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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 


Anyone who follows this blog knows that for quite some time, I’ve been putting out a message through a variety of meeting, event, and association publications, that many asssociations really need to pick up the pace in ensuring that they stay relevant to their membership base.

NPR just ran an article, “Time for Associations to Trade in Their Past?“, which covers the issue and quoted some of my observations from a recent article on this issue.

Futurist Jim Carroll, author of Ready, Set, Done: How to Innovate When Faster is the New Fast, says, “Many associations came together to represent a particular profession, area of interest or sport, or for some other reason. Yet that very reason is changing at a furious pace.”

In 2010 Carroll wrote that many of the trade groups “remain stuck in a rut of complacency. They deliver the same old program. They focus on the same old issues, generate the same old knowledge, plan the same old conference, and have their agenda managed by the same old membership has-beens.

“Meanwhile, they bemoan the fact that membership is declining; that the Millennials seem to have little time or inclination to join them; and that the world is just becoming, well, too complex to deal with.

“So they form a committee, hire a consultant, study the issue, and lull themselves into a false sense of future-security.

“By doing so, they are almost guaranteeing themselves a march into oblivion.” If an association “doesn’t evolve at the same pace,” Carroll says today, “or doesn’t keep up, or doesn’t define the future, it risks becoming obsolete.”

One solution: An association must be in the business of providing “just-in-time knowledge” to its members, Carroll says. He defines it as “the right knowledge at the right time for the right purpose for the right strategy, all revolving around the fact that the knowledge is instant, fast and transitory.”

I certainly spend time with a lot of associations; probably half of the keynotes I do are to open or close major association events. I certainly see many who are making great progress in ensuring that they evolve with the times; however, I also see many that aren’t, and I worry about their future.

It’s a theme I’ve covered liberally here, and you can go through my Association Trends page

Here’s an article from my September 2010 CAMagazine column:

Jim Carroll was the opening keynote for the 2010 Consumer Electronic Association CEO Summit, speaking to the theme of "Brand Innovation At the Speed of Twitter: How to Innovate in the Era of Hyperconnectivity." Click the image for more on this keynote topic.

It’s no secret that social networks are booming. But let’s put into perspective how quickly they are growing. It took radio 38 years to hit 50 million users. Television took 13 years, the Internet four years and the iPhone three years. In that context, now consider that Facebook is adding 20 million users a month and Twitter reports more than 300,000 people are signing up every day. These statistics are mind-boggling, even to someone like me who has been online since 1981.

Much of this rapid growth is driven by the younger generation: 50% of the global population is less than 25 — and in North America, 96% of them use Facebook. That’s a pretty astonishing percentage. Social networking is also increasing as people use their mobile devices to continually share their thoughts, access social media content and see what their friends are up to. Software such as Tweetdeck lets people access and filter the flood of information that flows through Twitter, whether it is related to the friends and people they follow or to track information posted about breaking news.

But social networks aren’t just inane thoughts people post to their Facebook and Twitter accounts; it’s the flood of video and pictures that people place online. YouTube reports that some 24 hours of video are uploaded to the service every minute — and when the iPhone was released, YouTube traffic rose by 1,700%.

What is perhaps most significant is that social networks are changing the very nature of how people search for information. At this point, Facebook is used for more searches than Google. And at 600 million queries a day, Twitter is now the largest search engine in the world.

What does it all mean? The key point here is that when people search for information on goods and services, they turn to other people on social networks for advice and guidance more often than they consult producers of the product or service itself. At this point, one out of four online searches for the top 20 global brands end up with user generated content, such as information on blogs, as well as what people post to Twitter and Facebook.

The result is that organizations are having to think about advertising and branding in completely different ways. In the olden days a company could figure out an advertising and marketing strategy, build a campaign and put it out to the public. Today, lots of people are having lots of “conversations” about many topics, including the products and services that they use on a daily basis. They’re placing online both positive and negative insight. And increasingly, when we search for information about a product or service, we’re accessing that insight, in addition to — or sometimes in place of — a company’s carefully crafted message.

That’s why organizations are scrambling to change their approach to marketing and advertising.

Last year, I had the opportunity to speak at the annual Consumer Electronics Association CEO Summit in California. It was a pretty fascinating crowd, with senior executives from a variety of global entertainment and technology companies, as well as major global retailers that sell their products. The rapid pace of change in the online world, particularly with respect to social networks, is coming to influence these markets. It’s been reported, for example, that IBM has combined some of its marketing and PR staff to deal with the impact of social networking. And Pepsi now devotes one-third of its advertising budget to interactive and social media.

