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How to be innovative

Don’t be someone who asks “what happened?” — make things happen. Change your attitude, and you’ll find that things really can improve. The next year is full of opportunity, and it’s yours if you want it!

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Are you in the right frame of mind to cope with the future? Are you really ready?

Here’s a few questions you can challenge yourself with:

  1. Are your prepared for hyper-innovation and rapid time to market?
  2. Do you actually know what major trends will affect your industry, profession and career in the next five years?
  3. Are you frustrated by the lack of decisiveness that surrounds you, and need to focus your team on the future with passion and purpose?
  4. Have you really come to accept that “volatility is the new normal,” and have you structured yourself to deal with this reality?
  5. Do you really understand how your quickly customers are changing as they take more control of your brand image through the online social networks in which they participate?
  6. Do you really know what will be expected in your job 10 years from now?
  7. Could you define the biggest threat to your company five years out?
  8. Have you thought about where you need to establish new partnerships in order that you can work smarter, better and faster?
  9. Are you ready for a smarter-type-of-thing?
  10. Are you someone who makes things happen — or do you sit back and wonder, “whoah, what happened?”

A good starting list to challenge yourself as the economy begins to move forward!

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Back in June, I was invited to open The BigM, a major manufacturing conference held in Detroit; I followed President Obama’s Treasury Secretary, Penny Pritzker on stage.

There were about 1,000 folks in the room – this is a pretty significant conference that is focused on the renaissance that is North American manufacturing.

This is the 3rd clip from that talk — in which I talk about how world class innovators ‘focus on speed.’ The focus on generating revenue where revenue has not existed before; they reinvent their product lines faster; they plan for shorter product life cycles.

Give it a watch — this is the reality of business velocity today!

Whoah! Dude! What Happened?
June 18th, 2014
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Ask yourself this question: do you work in an organization that just simply doesn’t get it?

Stressed businessman

In almost every industry, there are situations where the blindness of current market leaders will eventually lead them to their own own “whoah, dude” moment.

Who is oblivious, blind, completely unaware of just how much business model change is occurring out there?

Who you know that one day, wake up and discover that the business model it operated under is forever gone; that new competitors have emerged where there was no competition before; that the pace of change and the speed of innovation has been forever changed as a massive acceleration of new ideas took hold?

Sadly, I see it happen all the time. And here’s what I have learned when it comes to trends and the future: — there are three types of people in the world — and indeed, three types of leaders.

  • those who make things happen
  • those who watch things happen
  • and those who say, “what happened?”

I’ve often pointed this out on stage, and have emphasized the point, by suggesting that the folks who find themselves last on the list sit back and say, “whoah, dude, what happened? Where’d that come from?”

In other words, they’ve been completely blind to the trends which would cause massive upheaval within their industry, or refuse to accept the significant business model disruptions which are already occurring.

Guess what — it’s happening right now in countless industries as technology comes to drive the pace of innovation. In banking, the speed of innovation is shifting from banks to companies like Apple, PayPal and Facebook. In the auto industry, as technology takes over the dashboard, it is companies like Tesla Motors and Google that are defining the future — not auto companies. In the retail sector, the speed of innovation is being set by Amazon and others with their emphasis on massive logistics systems that provide for same day delivery.

I could go on — and the fact is, in almost every industry, there are situations where the blindness of current market leaders will eventually lead them to their own own “whoah, dude” moment.

So let’s make it simple: when it comes to innovation, make sure that you are in the first camp! Make things happen!

What should you do if you make that conscious decision, and are trying to steer your organization into the future?

