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We live in terrifying times! Terrifying headlines! We’re all going to lose our jobs! The juggernaut of automation has us all in its sights!

Everywhere we turn, there’s terror in the news. Is it real, is it fake? I don’t know, but it sure seems that 2017 is the year of the big job automation disruption!


What should we do! Let’s come up with some sort of plan to help all these displaced workers! A big dialog is necessary. Plans. Guaranteed income strategies. Things like that.



OMG! It’s pretty clear that mankind is doomed by the era of automation! Doomed by the machine age!



After all, machines are destroying jobs! There are photos! Pictures even!

It’s even the end of jobs for musicians!

Not only that, but robot brains are even coming up with story plots, having a dreadful impact on creative industries!


And hey, maybe we shouldn’t worry — we can all just enjoy all the extra leisure time that we are going to have.

Look maybe everybody should calm down some.

The older images in this post are from Modern Mechanix and Popular Science, from the 1930’s.

I’m sorry, I don’t want to seem insensitive or anything, but can every body just calm down with all the hysteria about this issue?

Yes, there are serious issues at work here. And yes, the future happens. But as I wrote in my other blog post, Things That Won’t Happen in 2017: and What it Means,:

  • AI and robots aren’t going to make a lot of jobs disappear in 2017. People are freaking out about this one everywhere! This idea is perhaps one of the defining trends observations of 2016: that sweeping technological change – parituclarly AI and robotics — is going to render countless jobs, professions and skills obsolete. It’s certainly going to become real, and this is a pretty significant and profound trend. But like these other trends, it  isn’t something that is going to happen with split-second instantaneity. Also, missing in this conversation is the reality at the same time that existing jobs and careers disappear, we are seeing the emergence of all kinds of new jobs and careers.

Consider that last bit of that phrase:  the reality at the same time that existing jobs and careers disappear, we are seeing the emergence of all kinds of new jobs and careers.

Yes, automation has destroyed jobs in manufacturing and countless other industries. And yet, there are many new jobs in manufacturing and elsewhere. New jobs and careers being created, right before our very eyes.

That’s always been the case in the past. Will be in the future.

Can there be some rational discussion around this stuff?

And maybe, just maybe, it might be a good time for some tools to test the intellect of many of those at the forefront of the hysteria. There’s a tool for that. Click to enlarge….

I’m featured in the July/August issue of AgriSuccess, the national publication of the Farm Credit Coop of Canada. You can read the article below, or access the PDF through the image.

Sadly, they printed only a small part of the interview! I dug into my e-mail archive, and so you’ll find the ‘missing bits’ after the end of the article below!


  • Development of Ag Ant and photonic weed detection next steps in crop management
  • Be open but cautious when looking at new technology
  • Crowd thinking making a big impact on technological change
  • Acceleration of science has profound implications for agriculture

Read the PDF version of the article by clicking on the image!

Acknowledged as one of the world’s leading global futurists, Jim Carroll has an extensive list of blue chip clients and has delivered keynote addresses around the world. He has operated his own advisory firm, J.A. Carroll Consulting, since 1989.

What equipment innovations do you see for agriculture in the years ahead?
At the University of Illinois, they have developed what they call the ‘AgAnt.’ It’s a prototype for an automated robot that can assess and detect stress, disease, weeds, soil status and pests. And at Edith Cowan University, they’re working to develop a ‘photonic weed detection system.’ It aims a series of laser pulses at the field, which are reflected back. A photo-detector then analyzes the information and provides instruction to a spray cylinder and valve as to where to apply a treatment.

Science is real. Science is fast. Science is accelerating. And agriculture is science.

I find it increasingly difficult to keep on top of many trends, simply because it is happening so fast. Just five years ago, I was on stage in Las Vegas speaking about this fascinating new, future idea of ‘3D printing.’ And then, just last year, I found myself on stage in front of a group of dental professionals, talking about the fact that 3D printing of dental implants, crowns and other implants, was coming into the industry at a very fast pace. 3D printing is expected to have ramifications for agriculture too. For instance, your local equipment dealership might in some cases be able to “print” a replacement part that you need.

You’ve said there have been some stunningly bad predictions in past decades. As we consider the range of current predictions, how should we sort the good from the bad?

That’s a tough one. Maybe the best ‘worst’ predictions were the ones that rockets would never reach the moon, or Bill Gates’s comment that 640K should be enough for everyone! And yet, some people carry it to extremes suggesting we will soon have elevators that will take us to space or to the moon. How do we sort out the real from the fanciful? Be open, but cautious.

You note that aggressive indecision often kills innovation in companies. Why is this happening?

During the economic downturn in 2001-02, I noticed that many of my clients, regardless of the industry, seemed to have lost their sense of direction. Quite simply, people decided not to make decisions – and they seemed to like it.

The result is an economy in which everyone seems to be stuck in a rut, unwilling and unable to move forward.