The bottom line? Companies must think about how to reach their customers in new and different ways.

“We really don’t understand it all, and so we aren’t going to do anything!”

A few years ago, when I was the closing speaker for the Swiss Innovation Forum in Zurich, I made the observation that many  “organizations fail, because their have failure engrained in their corporate culture!”

Do you?

It can be difficult to try to be innovative in many organizations. Many people with an innovation-oriented mindset often find their enthusiasm stymied when they approach senior management with an initiative. And when their effort is turned back, it can extremely frustrating!

One of the most typical situations today in which we are seeing innovation-dead-in-its-tracks involves the many initiatives that people are pursuing with social networks and/or mobile applications. They know that we live in transformative times in which major changes are occurring with branding, production promotion, customer relationships and just about everything else!

So they set off to build a sophisticated customer-oriented Facebook initiative; they roll out a prototype mobile iPhone app; or they simply get a very basic Twitter feed happening that includes a stream of useful news updates that customers might actually appreciate.

Enthusiastic as heck, they take their project to the senior management team — and its’ rejected, with a litany of reasons as to why the organization just isn’t ready to deal with their new ideas right now.

Any number of reasons can be given; each and every one of them is indicative of the fact that a sort of organizational sclerosis has set in, that clogs up the ability of the organization to deal with anything new. Consider the attitudes that you might encounter if you are trying to get something happening:

  • we don’t understand it, so we don’t think we need to do it
  • it’s too easy to not confront the tough issues
  • we are too busy fighting fires right now!
  • we don’t have the skill sets to deal with this. That’s a weak excuse
  • we haven’t thought about this in our strategic planning process
  • we have really spent a lot of time thinking about what comes next
  • we don’t have a budget for that!
  • what we’ve been doing all along is perfectly ok, isn’t it?
  • there’s so much going on, and we don’t know where it might fit in terms of priorities!
  • it’s too far ahead of its time!

Of course, it’s easy to take this wall of negativity and step back from the project and curb your enthusiasm — and give up! Here’s a clip from my keynote in Zurich in which I talk about the challenges you might face.

But real innovators don’t give up! They work to address the organizational sclerosis that might be in place. What you should do  is confront these excuses head on: there are a variety of different reactions depending on the different excuses that are used:

  • if they don’t understand it, educate them! This might involve building a better business case for the initiative; bringing them up to date on the key business drviers and trends that require some bold steps and dramatic change.
  • help them that those who tackle the tough issues usually win. This is a good time to put into perspective the concept of accelerating change. You need to make sure that the leadership team understands that everything around us today is changing faster than ever before, and will continue to do so: business models, methods of customer interaction, new forms of competition. Business today is all about continually confronting a flood of tough issues; we should be bulking up our capabilities to deal with a world of incessant change.
  • if the organization is always in fire-fighting mode, change the agenda. Maybe they won’t be fighting as as many fires over the long term if they have a clear view of the future, and have a strategy that aligns to that future. So rather than asking, “whoah, where’d that come from,” they’re asking “ok, what comes next, and what do we need to do about it?
  • skill sets don’t give us the capability: That’s a weak excuse: if there are shortfalls in certain key skills to deal with current business realities, deal with it and fix it fast. Ensure that you work with HR to undertake a skills inventory with respect to the area you are trying to innovate within, and work to plug the holes.
  • if it’s not part of the strategic planning process, make it part of it. Every organizations has multiple processes in which issues and activities rise to the top because they’ve been idenitified as fitting within the overall strategic plan. If yours isn’t part of the plan, work to get it there; and again, this comes through education, a clear business case, as well as internal discussions with those who are involved with and shape the strategic planning process.
  • get people thinking about what comes next: Does the organization have a regular series of forward looking leadership meetings? Does it take the time to assess the trends which might impact it on a 1, 2, 5 and 10 year basis? Is it busy looking at we have really spent a lot of time thinking about what comes next
  • we don’t have a budget for that! Following the process of getting the initiative into the strategic plan will help to lead to the next step: getting the project properly approved and funded within the overall budget process for the organization. There’s a process for budgeting — and you have to be intimately involved in and respect the process.
  • make it clear that it isn’t ok to keep doing the same thing that has been done in the past. You’ve got to clearly articulate the new threats the organizations faces and the opportunities that it can pursue as a result of ongoing change.
  • there’s so much going on, and we don’t know where it might fit in terms of priorities! This is a tricky one, because in this type of situation, its pretty well certain that there is some weak management in place who doesn’t know how to set a clear action plan that the team must follow. Best bet is to address the other issues on the list, and work to put in place a clear business and strategic plan for your initiative, with sound business reasoning as to why it needs to be done.
  • it’s too far ahead of its time! Frame the future to the organization this way: do we want to always be fast followers, or do we truly want to be market leaders?

