If you aren’t disrupting your business model, someone else will – Jim Carroll

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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.

""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 


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

They figured out the HP InkJet business model, long before we even had personal computers

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

Innovators often achieve massive brand success by being at the right place at the right time

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

Innovation means dreaming big, trying hard, and if at the end of the day it didn’t work out, it will still be worth the effort!

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

Innovators constantly mix it up, change, evolve their product and style, and never go stale.

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

Real innovators stick with what they believe in, despite what they are told by others

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

Exploring and understanding the unique motivations of niche markets

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

They defined punk, before punk even knew it existed.

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

It goes to 11”

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!

The business model for concert touring has changed in massive ways; it’s more difficult for bands to launch a successful, sellout regional tours.  So when the business model changes, make up your own!

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

Innovators sometimes take a long time before they achieve success

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?

What’s your tin can?
May 14th, 2010

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.

FutureTrends-sm.pngClearly 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.

ToyotaGoldAward.JPG.jpegBack 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!

I’ve been doing a tremendous number of small, intimate CEO level leadership meetings; I’ll work with the CEO or other senior management team member to pull together a talk that will highlight the key opportunities for growth through innovation within an industry.

I often point out that there are significant innovation and revenue growth opportunities when an organization concentrates on mastering the rapid emergence of new knowledge within a specific sector.

Take the world of construction; I’ve recently spoken at quite a few building management, construction and real estate conferences, and have focused on the fact that we are now witnessing very fast knowledge exponentiation with “green” design concepts.

What’s happening is that we are seeing:

  • the rapid emergence of new building methodologies, design concepts, materials, eco-design principles, all of which have the goal of reducing the overall energy footprint of the building, or reducing its environmental impact
  • the result is that green building methodology is continuing to evolve at a furious pace
  • there is so much new knowledge emerging that a new profession of “energy engineers” is beginning to emerge
  • their skill and role is simply to keep on top of furious rates of change in terms of new energy management solutions within the building and construction sector
  • developments are occurring so quickly that these individuals possess three key skills: how to rapidly ingest new knowledge and new ideas; awareness of where this new knowledge is emerging; and the ability to tap into other specialized skill sets and form rapid skills partnerships in order to tackle growth opportunities

The result is the emergence of a new career of “green engineers” who simply know where to find all the new knowledge and expertise that is appearing out there!

This is pretty significant stuff: after all, some 40% of total US energy consumption can be attributed to operating buildings: the heat, light, cooling, hot water and other systems. Another 8% of energy use is related to the materials used. All the SUV’s in North America? Three percent!

Clearly, there are BIG opportunities for growth through innovation, through the mastery of fast knowledge.

That’s why I always challenge a CEO and senior management team to challenge themselves with workforce innovation.

That involves innovation with different workplace policies, career paths, workforce structure, experiential oriented job descriptions, skills banks for specialized skills, and a rapid focus on growth through the rapid emergence of new knowledge within that workforce.

2010WorldClassInnovators.jpgI was in Chicago earlier this week; I had a keynote for the leadership team of a company that’s involved in a sector of the construction industry.

They’ve had some challenges with the economic downturn; they’re also likely to see a resurgence as infrastructure spending kicks in.

But they’re thinking beyond what happens after that — they’re positioning themselves for long term growth — and so they brought me in to stir up some creative thinking as to what they need to do.

The focus of my keynote was the theme: “What is it that world class innovators do that other organizations don’t do?” Here’s some of the insight that I covered.