Why is this happening? In part, fear of the unknown. And that extends into the world of agriculture. We have a lot of farmers who are afraid to make decisions because the next unforeseen event might prove to have negative consequences.

So what do you do? Do you wallow in indecision, or make aggressive moves to position for a future in which ag only has an upside? I’m in the latter camp.

First, look for the warning signs: a mindset that is averse to any type of risk, an absence of any new product or marketing initiatives, or an organization that is stuck in a rut, wheels spinning, and no one has decided even to call a tow truck.

Second, realize that aggressive indecision means you’ll likely have to respond to external pressures faster than ever before. That’s because while people have learned they can hold off until the very last minute, they are also learning they can still get things right. This leads to a business cycle that involves extended periods of frustrated waiting, followed by a blur of activity as organizations rush about to respond to customers’ demands for instant action.

Third, be prepared to make bold decisions. Want to test it? Find the one big decision you’ve been deferring the longest, and decide one way or the other. Right now.

Technological change has been rapid in the past two decades. Will the rate of change slow, stay the same or accelerate in the years ahead?

It’s certainly going to accelerate – that’s why my tag line has become ‘the future belongs to those who are fast.’ There are numerous reasons why it is speeding up. Certainly the idea of ‘crowd thinking’ is having a big impact. We’ve got this big, global collaborative thinking and research machine with the Internet today.

Science itself is accelerating. The new global mind generates new knowledge at furious rates. We’re going from 19 million known chemical substances today to 80 million by 2025 – and five billion by 2100. The discovery of a single chemical substance permitted Apple to miniaturize a hard disk for the first iPad, which led to the birth of a new billion-dollar market.

The acceleration of science has profound implications for agriculture, since much of ag is science-dependent. Consider bio-genomics. The cost to sequence human, animal and plant genomes is collapsing at the same pace that the cost of computer chips collapsed.

Science is real. Science is fast. Science is accelerating. And agriculture is science.

Stuff that didn’t make the cut!

In some of your presentations you talk about the rise of urban farming and jobs for vertical farm infrastructure managers. Most farmers that I know see urban farming as a quaint idea rather than something that will feed a significant number of people. What’s your take on it?

It’s simple — the simple fact is that global food production has to double in the next 30 years to keep up with population growth, and there is little new arable land coming online.

Add to that some basic realities from an international perspective: By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities. Africa is urbanizing so fast that by 2030 it will cease to be a rural continent

Those trends are already leading to the rapid growth of urban farming. I dug out research that shows that there already there are 800 million ‘city-farmers’ according to UN statistics — some 25% of population of Burkina Faso, 35% in Cameroon, 63% in Kenya, 68% in Tanzania. Consider this: 90% of the fresh vegetables in Accra, Ghana come from farming within the city! That’s why we are seeing a lot of agricultural research and innovation around the idea of vertical farming … and hence, a new profession of farmers involved in this field.

Vertical farming is just an example of the massive types of innovaton occuring throughout the global agricultural sector. That’s why futurists like me exist : our job is to remind those who are very involved in day to day realities, and who don’t have a lot of time to think about what comes next, that there is a tremendous amount of change occuring out there.

Lets’ come back to the idea of vertical farming — visit, which is a global initiative that brings together researchers, academics and others involved in this field. 20 years ago, we didn’t have that type of global mind, but today, we do. This provides for a lot of collaborative thinking, research and idea sharing. This accelerates the pace of innovation and discovery.

Or take a look at . This is an example of a community where people are using low-cost computers known as “Raspberry Pi’s” ($5 to $35 per computer) to advance vertical farming concepts. Sure, it might involve hydroponics, but the fact that tech-enthusiasts can share softawre and code also accelrates technology.

Is there any risk from relying on too much leading edge technology?

There is a tremendous amount of risk — privacy, security, criminal activities, social and ethical challenges. The list goes on. That doesn’t mean the pace of technological change is going to slow down.

When I talk about this on stage, I often help people think about their discomfort with change by quoting Ogden Nash, who observed that, ‘for some people, progress is great, but its gone on way too long.’ That I think captures in a nuthsell the reality that we faced with today. Many in my generation — baby boomers — are extremely uncomfortable with the rapid change that envelopes us.

But I really believe that its going to be differen with the next generation : my sons are 21 and 23, and I really believe they are a part of a generation that has a different view with respect to technological change. They’ve already grown up in a world in which they’ve witnessed the arrival and disappearance of entire technologies: think about DVD-players. I often talk about how they view some things from my life as being ‘things from the olden days’ — 35mm film, TV guides, CD’s.

Those young people are coming into the world of agriculture today — they’re taking over the family farm, or working within large industrial or agriculture cooperatives. They’re open to new ideas, new ways of working, and paritcuularly, new technologies.

