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Some of the most fascinating organizations in the world have brought me in to encourage their people to think about the future, and how to nurture a culture of creativity and innovation. Organizations like NASA (twice!), Johnson and Johnson, Whirlpool/Maytag, the Walt Disney Corporation and literally hundreds more!

 

One of my key motivational points for my clients has always been this idea.

Many people see a trend and see a threat. Smart people see the same trend and see opportunity

Think about that, and then ask yourself as to how do you keep yourself in an innovative frame of mind.

A good part of it has to do with the company you keep! To that end, I’d suggest that you surround yourself with:

  • optimists. You need to hang out with people who see all kinds of opportunity – not gloomsters who are convinced there is no future out there!
  • people who do. Action oriented people. Folks who accomplish things. Those that do.
  • people with open minds. Innovators aren’t prepared to accept the status quo – they are willing to explore and understand different viewpoints, and use that as a kickoff for creativity.
  • people who have experienced failure. Innovation comes from risk; risk comes from trying things. Try lots of things, and many will fail. That’s good. That builds up experience, which gives you better insight into a fast paced world.
  • oddballs and rebels. Some of the most brilliant thinking and best ideas can come from those who view the world through a different lens. They may seem odd at times, but they can be brilliantly creative.
  • good listeners and debaters. They’re willing to challenge ideas, analyze issues, and think through the possibilities.
  • people who think differently than you do. If you really want to be innovative, go to two conferences a year that have nothing to do with what you do. You’ll be amazed at what you learn, and how it will re-stir your creative juices.

In every single keynote, I focus on future trends and opportunities, and link that to the process and mindset of innovation. I’m an optimist, continually try new things, listen to other people, watch, observe, and listen.

Most important, I refuse to give in to the pervasive negative thinking that so many people seem to envelope themselves within. Maybe that’s why I see so many opportunities in today’s economy.

Think growth!

For years, I’ve explained to my global client base that access to skills and talent will been to the key element for success going forward. Two good examples? Fast trends in the world of self-driving cars, and the acceleration of trends in retail.

I was thinking about this today as two articles floated through my news clipping service: an article in Fortune that outlined how “Walmart Is Launching a Tech Incubator in Silicon Valley.” The second involved quite a few articles that spoke about the new partnerships occurring in the world of self-driving car technology, such as one in Sci-Tech: “Intel’s Not the Only Big Company To Find a Self-Driving Partner.

There are two big issues that are in play here that can be summarized quite nicely, which I’ve explained for quite some time:

  •  every industry is becoming a tech industry, and every company is becoming a software company – with the result that companies such as Walmart have to set up in the heart of the tech world in order to get ahead
  • companies are quickly discovering that they don’t have the skills to do what needs to be done – hence, they need to partner up to get things done — which is the key trend occurring in the world of autonomous vehicles right now

This is echoed by some research I presented in several recent meetings with major private equity investors, based on a study by GE, which found that among senior executives:

  • 85% are concerned about the velocity introduced by digitization and are open to idea collaboration
  • 75% indicated they are open to share the revenue stream of an innovation collaboration
  • 85% indicated such initiatives were growing over the last year

Key trend? The race for tech skills is going to accelerate; new forms of partnership will be established faster; lots of money will be made by those who have the requisite skills; and this will be a defining issue for success going forward!

Need a bigger example? This headline: “Ford is putting $1 billion into an AI startup, Detroit’s biggest investment yet in self-driving car tech.” Think about that — essentially, it’s a billion dollar investment to get the right skills, at the right time, for the right purpose.

 

I’m always thinking about my clients and my keynotes and the messages that I need to deliver on stage. With that, I’m always keeping my eye open for a good business parable. So here’s another one, that came from a unique opportunity for a quick little ski lesson from one of the top downhill racers in the world, Larisa Yurkiw.

Advice for me in a personal lesson from one of the top 3 downhill ski racers in the world: “Focus forward — keep your shoulders pointed to where you want to go. And be like a slinky. You never know what the next bump in the snow is going to throw at you, so you need to be prepared for anything. You can only do that if you are in a position that will let you flex quickly.”

I was skiing this weekend at my home ski club — it’s a small eastern hill known as Georgian Peaks. Bluebird skies and great conditions. And so at one point, I came down one particular run — Rogers — which is rather steep and challenging for someone who only took up the sport at the age of 40.

Normally, I would look like a total doofus on this hill, but the conditions were so good that maybe I looked like I knew what I was doing or faked it well. But I felt that I actually skied it pretty well.

And then a voice in the lift line behind me — “I followed you all the way down!” Larisa Yurkiw was standing there. “Let’s do a few more runs.

If you don’t know Larisa’s story, you should. She started at the same small Ontario ski hill, and progressed to the elite of the global downhill ski racing circuit, racing against her friends Lindsay Vonn, Julie Mancuso and others. Before her retirement, she was ranked number 3 in the world, competed in the Olympics, and more. What makes the story more unique is that she did it all on her own terms, establishing and funding her own ski team because the national sports association didn’t step up and believe in her. She did!

It’s a great story, and she’s now telling it in a powerful stage keynote – A Daring Need for Speed. (Full disclosure : I’ve been mentoring Larisa on how to take her story to the stage, and she’s doing a great job. If you are looking for a powerhouse speaker with a fascinating keynote, check her out!)

Back to my story — so we went up the lift, and then she gave me a tip at the top. I might not have it exactly right, but it was something like this:

“Focus forward — keep your shoulders pointed to where you want to go. And be like a slinky. You never know what the next bump in the snow is going to throw at you, so you need to be prepared for anything. You can only do that if you are in a position that will let you flex quickly.”

The essence of her 2 point lesson for me was to keep focused on where I was trying to go, and to be flexible and agile in my stance. Did it work? We did several more runs together, and I felt a fair bit more control in what I was doing. It’s too bad the season is coming to an end!

But for me, there was more than just a quick ski lesson — there was a great business story in that simple guidance! It’s almost the perfect business leadership lesson for the high velocity economy! With business model disruption, the emergence of new, nimble competitors, the onrush of technological change, challenging consumers and more, organizations today must have have more flexibility than ever before to respond to a sudden change in conditions, just as on a ski hill.

But that must be done in the context of keeping a key goal and strategy in mind — staying focused on where you want to go on the journey.

So your leadership lesson for today? Focus forward & be a slinky – simple, yet effective and compelling!

 

A time when technology arrives to market obsolete
Futurist Jim Carroll describes trucking trends likely to shape disruptive years to come
Mar 17, 2017 Aaron Marsh | Fleet Owner

It’s a pretty wild concept: that technology today — including that in trucking — is being eclipsed and outdated almost as soon as it can be brought to market. But if you want to know what’s around the next corner for trucking, that’s where you need to start, says futurist Jim Carroll.

According to this future trends analyst and foreseer of sorts, if you want to get out in front of the next big change in trucking, keep in mind that when it comes to the future, you may have no idea what you should really be thinking about.

To set the stage and “bring you into my world — and that is a world of extremely fast-paced change,” Carroll referenced research on the future of careers in the U.S. that suggests about 65% of children now in preschool will have a job in a career that does not yet exist.

“Think about that: if you have a daughter, son, granddaughter, niece, nephew or whatever who’s in kindergarten or grade one, roughly seven out of 10 of them are going to work in a job or career that does not even yet exist,” Carroll told listeners. He spoke at the recent Omnitracs Outlook user conference in Phoenix.

