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I just had a short talk in an airport with an urban planner; the inevitable question came about as to where I was going, and then, what I do. (In today’s case, I’m going to speak to 250 cattle ranchers about their future….)

So I explained the idea of a futurist, and in order to make it relevant, I came up with a trends scenario for him: “What do we do about zombie cars from an urban planning perspective?”

The essence of the issue is this:

  • one day, we’ll have a lot of self-driving vehicles
  • in that context, there are many communities where people have to pay extra for overnight parking spots, either for their condominium or due to the unique design of the neighbourhood they live in
  • in some communities, these parking spots are expensive — upwards of $500 to $1,000 a month
  • people with self-driving cars will avoid this cost, simply by sending their cars out at 6 or 7pm to drive around the neighbourhood for the night, or to go park at a shopping mall parking lot somewhere
  • everyone will order them back around the same time — say, 6AM
  • and so we will suddenly have to deal with new traffic jams occurring at 6am
  • so the question is, what will an urban planner do to deal with the new challenges coming from zombie cars?
  • Will it be an issue, and how should we manage and plan for it?

Just saying. Just one of many fascinating topics I bring into my keynote, Accelerating the Auto and Trucking Industry in the Era of Self-Driving Vehicles.

IBM’s Think Marketing blog found my site, and interviewed me on some of my thoughts around innovation and culture. Give it a read!

 

Hatching your next great idea: 5 ways to set the stage
by Jennifer Goforth Gregory, IBM Think Marketing Blog

Sometimes, you wake up and it feels like it became spring overnight. But when you stop to think about it, the change of seasons happened gradually over the course of a few weeks, and you missed the subtle signs. The daffodils started blooming last month. You started leaving the house without a coat. And, last week, you noticed a few trees sporting light green leaves.

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I work with many of the world’s leading bureaus, one of who is the Washington Speakers Bureau. They represent such people as Condoleeza Rice, George W. Bush, Tony Blair, John Kerry, Magic Johnson, Terry Bradshaw — global political, sports and other leaders. They’ve just run a blog post that I wrote on trends in the speaking industry. (Many of the worlds leading bureaus book me ; not only Washington Speakers, but also National Speakers Bureau / Global Speakers; Gail Davis & Associates; Leading Authorities; the Harry Walker Agency; Keppler Speakers ; Executive Speakers and many more!)


You can’t open a newspaper without seeing an article on the impact of ‘disruption.’  We now live in a period of unprecedented change in which your business model and the assumptions by which you operate are set to be forever disrupted.

In my own case, I spend a tremendous amount of time with different organizations in a vast range of different industries and professions, helping executives to understand and respond to the disruptive forces around them. And in the last several years, I’ve noticed some pretty significant changes in the speaking industry as organizations struggle with disruption.

If you are someone on your team responsible for organizing corporate or association meetings, you need to think about and react to the trends and forces at work. Quite simply, change is occurring several ways: with the speed with which speakers and topic experts are being booked, the topic areas that insight is being sought for, and the short time frames that everyone is working within.

As a speaker who focuses on how to link trends and innovation, my tag-line has become ‘the future belongs to those who are fast.”

The world is speeding up – and organizations need to respond faster

Consider the changes that everyone is impacted by today. Business model disruption. The rapid emergence of new competitors. The challenging impact of social media. Products that are almost out of date by the time they are brought to market. The digitization of everything and the impact of the Internet of Things.  All of these trends — and more — require that organizations pick up the pace when it comes to their strategies, actions and innovation efforts.

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Over the last 25 years as a speaker on future trends and innovation, I’ve seen many cases where companies have jumped onto a trend simply because everyone else. Or, they’ve suddenly decided that ‘innovation’ is important, without really defining a purpose or goal behind such a focus.

Rather than by just jumping on a bandwagon and doing what others are doing , try asking better questions as to why you should or should not be doing something!

