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

These talks are often aimed at the idea of “how do we need to transition our advisory services — as financial planners, investment advisors, wealth managers — to keep up with fast paced change?”

No where is that question more important than when thinking about the impact of technology and social networks on investing. Think about the change that the investment industry faces. We are witnessing the early stages of a massive transition of wealth from one generation to another. The numbers are staggering: we’ll see $12 to $18 trillion in intergenerational wealth transfer In the next12 years (US GDP is $12 trillion) in North America; and by 2053, some $130 trillion will have moved from one generation to another.

When it comes to financial services, adopt change as a mantra and prepare yourself to reach, support and interact with Gen-Connect in new and different ways.

That’s a lot of money sloshing around — and much of it is going to a new, tech-savvy financial consumer.

This next generation — I call them Gen-Connect — continue to aggressively integrate technology into their lives; they’re busy researching health care, insurance, retirement planning and investment advice online, on Facebook and through other social channels.

So what do you do? Adopt change as a mantra and prepare yourself to reach, support and interact with Gen-Connect in new and different ways.

Here’s a list of innovation strategies I provided in a recent keynote for a major global financial institution

1. Focus on growth

With so much volatility in the financial sector, it’s all too easy to take your eye off of the “opportunity ball.”

Yet there are huge opportunities that surround us ; probably the biggest is that we are going to witness a massive intergenerational transfer of wealth from the baby boomer generation to their uber-wiredGen-Connect children. In every area of the world this is going to involve a requirement for a lot of financial advice. As I noted in my remarks for a recent keynote to a group of senior bankers: “Never before has the need for financial advice for Australians been greater; only 20% of Australians are currently getting professional advice.”The same holds true for North America.

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

2. Structure for fast paced change

There are several certainties in the financial sector as a result of the impact of technology.

We will see more business model change as companies leverage technology to change relationships in the world of wealth management; we will see more sophisticated competition as a result, and continuous business model disruption with new, young upstarts that really know how to leverage technology and social network relationships. Combine this with continual shifts in consumer behaviour as we manage more of our money and investments using online tools — and speed things up with even faster technology-driven fast change, such as with the impact of mobile technologies.

What happens when ‘there’s an App for everything’ in wealth management? That’s what you need to keep up with!

3. Reshape brand messages faster

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

Part of this has to do with how quickly volatility comes and goes. Noted Jim Buchanan, Senior VP of Consumer Marketing at the Bank of America in an article in Advertising Age, October 2009: “Six months ago, we were trying to re-assure the market and consumers that we are safe and secure….now consumers are telling us they’re not worried about those things anymore…..What they are interested in is ‘How can you help me manage my finances?‘”

Innovative organizations ensure that the brand message evolves at the pace of a world in which volatility is the new normal. As a financial manager, you must make sure that your brand and image are seen to be modern, up to date, and in tune with the brand expectations of Gen-Connect. You can’t be “your grandfathers’ wealth manager” anymore.

4. Adapt to momentum of financial consumer change

Quite simply, the new financial client is online in a big way, and smart financial organizations will evolve their service and support message to these platforms.

The numbers are staggering; in the case one recent keynote I provided for a major financial institution, I emphasized that:

    • 147 million people interact globally on social networks via their mobile phones – we can expect 1 billion within five years!
    • usage of Twitter continues to grow at a staggering pace — and people spend more time on Facebook each week than they do on watching television.
    • they spend far less time reading newspapers and magazines in paper fashion — and in fact, some don’t look at such products at all!

The result of this i that they are increasingly influenced by advertising, marketing and branding messages that they see online. If you are still trying to reach out to them through traditional media, you might be missing them altogether.

It’s not just about marketing — it’s also about customer support. The entire world of customer support has gone online, and you need to be able to support them in the world to which they are accustomed.

The bottom line for financial and investment advisors is that social networks are an extremely effective tool to keep core clients in the loop; as an outreach tool, they’re fast, effective, unique, quirky, and certainly the story of the day. Financial advisors have to go where the client is going, and should be thinking about how to become socially-networked oriented advisers. Given regulatory issues, that can be a big challenge!