How does something like that happen? It already did recently: he gave the example of smartphones and GPS services, which have sprung up over about the same time period. It’s resulted in geographically and directions-oriented apps and location intelligence professionals. Oh, wait a minute — “location intelligence professionals”?

“Think about that phrase, and think about what’s happening in the world of trucking and logistics,” Carroll noted. “Think about how integral all of those mapping applications have become in the world of your business.”

“That’s a career that didn’t exist 10 or 15 years ago,” he continued. “Now, cast your mind into the world of trucking 10 years from now and think about the careers and jobs that might exist.”

Here’s another guiding example. If you take “any type of degree today based on science” at a college or university, Carroll contended, “things are evolving so quickly that it’s estimated that half of what we learn in the very first year of a degree program will be obsolete or revised by the time we graduate three years later.”

Those who are fast

The point is, technology changes are coming from seemingly everywhere, and change — including in trucks and their growing embedded technology like Internet connectivity or advanced safety products — is accelerating.

And that is so much the case, noted Carroll, that many kinds of technology are out-of-date almost as soon as they hit the market and you can buy them. Think about smartphones, which often see multiple models of a given phone issued in a single year.

“We live in a time of absolute, instant obsolescence.”
—Futurist Jim Carroll

That drive for the latest model has now even filtered into social standing. “The way your friends judge you today is very much based on the technology you carry around,” Carroll observed. “So in other words, if you go to a party and take out a flip phone, people will be kind of looking at you like, ‘What a loser — he’s got something from the olden days.'”

Carroll gave another example of digital cameras — actually something of a moot point, he suggested, since “this is back in the old days five years ago when people actually bought cameras and weren’t all just using their phones” — where products have about 3-6 months after they’re brought to market before they’re obsolete.

“We live in a time of absolute, instant obsolescence,” he argued, attributing that phrase to global media magnate Rupert Murdoch. Some years ago, Murdoch had pointed out that there is such change happening and at such speed, “that increasingly, the future belongs to those who are fast,” Carroll said.

Trucking: unrecognizable

Polling the audience, he asked listeners what they thought the trucking industry — its methods, its equipment, its technology — would look like in a decade. Most everyone, 86% of those who texted in, voted that they think the industry will be “barely recognizeable, or fully and completely disrupted.”

That’s a clear expectation of considerable change in trucking. “So let’s try another question: if we are in the midst of so much change,” Carroll said, “are we prepared for it?”

And on that note, he added that being prepared for the potentially disruptive/ disrupted future of trucking is to realize that change has been happening faster, particularly in these latter years, than people expected.

To illustrate how, Carroll referenced a time he’d spoken before a roomful of astronauts and astrophysicists at NASA about the future of space. Carroll’s choice of what to present on? The Jetsons. That animated TV show came out in 1962 and was meant to depict life 100 years in the future in 2062.

Except, if you watch some of those old episodes, “George [Jetson] is using Skype. He’s getting his news off the Internet,” contended Carroll. “Elroy has a drone. You can watch one episode where he’s sitting in the living room and using a controller just like we have with our drones.

Along with the Jetsons, here’s another example of the sci-fi, fictional future arriving sooner than expected: a group of scientists has prototyped this device, Carroll noted as he held it up to his head, which essentially works like the Star Trek medical tricorder set in the 23rd century.

“You can watch another episode where they’ve got an Apple Watch,” he continued. “George communicates with his boss via Facetime. Obviously, they’ve got self-driving cars, autonomous vehicles, all over the place, albeit they fly.”

“My point is this: we believed that this future would arrive in 2062, and all of a sudden, it is here much sooner than we thought,” he told the audience. “Could that be the case with our future overall?”

In terms of envisioning the future, perhaps think a little offbeat but observe the trends converging. Here’s an example. “Think about trends, and think about what has happened with drone technology,” noted Carroll. “I think a trend which is going to lead us to the world of self-driving, flying cars is we’re going to learn how to scale up our drones and sit a human in them.”

Warehouses on wheels

Carroll advised trucking professionals to think big change when they’re picturing what the industry will look like in the years to come. “Think about what’s happening here,” he said. “There are people with big, bold ideas. Think about what’s happening in the transportation space.”

What kinds of things could happen? Maybe a new type of truck or vehicle will be developed. Autonomous technology could be accelerated and advanced. New distribution models could emerge. Or maybe something else could — something entirely different that turns the trucking you know now into the trucking you knew way back when.

“We’re going to talk to our truck just as we talk to our iPhone. We’re going to have augmented reality screens in the visor. We’ll probably have robotic handlers built into the truck for loading and unloading. We’ll have payment technology built into the vehicle — not only has our cell phone become a credit card, but so has our truck.

“We’ll simply do a biometric thumbprint to complete a transaction,” Carroll painted his future trucking portrait. The only thing, though, is that those technologies, and testing of them, is happening now.

There’s also this: “Part of the changes you see happening [in trucking] is we are witnessing very significant changes in what retailers and manufacturers are doing with their supply chains,” he added. Trucks can now become something more like mobile distribution hubs, for example.

Because of the rise of online shopping and fulfillment, stores will become more like showrooms, and “we’re witnessing the end of inventory,” Carroll contended. Consumers will browse these showrooms and purchase a product, he suggested, and then a streamlined distribution system will deliver that item to the purchaser’s home — hint: trucking would have to be involved here — perhaps even within an hour.

“You are becoming warehouses on wheels, and everybody has this in their sights in terms of big, transformative thinking in your industry,” he argued. “And what is really also happening is that every single industry out there is speeding up.”

For close to 25 years, I have been relentlessly studying what makes organizations successful at dealing with the future and innovation. I know why some fail, while others succeed.

In those who fail, there are some common traits :

  • People laugh at new ideas
  • Someone who identifies a problem is shunned
  • Innovation is the privileged practice of a special group
  • The phrase, “you can’t do that because we’ve always done it this way” is used for every new idea
  • No one can remember the last time anyone did anything really cool
  • People think innovation is about R&D
  • People have convinced themselves that competing on price is normal
  • The organization is focused more on process than success
  • There are lots of baby boomers about, and few people younger than 25
  • After any type of surprise — product, market, industry or organizational change — everyone sits back and asks, “wow, where did that come from?”

Innovative companies act differently. In these organizations

  • Ideas flow freely throughout the organization
  • subversion is a virtue
  • success and failure are championed
  • there are many, many leaders who encourage innovative thinking, rather than managers who run a bureaucracy
  • there are creative champions throughout the organization — people who thrive on thinking about how to do things differently
  • ideas get approval and endorsement
  • rather than stating “it can’t be done,” people ask, “how could we do this?”
  • people know that in addition to R&D, innovation is also about ideas about to “run the business better, grow the business and transform the business
  • the word “innovation” is found in most job descriptions as a primary area of responsibility, and a percentage of annual renumeration is based upon achievement of explicitly defined innovation goals

The fact is, every organization should be able to develop innovation as a core virtue — if they aren’t, they certainly won’t survive the rapid rate of change that envelopes us today.

Each day, I post a motivational quote from a stage to my Instagram feed. Follow me and get inspired!

This morning, I suggested that we need more people with a new degree I’ve proposed, that I call the Masters in Business Imagination!