Innovation that is based on “jumping on the bandwagon” is doomed to fail, for many, many reasons:

  • it’s lazy: true innovation takes hard work. It involves massive cultural, organizational, structural change. It involves an organization and leadership team that is willing to try all kinds of radical and new ideas to deal with rapid change. An innovative organization can’t innovate simply by jumping on a trend. Trying to do so is just trying to find an easy solution to deep, complex problems.
  • it involves little new creativity: by linking a new approach to doing things with a “hot topic” or trend means that people end up shutting their brains down. Creativity is immediately doomed through commonality.
  • it’s just a bandaid: bandwagon based innovation causes people to look for instant solutions and a quick fix, rather than trying to really figure out how to do something differently.
  • it’s misfocused: it involves putting in a solution is sought without identifying a problem. It’s backward in terms of approach.
  • it encourages mediocrity: it reduces innovation to an “idea of the week,” and does nothing to encourage people to really look at their world in a different way.
  • it reduces innovation to sloganeering: truly creative people within organizations are tried of slogan-based management. They’ve seen far too many ‘radical right turns’ and ‘new beginnings’ — and when they realize that their management team has jumped onto the latest hot trend, their faith and motivation goes out the window.
  • it destroys innovation: after the bandwagon effect ultimately fails (as they always do for the reasons above), people end up feeling burned out, cynical, demotivated — and they’ll be prepared to do little when the “next big thing” comes along.

 

It’s more important — and more difficult — than that.

I’ve been doing quite a few keynotes in the automotive and trucking sector around the fast pace of developments and technology with self-driving vehicle technology.

Here’s a clip from a recent keynote in Phoenix on how quickly things are coming together in the trucking sector.

To learn more about the keynotes I do on this topic, visit the topic page Keynote: Accelerating the Auto & Trucking Industry in the Era of Self-Driving Vehicles.

As I’ve said before, we are still in the starting gate comes to the Internet of Things. Like the early days of the Internet, the idea has been formulated, ideas are bubbling, and imaginations are being unleashed. Right now, a global creativity engine is emerging in which millions of people are imagining and rethinking the future in the context of a hyper-connected world.

With that, it is important to realize that we limit our thinking if we think there is but one Internet of Things. To my mind, there are many different possibilities that are emerging. Read this in the context of my other post, The 11 Rules of IoT Architecture.

Here’s a starting list. Let me know of others!

1. Internet of Smart Things: AI will quickly come to IoT, and will change the capability of many connected devices into intelligent, aware, self-acting smart devices

2. Internet of Spatial Things. As I wrote in my post the other day, spatial data bubbles are the next wave when it comes to location intelligence. Internet of Things devices that are aware, report and interact based on their location within a 3-dimensional space will come to establish new opportunities and industries.

3. Internet of Swarm Things. IoT devices that operate in concert with other things to achieve some goal will become common, and will provide for an exponential growth in the role and capabilities of IoT devices.

4. Internet of Collaborative Things. They won’t just act together once in a swarm once AI is added into the mix. Put together IoSmartT and IofSwarmT and you’ll have IofCollaborativeT.

5. Internet of Mechanical Things. Devices that will have the ability to control other devices through connectivity. This is  a no-brainer, of course, but one area which shows the most promise for innovative ideas.

6. Internet of Disruptive Things. 20 years from now, we’ll look back and say, ‘wow, where did that come from?’

7.  Internet of Internal Things. Ingestible pills and ingestible medicine. An entirely new frontier is opening up as new tiny sensors come to report on health and other internal issues.

8. Internet of Diagnostic Things. Devices which report and act upon analysis as to whether a device is acting and working correctly; changing entire business models. Trucks, for example, with connectivity being the new horsepower, are migrating to a trucking-as-a-service platform, as we increasingly become aware of when a particular component on a truck is going to break down

9. Internet of Learning Things. Somewhat related to smart things, these IoT devices will learn based upon past performance and actives, and adjust future operations based on that insight.

10. Internet of Secure Things. We’re not there yet. This will become a key selling feature going forward.

11.  Internet of Standardized Things. It’s the Wild West right now, but just as standards emerged over time with the Web, so too will standards for interaction, reporting, communicating, etc.

12. Internet of Bastardized Things: flowing from 11, of course, some new IoT Microsoft-type of company will come along with some ridiculous Internet-Explorer type of IotT device, and will ruin things for many….