In Zurich,I noted on stage that “we develop corporate cultures that stifle — that kill our ability to try to do anything new…..” That’s what you’ve got to work to avoid — it’s not easy to do — but absolutely necessary!

I’ve got a new Web traffic monitoring tool – Re-Energize — which is quite wonderful! And every day, when I look at how people are finding my site, it’s become quite obvious that a lot of traffic comes in for people looking for information on the sport of ‘zorbing.’

Why  do they find my site? Because back in 2008, I wrote a blog post, “Zorbing – And Why It’s In To Be Out.” I guess the search engines have ranked it highly, particularly for the picture! It gets a LOT of traffic.

What is also interesting is that for years, I’ve been using the story of zorbing on stage for years, often in the context of what I’ve come to call “the big global idea machine.” Here I am on stage with that theme — and a story on zorbing — from an event in Salt Lake City for a few thousand people:

What is another way to think about the big global idea machine? In my overview of “What Do World Class Innovators Do That Others Don’t Do?”, I made the observation that “world class innovators focus on ingesting fast ideas: there are new technologies, business models, customer trends, product developments, scientific advances and countless other things that are increasing the pace of change. Innovators know that if they plug into the global idea machine, they can constantly discover a tremendous number of insights that help them to move forward.”

Innovation isn’t critical only in business — every type of organization must try to do things differently in a world of fast paced change.

Here’s Jim speaking at the 2010 US Navy, Air Force & Marine Child Youth Program Conference. He was asked to challenge the audience — child youth experts and counsellors on military bases worldwide — to think about innovation in the context of the youth and parents that they serve.

Clearly the demands, needs and forms of interaction with both parents and alike are undergoing significant change as the next generation of parents on military bases – lets call them “Mom 3.0” – comes to rely on technology to a greater degree each and every day.

Jim challenges an audience to think about collaboration in the era of the ‘global idea machine’.

In this case, Jim was the opening keynote speaker for the 2010 US Navy/Marine/Air Force Child Youth Program conference  in Dallas, Texas, and was there to challenge them to think differently in terms of service delivery, particularly as parents and children on military bases come to expect different forms of support and interaction.

Could you be so out of touch with your customers that you have no clue how they truly perceive you?

  • Blog post Is your brand from the olden days?

(This post was originally written back in 2010 after I did a talk for the National Australia Bank financial advisory team. Sometimes, trends posts don’t bear up well with longevity. I think this one does)

I spend a lot of time speaking to global financial organizations — some of the world’s largest institutions — helping them understand what they need to do from an innovation perspective to stay ahead of fast paced change.

These talks are often aimed at the idea of “how do we need to transition our advisory services — financial planners, investment advisors, insurance agents and brokers — to keep up with fast paced change?” Here’s a laundry list of some of the strategies that I’ve been talking about:

1. Focus on growth

With so much volatility in the financial sector, it’s all too easy to take your eye off of the opportunity ball. As I noted in my remarks for a recent keynote to a group of senior bankers:

Never before has the need for financial advice for Australians been greater; only 20% of Australians are currently getting professional advice.”

That means there are tremendous opportunities for growth! For many, access to financial advice is still too hard and complicated – that’s why it’s a great time to innovate, in order to build market share!!!!

2. Structure for fast paced change

There are several certainties in the financial sector:

  • more business model change
  • more sophisticated competition
  • continuous business model disruption with new, young upstarts
  • continual shifts in consumer behaviour
  • technology-driven fast change, such as with the impact of mobile technologies

Quite simply, an innovative financial organization concentrates on aligning its structure and capabilities so that it can change quickly

3. Reshape brand messages faster

Clearly there’s a lot of fast-paced change in financial services with the rapid economic pullback, and it’s critical that financial institutions continue to reshape their brand at the pace of rapidly changing consumer perception.

Noted Jim Buchanan, Senior VP of Consumer Marketing at the Bank of America in an article in Advertising Age, October 2009:

Six months ago, we were trying to re-assure the market and consumers that we are safe and secure….now consumers are telling us they’re not worried about those things anymore…..What they are interested in is ‘How can you help me manage my finances?‘”

Innovative organizations ensure that the brand message evolves at the pace of a world in which volatility is the new normal.

