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I have been providing my insight, and have been speaking to organizations about the future, for more than 25 years.

Over the years, I have come to realize 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.

I used to worry and obsess over this challenge, often leaving a stage wondering why I wasn’t able to get through to everyone. Then years ago, I realized that no matter what I do, there will always be a core group who prefer the status quo. They fall prey to the sentiment of Ogden Nash: “progress is great, but its gone on way too long.”

This issue and challenge has become more pronounced and visible in the last year. And a recent event demonstrates to me that leaders today must work harder to deal with, manage and confront the internal conflict that exists over how to deal with the fast future.

Since I’m on a Jetsons’ theme this year with many of keynotes (Keynote: The Jetsons Have Arrived 50 Years Early: What are YOU Going to Do About it?) , I thought that the image below beset captures the nature of challenge!

Leaders today must steer their organization 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!

I’m having quite a bit of fun watching the movie in which the Jetsons meet the Flintstones. Consider what is happening with the acceleration of the automotive industry: self-driving cars, intelligent highways, prognostic self-diagnosing vehicles. The industry will be barely recognizable in 10 years! Cars tomorrow will be barely recognizable compared to what we drive today.

And yet, there remain folks who just refuse to participate in the inevitability of the future, and that can be a significant leadership, strategic challenge.

The issue became crystal clear to me with a recent keynote. Anyone familiar with my keynotes knows that I do a variety of text message polls while on stage, whether in front of a few thousand in Vegas or with a small executive group of 15 or 20. It’s a fun, interactive way to get insight from those I am working with.

I started out with my opening poll, after I spoke briefly about the fast trends that envelop our world. The response is typical : most people today feel that the world is moving way too fast for them! Fair enough — the pace of change is overwhelming.

My next question, before I dove into the issues of business model disruption and innovation? A question asking them if they thought their industry would see much change.

Not at all, indicated 40%! In 10 years, things would be the same as they would today. To be honest, this left me kind of stunned. It’s not the typical response.


In my wrap up, I asked the audience what barriers might exist in the way of dealing with change? And the answers here were untypical of the many hundreds of such polls I’ve done, with a majority indicating a belief that it isn’t necessary to do anything!

What are we left with? An organization that feels overwhelmed by change; in which almost half this change won’t impact them, and that they didn’t really need to do anhyting to deal with it.

In other words, the future can be safely ignored.

I started using the Jetsons-Meets-the-Flintstones cartoon as a joke; a bit of ill-conceived humour on some recent political events. But it’s not a joke, and 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?



It’s an interesting time for many organizations. There is a wave of business model disruption, new competition, fast paced change, a massive transition in skills and knowledge — not to mention the impact of a massive wave of technology.

That’s often the context for the keynotes that I do;  many times over the last 15 years, I’ve been invited in to challenge a global leadership team to how to deal with a fast paced future. Innovation is a key theme, and my job is the wake people up to the trends that will change their industry, careers, and opportunities.

I’ll always work several text message polls into my talks (through PollEverywhere.com) to gauge the mindset of those in the room.

And in the last 18 months, I’ve woven into most of my talks, three key questions:

  • do you believe you are capable of dealing with a fast future?
  • do you think your business model will survive the next ten years?
  • are you prepared to innovate now, to deal with this reality?

I’ve come to this conclusion. Every single audience group has answered “No.” “No”. “No.”

In other words: we’re not ready for a lot of change; we know this change will likely have a devastating impact; but we’re just going to wait a while before we do anything about it!

The thinking, to me, is truly mind-boggling.

Case in point: here’s a recent poll with one recent global leadership meeting that I was asked to open.

The first question: are you ready to deal with a fast future?


Well, not really

Next question: do you think your business model will survive?

Definitely not.


Last question: What are you going to do about it?

Um, we will just wait it out.

I’ve tried this scenario with multiple groups through the last 18 months, and there is a deadly commonality to it.

It’s kind of scary, because it implies to me that a lot of organizations, associations, professions and industries are sleep walking into the future.

We live in fascinating times!


As I wrote in one of my columns last year (“Smartphones are changing everything,” August 2011), when I give a keynote I like to use a service called Poll Everywhere — the same technology at the heart of the American Idol voting process. I put a poll on the front screen and audience members can reply by text or online with their smartphones, laptops or tablets. The results start to appear on the screen instantly — it’s a very powerful tool.

American manufacturing executives have proven to the most optimistic group of audiences I have been dealing with through the last two years.

There’s one question I pose at the start of every talk: “when do you think we will see an economic recovery?” After running more than 200 polls over four years based on this question, I can tell you the majority of North Americans and Europeans I’ve encountered think the economic recovery is at least six months to two years away, or more than two years away. Few offer up the answer “It’s happening right now.” (And of course, I always have a few who go for the option, “Run for the hills! It’s all over!” I figure they might have been up late at the bar the night before.)