5. Adjust platforms to this changing behaviour

I continue to emphasize with my global financial clients that the impact of mobile technologies on financial services is absolutely massive. Think about Wizzit, a South African service that is essentially a text message based banking system.The reality is that the new financial consumer expects to be served on new platforms: as noted by Thomas Kunz, Senior VP at PNC Financial: “Gen-Y does not reconcile chequebooks  and they don’t believe in float. For them, their balance is their balance.”

That’s why PNC has released a “virtual wallet app” available for iPhones. They’re reaching out to this new financial consumer in a big way. That’s why every organization is scrambling to keep up with “Appworld” particularly considering that Apple sold 3 million iPad 3′ within the first 3 days of release.

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

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

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

The new financial consumer relies more than ever before for advice from their social networks. Peer-to-peer social driven advice through sites such as TradeKing is coming to the forefront: it’s a service that allows people to share stock tips and research through extended social networks.

Does this diminish the role of advisory services — not at all, if you drive in and become a part of the peer-to-peer conversation!

7. Re-orient distribution channels

Here’s another key point: I’ve emphasized to my insurance and other financial clients that the next-generation advisor/broker/agent expects ever more sophisticated technology platforms to help support their role.You’ve got to make sure you are keeping up with their needs.

In one survey in the insurance sector, 80% of brokers indicated that the sophistication of the technology platform of the provider would influence who they would choose to do business with.

According to Kevin Murray, EVP and CIO at New York-based AXA Equitable: “The younger generation of financial professional will almost demand online self-service….they will want to text any questions they have into the service centre or self-service from their mobile device. We’re going to have to be able to provide that capability. It’s how they will operate.”

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

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

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

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

9. Reduce churn through electronic relationships

Here’s something else to think about according to Chief Marketer (October 2009), “The average brand saw one third of highly loyal consumers in 2007completely defect to another brand in 2008“.

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

10. Better, more focused niche marketing

We’re in the new era  of analytics and analysis, which provides new opportunities for advisors to reach out to markets previously unattainable. As noted by Money Management Executive in October 2009: “Financial advisers generally prefer to manage a small number of high-net-worth clients rather than a large number of small accounts, but recent advances in automation technology could change this dynamic.”

11. Evolve the approach

Insurance and financial advisory services are products that are always sold based on fear — they aren’t bought.

This reality doesn’t go away because of new technologies. What does change is that technology is a powerful enabler that frees advisors forum having to focus on the mundane, routine, time wasting stuff, in order to focus on providing the advice & guidance that advisors can provide. Focus on the core role!

12. Enact change

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

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

I’m honoured to be the opening keynote speaker  for the 2012 Ontario Tourism Summit, the most significant tourism event in the province of Ontario, Canada.

They recently featured a short profile that provides a little bit of insight into my talk.

Global futurist Jim Carroll to speak at 2012 Ontario Tourism Summit

“The future belongs to those who are fast!” declares Jim Carroll, leading global futurist, trends and innovation expert and the kick-off speaker at the 2012 Ontario Tourism Summit. Carroll believes that fast response is a theme that fits well with the tourism industry in Ontario.

Carroll muses that 10 years ago there was no Facebook, YouTube or Twitter. Cell phones were used just for talking, until mobile devices were invented that allowed text messages. Apps and GPS based phones wouldn’t really make an appearance until about 2010.

“What a difference a decade makes. Yet, we’ve barely scratched the surface of how accelerating change will provide for opportunity to tourism organizations in the future,” says Carroll. He predicts that success will increasingly come from an organization’s ability to take advantage of rapid, dramatic shifts in the tourism promotions landscape.

From the process of branding tourism properties to evolving marketing methodologies, Carroll sees change in the future happening at lightening speed. “The nature of the interaction with the travel consumer will come to resemble a roller coaster ride,” he concludes. Carroll challenges tourism organizations to jump on board, full steam ahead, and take aggressive control of the future.