13. Internet of Curious Things. IoT devices that will extend their intelligence with the ability to discover things and analyze other IoThings that are around them. “We’re building a new machine, and we don’t yet know what it will do!”

As they say, ‘but wait, there’s more!’

What have you got, and what do you see? Tweet to #IoTaxonomy

 

Supertramp — a band from the 80’s — had a minor hit with the song “On the Long Way Home,” which featured the memorable line, the line, “when you’re up on the stage, it’s so unbelievable.” It is, quite. And when you’re up there, you realize how lucky you are to be able to share with the audience the wisdom you’ve picked up by observing some of the world’s top innovators. When the PGA of America had me in for the 2nd time, one of my key goals was to lay a foundation for the fact that growth in the game will come from innovation!

Recently, after a presentation to an audience of 3,000 people, I was approached by a CEO who was quite inspired by my remarks. He then asked me a fascinating question: “what would you do if you took over the leadership of my company right now?” We chatted for a while and I believe I provided some pretty succinct insight; but since then, I’ve been thinking about that question. Here’s a part of my answer.

  • maximize your best revenue opportunities. I’d make sure that any existing revenue relationships remain intact, and then some. I’d work on having my team obsess on growing existing high value customer relationships through service excellence. Let’s make sure that we meet their needs. It will likely be easier to keep existing revenue flowing rather than finding new ones, particularly through a time of economic challenge.
  • obsess over time to market. I’d work hard to accelerate product innovation; market life-cycles are collapsing, and I’d make sure every member of the team reoriented themselves to that reality. I’d focus on getting R&D to think in terms of faster cycles; I’d ramp up sales force education so that they were better aware of what’s coming next. I’d have the team thinking in terms of 3-6-9-12 : here’s what will be doing in the marketplace 3, 6, 9 and 12 months from now. I’d layer on top of that some insight into 1-2-5-10: what we might be doing 1, 2, 5 and 10 years from now.
  • reduce product costs through process improvement and better project execution: there is no shortage of innovative ideas, structures and concepts involving process and production methodologies. I’d make sure we were looking at finding those who are doing leading edge work in this area, inside or outside our industry, and learn from them.
  • align to customer oriented innovation: go upside-down, in fact. Take a look around and you will probably discover that your customers are inventing your future faster than you are. View their ideas, strategies and actions not as a threat, but as an opportunity for ideas!
  • reduce structural costs through collaboration: at this point in time, in a global world that allows for instant, smart collaboration among teams, there is no reason for massive duplication of skills and talent throughout an organization. I’d start a rethink those silos, and restructure for a new skills deployment approach. Right off the bat, I’d encourage a few cross-organizational collaboration efforts, to get people used to the idea of tackling fast new problems rather than arguing about structure and hierarchy.
  • focus on the pipeline of talent innovation: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The depth the bench strength is critical to future success. I’d have everyone take a good look at our pipeline, to see if it will meet upcoming needs. If not, I’d get a program in place to fix that fast.
  • relentlessly and aggressively chase costs: I’m not talking about spontaneous slash and burn spending cuts: I’d refocus on transitioning the role of staff from tactical efforts to a strategic role. I’ve spent time with the CIO’s and CFO’s of some pretty major organizations: Hunt Oil, Adobe, J Crew, Under Armor. All of them have provided in-depth insight onstage during customer panels that have focused on the role of IT in the business to run the business better, grow the business and transform the business. There remain countless opportunities for IT oriented innovation to rip unnecessary costs out of the business, and it involves this tactical to strategic transition.
  • enhance quality and reliability of product: Last year, I spoke to 2,500 global quality professionals on the challenges that the high velocity economy presents to the concept of quality. The fact is, new issues hit us in the marketplace faster than ever before. And the global idea loop means that quality challenges can become a sudden, massive worldwide PR nightmare faster than we’ve ever been prepared for. That’s why avoiding quality problems remains a critical focus. I’d take a look at how well we’re dealing with quality issues, and whether we’ve got the agility to respond in this new world of heightened PR challenges. I’d also have a group prepare an immediate outline of challenges and problems with customer service and satisfaction.
  • partner up: no one company can do everything on its own anymore. Take a look t the world of self-driving cars — every single auto company is partnering at a furious pace, because they know that access to specialized skills is the defining success factor for the future!
  • capture new emerging growth markets faster: I’d begin to orient the team so that we knew about which market opportunities might come next, and then spend time aligning ourselves to innovate faster in such markets. I recently spent some time with one client, and the focus of our discussion was how a new market was set to unfold in the next three months. Expectations were that the market — for a unique consumer product, with potential sales in the billions of dollars — might last for a period of eighteen months, before being eclipsed by the next stage of development. Essentially, the CEO was looking at a situation where they had to figure out how to jump into this new fast market, and make the most of it in an extremely short period of time. That’s a new skill structure to wrap an organization around, and one that every organization must learn to master.