I’ve been proposing this for quite some time, and in fact, back in 2004, wrote the MBI Manifesto. You can read it here, or access the PDF 

I’ve done several keynotes specifically on the MBI theme; indeed, Fairmont/Raffles Hotel International had me in for a senior leadership meeting, to encourage their team to think differently about the future. How did it go?

Thank you for coming to Whistler and speaking to our leadership team. Wow! What a session – we’ve seen a lot of motivational speakers, but you really managed to capture the reality of what we need to do innovate in the context of some pretty dramatic trends and change. Outstanding!

Need a unique keynote? Read on!

Keynote: The Masters in Business Imagination: Motivational Guidance for the Era of Fast!

In an era of dramatic and relentless change, people and organizations are scrambling to align themselves for a new, topsy-turvy world. Jim Carroll comes to the rescue with his keynote, The Masters in Business Imagination which will inspire your team to adopt relentless creativity and innovation as core virtues. Once you ‘graduate’ from his MBI class, you’ll possess the skills common to this critical degree of the 21st century economy, by linking your initiatives to a carefully calibrated curriculum of change-oriented thinking.

volvo-givemeyourmind550

MBI’s see things differently – they don’t look at things like most people. MBI’s spur creativity in other people – they inspire others to develop similar levels of imaginative thinking. They focus on opportunity – not threat, and realize that action, not inaction, is the driving force for the future. They refuse to accept the status quo and are prepared to eliminate habit. MBI’s bring big ideas to life – and paint pictures of where the organization is going to go, rather than focusing on where it has been in the past. They learn and unlearn, forgoing the dangerous assumption that what they know today will carry them into tomorrow. Most important of all, they refuse to say the word CAN’T. They know that barriers, perceived or otherwise, are simply temporary roadblocks that they can get around with fresh insight, imaginative analysis, and creative thinking!

Fire up your enthusiasm, energy and innovation spirt with a unique motivational keynote by futurist Jim Carroll, as he inspires your team to align themselves to the only degree they will need for the future – The Masters in Business Imagination!

Self-driving Cars? It’s All About the Penguins!
March 15th, 2017, by Jim Carroll

Last week, I was in Palm Springs, California, with a session for a board of directors on what’s really going on with the acceleration towards self-driving cars and trucks.

To prepare, I used my secret weapon, and actually grabbed close to 850 articles from the last two months on things going on in this fast moving sector, and read through them all. Whoah! Lots happening and fast! ( That’s typical of the preparation I put into many of my leadership meetings and keynotes.)

One article in the bunch, though, really captured my attention: “Penguins could keep your self driving car safe“. The article was published in January over at the Daily Mail. 

The essence of the research reported upon in the article is this: “penguins hunt in groups and synchronize their dives to catch fish.” Studying how they do so could provide invaluable insight into the evolution of self-driving cars. Much of the article focused on how that type of behaviour could help to avoid the future hacking of cars, but I think that there is much more going on than that…..

Self-driving cars will be connected by telemetry, LIDAR and other technologies, and will operate in a pack mentality to coordinate their efforts. This permits the emergence of ‘pelotons’ — connected ‘trains’ of vehicles in communication with each other, and in communication with intelligent, connnected smart highway technology. (Did you know that Amazon has some patents with respect to the latter?) We are already seeing trials in which groups of 6, 8 or 10 trucks travel together, separated by just a few feet, travelling in a coordinated group at 60mph. Pack-activity.

Penguins are great in travelling in packs, so why not learn how they do it, and engineer that into autonomous vehicle technology…. and so studying how nature does this will provide deep insight into what to do this with cars and trucks.

If you think this through, the result? The Intel-Mobileye $15 billion deal is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, for what is to come in terms of access to skills and R&D in automotive.

You can expect Silicon Valley and car companies to be seeking out and hiring a lot of penguin-researchers, and other specialists in the study of animal behaviour. It’s called biomimicry, and its an approach that has been used for quite some time to engineer unique solutions to complex problems.

The thinking is that there are opportunities that can come from emulating the time-proven methodologies and strategies as seen in nature. Examples abound, as noted in the Daily Mail article:

  • the way that ants communicate has been used in telecommunications research
  • “Salto”, the jumping robot seen below, was developed by studying the behaviour of “bush-babies”

It goes beyond animals : I’ve been keynoting quite a few manufacturing conferences, and have spoken about the acceleration of 3D printing, or additive manufacturing. Here’s something cool : Airbus is evolving its approach to 3D printing by study botany, with the thinking that if it can mimic the structural strength of plants, it can print interior structures that are lighter and stronger. Important for airplanes!

In other words, the future doesn’t just belong to those who are fast. It belongs to those who understand the importance of penguins!

“Why did this get me in trouble? The firm I was with had a contract with a large national postal services organization, and it seems the CEO took exception to someone internal promoting the virtues of a whacky new form of communication that could replace paper mail.”

The folks at Postal and Parcel Technology Magazine approached me some months back to write an article about the future of mail in the era of technology, and particularly, e-mail.

I suggested to them that rather than looking forward, why not look to the past for valuable lessons?

Such as, how organizations seem to always react in a negative way to new technologies, new ideas and innovation?

What better way to do so than by writing about the fact that I was almost fired in 1989 (yup, 28 years ago) because of a cover story that I was featured in about electronic mail. And the fact that some folks who had a vested interest in paper mail read the article, didn’t like it, and complained. Kind of loudly. Because they didn’t like change….

The folks at Postal and Parcel loved the idea – and so we ran an article, below.

So what happened in 1989? I wasn’t fired. I ended up quitting the firm some months later, after 10 years, because the senior leadership team couldn’t comprehend my indications that something ‘big’ was happening.

For a few years, I made a lot of money actually consulting to companies on technology. Then I wrote some books (34, actually) about the Internet, and sold about 2 million books. That got me on the speaker circuit. I started speaking about the future. Companies took notice of what I was saying. More and more people and companies noticed, and I soon found myself providing guidance on the future to some fascinating organizations. One day, I found myself in front of some astronauts and astrophysicists at NASA, speaking to them about the future of space, the space industry, and the realities of innovation!

The article — click the image for a full version. Or access the PDF : . Read it below!

 

 

Fright Club
Jim Carroll Explains Why Organizations Should Never Fear Change
Postal and Parcel Technology International, March 2017

In October 1989 I was almost fired from a job with a global professional services firm because of email! Not because of anything I had sent or received, but because I appeared in an office automation magazine extolling the benefits of using electronic mail over regular paper mail.

Why did this get me in trouble? The firm I was with had a contract with a large national postal services organization, and it seems the CEO took exception to someone internal promoting the virtues of a whacky new form of communication that could replace paper mail. After some explaining that I had no nefarious intent, cooler heads prevailed and I kept my job, although I later decided it was developments like email that really interested me, so I became a global futurist and expert on innovation, and today count Disney, NASA and Johnson & Johnson among my clients.

Email is an example of something that forever changed the way we communicate, but as my story shows, there are people who don’t like new technology and the change it represents. But it also makes the point that you have to move beyond that type of thinking if you are to survive.

Over the years, I have spent time with a tremendous number of organizations and have seen some business models decimated by technology – just as others turn the same ideas into an opportunity. Ideally you want to be in the latter camp, but how?