They’re sitting in the combine with an iPad, an iPhone, and are eager to utilize rapidly evolving precision farming technoogies to achieve that year over year yield increase.

And when it comes to the risk of rapidly evolving technologies, I think they will deal with it in very different ways.

At least, I hope so. As a futurist, I have to stay relentlessly optimistic!

Another one of my articles for GE Reports has been published.


The Future Belongs to Those Who are Fast features the best of the insight from Jim Carroll’s blog, in which he covers issues related to creativity, innovation and future trends.

In this era of hyperconnectivity, transformation is happening faster and impacting every industry. To thrive in this environment, you need to understand these five things.

Someday, we will look back and realize that we live in one of the most fascinating periods in history, with technology having entered a new era of what I call “hyperconnectivity” — where the rate of change is accelerating in nearly every industry.

What are the trends that are driving this faster future, and how are smart businesses adapting to not only survive — but thrive — in a faster world? Here are 5 things to know about the accelerating future and to stay ahead.

1. Speed — Today’s is the slowest day of technology change for the rest of your life

Bill Gates once observed that most people tend to overestimate the rate of change in a two-year basis, but underestimate the rate in a 10-year basis.

Take 3D printing. Just a few years ago, I would speak about 3D printing as if it was science fiction — far away and entirely theoretical. Now it’s becoming a part of day-to-day operations for many businesses.

Consider, for example, what is happening with dental medical implants, where the idea of printing dental bridges or other implants is becoming ever more real. Now, people are talking about 3D printing surgical knee replacements.

2. Hyperconnectivity — and endless possibilities

Every industry is set to be transformed as an era of hyperconnectivity — powered by the Internet of Things (IoT) — becomes the new norm. The result: a reinvention of manufacturing, logistics, retail, healthcare and other industries because of consumers that are empowered, connected and enabled with a new form of lifestyle management that we’ve never witnessed before. The capability of achieving deep analytical insights into emerging trends in industries also presents an opportunity for massive business model disruption.

By the year 2020, there will be more than 50 billion devices connected to the Internet — roughly six devices per person. The IoT is happening everywhere and unfolding at a blistering pace. We’re in the era of connected thermostats that link to an intelligent energy grid; a connected trucking fleet that is self-diagnostic, predictive and built for zero down-time; and scales that record our body mass index, transmit it to a password-protected website and create custom charts on our health.

Imagine a world in which that 3D-printed knee replacement reports that it is malfunctioning by sending a message to your iPhone. Seem far fetched? Hyperconnectivity is a staggering trend, which means the possibilities are endless for growth and innovation.

3. Momentum and the potential for big wins

Add these trends of acceleration and hyperconnectivity together, and you’ve got the opportunity for major industry transformation.

Consider the lighting industry, which is in the era of revolutionary new opportunities for significant efficiency and cost savings through deep analytical insight into usage patterns. In addition, since we can now build energy systems in which each individual light bulb is accessible via the Internet, very sophisticated energy management solutions are emerging.

LED usage is accelerating, with the global market expected to grow from $7 billion in 2010 to $40 billion in 2016, according to industry reports. At the same time, the ability to control those intelligent light bulbs is changing is enabling a reimagination of lighting. People can easily set up a smart home where they control their lighting and other energy systems via an iPad. They can become energy-conscious consumers, responsible for their own personal energy infrastructure management. If we empower millions of people, some fascinating opportunities for energy usage reduction result.

There is so much momentum behind these changes because the potential for big wins are huge.

4. The connected generation

Meanwhile, the next generation of youth are starting to embrace every opportunity for hyperconnectivity and acceleration — whether in their homes or businesses.

Today’s younger generation — those under age 25 — have never known a world without a mobile device that puts incredible amounts of information at their fingertips. They are globally wired, entrepreneurial, collaborative — and they thrive on change. As a result, this generation is starting to drive rapid business model change and industry transformation as they move into executive positions.

About two-thirds of today’s children today will work in a career that has doesn’t yet exist, according to author Cathy Davidson, Think about titles like “water usage audit analysts,” “energy usage audit architects” and “location intelligence professionals.”

We are at the forefront of a remarkable time in history, as the next generation uses connectivity to advance some of the biggest energy successes.

5. The future belongs to those who are fast

So how should you deal with fast-paced technological change? As new technology and connected infrastructure emerge, keep in mind a phrase I often use when I’m on stage: “Think Big, Start Small and Scale Fast.” Take on a small-scale, experimental project in you municipality, industrial location or retail store. Test out a new technology with a target group of customers.

By starting small and learning to scale fast, you can adopt an innovation mantra and build a business plan that leads to success.


"Who is going to fix the education system so that it works for me in the future?"

“Who is going to fix the education system so that it works for me in the future?” Think about this kid – he’s going into a world of rapid knowledge obsolescence, the rapid emergence of new careers, and an era of hyper-knowledge. I’ll cover that and more when I keynote the Association of Private Colleges and Universities annual conference in June, 2015.

