Division, for why thoughts on trends that will impact the packaging industry, and hence, throughout the consumer and packaged goods sector.


Four trends driving change towards 2025 are…….

  • Impact of technology, especially digital
  • The next workforce generation has a fundamentally different outlook
  • Growth potential across many markets thanks to economic volatility
  • Quicker prototyping, designing and testing to reduce time to market


10 years is a long time with the potential for many changes – how do you see the current “norm” changing over time?

We are witnessing massive transformations across every single market, industry and profession. The rate of change is accelerating dramatically compared to past decades, a trend we expect to
see continue.

The impact of technology and the acceleration of science are having a huge impact on this. In addition, our collaborative global community is enabling ever-faster discovery and implementation of new ideas. The power of the next generation shouldn’t be underestimated – as a generation they are highly skilled at seeing and implementing new ways of doing things – in addition to the emergence of new industry competitors.

One of the biggest drivers impacting many industries will come from a shift in control, with Silicon Valley driving the pace of change and innovation more than ever. Industry now has no choice but to act and innovate at the same speed to stay ahead of the game.

Consequently, tomorrow’s world is going to be an entirely di erent place. In fact, I think it’s fair to say, it will be completely transformed. We’re on the edge of absolutely massive change!

Below, Carroll outlines what he sees as top trends.

Africa will have ceased to be a rural continent 

By 2025, the majority of the world’s population will live in less than 30 mega-cities demonstrating a continued trend towards global urbanization, driven in part by greater economic security and an ever increasing global middle class.

There are great opportunities for the development of business involving “mega-city infrastructure support services”, for example – transport, water, and energy “micro-grids”. As you can imagine, the support system for a city of 20-40 million people is vastly di erent to that of a small city.

It’s great to see so many innovators out there already looking for viable solutions, for example, how do we generate energy for such cities? We can see technology emerging to facilitate this switch, just two examples being glass buildings generating solar energy and vertical farming – if we can build skyscrapers for people why can’t we do this for our food supply?

Much of the world will have “gone up”

Because of mass urbanization we are running out of space leaving two solutions: dig down or build up. Towering buildings incorporating innovations in construction will be one of the business growth stories in the years leading up to 2025.

Many pioneering thinkers are now looking at how we can best use the limited space we have left. For example, we are now able to build structures out of wood that are eight to 10 stories high because of our deeper understanding of science, methodologies and architecture. This is providing urban areas with lots of new potential. This innovative “skyscraper” technology is going to be a big trend leading into 2025, with new jobs emerging as a result (for example, vertical farming infrastructure managers).

A dichotomy of life-expectancy will be the new normal

Rapid advancements in medical science in the western hemisphere, the impact of lifestyle changes, and a new “super-health” diet will lead to the first human living to 140. Yet, at the same time, society could be grappling with a decline in life expectancy in Asia, Africa and the Middle East as sectors of the population develop the same lifestyle diseases as North America and Europe.

We are going to see big changes in the pharmaceutical industry, both in packaging and the product. Accessible and intelligent packaging – with packaging becoming part of the product – will see a big tech-up. In theory, a pill will have the power to transmit information from the body
to the package and to the doctor. Tiny bio-sensors will be embedded in all kinds of packaging. Packaging will also help verify counterfeits and we will be increasingly able to track our wellness through mobile devices and bio- connected medical devices, including small chips under the skin that feed critical data back.

Sub-Saharan Africa will have emerged as the world’s new China 

This area holds a wealth of opportunities, for example, in infrastructure development. We have seen this happen previously in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) as they transitioned into middle class. Consequently, it now costs substantially more to produce goods in these countries compared to 10-20 years ago and companies are starting to explore where the next big business opportunities exist. Naturally they are being drawn to these new regions which have huge unlocked potential – not forgetting, we will see almost a billion new consumers entering the global market in the next decade!

We are also seeing an increase of “in-sourcing” with companies taking production and bringing it back locally as it is no longer cost effective to manufacture overseas.

Read the full PDF here, including insight on packaging issues.


I was recently interviewed by the folks at the Speciality Foods Association, for my thoughts on what is happening in their sector.

How a Futurist Deciphers Trends
By Brandon Fox, January 2016


Fads have a shorter lifespan, trends have a shorter lifespan, consumers have a shorter attention span.