“The key is putting yourself in a frame of mind in which you want to embrace a fast changing future, rather than shying away from it,”he advises. “Some people see a trend and see a threat — real innovators see the same trend, and see massive opportunity,” says Carroll.

“There is so much that is right about tourism in Ontario,” emphasizes Carroll. “What we need to ensure we have is a tourism industry that continues to build upon what we have, and evolves at the speed of the future to ensure that we can continue to position to the world why Ontario is the best tourism destination in the world.”

(July 2016 update: Most of my servers are now on droplets on Digital Ocean. LEMP stack with Ubuntu is the current favourite. Raspbian on Pi’s with Ubuntu for #IoT projects. sudo-apt get update should apply to old blog posts!)

A big shout-out to the 10 companies that helped the most in keeping the JimCarroll.com Web site infrastructure in great operating shape throughout 2011. If you want to do a great Web site, you need to do it right. These are some of the technology companies that have supported my site in various ways through the year.

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Throughout 2011, my Web site has played an incredibly powerful role in supporting my speaking activities worldwide.

Quite a few clients have told me that they’ve found it through a Web search for a ‘futurist’ or ‘innovation speaker’, or have been sent there by one of my speaker bureau clients. They’ve told me they’ve watched the video clips throughout the site, and that with other background information, has convinced them that I’d be a great addition to their corporate leadership meeting or association event.

Keeping a Web site such as JimCarroll.com up and running with little downtime,  in a way that it is fast, responsive, and always available, takes a bit of effort. I do all the maintenance, blog postings and updates on my own. But it’s also through the help of a variety of partners that I’ve got a site in which the average Web page loads in under 3 to 4 seconds — pretty good for a media rich, complex site.

And so as we wind down the year 2011, I thought it would be a good time to give a shout-out to the many technology partners that I use to keep this Web site in tip top shape, or let me watch how well it is working. In no particular order, these partners include:

  • Blogvault: A fabulous WordPress backup service. Plug it in, pay a small fee, and you’ve got peace-of-mind knowing that your Web site is being backed up on a regular minute by minute basis. What’s better is their 1-button Web site restore. For example, I just had to move my son’s Web site over to my main Web server, and using the backup copy it worked like a charm – instantly!. Highly recommended!  
  • VaulltPress; another WordPress backup service that I am using. I started out with VaultPress before I met Blogvault, but I’m not one to easily leave a relationship that is working so well. Like Blogvault. this service does a regular minute by minute backup of my entire WordPress based Web site. Redundancy of backup can be a good thing – that’s why I’ve got two backup services!  
  • Woopra – Web site analytics software. With these folks, I’ve got a fabulous real time dashboard that shows me how people are using my Web site — how they found me, what they’re looking at, and what pages they are spending their time on. This has allowed me to continually redesign my site, ensuring that my clients can easily find the insight they are looking for. There are almost 1,000 blog posts — and I’ve discovered where people really spend their time. 
  • OpenTracker. These folks are a competitor to Woopra — and have their own unique strengths. I particularly like how I can do some pretty deep analysis of Web traffic as it is happening in real time – it gives me a real sense of what people were looking for, and what pages really draw significant attention. 
  • MediaTemple: extraordinary Web hosting with incomparable service — if you are willing to pay for a strong, reliable host, you’ll get stellar service. I had a support question on Thanksgiving Day — and it only took minutes for them to respond. I started the year out with a shared Web hosting service, and to be honest, you can take a significant performance hit if your site gets busy. In April I moved over to their DV (Dedicated Virtual) service, so that I’m the only one running as a server on the space I share. I’ve seen major performance improvements and fabulous reliability. Pingdom tells me I’ve only had 5 outages, and I know that each of those times has been due to something I’ve screwed up on my own. 
  • W3TC: a typical Web site / WordPress blog can slow down when it is serving up a variety of video, images and other information rich sources, particularly under heavy traffic loads. That’s where this service comes in — it spreads out the content to my “content delivery provider,” Amazon CloudFront …so that the images that you see on the Web site don’t actually come from my site, but from a variety of Amazon servers around the world. If you want to speed up a WordPress based Web site, W3TC is likely the best tool out there. 
  • CopterLabs: every once in a while, you need some custom programming done on a Web site. I found and hired Copter Labs to design the cool ‘image slider’ that you see on the top of this post. They do great work, are extremely professional, and truly do draw upon a team of WordPress experts worldwide – while my project was managed from Portland, Oregon, the actual work was done by a fellow in the UK. 
  • GTMetrix: to keep this complicated infrastructure moving and in great operating shape, you’ve got to able to do some deep analysis of where any bottlenecks might be emerging in your site. Every time you add a new feature, you run the risk of introducing some slow performance. GTMetrix lets me look into performance and continually fine tune its operations.  
  • easyDNS: the key component to any Web site is having a domain service that figures out just “where” jimcarroll.com happens to be located — and where and when images are being serviced from Amazon Cloudfront. Not just that, but a great domain service should automatically flip your Web site to a backup host in case things go wrong. That’s the role of easyDNS — I’ve been using them for 15 years — and could not recommend them more highly!  
  • Poll Everywhere: last but not least, but PollEverywhere ranks as my favourite tech tool of 2011. I was described in a blog post as a ‘raving fan’ of this service, and that is extremely true. I use PollEverywhere to do live text message polling while on stage – while they’re not really a part of my Web site, they are a very, very important partner! 