University Business Magazine has run an article, “Higher ed thought leaders forecast 2015 trends: Presidents and other thought leaders look ahead on cost, technology and learning.”

They called me for my thoughts which I offered up in a concise way:

Trend: When it comes to the future of education, it’s all about “just-in-time knowledge.” Increasingly specialized careers and skills, and accelerating technological change, mean more organizations will need people who can deliver the right skills, at the right time, for the right purpose. Knowledge development and deployment will accelerate to keep up with trend.

The article offers up a good variety of opinions on the future of education; it’s an industry that is ripe for and in the middle of some pretty significant disruption. I’ve done a lot of keynotes in this space, as seen on my Education Trends page.

As I noted in one of the posts there, “In essence, we’re living in a period of time that is witnessing these trends unfold at blinding speed, all related to the evolution of knowledge.

  1. Rapid knowledge obsolescence
  2. Rapid knowledge emergence
  3. Disappearance of existing careers due to 1)
  4. Rapid emergence of new careers due to 2)
  5. An ongoing need for continuous knowledge replenishment because of 1-4
  6. The migration of knowledge generation further away from academia (i.e. community colleges, high end manufacturing skills) because of the need for faster new knowledge deployment
  7. A massively increased challenge from overseas knowledge generation
  8. The fast emergence of new micro-careers because of specialized knowledge
  9. An economy that succeeds through knowledge deployment
  10. A fundamental transformation in knowledge delivery

I’m thrilled to announce that my efforts to help people understand the massive transformation that is occurring in what is known as “education” continues; I’ve been confirmed as the opening keynote speaker for the 2015 Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities annual conference in Denver in June.

There are more thoughts that can be found in my PDF, “21st Century Skills”, below. Read it here or by clicking on the image.


“Skills are Experiential. Skills are Generational. One of the most important assets that a company can invest in is “experiential capital”—that is, the cumulative knowledge the company has generated through innovation, risk, failure and success. Boost that skills capability and you’ve done something that flows onto the bottom line.”


I recently spoke at the Cattle Feeders Business Summit in Denver. Turns out the folks at Beef Magazine were in the audience, and here’s their report on my keynote!


Will You Be Ranching Like The Jetsons In 10 Years? – Beef Magazine (link to article)

What will the beef industry look like in 10 years?” A simple question, that. But, in the same breath, one of profound depth and profound significance.

That’s the question Jim Carroll asked cattle feeders attending the recent Cattle Feeders Business Summit, sponsored by Merck Animal Health. The Toronto-based futurist then gave them a glimpse into a future that will, in some ways, be completely different from our current experience.


““Imagine a future in which we’ve got remote herd management monitoring technology in which we have instant insight into the health of our herd, the health of particular animals, that goes way beyond simple GPS tracking,” he says.”

Remember George Jetson? The popular cartoon from the ‘60s was, in many ways, prophetic, Carroll told cattle feeders. So was Star Trek. In one episode of “The Jetsons,” George uses a flat-screen device to FacedTime with his family and his boss. In “Star Trek,” medical conditions were instantly analyzed with a hand-held tricorder.

Welcome to your future. FaceTime is already a reality. So is a device much like Bones’ medical tricorder. And the technology behind both will forever change how you manage your cattle, Carroll says.

Consider these facts:

An Australian study determined, given the rate of technological change we’re presently enduring, that the majority of kids entering grade school now will work at jobs that do not yet exist. Another study determined that half of what college students learn in the first year of school will either be obsolete or revised by the time they graduate. 60% of Apple’s revenue comes from products that didn’t exist four years ago.

One of those newly emerging careers that will have profound influence on how you manage cattle, Carroll says, are location intelligence professionals. That’s an emerging technology that is exploding in its capability.

We’ve got a GPS in our pocket with our smartphone,” he says. But that’s just the beginning.

Imagine a future in which we’ve got remote herd management monitoring technology in which we have instant insight into the health of our herd, the health of particular animals, that goes way beyond simple GPS tracking,” he says.

While you’re trying to bend your mind around the implications of that thought, consider this: “In 2017, if not sooner, we could be in a situation where minimally invasive surgery for large animals is common,” he predicts. “Remote monitoring of the effectiveness of animal pharmaceutical treatment (will be common) because the pharmaceuticals we give our animals are connected to the Internet.”

Science fiction? Not at all. “This is real stuff. Virtual understanding of every single aspect of your herd is coming sooner than you think,” Carroll told cattle feeders.

How will this change the cattle business? Carroll says we will quickly transition from a management approach where we deal with issues in the herd after they are diagnosed to an industry where we understand, with a high degree of accuracy, what conditions they will be susceptible to.