  • turn forward! establish an overall organizational culture in which everyone is firmly focused on the future while managing the present.
  • change the focus: make sure that you link the corporate mission of today to the major trends and developments that will influence the organization through the coming years;
  • pursue speed: use a leadership style that encourages a culture of agility and allows for a rapid response to sudden change in products, markets, competitive challenges and other business, technological and workplace trends;
  • watch more stuff: establish and encourage an organization-wide “trends radar” in which all staff keep a keen eye on the developments that will affect the organization in the future;
  • share more: make sure that you’ve got a culture of collaboration in which everyone is prepared to share their insight, observations and recommendations with respect to future trends, threats and opportunities;
  • change responsibilities: ensure that staff are regularly encouraged to not only deal with the unique and ongoing challenges of today, but are open and responsive to the new challenges yet to come;
  • take risks: you won’t get anywhere if you don’t make sure that are encouraged to turn future challenges into opportunities, rather than viewing change as a threat to be feared.

I continue to be stunned by how many organizations today continue to be caught flat-footed by the pace of rapid trends that impact them.

It seems like it should be so simple to avoid this.

Yet there likely still lots of “whoah, dude” dudes out there.
Here’s a quick little video hit that fits the theme.

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Caught your attention, didn’t I, and you obviously want to point something out to me!


“Here’s a good question: when it comes to you, or the organization that work for, what type of farmer are you?”

But now that I have your attention, think about the honourable profession of farming — it’s been around almost since the beginning of time.

And it’s a profession that has involved a lot of trial and error; failure and success; and a heck of a lot of innovation.

Often, during a keynote, I will tell the story that there are really two different types of farmers in the agricultural industry. And I make the point to the audience that their attitude towards innovation should be considered in the light of the attitudes carried by each type of farmer.

The first type of farmer is what we might call the ‘apathetic minority’, who share these attributes:

  • they are not optimistic about the future
  • they tend to seek the “same old advice” from the “same old sources”
  • they have a high intolerance for risk
  • they’re not convinced they can continue to make a comfortable living despite all the contrary evidence
  • they’re skeptical of their potential since they feel they’ve seen too many ups and downs in the industry

Then there is the second group we might call the ‘future positive‘ type of farmer. They share these attributes :

  • they’re quite optimistic about the future
  • they’re very business minded, using all the latest tools and ideas at their disposal
  • they are very innovation oriented, willing to approach everything in a new way with new ideas
  • they are very collaborative for advice, seeking ideas from anyone and everyone
  • they’re often focused on planning, profit, growth, with clear objectives in mind

So here’s a good question: when it comes to you, or the organization that work for, what type of farmer are you?

Here’s a good video clip where I go into this storyline on stage. Enjoy!

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With almost 200 video clips on my site, people have been asking me to organize them into manageable chunks.

I’ve finally found a great tool that will help me to do that — the SmartSlider from NextGen. Here’s a quick set of quick clips about innovation — enjoy!

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I’m covered in the January / February issue of an Australian publication, Think and Grow Rich. It’s oriented toward franchise operations. Enjoy!

 The Power of One
from Think and Growth Rich
January/February 2014


Notes Jim Carroll: ” look around and I just see a countless number of methods by which a franchisee can run the business better, grow and transform their business. And that’s what innovation is all about!”

Despite a small slump in figures during the Global Financial Crisis, franchising has come out of the mire relatively unscathed and in fact the numbers for franchisors and their franchisees are looking very healthy. TGR looks at what the franchise sector can expect as we embed ourselves in the 21st century.

Many top companies, from Disney to Visa, have hired futurist Jim Carroll to speak about his views on the future. So it is interesting to hear his views about franchising. He told Multi-unit Franchisee, “There’s nothing to fear really, if you view future trends as being full of opportunities rather than as a threat. I find that many of my clients think about future trends and think, ‘Oh, this can’t be good, it’s going to be pretty difficult to deal with.’ The first step with getting into an innovative frame of mind is to think of every trend as an opportunity, not a threat.

“So let’s think about a few of them. Consider social networks; there are huge impacts on how consumers perceive, interact and provide feedback on brands. Obviously, if you don’t pay attention to the trend, it can turn into a big negative for you. But if you get involved, engage the new consumer, and continually experiment with new ways of taking advantage of this new form of interaction, then you are doing the right thing.”

Carroll went on to say that to be successful you must keep up-to-date with current trends.