So the majority of my audiences — which represent virtually every type of industry and region from the heartland of the US to major global cities — are still skeptical about the future and economic recovery.

Except for one distinct group: North American manufacturers.

In the past year I’ve addressed 1,000 manufactures at major conferences in Orlando and Las Vegas, and at both events an overwhelming 70% indicated the recovery is happening now. At a February 2011 event in Ohio, 200 executives in the sector — one of the hardest hit during the downturn — indicated a similar positive outlook. As did executives at advanced robotics manufacturer Genesis Systems in Davenport, Iowa, where I spoke in April.

What’s driving this optimism? Manufacturers have been innovating like mad for the past decade, and are more likely than any other sector to bring the North American economy roaring back. We’ve seen them focus on agility-based manufacturing, which allows them to change their product faster so they can deal with a higher rate of change at the consumer level. They’ve completely automated the design process with powerful tools such as AutoCAD (which now even runs on an iPad) to such a degree that they’ve mastered the skills of rapid concept generation, rapid concept development and rapid prototyping. They’ve become experts at mass customization and rapid time to market. Not to mention learning to win the battle against offshore competition by mastering the one key advantage they have: time.

The sophistication of the machinery North American manufacturers use places them ahead of the pack. As one executive told me, “The education level of our workforce has increased so much — the machinists in this industry do trigonometry in their heads.”

That’s why a comment in the San Francisco Herald in July 2009 was so bang on: “We don’t have to give up on manufacturing — it will be a different type of manufacturing.”

That’s what’s happening now. There’s also a lot of experimentation with new manufacturing business models. One of the most fascinating involves micro-factories, where the average Joe can design a product and have it built to spec.

Take a look at Ponoko for some fascinating insight on the future of manufacturing, where the average Joe can design a product and have it built to spec. And then think about the rapidly emerging concept of 3D printing, 3D printers and the inevitable shift to “additive manufacturing” (laying down additional quantities of material to create a product) from “subtractive manufacturing” (based on cutting, drilling and bashing metal) which has been used for more than 100 years

Who’d a thunk it? While most people are still skeptical about the pace of the future, it’s the manufacturing folks who are most positive of all.

One thing I love to do when I’m working with an audience is to build a totally interactive keynote with them.

Jim Carroll has set the conference world on fire with his live, interactive text message / mobile phone polling from the stage.

It doesn’t matter if I’ve got 40 people in the room and I do some simple Q&A, or if I’ve got 2,000 in a cavernous Las Vegas conference hall.

In the latter case, I do a series of live text message polls – people use their cell phones and other mobile devices to give me a sense as to what they are thinking about the issues I’ve built into my talk.

Manufacturing Engineering Magazine just ran an article commenting on the live text message poll that I did during my keynote at the IMX 2011 – Interactive Manufacturing Exchange Conference – in Las Vegas last month.

This type of interaction matters — it helps me to shape my comments and the direction of my remarks to the mindset that exists in the room. Consider the comments, because this is significant:

Up Front – Your Opinion Matters
1 October 2011, Manufacturing Engineering

Anyone who can text can take part in a real-time opinion poll. This was demonstrated at the imX keynote address of Jim Carroll, global futurist and trends and innovation expert (his billing). Carroll asked a basic question about how optimistic/pessimistic the authence was about the future of the economy, Authence response through texting was displayed on monitors in real-time as they “voted” with their fingers. The audience of manufacturers, their suppliers, and technologists who shape the future of manufacturing was more optimistic about the future than the headlines in any of our major media would lead one to believe they would be.

It goes without saying that that same manufacturing authence and our readers would have the best opinions about how to ensure that public policy- too often heid hostage by politicians- could best serve the interests of manufacturing. Policy should support and not hinder manufacturers in the successful use of all the resources available to them.

There’s a key issue that I’ve observed with manufacturing audiences through this type of live interaction that is quite worth mentioning — and that is that North American manufacturing executives tend to be far more optimistic about the state of the economic recovery then any other industry group I deal with.

This, despite the drumbeat of news negativity that continues around the sector. I asked the audience about this issue — whether the reality they saw matched what they saw in the media. The response was pretty overwhelming:

And there’s the paradox: everyone is convinced that manufacturing in America is dead – except for those who actually work within the sector.

I’ve never encountered a sector with such a degree of optimism about the future. And believe me, I deal with virtually every type of industry out there, and have been doing this type of live interactive polling on stage for over four years. I ask every single audience what they think is going on with the global economy. (You can watch me doing this when I opened the PGA – Professional Golfers Association of America — conference last year in Boston.)