Not all of us, particularly those who can remember watching “The Jetsons” and “Star Trek” when they weren’t reruns, are comfortable with technology, and particularly aren’t comfortable with how quickly it is changing our world. My wife just bought a new car, and thank goodness it still has a steering wheel, because just about everything else on the dashboard is beyond my ability to operate.

We’re going to have to get over that. Carroll says one of his ag clients framed it perfectly. They have customers they call the apathetic minority—they tend to seek the same advice from the same places; they have a low tolerance for risk; they’re skeptical about the future.

Then they have clients who are future positive. These are farmers and ranchers who are optimistic; they’re business-minded; they’re innovation-oriented; they’re collaborative for advice; they seek input from other generations; they thrive on ideas that come from technology; they’re focused on profit and growth; they’re willing to approach everything in new ways.

That, Carroll says, is your future and that’s who you need to be.

So what do you think your ranch or feedyard will look like in 10 years? Will you still saddle a horse, heat up the branding irons, rope calves, turn the bulls out and do the many other things that have traditionally have defined both you and your livelihood? Or will you, as Carroll predicts, manage your ranch or feedyard completely differently?

Honey, let’s go get some ice cream. We’ll take the new car. Now, show me again how you start this darn thing.

In September, I was the closing keynote speaker for the American Medical Group Association Institute for Quality Leadership annual conference in Phoenix. Subsequent to my keynote, I was interviewed and published in the prestigious American Healthcare and Drug Benefits peer-reviewed journal. The article follows below.

At the American Medical Group Association 2013 Institute for Quality Leadership annual conference, a session focused on transforming the US healthcare system was presented by Jim Carroll, author of Ready, Set, Done: How to Innovate When Faster is the New Fast,1 who discussed the ways in which the unprecedented technological changes in medicine can transform the system in a positive way, in a very short time.

“The future of medicine has nothing to do with politics —it’s got everything to do with science, demographics, new forms of technological applications, such as genomics, new forms of equipment, and other innovations”…said Jim Carroll.

In a brief discussion after the meeting, Mr Carroll offered some food for thought for those involved in the “business” of medicine. He explained that he tells healthcare experts all across the country, “I know you are sick of the Affordable Care Act. But the future of medicine has nothing to do with government—it’s got everything to do with science, demographics, new forms of technological applications, such as genomics, new forms of equipment, and other innovations.”

Mr Carroll suggested that “by the year 2020, we absolutely can harness these to turn the healthcare system from one in which we wait until patients are sick and then we fix them, to understanding what things are going to go wrong in advance in order to avoid those problems.”

The system that Mr Carroll says is well within reach will have characteristics such as being consumer-driven and retail-oriented for treatment that is not related to critical care, and encompassing many cost-saving technologies.

“One example is in the field of pharmacogenomics, involving pharmaceutical products targeted to particular genes for particular cancer treatments. The cost of sequencing machines has plummeted, and they could become low-cost items. Individuals could buy machines that tell them whether they have certain gene sequences that make them prone to cancer,” he said. Furthermore, “when this type of technology becomes ubiquitous and costs just pennies, it transforms everything in healthcare.”

Smartphone apps are also proliferating and becoming very inexpensive, and are increasingly being applied in medicine. More than 17,000 healthcare software apps are available for smartphones, according to Mr Carroll, and as many as 78% of consumers have expressed interest in such apps. For example, consumers are using medical apps to monitor their glucose levels and better understand their healthcare circumstances and options.

“The patient is changing; the consumer is changing. And we all need to align ourselves to the changes that are occurring.” He also pointed to the virtualization of healthcare, with hospitals extending into the community.

“In the near future, a lot of non–critical care patients will be able to remain in their homes instead of being admitted to the hospital, and doctors will be able to monitor their vital signs remotely, using real-time analytics and location-intelligence technologies,” Mr Carroll predicted. He says that because medical knowledge doubles every 6 years, the pace of understanding new medical information is increasing as a result of the power of technology.

“I tell people in the healthcare system, ‘Don’t fixate on the negatives but on the positives. Think about how it’s good for your patients and their patients to embrace these changes,’ ” said Mr Carroll. “Demographic changes mean healthcare administrators, providers, and patients are becoming more welcoming to technology-driven changes in the sector. And that provides huge opportunities for improvement through innovation.” The future of US medicine, according to Mr Carroll, is bright.

What happens when you ask 200 high school students to do EXACTLY what they’ve always been told to NEVER do — take out their cellphones and start texting!

You get some fascinating insight…. from the instant text message polling system that I use in all my keynote presentations.

Such was the scene the other day when I ended up doing a rather unusual kind of keynote — a talk about the future of careers for my son’s grade 12 Science & Technology program. I normally find myself on stage in front of senior level business executives in Las Vegas, Orlando .. and just previously this week,the CEO’s of a few global organizations with two events in Washington, DC.

My son asked if I could speak to his group, and we picked a date in the schedule. The theme? How would future trends impact their career – and what should they be thinking about in terms of future career and skills flexibility.