That’s my list of my key 10 providers for 2011. Obviously, there is a lot more at work here in terms of the technology infrastructure. I must mention Apple in light of the  : the home office consists of a Mac Pro, new Macbook Pro, iPad, iPhone, and just about everything-Apple. Between the home and the chalet, we’ve got 4 Apple TV’s and just about ever other whiz-bang iDevice possible. The fact is, Apple has helped to take my business to new levels — Pages, Number, and most importantly, Keynote have all replaced the Microsoft office tools that I was using up until 2007. Earlier this year, while on stage, I actually had to use Windows 7 when I wasn’t allowed to use my Mac on stage — and I was completely, totally lost!

Not to forget as well Keynote Pro: these folks designed the Keynote presentation template that I use on stage — one that has now probably been viewed by over 100,000 people in the last two years alone. It’s not a key part of what I do on my Web site, but from a stage perspective, it’s certainly a key part of my success! 

Thanks to all – and here’s to 2012!

Update: For those asking about how I manage to walk on stage and do what I do, and also manage the tech infrastructure — you can’t figure out the future if you don’t deeply into the technology that will drive it! For what it’s worth, I’ve been geeking out as a hobby since 1982, starting with a Radio Shack Model III. My latest project, in my ongoing effort to keep the Website humming along, is to utilize a MediaTemple VE server running on an “LEMP stack.”  (I’ve had a test site running with Apache and Nginx as a proxy, but there’s still a lot of Apache overhead.) So the next stage involves a barebones Ubuntu operating system (Linux), running Nginx (instead of Apache, for performance), Mysql and PHP. (Hence, LNMP, not LAMP). It’s based on this article here. Looks awesome!

The folks at PollEverywhere — the service that I use to conduct live text message polling while on stage — have just run an interview with me over on their blog as to how I utilize the tool.

I’m reposting it here since it does provide a good overview of just how wonderful and interactive their service is.


Jim Carroll is recognized one of the world’s leading international futurist, trends & innovation experts — and he’s got the client list to prove it, having provided his insight to such organizations as NASA; Lockheed Martin; National Australian Bank; Pfizer; Diners Club; HJ Heinz; and PPG.

And he’s a raving fan of Poll Everywhere — using the service in a huge range of global Fortune 1000 and other organizations as well as countless association events, such as being the opening keynote speaker for 4,000 people at the annual National Recreation and Parks Association annual conference in Salt Lake City.