That’s a good starting point. The key issue: I’d begin by aligning the organization to the concept of “thriving in the high velocity economy.”

Oh, and one of the first things I’d do? I would immediately convene a senior management/leadership meeting, and bring in a futurist and innovation expert to wake my people up to the potential that can come from energizing ourselves towards future opportunities.

Post 9-11, all kinds of people predicted that we would see the end of corporate meetings, annual conferences and incentive trips. Instead, given the fear and concern with travel, and the rapid evolution of new technologies, most meetings would go virtual. Webcasts. and things like that were all the rage!

Back then, I called out this idiocy for what it was, and wrote an article for a leading meetings industry publication, Successful Meetings, entitled Get Real.

A key comment? “An event is as much about team building and networking as it is content.” At the end of the day, its about a group of people getting together, getting inspired, sharing ideas, and moving the future forward.

Read the article here

Location intelligence was the hot new opportunity 20 years ago as spatial (GIS) data came to be a big part of the world. 20 years on, it still is. My oldest son is building a fabulous career working in the industry – he’s a leading expert in the use of tools such as ArcGIS, for example.

But move over for spatial data bubbles — all of us are about to become immersed in many different bubbles, and the implications are bigger than you think!

What is a spatial data bubble? It’s a phrase I’ve coined as I’ve come to spend more time thinking about what happens when we add location oriented data to data-sets that will envelope us in multiple dimensions. I first hit upon the realization of how important they will be when I was working out with my personal trainer one day at the gym, and was continuing to ensure she understood the impact of emerging smart clothing technologies upon exercise routines.

The simple fact is, I drive my personal trainer nuts when I’m at the gym. She will try and get me to do a certain routine that has my limbs or torso moving within a certain defined area. If they move within that area, I’m doing it correctly. At the same time that she is trying to get me to do this, I’m busy formulating in my mind how we could reinvent exercise in the future with spatial data bubbles! Here I am on stage talking about this idea — in this case, an opening keynote for the YMCA/YWCA.

How will this work? First off, smart clothing will replace wearable technologies – read my post on that. I’ve been speaking and writing about smart clothing for years — two years ago, I outlined in a keynote for the Sporting & Fitness Industry Association that this would be a major trend to watch. Some of the bubbles which are emerging will be fascinating: a golf ball in the future will be its only little spatial-data bubble information generator as it starts to transmit real time information on speed, velocity, location and acceleration! Most sports equipment will exist in little spatial data bubbles that also align goals and objectives to performance.

So it will be with exercise routines. The  emergence of smart-clothing will solve the problem of ‘firing’ the right muscles during an exercise routine, by providing information on whether I’m in the right spatial area.  In the future, we will be buying clothes that will have a variety of embedded sensors and technology. When my trainer gets to me to do a routine in the future, and these sensors will be used to generate a data bubble around my body. She’ll be able to set a tolerance range — say, 10 or 20%. The bubble will determine if my activities are within that particular spatial range within the bubble — if so, I’ll be rewarded in some way. The better I get at the routine the lower the tolerance with the bubble will be!

If my activities stray outside the bubble — well, maybe the clothing will zap me! Big opportunities for performance-oriented exercise routines!

Spatial data bubbles will soon be everywhere! They are emerging at a furious pace with the rapid emergence of self-driving car technology.