What a wonderful session! There was absolute shock in the room when I asked the students right at the start, seconds in, to take out their phones. We were going to do a live text message poll, I told them — and there were absolute murmurs of excitement.

My first question to them? The poll put to them asked if they had any degree of certainty on “what they wanted to be” when they grew up. The results weren’t unsurprising.

You can watch this section from the keynote in the video clip below; it is quite fascinating to watch the mechanics of the poll as it unfolded.

Later during the session, I asked them how many careers they thought they might have throughout their lifetime

This generation gets it — by far the vast majority knows that they will have multiple different careers throughout their lifetime.

Next up? How many jobs might they have?

Bingo! They definitely know that they are going into a workforce that will demand a lot of change and flexibility!

Last but not least, we spent some time looking into the concept of innovation. Check out what they think are some of the attitudes that most often hold them back from exploring new ideas:

Which begs the question: do their older peers discount their ideas and insight all too readily? There’s lots more to explore from this unique day, but I thought the results of the text message polls were particularly enlightening.

One of my most recent blog posts reflected on the death of my fax machine, and how we now live in a period of time in which many devices can simply “disappear” from our lives as they are replaced by new technologies, business models or concepts that we can’t even begin to imagine.

This is a fav0rite theme of mine; in a recent keynote, I used  my often told “Things from the Olden Days” story, which outlines how my sons view many of the things that were once a part of my life — as being positively ancient!

There’s an important theme here that can help you think about future trends, and the impact of increasing rates of product innovation and obsolescence.

One of the best ways to get a sense of the this velocity , is by taking a look at the world around you, and thinking about how it might change. I call it the “10 Things Test.”

Essentially, sit in a room, whether at work, home, in a factory, retail store or wherever you might be, and take a look around. Compile a list of ten items that you see, and then sit back and ask yourself, “How might these things change in the next decade?”

If you really took the time to think about the items you examine, you might be very surprised by the depth of the change that is coming. Here’s what I saw with my “10 Things Test” in my home office:

  • Paint. It turns out that “white” could be the new “green” when it comes to the world of paint. Dulux, one of the world’s premiere paint manufacturers, is actively involved in learning how to use starch based plants such as pota- toes and wheat to replace upwards of 25% of the petroleum based products used in a typical paint. Given the increased focus on the environment today, this could be a significant and market-leading innovation.
  • Window shades. Think “smart-glass.” Our need for window shades will soon be eclipsed by intelligent glass that will automatically adjust its opacity and transparency for various conditions. The windows will also soon be covered by a film that absorbs sunlight which will generate electrical power. Whether it’s bright sunlight, a need to better manage heating and cooling costs, or to provide for greater privacy, it’s likely that we’ll see rapid changes with this basic component of the home and office.
  • Tissue box. It’s not the tissue itself which will have changed, but the retail technology which interacted with the box as you worked your way through the store. The box itself will have developed intelligence; it was busy updating the stores inventory system and revenue sales figures as you walked with it out the door. (You didn’t have to go to a check out; they’re so yesterday!)
  • Eyeglasses. Sure, they’ll still be there. But maybe they will have the ability to link directly to an implant next to the neurons in your retina, providing a direct visual link through the bifocal part of the lens for close up objects. If that’s too farfetched, then a more realistic scenario would be genetic alteration of the macular tissue in your eye that would prevent any inflammatory genes from killing your vision cells – thus leading to a reduction in the leading cause of blindness in seniors – AMD (age-related macular degeneration).
  • Ceiling lights. They’ll be drawing upon the solar panels on the top of your roof and that of your neighbors. You’ll have established a small community energy grid, which bypasses a need to tap into the local electrical network during the days when the sun is ready to rock and the wind is ready to roll. Solar panels are decreasing in cost at a steady pace, just as their efficiency is increasing; the same holds true for wind power. Given the likely increased volatility with traditional energy supplies, we’ll see an increasing focus on alternate, micro-grid energy innovations.
  • Laptop. What laptop? Your desk is now monitored by a 3D virtual sensor that traces the action of your fingers. You aren’t really typing onto a keyboard anymore, since there isn’t one. Instead, the ceiling light has directed a holographic keyboard onto your desktop; simply simulate typing anywhere with the holographic keys that you see, and your words will appear on screen.
  • Orange juice. It will still come from Florida, but it will be packaged in such a way that the shelf life has been dramatically extended. There are huge new innovations within the world of agricultural packaging; for example, some bananas are now shipped with a special membrane that doubles the shelf-life of the product by regulating the flow of gases through the packaging.
  • Telephone. It’s likely to be “so yesterday.” The next generation of kids is fully immersed in interactive tools; for them, an office with virtual 3D long distance video chat will be as normal as apple pie. Not to forget the technology behind the telephone as well; there’s a good chance that you’ll be sourcing your communications service from an offshore supplier, perhaps in China, Russia or South Africa. The entire industry will have defragmented and disappeared, as technological change drives many of the current business models into absolute obsolescence.
  • Eyedrops. The trend towards hyperconnectivity will impact medical products in a big way. The packaging in which the eyedrops are purchased will “connect” to the global data grid that surrounds us, automatically pulling up a short interactive video on whatever screen that happens to be handy, with instructions on use and precautions. In effect, the role of product packaging will have been transformed from being that of a “container of product” to an intelligent tool that will help us with use of the product.
  • The view outside. For more of us, it won’t be of office towers and concrete jungles, but rather, our yards, the lake we cottage at, or the beach we play on. Ten years out, the concept of “what do you do for a living” will have changed completely to the idea of “what do you like to do?” as the itinerant career begins to dominate. (It’s estimated that in just a few years, some 60% of engineering professionals will be self-employed, providing their skills on a part time basis to the global economy.) You’ll be increasingly engaged in active life-design, carving out a series of activities that blend your personal interests with the need to go out and earn some funds. You’ll work at a regular series of short term, highly stimulating, frequently changing project assignments. You might not have a job, but you’ll certainly have some demand for your time.