“There are just so many opportunities to grow the business. We’ve got all kinds of new location-intelligence oriented opportunities – people walking around with mobile devices that have GPS capabilities built in. Think about instant couponing apps that might encourage customers to drop in and purchase something. There are new methods of getting the brand image out there; we’ve seen so many franchise groups with successful viral videos. For restaurant franchisees, there’s the rapid emergence of the new health-conscious consumer and opportunities to reshape the menu to take advantage of that. I look around and I just see a countless number of methods by which a franchisee can run the business better, grow and transform their business. And that’s what innovation is all about!”

In Australia, the outlook is just as optimistic and there are many entrepreneurial franchisors taking this kind of innovative approach that would make Carroll proud. For instance, the Franchise Food Company led by Stan Gordon launched its Gives Back campaign in August 2013. The initiative hopes to help a number of local community groups and initiatives by donating a total of $10,000 to a variety of causes over the next 12 months.

Gordon says the program will provide much-needed support to charities and community initiatives, to help many Australians who have been met with adverse circumstances or might be doing it tough.

“Cold Rock is all about giving people a reason to smile. The campaign is for anyone and everyone who’s working hard to make a difference in their community; whether you’re supporting a local sporting team, raising money for serious illnesses or fighting to save a historic landmark, we want to hear from you so we can help you along the way.”

The unique and inclusive initiative, housed on the Official Cold Rock Ice Creamery Facebook page, offers charities and community groups four opportunities to receive a one-off donation of up to $2,500.

Community groups and individuals are asked to submit an application detailing why they need a helping hand via the Gives Back Facebook Application.

Running over the coming 12 months, Cold Rock hopes to assist a variety of organisations with meaningful donations and build on the strong history of giving that Stan Gordon and Cold Rock has developed through years of community involvement.

It’s a unique use of social media and a great marketing tool, as well as a community initiative.

Meanwhile, the FFC continues to acquire strong franchise brands. The company’s latest acquisition is the iconic Trampoline brand, which fits nicely into the treats niche along with Mr Whippy, Cold Rock, Nut Shack and Pretzel World. FFC is unique, but like any franchise business, systems are crucial and will remain so, no matter how many years we move forward.

Pacific Retail Management is one of the largest franchise companies in Australia, with ownership of Go Sushi, Wasabi Warriors and Kick Juice Bars.

Part of its success is its systems management. Julia Boyd is the project and marketing coordinator. She says, “Pacific Retail has implemented strong operational systems to assist their franchise partners at every stage of training. Travelling operational team members continue to visit all national stores throughout the year and stay for up to a week or more to assist the business. They help to improve sales and are heavily involved with the franchise partners and any issues they may have.

“Support can also come from fellow franchisees in the group who are experiencing the same things and working towards the same goals. When franchisees work together towards a common goal, you can achieve great success and a cohesive team.

“Being part of a franchise network also means assistance and guidance from industry experts with the set-up of the business. This can include help with site selection and brokering of the lease with the landlord; financing through franchisors relationship with lenders and major banks; expedited process from initiation of agreement to store opening; and ultimately the sale of the store including finding a buyer.”

Of course franchising won’t be for everyone. With the advent of social media and vast new ways to reach clientele, the model will become easier to manage and far more sustainable. However there remains a lack of independence.

“Some prospective business owners are put off franchise networks and prefer to remain independent to avoid such established systems with little room for individual creativity, having to adhere to the operating systems in place and the initial payouts including franchise fees and training and marketing launch costs,” Boyd says…

Excerpted from an article originally published in the February/March 2014 issue of Think & Grow Rich Inc. magazine. You can access the Web


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Here’s a new clip — I’m challenging the audience to move away from a tactical role to a strategic role, as part of their focus on innovation — and to confront the innovation killers that can cause organizational sclerosis!

Part way through, you’ll notice I do a live text message poll to get my audience thinking about the attitudes and issues that are holding them back from pursuing opportunities.

Learn more about my text message polling during my keynotes here — it’s a very effective tool whether in front of an audience of 50 or 7,000!