4. Adapt to momentum of financial consumer change

Quite simply, the new financial client is online in a big way, and smart financial organizations will evolve their service and support message to these platforms. The numbers are staggering; in the case of my Australian keynote, I emphasized that:

  • 147 million people interact globally on social networks via their mobile phones – we can expect 1 billion within five years!
  • there are 1.6 million Twitter users in Australia – up 1,000% from last year
  • Australian’s now spend 16.1 hours a week on the Internet, compared to 12.9 hours watching TV
  • 25% of that time is spent on Facebook

The impact is clear: as noted by Mondaq Business Briefing in November 2009:

Australians visit social networking sites more often than financial services sites.”

The bottom line for financial and investment advisors is that social networks are an extremely effective tool to keep core clients in the loop; as an outreach tool, they’re fast, effective, unique, quirky, and certainly the story of the day.

Financial advisors have to go where the client is going, and should be thinking about how to become socially-networked oriented advisors.

5. Adjust platforms to this changing behaviour

I continue to emphasize with my global financial clients that the impact of mobile technologies on financial services is absolutely massive. Think about Wizzit, a South African service that is essentially a text message based banking system.

The reality is that the new financial consumer expects to be served on new platforms: as noted by Thomas Kunz, Senior VP at PNC Financial:

Gen-Y doesn’t reconcile checkbooks, and they don’t believe in float. For them, their balance is their balance.”

That’s why PNC has released a “virtual wallet app” available for iPhones. They’re reaching out to this new financial consumer in a big way.

Aggressive change with business platforms provides big opportunity for business model disruption. A key factor here has to do with new client acquisition: what’s happening is the point of origination of the relationship might change as people transition their banking to mobile devices. Opportunity can come from continuing to build the advisor and distribution channel into these new platforms.

And that’s not a threat – that’s a huge opportunity!

6. Leverage off of new peer-to-peer behaviour trends:

The new financial consumer relies more than ever before for advice from their social networks.

Peer-to-peer social driven advice through sites such as TradeKing is coming to the forefront: it’s a service that allows people to share stock tips and research through extended social networks.Does this diminish the role of advisory services — not at all, if you dive in and become a part of the peer-to-peer conversation!

7. Re-orient distribution channels

Here’s another key point: I’ve emphasized to my insurance and other financial clients that the next-generation advisor/broker/agent expects ever more sophisticated technology platforms to help support their role.You’ve got to make sure you are keeping up with their needs. In one survey in the insurance sector, 80% of brokers indicated that the sophistication of the technology platform of the provider would influence who they would choose to do business with.

According to Kevin Murray, EVP and CIO at New York-based AXA Equitable:

The younger generation of financial professional will almost demand online self-service….they will want to text any questions they have in to the service centre or self-service from their mobile device. We’re going to have to be able to provide that capability. It’s how they will operate.”

8. Build your own peer-to-peer collaborative knowledge networks

The new financial advisor is also thinking socially, and is actively looking for peer-to-peer collaborative knowledge.Imagine building a financial advisory team that is collaborative for ideas, shares insight on market wins, constantly leverages insight from new branding campaigns that work in unique ways, and constantly shares great ideas on new methods of converting leads into clients — that’s how this next generation works!

Back to Kevin Murray:

“They will also want an online collaboration tool to …find answers concerning product or questions from their customers. The X and Y generations are going to demand a different way of selling and servicing their customers.”

What’s it really all about? Freeing up their time to build opportunity, make sales, close deals.

9. Reduce churn through electronic relationships

Hsomething else to think about according to Chief Marketer (October 2009),

The average brand saw one third of highly loyal consumers in 2007 completely defect to another brand in 2008“.

People are far less loyal, and far more likely to jump ship at the drop of a hat. That’s why continuous innovation in terms of the relationship is critical — and that’s maybe why continually transitioning to new technology platforms such as an iPhone app might
reduce that churn

10. Better, more focused niche marketing

We’re in the new era of analytics and analysis, which provides new opportunities for advisors to reach out to markets previously unattainable. As noted by Money Management Executive in October 2009:

Financial advisers generally prefer to manage a small number of high-net-worth clients rather than a large number of small accounts, but recent advances in automation technology could change this dynamic.”

11. Innovate hard with the next generation

One of the biggest trends going forward is that right now, we are witnessing the early stages of a massive transition of wealth from one generation to another. The numbers are staggering: we’ll see $12 to $18 trillion in intergenerational wealth transfer In the next 12 years (US GDP is $12 trillion); and by 2053, some $130 trillion will have moved from one generation to another. That’s a lot of money sloshing around — and much of it is going to this new, tech-savvy financial consumer.