Is all of this science fiction? It might seem like it, but most, if not all of the scenarios above are entirely plausible, based on science, technology and trends that exist today.

A friend of mine suggested if you are having trouble taking the 10 things test, then start off with this variation: name 10 things around you that have changed in the last 10 years. Include items that didn’t exist. In his case there is a laptop, a Blackberry, the iPhone, MP3 dictaphone with speech recognition, GPS unit, inflated plastic insulator packaging material, acoustic guitar with PZM mike and internal tuner, and bluetooth mouse.

The challenge in thinking about the future is that it can be difficult to comprehend the sheer velocity by which trends are occurring. That’s why the “10 Things Test” can be such a valuable method of putting into perspective the velocity of change, and from that, provide a starting point to begin to crystallize some of the opportunities for innovation that surround you today.

Often, one of the best ways to discover ideas for doing things differently — of fuelling your innovation engine — can come from studying other organizations or industries that are excelling at dealing with fast market, business model, competitive and technological change. There are many organizations out there who aren’t innovative and are stuck in a rut; there are others who are extremely innovative, at the same time that there are a lot of laggards.

Seek ideas for innovation by studying those who excel at dealing with fast-paced change

One of the best ways to discover new and creative innovation ideas is by studying those who are moving forward at a really fast pace. They might be within your own industry; quite often, they will be in a completely different industry.

Organizations or industries that are subject to extremely high velocity are often the most innovative. They are busy working with the challenges that exist, and are being as creative as possible to deal with those challenges in order to turn them into opportunity.

Regardless of who and where they are, they share several things in common: they’re busy experimenting, adapting, evolving and changing. They’re working hard to make sure that the essential concepts of high-velocity innovation – run the business better, grow the business, transform the business – have become an essential part of their lifeblood.

If you can spot these organizations, you can learn from them, and become inspired by them. They can be a wonderful source of creative ideas!

So how do you find them? By looking for the telltale signs of companies or industries who are faced with all the challenges that the high-velocity economy can throw at them. Given the challenges, the organization or industry will tend to have people who are more innovative, realistic, practical, and open to new ways of thinking. They are likely to be more forward oriented and creative. They will be working to rapidly adapt to changing circumstances, and will be collectively seeking complex solutions to unique problems.

Several signs can provide you with insight as to whether the company is dealing with extreme velocity and is therefore a real innovator. Look for these characteristics:

  • They are significantly impacted by faster science. The fundamentals of the science within the industry are evolving at a furious pace as a result of the infinite idea loop. It is evident that the discovery of new knowledge within the industry is occurring at a faster pace than within other industries. Hint: look to genomics companies. Furious rates of scientific change here!
  • More competition. Business models are changing quickly, with a lot of new competition appearing on the scene as the industry begins to blur and change.
  • A faster degree of product/service innovation. The industry is widely known for being innovative, with a constant stream of new products or services coming to market.
  • More operational innovation. There is a lot of fundamental change within the industry in terms of business models, marketing methodologies, customer relationships and other unique changes. Organizations or industries that are subject to extremely high velocity – that is, significant amounts of fundamental change occurring at a rapid pace – are often the most innovative.
  • Shorter product lifecycles. Products are coming to market faster than previously, or faster than within other industries, due to the previous four trends.
  • Rising tides require fast change. Customer expectations are changing quickly in terms of the products or services being offered, because of the furious rates of innovation that are occurring. In addition, there’s heightened customer service due to hyper-competition; people know that they must absolutely excel in service levels.
  • A significant creativity capability. The organization or industry is dominated by creative thinkers; a workforce and management team that is fully focused on doing things differently, in order to respond to the reality of change that engulfs them. Those who kill ideas aren’t the dominant force; those who suggest how things could be done differently are at the forefront of action within the organization.
  • A partnership orientation. The organization or industry is constantly seeking outside expertise in order to help it go forward; it is willing to make use of complexity partners, nomadic workers, skills banks and other partners in order to grab on to ever more important change capabilities. They know they can’t do it all, and so they are willing to do what it takes to get access to what they need to get it done.
  • They’re plugged in. The organization or industry is linked into and is feeding off of the ideas from within the infinite idea loop. They are constantly scanning and sifting through the constantly evolving collective insight of the global discussion that is taking place; they are always eager to spot how innovation is occurring outside of their organization, and are busy interpreting what is being said in order that they can use this insight for their own purposes.

