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A report from T. Rowe Price on my recent keynote for the 2011 Investment Symposium follows, where I was one of three keynote speakers (the other two being Colin Powell and Charlie Cook). You can find some blog links to each of the three key themes in the article at the end of the article below.

""We thought Jim was amazing - just the positive message we wanted to leave folks with"

It was a fabulous event, and a great opportunity to get a pretty impressive audience — investment managers for a broad range of investment managers for a broad range of Fortune 1000 organizations, pension funds and government agencies.


Futurist Jim Carroll, one of the world’s leading experts in global trends and innovation, described how advances in technology and human innovation will combine to create positive change in the future. He explained how businesses can be held back by what he calls “aggressive indecision”— postponing action because they are constantly waiting for economic conditions to improve. Carroll noted that as the pace of change accelerates, the companies that prosper will be those that can adapt and innovate most quickly.

Key Points

  • Long-term trends that will lead us into the future. Silicon Valley is redefining everything—industries that get involved with Silicon Valley will be brought up to their speed. One powerful trend is pervasive interconnectivity—the fact that electronic devices are connected and can communicate with each other—as a driving force. For example, a staid industry such as air conditioning and heating benefits when people can control their entire home environment remotely through a cell phone. On the health care front, sensors can monitor the activities of seniors and report any changes in behavior, allowing people to live independently longer. On a more dramatic note, he believes advances in exploring the human genome will change medicine’s focus from reactively treating disease to proactively searching for potential health problems before they occur.
  • The paradox of pessimism and reality. While many business people are pessimistic about the future and believe economic recovery is at least two years away, technological advances are creating the potential for greater productivity and efficiency. For example, the auto industry now has the flexibility to produce in response to demand instead of building huge inventories that may go unsold. Products can also be brought to market much faster to take advantage of changes in consumer tastes.
  • The next generation. The next generation has grown up with rapid advances in technology, so they are at home with change. This familiarity means young people will greatly increase the rate of innovation as they enter the workforce. This group is not afraid to take independent action—50% believe self employment offers more job security than working for a company. The next generation will receive $12 billion to $18 billion in intergenerational wealth transfers in the next 12 years alone, which could help fund their ambition.

  • Major 10 year trend: The future of every industry to be controlled by Silicon Valley Innovation  
  • The new face of manufacturing: agility, insight and execution 
  • Creativity and the new workforce 


2009EduReport.jpgEarlier this year, I was invited to keynote a conference of leading US higher educators and academics at the College Board Colloquium. This is one of the leading educational conferences of the year.

The group has issued their report from the conference, and there is some pretty good coverage of the essence of my talk. Here’s a key quote:

The future of higher education is huge.” Carroll shared the following observation from Microsoft: “Probably about 50 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product will be taken up by training and knowledge activities within the decade.” Carroll then spoke about what is happening with “the knowledge economy.” The reality is, he said, that “American workers today, whether in a trade or profession, are in a situation in which the knowledge they have is continuously going out of date and needs to be continuously replenished. What is there to be concerned about when we have such massive growth potential?

In a nutshell, my perspective on the future of education (as found within the report) is that we need to rethink the context of “how we teach” in light of the realities that:

  • knowledge is growing exponentially’
  • the foundation of knowledge generation has forever changed
  • the velocity of knowledge is accelerating
  • exponential growth of knowledge leads to massive career specialization
    we are in the midst of a fundamental structural organizational and career change
  • By 2020 or sooner, it will be all about “just-in-time knowledge.”

What is this leading to?

  • rapid knowledge obsolescence
  • rapid knowledge emergence
  • disappearance of existing careers
  • rapid emergence of new careers
  • an ongoing need for continuous knowledge replenishment
  • the migration of knowledge generation further away from academia
  • a massively increased challenge from overseas knowledge generation
  • the fast emergence of new micro-careers
  • an economy that succeeds through knowledge deployment
  • a fundamental transformation in the role of educational institutions

In other words: much of the education structure that we have in place today doesn’t match the reality of what we really need to do, given the rapid change occurring in the fundamentals of knowledge.


  • Read Jim’s comments at the from 2009 College Board Colloquium by Jim Carroll
  • Read the entire reportNew Visions, New Voices for the 21st Century from 2009 College Board Colloquium by Jim Carroll
Avoiding the idea recession!
February 20th, 2009

iStock_000003897214XSmall.jpgCognos has run an article I’ve writen about the importance of not sliding into an “idea recession.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Given the economic challenges that swirl around us and the rapidity with which the events of the fall of 2008 unfolded, a unique and challenging mindset seemed to quickly envelope many organizations: corporate idea factories were turned off, and innovation paralysis settled in.

The result is that we’re not just in an economic recession – we’re entering another idea recession, similar to what occurred with the last downturn starting in 2001.