First of all, accept that in the future you won’t even recognize the industry you are operating in. That’s because the rate of business model change is accelerating in every single industry. In 10 years’ time your business model will look nothing like it does today, with a huge disruption most likely to stem from a younger generation with a better grasp of the latest technologies.

Now, the technology they use will probably seem unrelated or irrelevant to your area of business at first, and you may discount it, but the truth will be that if you don’t embrace it, your operation won’t survive. Examples of this type of disruption are occurring right now.

Battling against a culture of innovation can set you upward this. form of organizational sclerosis. It will clog up your ability to pursue new ideas. How do you recognize if you have a problem? There are a few recognizable signs For example, do you laugh at new ideas? Is your organization more focused on process than success/ Is the company culture very much, “Well, this is how we do it because we’ve always done it this way?”

Innovative companies are different. Ideas flow freely throughout the organization, and success and failure are championed. There are many leaders who encourage innovative thinking, rather than magaers who run a bureacracracy, and a number of creative champions who thrive on thinking about how to do things differently. These companies recognize that innovation is also about how to run, grow and transform the business.

The fact is, every organization should be able to develop innovation as a core virtue – if it isn’t, it certainly won’t survive the rapid rate of change that envelopes us today.

I am a big believer that the world of communications and logistics – as found in the postal industry – has a fascinating and marvellous future in this new, fast-paced, virtual/physical economy that is being created. But to do that, you must have an open mind and a willingness to embrace the future.

In other words, don’t fire the messenger. Ask yourself, “What is the messenger really trying to tell us?

 1989office_automation

Read the original 1989 article here!

Does your organization have the right stuff to deal with todays’ information-empowered, globally collaborative, we-know-better-than-you-do customer? Probably not!


Imagine that you are a big company. Imagine that you roll out a new piece of software that was supposed to make things better for your customers.

Imagine that it doesn’t do that — and it makes things worse, in that a feature that existed for your best customers has now disappeared. Even worse — those very same customers now have to pay a fee to do what they could previously do for free. In other words, imagine that you’ve broken a customer-system, and you are now penalizing those customers for your mistake.

Imagine this : you’ve tried to make things better, and you’ve only made them worse. Does this happen in the real world? Alarmingly, often. I’m going through this exact type of experience right now with a billion-dollar company that I deal with regularly.

Out of respect — since I think their CEO is a smart guy — I won’t name names. I will, however, offer up my advice on how to respect, not mistreat, your customers. The fact is, in this hyper-connected world, your customers know a lot more about what is going on than you do. If you fail at customer service or customer interaction, it can go public in a big way.

You don’t just need to be excellent in customer relationships – you need to be relentless excellent.

These are the fundamental truths of the new customer relationship.

  1. Fix things fast, because things break fast. As things go wrong, fix them fast. Have a communications plan. Be prepared to reassure the customer quickly. In this new era of hyper-information feedback, don’t let the customer sit and stew for a moment — proactive information and proactive action is the only weapon you have, and you have to use it.
  2. Adopt customer-niceness as a core virtue during the pain period. There are rules and fees and structure that can exist in any customer relationship. But make everyone aware on the team that there are likely some things that are going to have to be waived during the rollout. The core virtue is, “we’re going to be nice to the customer, because we know it is not the customers fault that things have gone wrong.”
  3. Admit that mistakes will happen . It’s ok. It’s the 21st century. Bad things go wrong all the time. Accept that, and use that as a go-forward strategy. “Things will go wrong and we will work to fix them fast” is a better strategy than “we plan on rolling it out and holding our breath that things don’t get messed up.”
  4. Don’t hide from the customers. Customers today can turn on you in an instant. Rumors, stories, misinformation can abound. The customer has a lot of information, and might not always be reading it right — but they can certainly make it go wrong in a hurry. A clear, and open, and honest, reactive strategy with the customer is in your best interest. More communication is the best rule.
  5. Be open. Solicit feedback – get the customers on side. Don’t just rollout new ideas, technologies, services or other things, and hope for the best. Know that there will be problems, issues, and things that will go wrong. Start out on the right foot with the customer base when things go wrong by admitting that you screwed up, and by seeking their input, guidance. The new business world is all a beta — Google gets this, and you should get this too.
  6. Turn customers into fixers. The customer is a new customer. They expect operational excellence, and if they don’t get it off the bat, they are prepared to help fix it. The complexity of a new customer software system can undergo all kinds of testing internally, but some things will never show up until it goes live. That’s why you want to recruit the customer as a problem solver. Turn it from a “bad rollout of new software” into something different, by letting the customer know that you want them to help stress test the system and find the things that aren’t working quite right.
  7. Get everyone inside on the same page. Let everyone throughout the organization know that something new is going to be happening that could cause customer stress. Get them to understand that the new JOB #1 is Customer-Destressification.
  8. Have an escalation plan. As things go wrong, be prepared to pump them up the chain in a hurry. Have a team ready to analyze what the customers are saying, do triage on the big ones, and work them quickly.
  9. Empower people with niceness. Customer-centricity and the instant-age demands that the customer be made happy — quickly. Give staff who have not previously had the authority, the authority to do things to the customer that are nice. That will help to ease the early part of the “pain process.”
  10. Learn from the experience. Learn from this rollout to figure out how to do it better the next time.

In today’s hyper-competitive environment, your customer relationship can be fleeting at best. They often know more about your market than your staff does. Act accordingly, or you look like a fool — and you end up losing customer loyalty.

So … last week I was in Miami, and did a talk on business disruption, transformation and innovation for about 30 CEO’s of companies in the healthcare, tech and IT sectors, on behalf of a private equity firm. The meeting also included a wide ranging discussion with a panel of ‘mentor’ CEO’s.

This is one of several events of this type I’ve done; through the years, an increasing number of private wealth, family offices and private equity firms have brought me in for talks, including a keynote in Greece where there was about $1 trillion of value in the room. At the conclusion, I managed to query all of these CEO’s on the biggest perceived challenges they face going forward.

Check out their response! Talent and skills! Speed of change!

The issues in the poll were the ones that they raised as major concerns, during the discussion part of the meeting, and had to do with these issues:

  • how does a CEO establish an appropriate balance between the necessity for leadership and the criticality of strategy time?
  • how to best manage the speed of change
  • how to align their team to emerging trends, challenge and opportunities
  • getting the right talent at the right time for the right purpose
  • establishing an overall organizational culture of speed
  • how to manage the disconnect between needing to change and historical legacy (as well as legacy IT)
  • managing more complex consumer expectations
  • when to jump onto a major trend

This is just so interesting from several perspectives, but first and foremost is this: I’ve long explained to my clients that a key issue for any organization going forward is this: “getting the right skills at the right time for the right purpose.” 

Put this in the context of several recent headlines I’ve used in events : GE hiring more tech talent and purchasing startups than Silicon Valley companies; Ford hiring 27,000 computer tech staff to help it in the race for self-driving cars; and other similar issues.

Clearly talent is a major issue going forward, and workforce and skills innovation is rising to the top!

 

As with anything, the opportunity around the idea of the ‘smart home’, and the reality of what will transpire, varies to a large degree. We are in early days yet!

That was the essence of an exchange I had with a potential client in the home/condo construction market; they were looking at me for an executive offsite concerning their plans in this space, and wanted a senior level executive session that outlined opportunities with smart home construction in the future.