Organizations or industries that are subject to extremely high velocity – that is, significant amounts of fundamental change occurring at a rapid pace – are often the most innovative. They are busy working with the challenges that exist, and are being as creative as possible to deal with those challenges in order to turn them into opportunity.

You want to find these organizations, study them, and learn from them – since that will be one of the best ways to create your own innovation oxygen.

While cleaning up the office today, I came across a book that I contributed the Foreword to a few years back. The book was “e-Work Architect: How HR Leads the Way Using the Internet.” The foreword still makes for interesting reading today. [ link to the book ]

Foreword for “e-Work Architect: How HR Leads the Way Using the Internetihrim.jpg

Back in 1987, I was busy working within the world’s largest international accounting firm. I spent my time with senior executives of the firm around the world, trying to convince them that we should be investing in technology systems that would let us capture and harness the human assets of the firm.
Knowledge was paramount, I was pleading, and we should be ensuring that we implement technologies that would help us harness and grab this intellectual capital before it was lost. If we could do that, I suggested, we would be able to better serve our clients, and increase our bottom line.

The fact was, I was talking about e-mail, knowledge management, and the Internet, some ten years or so before they became mainstream.

And you know what? It’s lonely being a visionary.

By 1990, the firm finally admitted to me that they didn’t understand what I was doing, what I was talking about, and what I was suggesting. It was said to me, in rather diplomatic terms, that I’d probably never make it to partnership. Not only that, but the professional body of which I was a member also seemed to be sending signals that a guy like me was on the wrong track, and that I’d better come back to my senses.

Tired of swimming against the tide, I quit the company, established my own consulting firm, and began writing.

Fast-forward ten years to the year 2000. By that point, I’d established an international reputation as a keynote speaker and seminar leader, had authored some 30 books , and was a busy media personality. Some called me a “guru,” while I just kept referring to myself as a nice guy.

And in a time of sweet vindication, my old firm called me back, asking me to to provide a keynote address for their annual partner’s conference. They wanted me to explain the future to them ; they were now prepared to listen. Knowledge management? Intellectual capital? The things I was talking about ten years before were now mainstream.

The profession of which I am a member? They had come full circle — in 2000 they honored me by naming me an FCA – a Fellow Chartered Accountant. To put that distinction into perspective, only 90 of 33,000 accountants were honored that year, meaning that I am one of a unique group considered to be a leader among my peers.

My, how times change.

There is invaluable lesson in all of this: as we careen towards a future that is full of surprises, all of us would do well to keep an open mind.

As you will see in this book, there are many who believe that there will be dramatic change to the workplace, the nature of the organization, and the very essence of a job and career. Technology, the wired world, the Internet – we are in the midst of a period of time that is probably going to see the greatest change to have ever occurred.

And there are a lot of lonely visionaries out there.

They’re working in their own specialties, their own areas of concentration, their own technology systems that they will believe will shape the world. And often, they are ignored. Battered and bruised. Advised they are on the wrong track. Told in no uncertain terms that they are, well, not quite with it.

Just like I was ten years ago.

What a dangerous state of affairs we place ourselves in, when we don’t listen to those who dare to predict where our future might take us! It is a sad fact that it is a natural human trait to dismiss those who are brave enough to think about how our future might unfold.

And it is dangerous, for so many of us can miss the boat by not having an open mind. Ask yourself this question: ten years ago, were you thinking that something like the Internet would exist? Did you think that companies would actually have difficulty recruiting and retaining hi-tech staff? Did you think that e-biz would come to reshape the economy? Had you considered how much outsourcing t might occur in the economy, fuelled by the connectivity of the wired world?

No? Well, then, you weren’t listening.

You have to listen – and you must have an open mind. Yet far too many HR executives are overwhelmed by the rate of technological change around them, and can all too often become complacent about its potential to wreak havoc on their business organizations.

That’s why 21 Tomorrow’s is such an important book – for it will help you to realize that complacency towards change is no longer an option – in fact, it is a death sentence.

It was physicist Neils Bohr who once stated that “prediction is difficult, especially when it involves the future.” Yes, it might be difficult, but it needs to be done, and you need to listen.

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