At the IMX conference and at a previous keynote for a manufacturing group in Ohio, I was floored by the optimism in the room. I don’t see this mindset to exist anywhere else, to be quite honest, regardless of where I’m speaking in the world

And this mindset in manufacturing is confirmed by the number of forward looking inquiries and bookings that I have with various manufacturing groups and conferences going forward from here.

There’s a variety of attitudes at work, some of which I spoke at IMX in Las Vegas:

  • the industry has seen tremendous opportunities for innovation through advanced technology and changes within the manufacturing process
  • manufacturers are learning quickly how to streamline the process, such that they can focus more on agility and such capabilities as mass customization
  • the rapid emergence of new methodologies such as 3D printing is providing new opportunities for transformation in process
  • the arrival of the ‘digital natives’ is accelerating the rate of adoption of new ways of doing things

What it is really leading to is a fascinating new trend that I think is just bubbling below the surface, but that I suspect will be mainstream within the year — “Build America.”

There’s a realization and a push within the manufacturing sector that given this new mindset and the capabilities that emerged, with the emergence of challenges within the global supply chain (i.e. Japan and the tsunami), the impact of increasing Asian wage inflation (the Chinese cost advantage beings to erode); and the eventual arrival of reskilled, retained American workers who can work within the new sophistication of American manufacturing — that the time has come for the sector to grab the reins once again and show the world what can be done with American ingenuity and innovation.

It’s there — I can see it with my audiences — and it’s my projection that there is a real and significant mindset and trend here.

You saw it here first, folks: Build America.

  • Jim Carroll’s “Manufacturing Trends” page  
  • The Future of North American Manufacturing? Brighter Than You Think 
  • Report from the Heartland: Is there life in manufacturing in Ohio? You Bet! 


I just came from giving a keynote for the annual conference of a major customer loyalty organization, with the talk focused on some of key trends impacting the world of retail today.

There’s certainly a lot going on and a lot to think about. Extremely rapid business model change, the emergence of new competitors, ongoing consumer confidence volatility, rapid product turnover and faster product life-cycles.

So what are they really, really worried about? Let’s put in context the people I had in the room — senior VP’s and managers in major retailers representing several billions in revenue in a wide variety of markets, including pharmaceutical, grocery, consumer goods and electronics. Not to mention quite a few bankers, responsible for credit card portfolio’s, loyalty programs and other customer oriented programs and infrastructure.

Given all that, the top of mind issue is — new methods of customer interaction.

Look at the poll results below. The issue stands out far and away as the most important concern of the day!

Hence, my keynote was bang-on. I didn’t touch too much on the social networking phenomena, as this type of crowd has been drowning in social-networking Powerpoints.

My focus was on interactivity, location, and intelligence,, and the extremely rapid emergence of new forms of in-store interaction and product sales uplift. Things like digital signage, in-store electronic promotional displays, iPod based coups. A flood of new stuff and new ideas that promote new ways of

Listen folks, I know I’ve said it here before, but I’ll say it again.

2010 is the year of location, combined with mobility, and it’s happening faster than you think.

I’m pumped about this topic and the reaction, so I’ve rolled this into a new keynote description:

Location is the New Intelligence: Customer Interaction in the Era of Pervasive Mobile

We’re at the leading edge of the merger of three perfect trends: the rapid and massive emergence of a massive mobile infrastructure with increasingly intelligent devices. Pervasive location awareness as a results of GPS and location intelligence/mapping trends in those very same tools. And a consumer mindset that is increasingly open to new forms of interaction. The result is massive business model disruption, absolutely transformative market change, and complete obliteration of old assumptions as to the nature of the customer relationship. Smart, innovative super-heroes know that this is an unprecedented time to jump on the emergence of location as the new intelligence, in order to provide for new ways of product uplift in the retail space, changing the very nature of customer loyalty through new forms of interaction, and enhancing existing one-to-0ne conversations through a more direct, distinct and fascinating new form of location based relationships. Futurist, Trends & Innovation Expert Jim Carroll is setting the retail, marketing and advertising world on fire with his fast paced insight into one of the most important trends to shape the customer-business relationship in the last few decades. Move over social networking — location is the new intelligence!

Read more: Location is the new intelligence

I’m doing a keynote for a leading global loyalty management company on Thursday; I’ll be incorporating several live text message polls into the talk, in order to have a truly interactive experience on the stage — this is something I do quite often.

In advance, I’m running a brief test of the polling service I use. Please participate in this poll to help me ensure I’ve got things scaled correctly.


Simply use your cell phone to send in a text message to 99503, with the text response (i.e. ONEYEAR) in the body of your message (no charge for the poll from me!) or go to http://poll4.com on your Web browser and type in the one word response.

Keep an eye on this blog entry, as the results should update dynamically.

N.B. The chart is small; we’ve contacted tech support to see if we can scale it!

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