My key goal was to get across to them that a smart home doesn’t just involve throwing in some Internet-connected devices;  it’s not just about the Internet of Things; there is a lot more potential, and the scope of the opportunity is pretty significant in the long term. Given that, they really needed to take a substantive approach that involved not just short term goals but some long term thinking.

Here’s what I outlined:

  1. It”s bigger than you think. The smart home of the future will not only play a role in security and energy, but also also a role in economic development, healthcare virtualization, the reengineering of local energy grids and much, much more
  2. We’ve only just begun. Major organizations, such as appliance and other home device manufacturers, are only just starting to understand where they can go with the smart home. This is outlined in my recent post, The 11 Rules of IoT Architecture – they are coming to understand that just as Tesla is building cars that can be upgradable, they can play a role in smart homes that will be upgradable and changeable over time. That’s a pretty big scope of opportunity.
  3. The energy side is much more than just connected thermostats The real smart home of the future will be designed with major energy implications in mind. This will involve @ home energy generation, as well as sharable energy systems and support for local community micro-grids. Catch my video on this, Will the Energy Industry be Mp3’d?
  4. AI will play a big role, but no one is sure what that means yet. We are in early days with home AI devices such as Amazon Alexa and other intelligent assistants. Alexa and other devices have caught the attention of the innovators; someone out there is busy engineering future solutions that are barely an idea yet. We don’t know where this aspect will take us!
  5.  Virtual healthcare in the home is a bigger component of the smart home than you realize. Bioconnectivity – the virtualization of healthcare, is massive. The hospital is being reengineered to incorporate the monitoring of patients from afar. Big, bold thinking in the seniors care and other industries will lead to transformation of the very essence of what we think a hospital is – because the home becomes a part of the hospital. Look to the MedCottage for guidance on the opportunity with this issue.
  6. Making it work is pretty complex. An API has been built, but people are only just beginning to use it. Head over to the site, If This Then That. It’s at the vanguard of where we can go with this massive form of hyperconnctivity. It involves a series of rules -if this device does this, then do that. Talk to your phone to turn on your thermostat. Use your phone to see where you are and define a rule if your garage door should open. The number of companies joining IFTT is staggering — it is likely the World Wide Web for the Internet of Things!
  7. Existing players aren’t necessarily the major players. Google was big and early into the game with NEST, but don’t expect that big organizations like GE, Whirlpool and others will easily give up the potential market. While big companies aren’t necessarily the best innovators, I’m seeing a lot of deep, substantive thinking in these organizations as to the real nature of a smart home eco-system.
  8. The economic implications are huge. In the 1950’s, the modern suburb defined the future of economic relocation – companies made decisions based upon where the employees might live. In the future, smart communities wired by smart infrastructure, particularly those supporting the nomadic worker, will have an economic leg up. Wild card: self-driving cars and economic success.
  9. Architectural / design issues are only just being explored. If we can build ultra-smart, energy efficient, secure homes, have we yet hit an understanding of the design opportunity? In this area, think about the Jetsons – it really provides guidance!
  10. The skills issues are massive! I had one of the first Internet enabled thermostats about 17 years ago. My HVAC contractor flipped out when he saw it, complaining he didn’t know how to wire Ethernet stuff. I said that’s ok, my teenage son will do it — and he did! Its going to take a lot of knowledge re-skilling for the future of the smart home!

For each of these areas, I’ve spent a lot of time in the last 20 years. By way of examples:

  •  I’ve spent time with many of the companies in the home energy sector; all of Honeywell, Trane, and Lennox have had me in for CEO level events or dealer meetings
  • with the era of smart appliances, I just keynoted a session at Whirlpool/Maytag on the implications and opportunities of the Internet of Things.
  • in the energy field, I’ve spoken about the future of micro-grids and shared energy for the CEO of PG&E, as well as many global energy conferences
  • I’ve done multiple keynotes around the future of virtualized, community oriented healthcare, most recently, for several thousand folks in the seniors care industry
  • on the economic implications , lots of talks — I’ve just been booked by the Western Nevada Economic Development Association for a keynote around this theme, by way of example
  • on the architectural / design issues, I recently had a keynote in St. Louis for Alberici Construction…. and others
  • and on the skills issues, a lot of time, including talking about the future challenges for HVAC contractors and others at the WorldSkills conference in Sao Paolo, Brazil!

One of my favourite future phases is from Bill Gates: Most people tend to overstate the rate of change that will occur on a two year basis, and underestimate the rate of change on a 10 year basis. So it is with the smart, connected home. We’re going to be in a different space 10 years from now, but we are only just starting to define that!

Closing comment? Back in the late 90’s, I wrote a monthly column for one of the world’s leading airlines — Canadian Airlines! One of my columns had to do with the smart home of the future. It’s a fun read today – and I was pretty right about the trends going forward! Have a read!

Soon you’ll be programming the drapes
September 1999 – Canadian Magazine
by Jim Carroll PDF

The last few decades have been marked by promised of innovative new technology for the home. The presumption, of course, is that more technology is good for us and that, in the process, our homes will become “smart.” Yet today, as we consider the number of people whose VCRs still flash 12:00, we wonder just how smart our homes have become.

YESTERDAY

Ever since the 1930s, many industries have predicated a variety of fanciful technologies that would find their way into our homes and make our lives much easier. Most predictions are, in retrospect, hilarious.

Perhaps one of the earliest examples was the introduction of the automatic dishwasher at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. Westinghouse presented a dishwashing contest between Mrs. Modern (using a Westinghouse dishwasher) and Mrs. Drudge (cleaning her dishes by hand). At the close of the contest (you know who won), the moderator commented that in addition to losing, Mrs. Drudge was not nearly as “neat and refreshed as when she started.” Yes, technology would make us feel better!

Washing dishes seemed to be a favourite theme of the World’s Fair: some 25 years later, the 1964 Fair featured the Norge Dish Maker. The appliance washed and dried plastic dishes – and then ground them up into tiny pellets, which it would then mould them into new plates, cups and saucers!

Walter Cronkite got in on the act, appearing on March 12, 1967 in At Home 2001, a half-hour show about the nature of the home at the dawn of the new millennium. He explained, for example, the duties of the host: “When a guest arrives, he just pulls out his inflatable chair – a small pressurized air capsule would inflate it and it would be ready for use. At the end of the evening he’d just pull out the plug and put the deflated chair back into his little bag.” Need to cook for the guests? Simply reach for the ultimate in convenience food. “A meal might be stored for years and then cooked in seconds,” he said, without a trace of scepticism.

Optimism continued to reign. In 1977, the Vancouver Sun reported on a “domestic android” manufactured by Quasar Industries, which could “serve your dinner, vacuum your rugs, baby-sit your kids and insult your enemies.”

There was a common undercurrent to many of the predictions about the “smart home.” We would have push-button control over everything, a “remote control for the home,” that would allow us to draw the drapes, water the plants, turn down the thermostat, and control virtually every other aspect of the house simply by punching a few buttons.

TODAY

Of course, few of us today have such capabilities – and we wonder if we’d be able to use it even if it were available. After all, how many of us could manage that “remote control for the home” when we find ourselves stymied by the typical 50-button VCR remote control?

The industry is certainly trying to deal with the problem. There is no shortage of ‘smart-home” technology available and apparently some people are buying this stuff – the U.S.-based National Association of Home Builders estimates that, worldwide, some $2 to $4 billion is spent each year on smart-home devices that link security systems, lighting, and entertainment communication systems.

