The future belongs to those who are fast — Jim Carroll, from the opening to a keynote to an audience of thousands in Las Vegas!
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.
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.
- 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
With all the keynotes I do, I spend a huge amount of time on airplanes — and often end up going through a lot of video. As of late, I’ve seen a number of rock documentaries, and was struck by some of the unique innovation stories in these films. And so I’ve put this list together!
Start with the slide show on the image below: use the right arrow key to advance through the list! (SLIDESHOW)
You can also continue reading the list below.
#10 Woodstock: 3 days of peace, music …and love
Innovation is all about risk, and Woodstock Ventures Inc. was all about risk. Everything went wrong — problems with ticket sales, the decision that the concert would have to be free, last minute problems that forced a change in concert location which drove up costs. They lost a ton of money on the concert — but made it up in spades with the film and album. Which is an innovation model that many would follow years later, with companies giving away printers for free, and making gazillions off the ink they would later sell you!
Key innovation lessons:
- Not every business model is certain: and sometimes, the success you achieve won’t be from what you anticipated
- Stephen Stills on fear: “This is the second time we’ve ever played in front of people, man, we’re scared shitless.” Most innovators are!
#9 The Sex Pistols: The Great Rock & Roll Swindle
Love them or hate them, they were certainly one of the most innovative rock bands of all time. They didn’t respect convention: they tore it up. They didn’t do PR — they redefined PR through their television appearances. They didn’t shy away from controversy — they created it. In a world of massive competition where brands are trying to stand out, maybe there’s a little bit of PR that everyone can learn from the Pistols.
Key innovation lessons:
- In today’s business social networked world, controversy stands out. I better the Pistols would have more Twitter followers than anyone on the Planet. Then again, maybe the social universe would just look at them as a bunch of wankers
#8 Wayne’s World
Ok, so they weren’t a real band, and it’s not really a rock documentary, but it had to go on the list! Did you live the Wayne’s World experience? I did, as a part time roadie for two Kiss concerts during the 70’s. I crack up every time I see the Alice Cooper scene: that was me with the ‘backstage pass.’ Wayne’s World is an innovation inspiration simply because of the enthusiasm and inspiration that these two misfits carry about with them as they pursue their mission. of achieving great success!
Key innovation lessons:
- Goal oriented: “Let me bring you up to speed. My name is Wayne Campbell. I live in Aurora, Illinois, which is a suburb of Chicago — excellent. I’ve had plenty of joe-jobs, nothing I’d call a career. …… OK, so I still live with my parents, which I admit is both bogus and sad. But at least I have an amazing cable access show and I still know how to party! But what I’d really love is to do “Wayne’s World” for a living. It might happen, tsshyeah, and monkeys might fly out of my butt.”
#7 The Clash Live: Revolution Rock
If a band can go from punk to reggae-oriented punk with a touch of Spanish flamenco, it’s certainly a leader in innovation. And Clash excelled as an innovative band because it’s music and lyrics also tied into the rage of the region: “Guns of Brixton” will always be a classic commentary on the mood of Britain during the race-infused riots of 1979. They came to influence everyone from the Beastie Boys to U2 to Green Day. This documentary shows them during their early years, full of energy, drive and innovative attitudes!
Key innovation lessons:
- Each and every transition the band made involved a huge leap in musical style and focus – they were naturals at innovation
- “Their music is an influential now as when it hit the scene some thirty years ago”
#6 Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage
When Rush first appeared on the scenes in the 70’s, they were told by lots of folks that their music — cerebral, deep, and complex — would never appeal to a big audience. They went on to record 2112 and instantly endeared themselves to an audience of hundreds of millions, becoming one of the biggest rock bands of all time.
Key innovation lessons:
- Don’t always listen to the experts:
- There always exists a market for a product that is unique, complex and unlike anything else out there! Product differentiation is a core innovation capability!