“I’ve been using [Poll Everywhere] on stage as part of my keynote for at least two years, and the service has truly helped in building a live, rich interactive experience with my audience. I’ve used it in small CEO level sessions with just 20 people, and in large scale Las Vegas events where you’ve got to be a top-notch performer to keep a crowd engaged – particularly if they are in rough shape after a night out on the town!”

One of Jim’s most thrilling moments came when he found himself on stage in front of 500 golf pros for the 94th Annual General Meeting of the Professional Golfers Association of America. “The management team at PGA invited me in to speak to their members on the need for innovative thinking. They never had an outside speaker in before, in their entire history. And so starting out by having them pull out their cell phones in order to gauge some of their opinions about change, the future and challenges facing the game — it certainly made them think! The reaction was powerful and pretty astounding, because I was able to quickly shape my talk to respond to their concerns.”

While Jim can speak to audiences of 7,000 in Las Vegas or Orlando, he recently found himself on stage in front of 250 kids at his son’s high school. “My son knows that I’ve had a strange job for the last 20 years – flying around all over the world to speak at events — and his teachers thought it would be great if I could come in and talk about the future of their careers.”

Jim’s opening comments, as found in his blog post “What happens when high school students are told to text” (www.jimcarroll.com/2011/04/what-happens-when-high-school-students-are-told-to-text) captures the fascinating dynamics that occur on the big screen when PollEverywhere grabs the minds and attention of the ultimately wired generation. “That was a pretty cool moment,” says Jim. “And it really should get anyone thinking about the future of education, corporate and association meetings, and conferences.”

 

 

 

Jim’s method of audience interaction has proven to be a big selling point with his client base —  so much so that he devotes a Web page to what he does. www.jimcarroll.com/keynotes-workshops/interaction-from-the-stage

 

Not only that, but his blog offers a sometimes fascinating look into his client base – consider the opinions offered up by a group of manufacturers from Ohio: “Report from the heartland: Is there life in manufacturing in Ohio? You bet!” /2011/02/report-from-the-heartland-is-there-life-in-…

“People want to interact and be engaged with a speaker. This tool lets me reach out to their minds and hearts, and make them immediately part of the talk. And it has certainly provided me with a very unique tool in getting across some of the key trends which are impacting the future and opportunity for innovation.”

My recent post about using a live text message poll while speaking to a group of high school students drew a fair bit of attention as an example of the novel use of a social networking tool.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been using this type of tool on stage — I’ve been doing this for close to four years, and it always provides for an amazing amount of interaction with the audience.

Here I am opening the 94th Annual General Meeting of the Professional Golfers Association of America, immediately diving into a poll with the audience in order to gauge their thoughts on when we would see an economic recovery. While running the poll, I challenge the PGA to think about the impact of mobile technology out on the golf course!


Pretty darned effective, isn’t it!

I found myself in Sonoma County, California earlier this week; I was the opening speaker for a small corporate conference that featured what were probably the top 100 cattle, stockyard and feedlot operators in the US.

This was a pretty heavy duty event, so to speak, with some individuals representing ranches with upwards of 30,000 to 50,000 head of cattle. We’re talking billion-dollar operations here. A very exclusive group – as noted in the invitation, the sponsors ” have partnered to create an advanced leadership development curriculum entitled the 4C Summit – an experience that will be unlike any other ever offered in animal agriculture.”

My role? To encourage this group to think about future trends in the world of agriculture and food production; opportunities for innovation; and how to live out on the edge in terms of thinking about big ideas.

What the client DIDN’t want was what he found  from a lot of other innovation speakers he spoke to, who seemed to offer up the same refrain: “Plug into Twitter, get onto Facebook, get social, and you’ve mastered innovation!

Uggh. Yah, right! Real innovation comes from studying obvious future trends, and aligning yourself to those trends to seize opportunity and achieve growth.