  1. World class innovators possess a relentless focus on growth: I deal with a lot of CEO’s at a lot of organizations, and in almost every instance, they’ve engaged me because my message of future growth opportunities resonates with their own attitude. In my view, there are unprecedented opportunities for growth in almost every industry. Spend some time on this blog; read my Where’s the Growth overview and other information, and you’ll come away convinced we live in transformative times that offer tremendous opportunities for growth through innovation.
  2. World class innovators continually transition their revenue source: they’re focused on ‘chameleon revenue‘. They know that they have to evolve from being a commodity product competing on price, to one that offers a more complex, revenue rich solution. They’re aware that they need to have continuous, relentless product innovation in order to keep their new revenue pipeline full.
  3. World class innovators solve customers problems – before the customer knows it’s a problem: They excel at anticipatory thinking: where do we need to go with our customers to ensure that we continue to have a strong revenue relationship? What key trends can we ride to maximum advantage that will allow us to provide a constant flood of new, irresistible innovations for our customer base?
  4. World class innovators source innovation ideas through their customers.: Simply put, they derive new innovation ideas by observing what their customers are doing with their products or services. They know that they aren’t fully in control of the innovation agenda anymore, and that some of the most brilliant ideas are coming from a new source. Notes John Hanks, vice-president, industrial and embedded products for National Instruments: “We have the advantage of working with some of the most innovative people in the world. For example, we could find a customer who is using one of our products in an unexpected and innovative way. It’s then possible for us to take that and add value for another customer, which is one of the ways we can help the innovation process as a whole.”
  5. 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.
  6. Innovators check their speed and focus on corporate agility: they know that to keep up with fast paced trends, it’s their ability to quickly act, react and do that will allow their future success. There’s not a lot of time for debate, studying; inertia is abhorred. They simply DO.
  7. World class innovators focus on long term wins through constant incremental improvements: they know that some pretty big growth can come from continual small wins and improvement on margins. For example, 7% of power on transmission and distribution lines are lost as heat. Reduce that loss by 10% – and that would equal all the new wind power installed in the US in 2006. That’s why ‘smart grids’ are such a hot topic. Take the auto industry: todays’ typical automotive system uses only 25% of the energy in the tank — the balance is lost to waste, heat, inefficiency. Work on increasing that on a year over year basis, and there are some pretty solid gains through innovation.
  8. World class innovators focus on skills partnerships as a key success factor: they know that with rapid change, knowledge is becoming an ever more precious commodity, particularly niche oriented knowledge. If they are entering a fascinating new, fast paced market, they realize that there might be but a few individuals or organizations in the world who could help them tackle that new market. They focus on forming fast teams and fast partnerships, drawing a lot of innovation oxygen from that external insight.
  9. World class innovators focus on pervasive connectivity for next generation product: they know that one of the key trends out to 2020 is that everything around us is plugging together. Soon, every device on the planet will have an IP address on the Internet; we’ll be able to access it’s status and its location. This is transformative stuff, and is one of the primary sources for the next new billions of dollars of revenue in countless industries. Consider the world of HVAC — industrial heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment: as it is transitioned to the world of “HVAC 2.0”, an intelligent, interlinked, fascinating new world of massive connectivity.
  10. World class innovators aren’t afraid to back away from big ideas: they know that right now it’s a great time to made bold decisions, and take decisive advantage to forge aggressive new paths against their competitors. While everyone else wallows in aggressive indecision and organizational sclerosis, world class innovators know that it is a great time to do great things.

You know what?

World class innovators win!

Did my keynote go well? Here’s what the client had to say: “Thanks again for your first class presentation! It really hit home and was right on the money!”


  • Where’s the Growth? (PDF)
  • Blog post HVAC 2.0

The chance that your company, markets, competitors will be the same in ten years is virtually zero – so what do you do about that?

Here’s 10 phrases I often use to challenge my clients — often CEO’s of large, multinational organizations — to think differently about our fast paced future:

  • experiential capital: it’s the cumulative experience you gain by trying to do new things. Do you have enough of it?
  • momentum management: is this a core capability that your organization possesses – can you steer your team through ever more fast paced change?
  • chameleon revenue: is your revenue stream capable of it? Can you keep generating new streams of revenue as old streams disappear?
  • global idea cycles: do you tap into the global R&D mind for innovation insight, or is your thinking stale, old, out of date, based on the same old sources?
  • idea intensity: can you turn the ideas that are out there into reality quickly enough, or do you lose the opportunities to others?
  • energy of engagement: is your brand boring and dull, or edgy and interactive?
  • ingestion capability: can you ingest new trends, technologies, concepts, business models … before they’re obsolete … or are you stuck in a hopeless rut of indecision?
  • fast teams: can you form them as quickly as necessary to get the faster things done?
  • massive incrementalism: the oil industry currently retrieves only 1 out of 3 barrels per well on average. A 1% improvement represents huge revenue gains. Every industry I am dealing with sees small marginal wins adding up to huge tactical advantage.
  • depth of boldness: are you still thinking small wins, or large, massive tactical manoeuvres?

In other words, when it comes to the future, are you with it, or are you going to wimp out?


In fact, the realities are that not only are innovative people unafraid to ask questions, they aren’t afraid to:

  • ask the tough questions
  • act on the answers to those tough questions!
  • ask questions that make people uncomfortable
  • challenge others to ask tough questions
  • ask why it has become acceptable to not ask questions!
  • ask questions that challenge fundamental assumptions
  • ask questions that show their complete lack of knowledge about something — which is ok
  • ask questions that might make their boss unhappy
  • indicate that while they don’t know the answer to the tough questions, they’re prepared to find out
  • suggest that maybe there have now been too many questions, and now something simply must be done in order to move forward

What’s the key to this line of thinking?

Organizations can become too comfortable with routine, and unless this is challenged on a regular basis, complacency becomes a killer.

By constantly putting a whole bunch of tough questions on the table, innovators can ensure that innovation paralysis does not set in.

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