#5 Metal: A Headbangers’ Journey
The world today doesn’t consist of one generic, homogenous customer base. Nor does it exist in the world of heavy metal. In this documentary, you catch a fascinating glimpse of the many different genres and sub-genres, each with their own unique style, founding principles (or lack thereof), and unique audience value proposition. A must for those who want to understand how micro-markets are a significant driving force in customer innovation!
Key innovation lessons:
- From the Web site: “Sam Dunn is a lifelong Metalhead and anthropologist. In Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, after years of studying diverse cultures, Sam turns his academic eye a little closer to home and embarks on an epic journey into the heart and soul of heavy metal music.” In other words, when it comes to innovation, research into niche markets still matters!
#4 End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones
The most remarkable thing about this documentary is that the Ramones were clearly leaders at innovation. They defined the unique musical style that defined a generation of music; they defined the look; they defined the attitude. So much so that their style and attitude came to epitomize what it meant to be different! They weren’t afraid to experiment, even during their ill-fated sessions with Phil Spector.
Key innovation lessons:
- being innovative doesn’t necessarily mean huge success: maybe it is more important to influence and change the entire course of history instead. That’s what the Ramones did from a musical genre perspective
- despite setbacks, maybe innovators do get the respect they deserve in the end — which came true for the Ramones when they were inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame
#3 This is Spinal Tap
That’s a massive innovation that few other bands have managed to accomplish (let alone say with a straight face.)
Although a fake documentary, the lessons on innovation are countless. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Always be mixing up the stage performance with dramatic new initiatives. Don’t fear failure, but learn from it. And remember — keeping an innovation partnership together can be one of the most important things you can do.
Key innovation lessons:
- success doesn’t come all at once: it can take a long time. Be relentless in your efforts!
- Key line in the movie: David St. Hubbins: “It’s such a fine line between stupid, and clever.” That’s innovative thinking!
- Motivational moment: Ian Faith (head roadie:)
“For one thing that goes wrong… one… one single thing that goes wrong, a hundred things go right”
#2 Iron Maiden – Flight 666
If the business model isn’t working, change the business model!
That’s what Iron Maiden did — they had their lead singer — a pilot — fly a chartered 757 to stadium shows in 22 countries in 35 days, putting on a tour that might have been logistically impossible in the old business model of rock tours.
Key innovation lessons:
- when your business model changes — get ahead of it and define your own!
- innovation can be all about logistics — you can get out and do things you haven’t done before
- don’t wait for others to fix your “problems” — fix them yourself!
#1 Anvil – The Story of Anvil
Anvil is a Toronto based band that toured with heavy-metal monsters such as Metallica during the 80’s. They never made it big. But they never gave up. This movie is their story — the story of true innovation heroes, who somehow succeeded to find success in the end — even if it more than thirty years!
Key innovation lessons:
- never give up
- be relentless in your focus
- don’t let the down moments get you down
- don’t do it their way – do it your own way
Notice of potential conflict: I was transitting through Toronto airport a few months ago, and saw Anvil at the gate for a Los Angeles flight. Turns out they were on their way to a series of concerts in Australia. I had to go up and get a picture, and told them, “I found your story to be one of the most compelling innovation stories of all time.” That’s where I got the idea for this blog post, and maybe I’m a bit biased in my choice for number 1!
What do you think? What other rock documentaries should be on the list?
Have you been to your local grocery store as of late? Have you seen the StarKist Tuna plastic re-sealable pouch? That little package – a new product innovation if there ever was one – is responsible for almost $200 million in new revenue since it first hit the shelves.
That’s not displaced revenue, but entirely new revenue that didn’t exist before.
It’s a big change – and it took a long time to come about. After all, StarKist sold tuna for 110 years in the same old way – in a tin can. Yet they finally managed to come up with something new, and the results are stunning.
The new tuna pouch is a good segue into what is perhaps one of the most important issues for innovators to deal with – getting people out of their tin-can rut.