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Plastics Today, Chicago, September 9 —The competitor who could threaten your company’s livelihood or industry’s relevance 10 years from now might not even exist today.


A keynote on the trade show floor at PLASTEC Midwest, Design & Manufacturing Midwest, ATX Midwest, Pack Zone, Quality Expo, and MD&M Chicago ….a pretty diverse group!

That hard truth about the pace and scale of change in technology came from Jim Carroll, author and futurist. Carroll delivered the opening address at the Tech Theater presentation forum presented as part of UBM Canon’s collocated advanced technologies shows at Chicago’s McCormick Place, including PLASTEC Midwest, Design & Manufacturing Midwest, ATX Midwest, Pack Zone, Quality Expo, and MD&M Chicago.

Carroll polled attendees, who filled the allotted seating and spilled over into a standing crowd, in real time, having them text answers to questions. He noted that at conferences with CEOs, the older generation might be unaware of how to text or Tweet an answer. When he conducted the same experiment at a high school, however, 297 of of the 300 teenagers in attendance replied within 30 seconds, laying bare the generational technology gap.

Jim Carroll, futurist and author, described the best practices of world-class innovators. That demographic difference in how technology is embraced was one of the key points Carroll described between world class innovators and everyone else. “That’s the next generation,” Carroll said of the high schooler’s who always have a mobile device at the ready. “That’s the generation that’s going to change the manufacturing industry,” Carroll said, adding that fully one half of the global population is under 25. “The next generation thrives on change,” Carroll said. “They’re wired, collaborative.”

Will it be survive, thrive, or die?
The fact that industry is dealing with upheaval is not new, Carroll said, pointing at past economic crises ranging from the oil embargo to the dot-com bust. Those times of challenge have a way of winnowing the competitive field. Carroll said studies of those periods show that 60% of companies survive, albeit barely; 30% die off; and 10% become breakthrough performers. The 90% that just endure but don’t accelerate growth have a syndrome that has become prevalent in recent years, as the economy haltingly climbs out of the great recession. It’s a condition Carroll has dubbed “aggressive indecision.”

The companies that can overcome indecision will still be faced with a much faster decision making process. “World class innovators have adapted to the speed of Silicon Valley,” Carrol said, using the medical market, and advent of gene-based preventative medicine as an example. “10 years out, 20 years out, the world of healthcare will be turned upside down,” Carroll said. “Today, we fix you after you’re sick; 20 years from now, we’ll treat you for what you will have based on your genes.”

As Silicon Valley has taken over the formerly laborious and prohibitively expensive process of DNA sequencing, the speed of development has gone up while costs have gone down. Carroll noted how it cost $3 billion to sequence the first human genome, but by the end of this year, the cost is forecast to be less than $1000.

Find opportunity
Carroll called on attendees to alter their competitive viewpoint. “When world class innovators look out and see a new trend,” Carroll said, “they don’t see a threat; they see an opportunity.”

Before finishing his presentation, Carroll called on those in attendance to take advantage of their time at the show. “Walk the show floor,” Carroll exhorted of his audience. “Find three ideas that you can implement to help get your company out of a rut.”

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(This is a long post. Trust me, it’s worth it, with lots of fascinating photos from magazines in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Credit needs to be given to my wife Christa and son Willie for doing all the scanning and Photoshop work that went on behind the scenes to make this work; it’s not easy to pull this stuff together. Check out my son’s photography company, wcfotography.com. Highly recommended!)

(And for those who ask, yes, I can send you high resolution scans of any of the articles referenced below, within reason).

For the last 20 years, I’ve been in the business of helping to shape how people think about the future. I’ve got some pretty unique clients; thrilling keynotes in front of 7,000 people in Las Vegas and a talk for 25 CEO’s in St. Andrews, Scotland.