So it was a thrill to speak to such an exclusive group — and I had a lot of ground to cover! First off, recognizing that this could be a dispirited crowd given past trends — they could be in a mindset that might not encourage innovative thinking.

After all, as I pointed out, they’ve suffered from:

  • stagnant growth (6.4% over 25 years) while imports have tripled
  • a continuing drop in the number of feedlots
  • consolidation of buyers (top 4 meatpackers control 80% of market from 36% in 1980), which give them fewer options
  • an overall decline in consumption in the US (94.3 lbs per capita to 59.1lbs from 1976 to today….)

What’s the result of these trends, and the impact of the recent recession? Aggressive indecision — a mindset that I’ve talked about on this blog for a long time.

“Many ranchers are wary of investing in expanding their herds, even with exports rising and prices climbing, because “they’re uncertain about the future,” said Gregg Doud, chief economist at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which represents ranchers and feedlots.” Where’s the Beef: Food Inflation Fears, Wall Street Journal, August 2010

Yet given this uncertainty, what are the trends that drive the opportunity for
innovation? I covered many; here’s a few.

1. There is massive, significant opportunity for global growth.

The statistics are simple and clear:

  • the world’s population will increase 47%, to 8.9 billion, by 2050
  • a simple fact: global agriculture production must double to sustain growth
  • a stark reality: little new arable land will come to play a role in that production

In other words, existing producers will have to double production to keep up with global demand.

Clearly, a substantial number of people are entering the global middle class through the next decade; as noted by McKinsey: “Almost a billion new consumers will enter the global marketplace in the next decade …. with an income level that allows spending on discretionary goods.

As this transition to middle class occurs, entire societies will transition to a diet that involves more consumption of meat. In India, the #1 “aspirational purchase” is a television. What do you think is #2? If you said a car, you are wrong — it’s a refrigerator! And right now, refrigerators have only a 13% market penetration! Talk about opportunities for growth.

The opportunity is clear – per capita meat consumption growth from 2000 to 2030 will be 49% in China, 79% in India, and 22% in Brazil.

2. There are significant long term trends that will drive global agricultural innovation and opportunity, if approached from the right perspective

I also covered four key trends that will have a huge impact on agriculture from every single perspective:

  • food security becomes a foremost “national interest” agenda
  • significant international agricultural investments
  • sustainability practices moves to the forefront of customer agenda
  • food quality and safety ratings become commonplace

On the first issue — we are going to witness many nation states work fast to ensure the security of their food supply. We are seeing it happen now with China, in order that it can ensure a sustainable reliable supply of food for its population in the future. How big an issue this is this?

“Food security will be the greatest challenge to civilization this century, with shortages leading to higher prices, political instability and mass migration, warn scientists, farmers and academics.” Looming food crisis showing on our shelves Sunday Age, April 2011

The issue of food security leads to the second big trend, and that is significant international agricultural investments. Quite simply, there’s a lot of investment money sloshing around involving agriculture.

“The World Bank reported this month that the number of large-scale farmland deals in 2009 amounted to about 45 million hectares, compared with an average of less than 4 million hectares each year from 1998 through 2008.” Investors bet the farm, Los Angeles Times, September 2010

Even Harvard University is getting into the act,  with a significant investment into one of the biggest ranches in New Zealand — the Big Sky Dairy Farm in Central Otago. (New Zealand Herald, June 2010)
These two trends are unfolding at the same time that sustainability practices moves to the forefront of customer agenda. Consider a very unique partnership between some “unlikely allies” that involve sustainable business practices in agriculture. This is going to affect EVERYONE in the industry:

“Food manufacturers, retailers and WWF are joining forces to address how to feed the world’s population, writes Paul Myers. When the World Wildlife Fund engages the ideologically distant interests of the cattle industry, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s to discuss global food production, it’s clear something is cooking…..Unlikely alliance, Sydney Morning Herald, February 2011

What is cooking is an effort by these organizations to move to sustainability practices to the forefront, in order to respond to consumer demand. And what the sustainability trend leads to is a world in which food quality and safety ratings become commonplace.