How many people do you know who are stuck in a 110-year old rut? Still delivering a tin-can day in, day out, with no desire to change? Quite a few, I would guess. Maybe not for 110 years, but at least for the last few years.
After all, a lot of people have lost their motivation to change – the stock market downturn, the housing market collapse, the Wall Street scandals, a new distrust of government. Such constant negativity and so much failure has meant that many people and organizations have lost their innovative spirit. Who wants to try anything new today?
The result is that many people have lost their drive, their courage to go forward, and their willingness to change. They’re still making tin cans, when new re-sealable pouches could revolutionize who they are and what they do.
That’s why the StarKist story is so important. Here’s an organization that has somehow shaken away the complacency that enveloped it for over a century. It woke up to the opportunity that comes from real innovation. And the fact is, it’s all part of a reawakening that is underway throughout the food industry, in which — the package is the brand.”
Over the last decade, food and packaging companies have come together in a partnership that redefines how new products are developed. Packaging companies, previously restricted to the sidelines, now take a lead role in the development of new product. Food companies, who used to be the only ones responsible for new products, now realize that if they are willing to open up their minds to a new way of doing things, they can see some darned powerful results.
Is your organization stuck in a rut? Is your culture representative of an industry that is still making tin cans? If so, what are you doing to try to wake them up? It’s an important question, and with world that continues to evolve at an ever-increasing pace, one that needs to be addressed.
What’s your tin-can? Think about it.
Clearly the rate of change – whether with business models, product life-cycles, skills and knowledge – is speeding up. With such change, there’s a lot of uncertainty within many industries as to what to do next: a senior executive of one client commented to me from his perspective, “…entities are engaged in survival tactics because they don’t know what to do next …”
Innovation is all about adapting to the future – and if the future is coming at you faster, then you need to innovate faster. Innovation shouldn’t be about trying to survive the future – it should be about thriving.
Here’s what we know to be true about the future:
- It’s incredibly fast: Product life-cycles are collapsing. It’s said that half of what students learn in their freshman year about science and technology is obsolete or revised by their senior year. There are furious rates of new scientific discovery. Time is being compressed.
- It involves a huge adaptability gap: Earlier generations – boomers – have had participated in countless “change management workshops,” reflecting the reality that many of them have long struggled with change. Gen-Connect – today’s 15 and under – will never think of change management issue. They just change.
- It has a huge instantaneity: The average consumer scans 12 feet of shelf space per second. Most news becomes old hat within 36 hours of emerging. We live in the era of the rapid idea-cycle.
- It hits you most when you don’t expect it: Every organization must deal with the reality going forward that “volatility is the new normal”
- It’s being defined by renegades: Increasingly, the future of many an industry is being defined by industry expatriates. When a real innovator can’t innovate within a company, they step outside, form a startup, and spark massive industry change on their own. Before you know, they’ve reinvented you.
- It involves partnership: Old business models involved asking, “what can we do to run our business better?” The new business model is this: “What can we do to run our customers, suppliers and partners business better?”
- It involves intensity: We must learn to run our business at video-game intensity: in fast paced markets, we need fast paced business capabilities.
- It’s bigger than you think: I used to joke about the concept of Google becoming a car company. I don’t think it’s a joke anymore. Complacency is a dangerous thing, particular when every organization is faced with constant, relentless external innovation from unexpected competitors.
- It involves innovation intensity: With rapid change, everyone in an organization must innovate. Thriving in the future has a leadership that involves everyone in innovation. No idea is too dumb, no opportunity is too small.
- It comes from experiential capital: With a fast future, you’ve got to learn and relearn. Corporate equity isn’t just money: it’s the cumulative experience and knowledge of the team.
The future is going to hit you whether you like it or not; it’s your approach to it, and how you innovate with it, that defines your future success.
Back in May 2007, I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the 4th World Conference on Quality and Improvement on behalf of the American Society for Quality; I spoke to an audience of about 2,000 individuals involved in “quality” issues — everything from construction to pharmaceuticals, consumer products to automobiles.