12. At the same time, rethink importance of boomer market

It’s easy with all of these points to think that new markets will come from new, uber-hip young people and hot new technologies.

But don’t stop with innovating with that market — also realize that there continues to be huge growth potential with the boomer market. In Australia, baby boomers will control 51% of the nations wealth.

Put that in the context of the reality that there is a huge adoption by Boomers of Facebook. They continue to more aggressively integrate technology into their lives; they’re busy researching health care, insurance, retirement planning and investment advice.

Online makes more sense than ever before — get your advisors there!

13. Evolve the approach

Insurance and financial services are products that are always sold based on fear — they aren’t bought. This reality doesn’t go away because of new technologies. What does change is that technology is a powerful enabler that frees advisors from having to focus on the mundane, routine, time wasting stuff, in order to focus on providing the advice & guidance that advisors can provide. Focus on the core role!1

14. Enact change

Many advisors will be in comfortable, established routines. Change is not easy. That’s why organizations in the financial sector that are trying to be innovative need to help existing advisors focus on the opportunity and the benefits that come with rapid change, rather than being fearful of the change that technology is bringing to the industry.

Bottom line? As I summed up in my talk — “Innovative organizations make bold leaps, in order to keep up — and stay ahead — of a faster future.”

hugh-hefner-jung.jpg>by Jim Carroll, CAMagazine, August 2009

When you travel like I do, you spend a lot of time reading. One ofthe recent books on my list provides a fascinating look back at the 1950s and ’60s: Mr. Playboy: Hugh Hefner and the American Dream. (No, I didn’t buy it for the pictures, because there are very few.)

I was struck by one paragraph about how Hef worked very hard in the early years to get advertisers on side. He was initially met with resistance, for obvious reasons, but he persisted and eventually succeeded at signing up some of the “leading brands of the time.”

Just what were those brands? Crosswinds House beach towels, Scintella Satin BedSheets, the Lektrostat Record Cleaning Kit, Mansfield Holiday II 8-mm cameras, Leslie Record Racks, Electro-Voice Musicaster loudspeakers, the Ronson Electric Shaver, Max Factor crew-cut hair dressing and the Rogers “Rocket Flame” cigarette lighter. And let’s not forget Merrin Gold Jewelry and the Batch Book, “a new and modern address book that lets you list every pertinent detail — the surest way to avoid social errors.”

Those brands aren’t exactly household names today; in fact, very few of them still exist. Some disappeared due to changing societal norms, others due to technological change. Some probably just ran out of steam.

Brands disappear for a variety of reasons: think Enron, E.F. Hutton and Woolco. Brands can also stick around and become tarnished, losing respect in the eyes of the customer because of a series of missteps. My own client list includes organizations such as Chrysler, Motorola and the US Army Corps of Engineers — brands that for a variety of reasons have lost respect in the marketplace.

Is your brand at risk? That’s a key question, because corporate brands today are no longer guaranteed longevity in the marketplace. They can disappear because of obsolescence, competition and business model change, or simply because, as we have seen of late, failure and error.

Brands now also have to contend with the potentially lethal challenge of social networks. Pizza chain Dominoes quickly discovered how much harm social network “terrorism” can do when employees posted a damaging video on YouTube in which they were less than reverent with customers’ food.

It is isn’t just the risk of events like this that can threaten a brand. People are extremely busy chatting online — on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere– about the brands that they like, and the ones they dislike.
Consider the effort one customer put into a self-created commercial for US based grocery store Trader Joe’s.

All of a sudden, organizations are discovering a reality that I’ve been pointing out for years: a brand is no longer what you say it is — it’s what they say it is.

Think about your brand, whether you are in public practice, consulting or the corporate sector. Does your brand still resonate? I often talk to my clients about the need for constant brand innovation and challenge them days.” Better yet, I ask them if their brand looks tired because it is tired.

Many people don’t spend much time thinking about branding, but it is becoming more important considering how quickly perceptions can change. Here’s how you should challenge your thinking.

  • Recognize that brand longevity is a critical issue.
  • Ensure that everyone in the organization is relentlessly focused on the currency of the brand.
  • Make sure that continuous brand innovation is part of your corporate mantra.
  • Be incessantly focused on the innovations that are most likely to impact your brand.


  • Video: The impact of social networking on brands
  • How a customer sees Trader Joe’s
  • Blog post: Is your brand from the olden days?

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