Wal-Mart, which sells more than 20 per cent of all US groceries, is developing an eco-labelling program that will give a green rating to all items sold in its 7500 stores worldwide…. Unlikely alliance, Sydney Morning Herald, February 2011

This will trickle right down to the farm and the ranch: agriculture is going to have to demonstrate sustainability at a micro-level:

“A group of cattle producers in Gippsland, Victoria, is marketing beef sourced from properties with independently audited environmental management systems that comply with the international ISO 14001 standard. Their “enviromeat beef”, sourced from 15 suppliers, is thought to be the first labelled food product backed by an environmental management system in Australia.” Unlikely alliance, Sydney Morning Herald, February 2011

Many farmers and ranchers might view these issues as a challenge, and a threat. But as I emphasized in my keynote, “Some people see a trend and see a threat. Others see opportunity!” The key innovation opportunity is now to work within these new realities in order to stay ahead of what the customer demands!

3. Ranchers need to think big! There are huge transformative opportunities!

In my keynotes, I always try and challenge the team to adapt to the mindset of Bill Gates, who observed that “we always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.”

I always pull out a number of examples of some of the big, bold, whacky innovative thinking that is occurring in any particular industry.

I’ve long observed that one of the key global economic drivers is that a lot of people are spending a lot of time solving the big problems faced by the industrialized world. In my “Where’s the Growth” trends document, I make the observation:  “What’s likely to lead us out of this recession? A combination of bold goals on energy and the environment, significant investment in health care to fix a system that is set for absolutely massive challenges, combined with high-velocity innovation in all three sectors.”

In the spirit of that observation, think about this report!

America’s dairy farmers could soon find themselves in the computer business, with the manure from their cows possibly powering the vast data centers of companies like Google and Microsoft…..With the right skills, a dairy farmer could rent out land and power to technology companies and recoup an investment in the waste-to-fuel systems within two years, Hewlett-Packard engineers say in a research paper to be made public on Wednesday…According to H.P.’s calculations, 10,000 cows could fuel a one-megawatt data center, which would be the equivalent of a small computing center used by a bank.

”The cows will never replace the hydroelectric power used by a lot of these data centers,” Mr. Kanellos said. ”But there is interest in biogas, and this presents another way to make manure pay.”“One Moos and One Hums, But the Could Help Power Google”, New York Times, May 2010

Whacky? Crazy? Who is to say! I actually wrote about this opportunity back in 2004 when I penned my “I found the future in manure” article!

4. Innovators concentrate on all kinds of innovation opportunities

I’ve always stressed that people can challenge themselves to innovate by focusing on 3 key questions; what can we do to run the business better, grow the business, and transform the business.

In that context, for these ranchers, there’s plenty of innovation opportunity. When it comes to running the business better, there is a massive opportunity for the continued deployment of technology to better manage the herrd, deal with food safety and tracability issues, manage the health of the herd; the list is endless! Growth of the business? Consider the opportunities that come about with direct-to-consumer relationships as our world of connectivity continues to expand. Transform the business?  Change the business model! One Australian group was faced with the challenge of getting fresh meat to Indonesia — and so they built the MC Becrux — basically a floating stockyard for thousands of head of cattle! (I admit, to go forward this will have to be done to fit into the sustainability model….)

5. Innovators ride accelarating rates of change

Quite simply, there’s a lot of scientific driven innovation in the agricultural sector. One conference I spoke at noted that we are seeing a lot of “advances in genomics, combinatorial chemistry, high throughput screening, advanced formulation, environmental science and toxicology, precision breeding, crop transformation, nanotechnology, synthetic biology and bio-informatics are tools that will transform the industry.”

It couldn’t be said better. Even the field of animal genomics is evolving at a furious pace — the same trend in which Moore’s law is driving down the cost of sequencing the human gene, so too it is with animal genetics, which has a big potential impact on the quality of future production.