But so far, nothing compares to the extraordinary bit of fun I had when I was invited to spend a day speaking and working with some of the top leadership, scientists and researchers at Nasa’s Goddard Space Center. What a day — I knew it would be special when my son Willie and I came through the security checkpoint for a big welcome on the main entrance signboard:

NASA's Goddard Space Center welcomes Jim Carroll, where he hosted a number of discussions around future trend and innovation in the context of the changing business models of the space industry.

NASA’s Goddard Space Center welcomes Jim Carroll, where he hosted a number of discussions around future trend and innovation in the context of the changing business models of the space industry.

When NASA first approached me to come in and talk about future trends and innovation, I was kind of ‘gobsmacked” to say the least. As I noted in a pre-planning conference call with the group arranging to bring me in, “how could I possibly help them? These are really smart people!” (This was not my first talk for NASA though; I previously spoke to a group of astronauts, mission directors, launch controllers and other folks down in Texas a few years back…)

The answer came to me quickly, however, and provided the context for my talk: the business of space is changing. And it’s changing faster that we or they might think. 5, 10, 15 or 20 years out, it is quite likely that the buisness of space will look nothing like it does today. And so folks at NASA Goddard — and every other legacy space organization, need to innovate, change, and adapt to the new world we find ourselves in.

That would be over-arching theme throughout my keynote. I spent a lot of time going down that path during my talk and subsequent discussion with their team.

But enough of that for now! Let’s talk about how I opened my talk about the future for a group of people who spend their time conceiving, designing, building and hurling very complex objects into deep interplanetary space and near-earth orbit.

How could I grab their attention in the first five minutes? By taking them back to 1920, and the dawn of the space age — and the story of a real innovator in his own time!

I pride myself on the research and customization that I do with my talks. And so unfolds the story of how I opened my talk this June, in front of an absolutely extraordinary group of people. Why not start with where it all began — at the dawn of the era of spaceflight, and the innovation voyage of Robert Goddard himself! And so I took my audience back to the 1920’s and 1930’s. The era in which it seemed that science fiction was just that – science fiction.

And so I began with some relevant stories about the future — by digging out some coverage about the future from magazines such as Popular Mechanix and Popular Science from the 1920’s and 1930’s. (How’s that for research!) (Click on any picture for a full sized image. They are quite extraordinary.)

The storyline I then followed with my audience at NASA took them on a voyage at what people were thinking about at that time. In the 1920’s and 1930’s, the world was automating at a fast pace. Science fiction was everywhere. And with this rapid change came concern that technology and science just might go too far — as found in this particular piece:


But at the same time, there was a belief that the future, enabled by fascinating scientific and technological developments, would lead to a new era of leisure! We wouldn’t have to work, because machines would do the work on our behalf!(This theme emerged again in the 1960’s with the arrival of computers …… “computers would do all the work for us, leaving us with a 2-day work week!” was the sentiment of that time!)


There were fantastic predictions — sometimes wrong, or perhaps not yet realized — such as ‘pulling power from the skies.”


But these magazines about the future were quite often correct; consider their predictions from 80 years ago that foresaw today’s LCD projection screens (“television shown in theatres“), fax machines (“newspapers by radio“) and DVD’s (“home movies from phonograph records.”)

Heck, one of the magazines even predicted the ban on the use of cellphones during flight — “do wild radio waves cause air disasters?”. Check the caption on the picture below at the bottom of the page:


Of course, at the same time that the folks who wrote these glorious publications dreamed big about the future, they quite often veered into the implausible. Perhaps one day “monster insects might rule the world!” At the same that mankind was in awe of the future, there was fear and concern about where it might take us. (Heck is it any different today, 80 years later?)


Indeed, there was quite often a thread by skeptics — one article making the proposition that most of what people were talking about in terms of future trends simply would not come true! This particular article focused on the concept of rocketry, and noted a wide variety of  “….scientific objections to fantastic projects such as transporting a human being to Mars….”


Why the skepticism? Because back in the 1920’s, there were a few lonely visionaries proposing that mankind would be able to leave the bounds of earth and explore beyond. We would see “Daring Rocket Men!” flinging themselves to the heavens!