Yet in allowing this to happen, many organizations are missing the fact that an economic downturn provides a great opportunity for innovation. After all, companies like Burger King, Microsoft, CNN and FedEx all started up during a recession.

As events continue to unfold and cycnism settles in like a wet blanket, ask yourself this: are you going to focus on the future and opportunities for growth, or are you going to sink yourself by continuing to be immersed in the relentless negativity of current news coverage?
Here’s another key quote from the article:

The greatest mistake that any organization can make right now is to avoid action. Inertia – real or implied – establishes a culture of inaction, and that can lead organizations down another slippery slope.

Challenge yourself on that front. Think GROWTH!


  • Read the article: Rethinking innovation: Is now the time to forge ahead?
  • Innovation and the “Seven Stages of Economic Grief?”

2008Colleges.jpgI’m thrilled to learn that I’ve been selected as the opening day speaker for the College Board — and specifically, a chance to speak with some of the leading minds in the university and college scene in the US on the issue of the future of education.

The audience for this invitation only event, to be held in January 2009, includes the Chancellors, Presidents, and senior admission officers for the largest colleges and universities in the US, including Duke, Cambridge, Harvard, Vanderbilt and the University of Texas, among others.

The group gets together annually to examine the challenges and opportunities facing higher education. This year, they determined that it was a good time to take a good, hard look at the education trends that will impact them in the future.

That’s where I come in. My session description, recently written, addresses these issues:

The “velocity” of knowledge is leading us to a world of “just-in-time knowledge”; the result being the reality that the relationship between educational institutions and students is set to change; primarily, from a period of short term, concentrated knowledge delivery, to one more related to the lifelong, ongoing replenishment and rejuvenation of knowledge.

The challenge for institutions of higher learning is how to change their ingrained thinking, behavior, structure –and outcomes — to adapt to this reality.

What’s driving the future of education? At a fundamental level, ever more rapid scientific discovery; knowledge fragmentation due to rapid knowledge growth; massive skills specialization and ever more narrow career niches. Knowledge and careers are also being impacted by rapidly changing business models; increased volatility in industry; shortened careers (imagine 18-month micro careers); rapid emergence of new industries; more rapid knowledge obsolescence; and the rapid emergence of new careers.

In the last fifteen years, I’ve spoken to numerous groups on global education trends. Given that what we do in this area makes or breaks the future success of a nation, it’s a critically important issue — and I am honored that I will be able to share my thoughts with such a senior group of leaders.

futurecareers-sm.jpgWhether I’ve got an audience of 3,000 people in Vegas, or a small CEO-level meeting of 20 people, I always open with the same observation.

It’s from an Australian study which concluded that 65% of the kids in pre-school today will work in jobs or careers that do not yet exist.

I then challenge people to think through the global trends at work which are making such a bold statement into a reality. And I often walk through the types of new careers that are emerging in every industry to emphasize the point.

Here’s a video where I am opening the WorldSkills International Competition in Brazil, talking about this theme!

So what are a few of these new professions? There are dozens: here’s five to start your day thinking about:

  • knowledge farmers: exponential knowledge growth, in part driven by social networking, is leading to information overload everywhere. KF’s are the uber-editors who immerse themselves in global data-feeds, extracting relevant knowledge and insight from data-torrents. They’re the new editors, and its their ability to apply their insight to knowledge-rivers that will place them in high demand.
  • location intelligence professionals: see my earlier post on this. I’ve been talking about this for years. These are the folks who are linking GoogleMap type data to existing business process and services, and who are building entire new global infrastructure on spatial information. This one is going to be huge!
  • mash managers: as innovation moves from the core to the masses, creative insight is emerging from those who learn how to take multiple new ideas, and input them into the innovation process. These people synthesize ideas from multiple sources, study markets, interpret insight, and decide how to re-evolve a product, service, brand, marketing campaign, or just about anything else. Their focus in “constant innovation,” and it’s their idea-immersive environment that drives them forward.
  • tactical controllers: in this wildly information-chaotic world, some people are busy searching for the next big thing. A new and very real profession emerges with those who step beyond the “minutiae-of-the-moment” and instead focus on providing tactical, strategic guidance on what-to-do-in-the-next-moments … they are the PR expert who knows how to steer the company through a global viral idea meltdown; the brand expert who knows how to re-energize a brand next week; the individual who studies what the global knowledge farmers are revealing, and who understands what to do next as a result.
  • analytical architects: the world’s big problems are being solved by those who are learning to throw sophisticated solutions at complex problems. These are the folks who will architect the smart-highway infrastructure; load-balanced two-way energy grids; just-next-week manufacturing processes for the era of the customization of one. They’ve combined an education in combinatory theory with big server farms to generate the new smart-infrastructure that is set to envelop us.

That’s a starting point. See your own new careers emerging? Let me know!

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