Who buys them? John and Missy Butcher of Chicago, for example. They have spent $100,000 on a home automation system, which means that (if they are in the mood), they can click the “Romance” button on their home automation controller and watch as the curtains are drawn and the lights dim, while listening to music designed to get them in the mood. “Our lives are much easier,” they note.

Of course, we might think, anyone who can spend $100,000 on a home automation system already has an easy life.

TOMORROW

Will the smart home remain largely a concept, an expensive curiosity available only to the richest and most gadget-hungry among us? Likely not. This is one technology that is set to explode in terms of the number of customers it will gain and the practical role it will play in our daily lives. There are several reasons for this.

First, many people now have more than one computer in the home. The computer industry recognizes that linking them together into a home-based local area network is going to be one of the biggest opportunities of the next three years.

We won’t simply be linking the computers in our home. The technology will link all of our devices based on the computer chip into a central control panel, bringing us one step closer to the remote control concept of earlier decades. Three years from now, you may be buying a set of drapes with a microchip. Plug them in, program them – and forget about them.

Second, the emergence of the Internet plays a significant role. Though we think of it as a tool to surf the Web and read e-mail, it is also a technology that will one day link our refrigerator to its manufacturer, notifying the company when the appliance is about to break down – and, in the process, taking us through the next step in home automation.

And finally, there is the ever-decreasing cost of technology. The smart home has always been held back by the fact that the minimum investment was at least $2,000, but that figure is dropping quickly.

And, most significant of all, we’ll barely notice the technology as it sneaks into our home! We’ll be buying appliances, garage door openers, alarm systems and other things for our home, unaware that they contain the necessary intelligence to plug into our home network.

It’s not that we’ll choose to have a smart home – one day, we’ll discover that it’s already smart.

Not quite convinced? Let me quote Walter Cronkite, from that 1967 program. “Sounds preposterous,” he told his audience, with a bit of a smile, “but some people are convinced it will happen.”

Many organizations engage me for an offsite CEO or executive session that is focused on how to move the organization forward in a period fast paced change. So it was this client in the hi-tech sector — where I delivered a keynote around the idea of ‘agility’ as a key response to an extremely fast moving industry.

It’s not just in the world of hi-tech that is subjected to extremely fast change – everyone is!

Today, I was scheduled to be in NYC for a leadership meeting for a company in the medical device/supplies industry. The event was cancelled/ postponed due to weather….

My keynote was built on the theme of “collaboration, ac celebration and transformation.”

In other words, to get ahead in the high-velocity business world, organizations need to do 3 things, and do them well:

  • collaborate. Things are happening so fast, we need to focus on how to best shares ideas, insight into customer and external change, and other issues. A connected team is a better team
  • acceleration: we need to move faster, in terms of keeping up with rapidly changing customers, the rapid evolution/change in the products that we sell, the impact of Amazon and other new competitors
  • transformation: our business model is and will continue to be subject to big change — so we need to think how we will evolve it, change it, transform it

We live in a time in which leaders and people need inspiration on how to live and work in a world in which the future belongs to those who are fast.

That’s my job, and that’s what I do!

Those who succeed possess a daring need for speed.

That’s your reality. If you think your world, industry, company, business model, platform, technology or anything else will look the same a year from now — you’re wrong.

What are you going to do about it? Change things. Change things big. Don’t think small – be daring. Start with these ideas – they might be too radical, but maybe they are what is needed.

1. Hire people you don’t like. Otherwise, you have a team that is all the same. You end up with sameness, oneness, a monoculture of thinking that will kill any creativity you might have left.

2.  Stop searching for common ground. Too many people try to accommodate every viewpoint. It’s often a waste of time, since your efforts will lead to a mishmash of a complicated, ugly, unconnected idea. That will fail, in spectacular fashion.

3. Seek the consensus – do the opposite. In fact, to avoid groupthink, see what the group is thinking, and do the opposite thing!

4. Kill the committee. They kill ideas. They stifle creativity. They smother opportunity. They are a blight on the concept of creativity.

5. Find the danger zone – pursue it. You are probably complacent, and so is your team. Avoid that by finding the riskiest path – and do it. Now.

6. Look outside. The answer to your dilemma probably isn’t where you think it is. You won’t find it with the ‘usual suspects.’ It’s hidden, mysterious, out on the edges. Get out of your comfort zone and go find it.

7. Get over yourself. You might not be that bright. No one is. Listen to other people — particularly those who don’t think like you do.

8. Banish excuses. The world is fast. Get over it. You need to do, not find reasons not to  do.

9. Ride the friction. Teams that are in alignment work ok. Angry teams make better teams.

10. Get momentum. Pick up the speed. Kill the calendar. Set bold goals. Get it done yesterday.

11. Stop motivating – start leading. Make the decisions that others are not able to!

12. Go with your gut. Over-analysis will inhibit your ability to do what you know is the right thing.

13. Don’t commit. Maybe you’ll get it wrong the first time around. Try it again. Pivot and re-pivot.

14. Challenge people. They are all unsure about what to do, but want to try, and might have their own unique ideas. Let them try.

15. Don’t fear the results. Learn from them.

What do you think? Tweet to #doitnow

Many people have a belief system that has them convinced that the world of tomorrow will look much like it does today, with the result that when they are confronted by the future, they dismiss it.

Case in point – back in 2006, I was the opening keynote speaker for a conference of telecom and cable engineers. I had about 3,000 of them in the room. One of the trends I outlined was that we would see accelerating innovation in terms of bandwidth capacities, particularly as we innovated in terms of optical fibre technology. I suggested to them, for example, that one day soon we would build a router that would stop light in its tracks, examine its packets, and in doing so, see innovative opportunities that would lead to massive increases in accelerated bandwidth.

Of course, they laughed at me. It’s ok. I get used to it.

Some complained to the conference organizers. “How can you bring in someone with such crazy ideas?” Others voiced their skepticism to an industry publication, which ended up writing an article on my crazy observation, dismissing it entirely.

But wait — after that, a number of leading optical scientists came to my defence, and said my prediction was bang on! You can read the resulting blog post which covers the industry publication, When Light Stops.

Fast forward – this news story a few weeks ago caught my attention. We seem to be getting really good at stopping light! Who would have thought? But that’s not the first story in this regard; I’ve been tracking the trend for years.

Here’s the thing about the future — it’s fast, its huge, and it increasingly involves ideas that once seemed crazy becoming a reality.

If you want to be innovative, focus on the crazy. You just might discover some gems of creativity in there. You’ll discover the future.

And realize the best time to pursue an idea is when other people laugh at it.


Need another example? How about printing solar cells on paper? Crazy idea? Not at all! Here’s a clip in which I’m talking about the fact that at MIT, they are learning how to print solar cells onto paper! Oh, and the whole issue of how we can stop light in its tracks….


Be crazy, think crazy, pursue crazy.

Ok, here goes — it’s been a fabulous 8 weeks, as I hit the road running, keynoting a wide variety of events in a number of different industries. New to this unique job – I’m working harder to get stage pictures; I use them in my daily motivational/trends quote. Follow me over on my Instagram page to get them and be inspired!

First off, can I tell you that I love my job? Here’s a picture from when I was on stage for an event in London, England, last month. Never mind that with jet lag, it was the equivalent of 3:30AM in the morning for me.