There was belief that this could happen! At one time, Popular Science ran the cover story with humans travelling to space in a rocket-ship! Have a look at the cover again.


In this issue, a particularly lonely visionary made his case for space exploration based upon rocketry. None other than Robert H. Goddard himself!


The artwork with the article imagined a future space capsule — with ‘liquid oxygen’, ‘thermos bottle insulation’, ‘rocket openings in the side to steer the car!”


My opening message to NASA Goddard? Robert H. Goddard, the rocketeer for whom the Center is named, was an incredible innovator. He was ahead of his time. As the father of rocketry in the US (with a Russian counterpart Konstantin Tsiolkovskii and German rocketeer Hermann Oberth both pursuing similar ideas at the same time), he was shunned, ridiculed, and portrayed, quite simply, as someone “not of their right mind.

After all, on January 13, 1920, the New York Times editorialized, in a reaction to a research paper published by Robert Goddard, that  “a rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.”

My key point? Innovators are often treated with suspicion, derision, taunting. Their role, contribution and value is often misunderstood. It is often not till later that their accomplishments are fully recognized.

In that context, Robert H. Goddard often had to confront these demons, and would often challenge his own thinking; perhaps he was daring too much? In the Rocketing to the Moon article seen above, he commented that “I must confess I should have dismissed the thought of reaching the moon as merely another figment of the imagination of Jules Verne.” Yet as an innovator, he pursued his dreams and passions, as discouraging as it might have been.

On July 17, 1969, the day after the launch of Apollo 11, the New York Times published a “correction:”

Further investigation and experimentation have confirmed the findings of Isaac Newton in the 17th Century and it is now definitely established that a rocket can function in a vacuum as well as in an atmosphere. The Times regrets the error.

Innovators focus. They challenge people. They stick to their belief. They know the value of their work. They dare not fall prey to the pounding drumbeat of negativity from skeptics who often know too little that of which they talk about.

That’s what innovators do!

My keynote continued from there. It was wonderful fun as I began to cover a wide range of trends that might shape the future of space exploration and commercialization. Along the way, I snuck in a few great pictures into my keynote. A key quote from Robert Goddard. A picture of Spock! Canada’s Legoman! Einstein!

Following my talk and discussion around lunch, my son Willie and I were privileged to receive an inside tour of some of the most fascinating research and projects underway at Goddard.

The Innovative Technologies Partnerships Office (ITPO) hosts meeting with Jim Carroll

I am blessed to have such a wonderful job!

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I recently spent some time with Present, a leading Canadian IT firm, in  sharing my insight in a keynote and workshop with a group of key senior executives, focused on innovation.

The video highlight reel is here — it was a great event! The press release that Present put out after can be found below.

MONTREAL, May 23, 2013 /CNW Telbec/ – Present, an established firm of IT innovation experts was delighted to provide its customers and partners in Montreal and Toronto with an opportunity to hear from Jim Carroll, a recognized Canadian thought leader and authority on important business and IT trends.

Speaking to an audience of senior IT and business executives, the focus of Jim’s talk was to examine: What world class innovators do that others don’t. Jim challenged the audience to think differently about how innovation is approached “World class innovators recognize big trends are emerging quickly,” he said. “They embrace new ideas and ways of doing things and they don’t say, ‘that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard’.”

Carroll also emphasized how world class innovators get in on new emerging markets faster – and how they constantly think of the next thing to create revenue. Another key take-away was how world class innovators will shift entire industries. For example, the medical field used to focus on treating you when you were sick, now it’s changing to knowing when you will be sick, and addressing it.

For information about how Present can help your business become more innovative and profitable please visit present.ca/it-innovation.

About Present
In business for 22 years, Present is an established firm of IT experts with a unique and highly skilled team. Present believes innovation is a core driver of growth and their goal is to assist their clients in developing and implementing strategies and tactics to spur growth and profits. They provide solutions based on IBM hardware and software, Apple in the business solutions as well as Cloud solutions.

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