6. Innovators adapt to accelerating generational change

Perhaps the biggest trend occurring in agriculture today is that we are seeing a generational turnover. As the family farm and industrial ranch transition from the baby boomer to today’s 25-30 year, there will be more rapid ingestion of new technologies. Quite simply, we are going to witness more change on the farm and ranch in the next ten years than we have seen in the last 50! That’s providing even yet more opportunity for innovation.

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As always, I had a lot of interaction with the audience through Q&A, and live text message polling. I walked through the innovation killer attitudes that I often talk about, and asked the audience what they thought they were most guilty of. Here’s what they had to say!

Overall, it was a great day, a great keynote, with a lot of the unique research and background that I take on for this type of assignment!

 

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.

Last week I was invited to speak in Cincinnati, Ohio by Techsolve, an organization that provides assistance to the manufacturing sector in Ohio

It was a tremendously fun keynote, because my talk was being transmitted — with both video and slides being shown — to remote locations in Cleveland, Dayton, Akron and elsewhere. Overall, we had about 350 people participating, representing a good cross-section of small and medium sized manufacturers from throughout the state.

My theme was “What do world class innovators do that others don’t do,” with a sub-theme of “Manufacturing 2.0” – what is it that leading manufacturers are doing to ensure they can thrive despite challenging economic times?

As with many of my keynotes, I used a series of text-message based polls to interact with the audience. It’s a very effective way of delivering a keynote in which the audience is fully engaged and active throughout my talk.

And as with most keynotes, I led with an opening survey in the first few minutes, to gauge the attitude in the room, in which I asked, “When do you think we’ll see an economic recovery. In moments, I had close to 100 responses.

And I must admit, the majority response surprised me. I do these text messages across North America to a huge range of organizations, and for the last two years, the consensus answer everywhere has been “2 to 4 years.”

Not in Ohio — almost half the respondents see that they see a global economic recovery happening now! That’s a lot of optimism!

They're more optimistic in Ohio than you think!

To be fair though, half the respondents also believe that the recession is still hanging on and that we won’t see progress for at least six months or more.

Which gave me a chance to hammer home a key point I often use with my audiences — and that comes from a study by GE which found that organizations who chose to innovate during a recession often emerged as breakthrough performers “on the other side.” In other words, the time to focus on innovation is now!

On to the next issue — I often frame innovation for the audience as pursuing a wide variety of opportunities to “run the business better, grow the business, and transform the business.”

What’s the priority in Ohio? Again, the results might surprise you!

Focused on growth and transformation!

Innovation aimed at “running the business better” is often the major focus for organizations in a recession – it involves cost cutting, and often major steps to save money for mere survival.

Clearly a good part of my audience had moved beyond that, and were thinking about growth and transformative opportunities!

This is great stuff, since it shows a real mind-set of innovation in the state of Ohio.

I was feeling playful by this point — and zipped in another text message poll further into my talk. Given their mindset, I asked the room, was there a fair picture being portrayed in the media about the state of manufacturing in Ohio? Not at all!

What do they think about the media?

Fascinating stuff. Overall, it was a great day, and I will post a longer blog about the manufacturing trends I focused on. Did it go well? I put up a slide part way through, to see how I was doing with the audience. The results came flying in:

Reaction to Jim Carroll's keynote

I received quite a few email messages, including this one from particular fellow — so it’s great to have an impact and provide some encouragement!

I wanted to drop you a quick line and thank you for a great morning this past Wednesday when you spoke at theTechsolve/Magnet Ohio simulcast.

Your presentation was outstanding and really validated much of what I am trying to do at my company. I am the General Manager at a company that has been very out of touch with innovation and has been a sleeping giant. Our new team is driving significant change. I needed a dose of motivation and your presentation certainly provided it to me!

Thanks for taking the time to share your exciting views and vision with us, Ohio companies certainly need it!

Is there a manufacturing sector in Ohio! You bet!

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

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

POLL NOW CLOSED; THESE ARE THE FINAL RESULTS!

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

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

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

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