I’m on, I’m wired, I’m inspired – that’s what I do!

Here’s an overview of what I’ve been up to for the first two months of the year!

Omnitracs Outlook 2017, Phoenix, Arizona – Trucking Keynote

This is a software and logistics company in the fast moving trucking industry – my keynote was all about the future of autonomous trucks, bio-connected driver monitoring, the fast change occurring in the logistics/supply chain industry and more. There’s a blog post about it here.  I’ll have another! I’m doing more and more in the automative/trucking, and general transportation space – to such a degree, I’ve rolled out a separate keynote description: Accelerating the Auto and Trucking Industry in the Era of Self-Driving Vehicles.

United Suppliers Technology Exchange – New Orleans, Louisiana, Agricultural keynote

For this event I had about 300 farmers in the room — and truth be told, I love working with these folks. Farmers are some of the most innovative people I know — they are open to new ideas, the exploration of new technologies; they are constantly in search of new methodologies and so much more. It’s a theme I capture in the agriculture section of my Web site; in particular, read the post Two Types of Farmers. I’ve got a separate keynote description for my agricultural talks : Big Trends in Agriculture: What Will the World’s Oldest Profession Look Like in 2025?

Commscope, Dallas, Texas – The Future of Technology

This company is a long time pioneer in the world of telecom and hi-tech. They know everything is changing with hyperconnectivty, the Internet of Things, massive acceleration in product innovation and product lifecyles, constant growth as every company becomes a software company, and as Moore’s law rules everything from healthcare to agriculture, cars and trucks to every other industry! (That’s a long sentence — and while it might be breathtaking, so is the speed of change). Who better to help them make sense of a future in which the future belongs to those who are fast? (Hint: Me!)

American Financial Services Association – New Orleans – Automotive keynote

Again, in New Orleans — in this case, the finance/leasing end of the automotive industry, including financing companies and the dealer network. So much change in terms of business models in this sector: what’s the future of the  financing of car purchasing, in an era in when people might not even buy cars anymore as the sharing economy takes hold? Not to mention the fact that the very essence of the vehicle is changing as innovation speeds up, the dashboard goes out of date faster, and the resale value changes quicker! Don’t forget – the very nature of what we consider a car is changing as companies like Tesla come to redefine the industry!

Pladis – Godiva Chocolates, McVities Biscuits  Ulker – Keynote on the Future of Food & Retail, London, England

This was a huge amount of fun! I love overseas trips! And what an organization — Pladis is new, with three separate, distinct brands coming together with a focus on future opportunities. My keynote covered trends in fast-changing retail, consumer behaviour, store infrastructure, brand promotion and more. It must have gone well — since Godiva is having me back for a separate supply chain event in Ghent, Belgium in May!

Scotiabank, Toronto, Canada – Future of Banking/Financial Services Keynote

More disruption — business models, the rapid evolution of technology, new competitors with PayPal, Google and Apple. Just what is a bank anymore, and who is it? What do they do in terms of innovation with fast changing expectations, business model disruption, the relentless impact of mobile, the rapid acceleration of innovation from every perspective? Whatever the case may be, agility needs to be the core focus going forward — and that was the overall message within my keynote, which took a deep look at the trends sweeping this industry.

Alberici Group, St, Louis, Missouri – The Future of Architecture and Construction

This was a smaller conference than the others, but equally important! It was a leadership meeting for this major American construction company. My keynote kicked off the event, and covered issues around the rapid emergence of new construction methodologies, new materials and design concepts, fast paced architectural trends, the acceleration of skills and knowledge. This keynote came on the heels of a talk I did in the fall on the same type of issues for the American Concrete Institute – read more here. One of my key goals – get them aligned to the trends in their industry, rather than shying away from them.

Whirlpool, Chicago, Illinois – Future Impact of Internet of Things (#IoT)

This is a company that is making a transition from being a company that sells appliances, to being a computer company that happens to sell hi-tech within appliances. The industry is speeding up as Moore’s law comes to take hold; the value proposition changes with the service-ification (Yup, I made that word up) of business models, and as big device architecture issues come into play. I’m doing a LOT of talks around the Internet of Things — and its nice to see that a senior leadership team in the forefront of what is happening here chose me to come in and share key insight on what’s next.

Stay tuned – March, April, May and June offer a whole bunch more in terms of keynotes and leadership events. I’ll be blogging, tweeting and Instagraming as I go.

I’m cleaning out some old research files, and came across this simple set of statistics: between now and 2050, we will move from 7 to 10 billion people; we need 70% more food, 50% more water, and 50% more fuel.

People always ask me, ‘where are the emerging opportunities for innovation?” Those simple statistics define it perfectly…… there is big potential in agriculture, infrastructure, energy, water …. ignoring the politics for a moment.

Back in 2008, I wrote a document, “Where’s the Growth? Global Innovation Opportunities for the Long Term”. I just read it again — and it was pretty accurate, predicting the rise of the Internet-of-Things (connected thermostats), the acceleration of solar and green tech, and other trends.

Have a read — it’s a PDF, so click on the image or read it here.

In the 1990’s, when e-commerce arrived on the scene, someone thought it would be a good idea to allow you to buy a coffin online.

The funeral industry fought back — after all, they had margins and business models to protect.

Of course, that failed. Today, you can buy a coffin online. (Which begs the question — if you buy it advance, what do you do with it? Stick it in the living room for now and use it as a coffee table?)

Then came Napster, and with it, outright music theft through sharing. Yet at the same time, folks experimented with business models involving the sale or licensing of music via digital music files. The music industry fought against that — they essentially fought a war against the idea of digital media.

How did their battle against the future turn out? Not well — eventually Apple came along with iTunes and a business model that worked. It took a while, but the music companies eventually figured out they had to adapt and align to the future, rather than fight it.

History has a nasty tendency of repeating itself, and legacy companies keep making the same mistakes. So it is with GM and self-driving car technology today. It seems they would rather fight the future than be a full participant in it.

GM thinks that only established car companies should be able to innovate in the self-driving car space. Is GM the new RIAA, fighting the same battle that the music industry tried to fight against digital music files?

The company is busy battling back against the disruptors and upstarts, trying to suggest only established car companies should be able to innovate in the space:

With states seizing the initiative on shaping the future of self-driving cars, General Motors is trying to persuade lawmakers across the country to approve rules that would benefit the automaker while potentially keeping its competitors off the road. ” New York Times, February 23, 2017

In other words GM is doing the same thing that the funeral and music industries did in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

How do you think this will end up?

Two key points come from this:

  • GM deserves to fail with these efforts. You don’t innovate through legal action on innovation.  Where’s the CEO on this? What type of message does this send to the organization on its innovation efforts? Is it so far behind in the race that it believes the only way it can win is by sending in the lawyers?
  • the lesson for anyone else is this: disruption, the future and business model change happens. Deal with it through innovation and aligning yourself to the future, rather than trying to protect the status quo
    there should be a lesson for anyone

The funny thing about the future is this: it happens, whether you like it or not. It’s better for you to participate in it rather than fighting it.

#GMFAIL

Earlier this week, I spoke to several hundred executives from the trucking industry at a keynote for the Omnitracs customer conference in Phoenix. My keynote focused on the trends which are sweeping the industry, including prognostic diagnostics, the connectivity impact of the Internet of Things (#IoT), the rapid evolution of autonomous trucks and self-driving technologies, drones and the impact of bio-monitoring devices. I’ll have a full blog post on that in the next few days.