The key premise of my message was that in a world of accelerated innovation and fast paced change, organizations would find that new and more challenging quality issues would appear. The result, I suggested, was that organizations need to pay a new and different type of attention to ‘quality’, since quality issues could now spiral out of control faster than ever before.
(I’ve got the entire keynote on tape, with the slide deck, and might put a few clips up).
Fast forward three years, and we’ve got a situation in which the CEO of Toyota, previously one of the world’s most respected organizations when it came to quality, is on the ropes.
Let’s revisit what I said three years ago; here’s an interview from Quality Progress Magazine in April 2007:
Jim Carroll has been working as a futurist and innovation expert for 18 years.
A lot of people probably don’t know what a futurist is. Explain what you do.
Essentially, I spend a lot of time examining what is happening with different industries, with different professions, with different skills, and put that into perspective for people so they can think
about what might be coming next in their industry.
What is coining next in quality?
I think it’s going to be managing quality in a period of high velocity change. We are in a very high velocity economy. Business models are changing at a furious pace. Products are coming to market faster than ever before. We are seeing faster rates of innovation. We have to ask ourselves, “What will the impact of that be on the concept of quality?
And how do we rethink what we’ve been doing in an era of ever more rapid change?”
It doesn’t matter if we’re thinking of that from a product perspective or professional skills perspective or process perspective. The fact is things are happening faster, and that has implications on quality. One of the words I like to use is “agility.” How do we develop agility so that we can respond quickly to changes?
How can one ASQ member who is trying to bring innovation to an organization make a difference?
The quality guy or lady is probably a lonely individual because he or she can be perceived as getting in the way of the rush to market. But the risk of screwing up that comes with a high velocity market is magnified. We’re in the YouTube era, where somebody can take a video of your product screwing up and post it online. Then you’re in trouble.
Quality people probably aren’t getting as much respect or attention as they used to, so I think it’s important that they heighten the importance of quality and get the word out there, because the consequences of things going wrong are potentially so much worse. They have to get across to their bosses that all a company needs is one video clip of something bad happening, and it will do millions of dollars in brand damage. That’s the reality.
After the event, I went on to write a blog post, which looks spot on given the recent events with Toyota:
My 2nd Orlando event was the Day 2 Keynote for about 2,000 people at the 7th Annual World Congress on Quality and Improvement. I focused on the issue, “how do we ensure we can maintain quality, and the very concept of quality, in the high-velocity world we now find ourselves within?”
One of my opening slides led with this observation: “Velocity drives rapid (consumer / customer / business) change, increases their expectations, which requires faster innovation and a faster more complex economy – which perhaps requires a rethink of quality methodology.”
Some of my major observations through the talk:
- The entire China / pet food /melamine issue is showing the impact that a vast, complex, global economy can have on the issue of quality; I think we are in for a complete rethink and refocus on the issue of quality as a result of events like this.
- In the era of idea instantaneity, quality challenges can go supernova just like that…
- accelerated innovation drives faster time to market, more rapid development time, and less available time to assess potential quality challenges
- the high velocity economy requires more rapid implementation of business processes …with ever increasing complexity and scope … which introduces quality challenges in terms of organizational excellence
- exponentiating connectivity risk with supply chains, business processes, and infrastructure, means that we have to rethink all quality issues as we redefine the nature of the very nature of STUFF…..
- the skills crisis combined with rapid evolution of knowledge means that organizations will have fewer resources available to pay attention to quality, and that quality experts will be niche-orientated
- clearly, volatility is the new normal, and presents even greater challenges to our concepts and expectations with quality
Suffice it to say, there’s going to be plenty of opportunity in the whole field of quality given velocity — the faster things get, the more challenging it becomes to maintain quality!
It’s easy to sympathize with Toyota.
On the other hand, any organization could find where they are, because we’ve known for quite some time that quality challenges were simply going to become bigger, faster, and more complex!