Author, speaker, and consultant Jim Carroll offers global trend analysis and strategies for change to companies as varied as Johnson & Johnson, the Walt Disney Corporation, and Yum! Brands. Here, he discusses why trends are more complicated than “what’s hot or what’s not,” the lightning speed of consumer influencers, and why experimentation is necessary to build shopper relationships.


Boy, where do we start? I take a different approach—it’s not “what’s hot or what’s not,” but how are things changing and how quickly can specialty food come to market

People are influenced faster than say, five or 10 years ago—or even a year ago—and a lot of that has to do with social networks, but also with just the way new concepts and new ideas are put in front of them.

I spoke to a group of beverage executives a couple of years ago about what was happening with food and alcohol. I told them to think about “Mad Men.” All of sudden, 1960s retro drinks were all the rage. It happened quickly because people are influenced in new and different ways. It’s not, “what are the new taste sensations?” but “where are those new taste sensations coming from?”

[As for what’s emerging now,] consider how hummus grew as a trend—and then consider what comes next: more quinoa, buckwheat, and rice [products] as people seek similar healthy snack and meal options. And there are fascinating new developments like fruit sushi, chocolate-flavored soda, and even bacon-flavored vodka.”


One example I use all the time is bacon. I traced it back from an article that appeared in the Associated Press newswire in March 2011. The article was called “How Bacon Sizzled and People Got Sweet on Cupcakes.” [The author] followed the trend back to a wine distributor in Southern California who, about six years ago, paired a Syrah with peppered bacon at a tasting. That somehow got out onto the blogs of the time and all of a sudden, boom! Bacon became hot. Everyone talks about Facebook and Twitter all the time, but it’s a new kind of connectivity in terms of how we eat and drink and how we share and talk about it.


Huge impact. It used to take a new taste trend from a high-end restaurant five years [to filter down] and now it takes six months or three months or less because there is so much exposure. And another thing is food trucks. People can’t meet the high capital cost of a new restaurant, so they roll out a truck. They’re everywhere. You have people with obvious skills. They can now do what they want and get in front of an audience. And with television shows like the Cooking Channel’s “Eat Street,” it’s a supernova that’s moving faster than ever before.


Too fast or too slow? When the low-fat and low-carb trends came along, by the time [companies] got a product to market, the trend had come and gone. One fascinating experience was when I was doing a talk for Reader’s Digest’s food and entertainment magazines on the same day Lehman Brothers went down and the stock market crashed. The focus of the conference quickly became the economic downturn, comfort food, and the fact that people would focus on more grocery shopping and less time in restaurants. That was the day that Campbell’s Soup was the only stock that went up in value. The buzz around the room was that we, as a food industry, are not very fast or agile to respond to these fast-paced trends.


I still worry. How far has the industry come along? Well, a little bit. To a large degree, many consumer food companies still have not made much progress. Fads have a shorter lifespan, trends have a shorter lifespan, consumers have a shorter attention span. While you might have had longevity of three to six to 12 months with a particular type of food, is that collapsing now? We’re no longer in a world in which we can sit back and have a one-year planning cycle.


Think big, start small, scale fast. If you think big and look five years out—you’re, say, an olive oil company—the bottle is going to be intelligent. It’s probably going to have a chip built into it. You’ll 
probably have some type of relationship, either direct or indirect, with the consumer. That’s a given.


The consumer might have liked the company on Facebook—maybe there was a very effective ad on Facebook and they have agreed to share their information. That establishes the relationship. When [the consumer] walks into the store, their mobile device has that 
relationship embedded in it and the product with the active 
packaging chip in it recognizes that they’re near and starts running a commercial on an LED screen while they’re walking into the store. It might say something such as, “You’ve liked this before, so here’s a coupon that we’ll zip to your mobile device.”

That kind of freaks me out.

I’m 56 and that kind of freaks me out, too. My son—he’s 20—is in a different world. He views contractual relationships in a very 
different way. Five years, 10 years from now, he’s going to have more of a budget for spending, and will he accept that idea of zipping a coupon to him? I think he will.

There’s a stat I dragged out years ago—the average consumer scans 12 feet of shelf space per second. Think about that. You have very little time to grab their attention, so you’ve got to experiment quickly with new ways of putting [your product] in front of them.

Brandon Fox is the food and drink editor of Style Weekly in Richmond, Virginia. Her work has also appeared in The Local Palate and the Washington Post.

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