It’s a topic that I’ve been doing all over — Keynote: Accelerating the Auto & Trucking Industry in the Era of Self-Driving Vehicles

In the meantime, the trucking industry provides a good example of how the new workplace is being transformed by technology.

Here’s what you need to know: first, do you think of trucking as a kind of unsophisticated, low-tech industry, full of a bunch of guys and gals performing boring tasks while moving down the road? Forget that — here are some simple facts:

  • the typical truck today is putting off some 3 gigabytes of data per month, and that number is increasing at a furious pace
  • the typical truck cabin contains more technology than a typical small airplane
  • in the race to self-driving vehicles, trucks will be the first to cross the finish line

A few years ago, Volvo/Mack Trucks had me in for a series of leadership and dealer meetings, where I noted that “in the world of trucking, connectivity is the new horsepower.” Given those stats above, that much is true!

And here’s a key thing: with those trends, the process of innovating in the industry has gone hi-tech. The result is that the workspace in the world of trucking is less like a grimy, dirty garage, and more like an airline control tower, at the same time that the truck cabin has come to be more like an airline cockpit.

To emphasize that point, I spoke about the folks at Bison Transport, based in Winnipeg, Canada. I’ve used them in a few talks on the future of the workplace and on the future of trucking:

“It’s not how one might envision the head office of a trucking company. Youth abound in 20- and 30-somethings tracking payloads in the operations room — think of a flat airplane control tower — or working in the IT department (which in the last 15 years has grown to 15 from two). There’s the “quiet room” for breaks. The fully stocked fitness room, the laundry room, the cafeteria.” Taking Trucking into the Future, Winnipeg Free Press, June 2014

Well, freak me out with a fork! It turns out that unknown to me, the folks from Bison Trasnport were in the room, and came up to me after my keynote. I think they were a little freaked out too!

Trevor Fridfinnson, Chief Operating Officer, Bison Transport with Keynote Speaker Jim Carroll at Omintracs 2017

Their office is at the forefront of the connectivity and technology revolution accelerating the world of trucking and transportation into the future. The folks at Trucking News covered this trend from my keynote in an article, detailed below.

Clearly, in trucking, the office space, culture and fast innovation speeds of Silicon Valley are coming in, and they are coming fast!

 


Carroll on the future during opening of Omnitracs Outlook 2017
TruckingNews.com

Futurist, trends and innovations expert Jim Carroll advised attendees to ‘think big, start small, scale fast,’ when it came to embracing technology.

Carroll said automated trucks were one of the trends that were changing the face of trucking, and questioned what would happen to the traditional driver once that occurs.

Carroll’s overall theme was that the world changes fast, has been for some time, and the trucking industry cannot get left behind.

Several factors contribute to the ever-changing world, Carroll said, including what he called the ‘era of big transformation.’

Autonomous trucks is part of that ear, according to Carroll, who declared that trucking would be the first to move to fully autonomous vehicles because it made financial sense to do so since drivers account for one third of the operational costs pie.

Servicification, the intensifying of skills training, acceleration of innovation and the impact of future generations were also factors Carroll said would contribute to how quickly the world would continue to change.

As an example of this, Carroll pointed to statistics showing that the vast majority of children aged five to six would one day have a job that today does not even exist.

Carroll said today’s truck manufactures worry not only about putting out a quality product, but also about how to best maintain that product through diagnostics and other predictive technologies.

“We are in a world in which we can determine when parts and components in a truck are going to break down,” Carroll said. “And we can bring it in for maintenance and thereby avoid the problem in advance of a truck breaking down on remote Arizona highway somewhere and thereby reduce downtime and costs.”

To further illustrate how the world and traditional workplace have experience a facelift over the years, and how the next generation will continue that trend, Carroll posted a quote from Manitoba’s Bison Transport on the screen that read: “It’s not how one might envision the head office of a trucking company. Youth abound in 20- and 30-something tracking payloads in the operations room – think of a flat airplane control tower – or working in the IT department (which in the last 15 years had grown to 15 from two). There’s the ‘quiet room’ for breaks. The fully stocked fitness room, the laundry room, the cafeteria.”

Let’s face it: the trends impacting life and property/casualty and groups benefits insurance companies are real.

The industries will be disrupted by tech companies. Existing brokerage and distribution networks will be obliterated as more people buy insurance direct. Predictive analytics will shift the industry away from actuarial based historical assessment to real-time coverage. Policy niches, micro-insurance and just-in-time insurance will drive an increasing number of revenue models. The Internet of Things (IoT) and massive connectivity will provide for massive market and business model disruption. Fast paced trends involving self-driving cars, the sharing economy, blockchains, personal drones, swarmbots, smart dust, artificial intelligence and augmented reality will either mitigate, accelerate or challenge the very notion of risk assessment and underwriting! What happens when Amazon, Google or some kid in a garage decide to really change the insurance business model?

What seemed to be science fiction just a few short years ago has become a reality today, as time compresses and the future accelerates. Whichever way you look, all sectors of the insurance industry are set for an era of disruption, challenge and change! Is the industry ready for transformative change? Not really! A recent survey indicated that while 94% of Chief Strategy Officers at insurance companies agree that tech will “rapidly change their industry in 5 years,” fewer than 1 in 5 CSOs believe their companies are prepared.

Does the insurance industry have the innovation culture necessary to deal with the potential for what comes next? Maybe not.

Jim has been the keynote speaker for dozens of conferences, corporate events and association annual meetings in the insurance sector, including • Certified Professional Chartered Underwriter Association • LIMRA International • Assurant Insurance • Chubb Commercial • Lincoln Financial • GAMA International • Cigna  • Blue Cross Blue Shield  •Equitable Life Insurance Company  •RBC Life Insurance •MetLife •SwissRe •American Institute of Actuaries • American Automobile Association • FM Global and SunLife. Jim led a discussion on the future of insurance at a private meeting that included CxO’s from most major insurers, including Allianz, XL Insurance, Travelers, AIG,  Zurich Financial Services, Allstate, AXA, MetLife Auto & Home, Farmers,  CNA,  Nationwide, American Famity, Chubb, Ping An, Lloyd’s of London, Liberty Mutual, The Hartford, Generali, GEICO, State Farm, Progressive, and RSA.

Jim Carroll has been helping insurance organizations in the world understand the tsunami of change that is FinTech, the impact of mobile technology, social networks, rapid business emergence, accelerated risk, the emergence of new global competitors and heightened customer expectations.

In his keynotes he puts into perspective the real trends impacting the future of insurance, offering critical insight into the key innovation and leadership strategies in a time of disruptive change.

This one is from a stage in New Orleans. The story itself is simple and to the point.

In my list of global clients, I encounter far too many people and leaders who subscribe to the idea that if they are going to do something, they need to do it absolutely perfectly the first time around.

In my view, this doesn’t fit within the fast economy of today. Take a look around at successful innovators, and they are willing to do something fast, see how it worked, and try again. Obviously quality and risk issues come into play.

The best way is to understand how manufacturing is changing with 3D printing. We now have the ability to conceive product, design them, build them, test them, and then re-conceive and re-design and re-deploy. It’s become an iterative process instead of a final step process. That type of innovation thinking needs to come to every process and every industry.