Today’s collision avoidance systems have limited data bubbles, only looking at vehicles around them. In the future, the bubbles will be bigger, talking to the road, linking to other data bubbles, advance telemetry systems, road monitoring and lane allocation systems, and more!

The typical self-driving, connected car is putting off some 7 gigabytes of data per hour. That’s a staggering amount of information — and increasingly, more and more of it will be spatial data bubble oriented. Self-driving cars and trucks will talk to intelligent highway infrastructure technologies which might guide them on their journeys, and in effect, create a little bubble of data around the vehicle involving obstacles, other vehicles, road sensors and other stuff. Then there is stuff that is already here: peloton technology that has self-driving cars and trucks involved cars communicating their lo0cation in time and space with other vehicles so that they can travel in a space-saving, wind-resistant pack. The data bubble of a car has 360-sensing capability, looking for pedestrians, other cars and other information.

Spatial data bubbles aren’t new: they’ve been around for some time. Perhaps the best example are the robots used in advanced manufacturing systems. These robots need to have continual 3D awareness. They used to be able to operate on their own; but as their spatial data bubbles have grown, they’ve become collaborative, designed to work in proximity to people. They’ve become more spatially aware, with cameras, sonar and other tech. This has allowed them to become cognitive and quality-conscious , with feedback on whether assembly is done correctly. Increasingly, they are capable of working in multiple planes at once, with multiple axis movements. Their bubble will extend to human-operators, who might increasingly use spatial bubble technologies such as Google Glass, for remote operation, in a virtual reality scenario.

And therein lies a key point – virtual reality, more than anything else, will accelerate spatial data bubble technologies. This point was hammered home to me on the weekend when I visited Colony VR in Ottawa with my son, his girlfriend and my wife. Here I am smashing some balloons while in a virtual reality spatial data bubble!

A futurist in a spatial data bubble!

Virtual reality is going to have a massive impact on the rate of spatial-data bubble technologies, methodologies, data sets and more! VR will emerge as a significant tool for skills training, telemedicine, sports and so much more. And if you think about it, it’s all about data bubbles!

Location-oriented data is pretty easy and not terribly overwhelming in terms of quantity, because it essentially involves a couple of points on a map. Spatial data bubbles are infinitely more complex, because it will involve thousands or millions of data points involving that point on the map, and the areas above and around it.

If you think we’ve seen a data explosion in the past, we have, as they say, ”seen nothing yet!”

Spatial data bubbles are the new location intelligence!

My insight on the future of packaging is featured in the May/June issue of Frame magazine, ostensibly the the leading global publications focused on all things ‘design.’

The article offers up all the thoughts I have on the future of packaging in the world of retail – hyperconnected, aware, interactive, and a world in which the package is the brand. I’ve been speaking and writing about the future of packaging for almost 20 years — take a look at some of the posts in this link here.

I’m working on getting the text and will link to it, but for now, here’s the article in image form. Click to make it bigger!

Here’s the text:

Shopping is becoming a matter of seconds
Frame Magazine, May/June 2017

‘I did all of my Christmas shopping on Amazon this year and didn’t visit a single store,’ says American futurist Jim Carroll, an expert in spotting trends and innovative advances. ‘It’s hard to discount the speed of change occurring in the world of retail and consumer products. It is in a state of upheaval.’

Some of the trends? He mentions ‘shopper or proximity marketing’, which combines location intelligence, constant mobile connection and in-store display to create a new form of instantaneously personalized in-store promotion. Mobile payment involving Apple Pay is ticking upwards, and – also pioneered by the likes of Apple – the cash register is disappearing, replaced by portable wireless credit-card devices.

>Big brands like Google, Amazon and the John Lewis department stores continue their move to same-day shipping. Even the automobile is being turned into an online shopping and credit-card platform. Tech like Amazon Alexa, AI and shopping bots require no more than a spoken word to add a product to our shopping cart for delivery within an hour, while a ‘click and collect’ infrastructure allows for same-day pick-up, at a bricks-and-mortar location, of an online purchase.

It’s clear that active intelligent packaging and Internet of Things products, which have been disrupting product life cycles, are accelerating product obsolescence and affecting both inventory and supply chain. ‘This means,’ says Carroll, ‘that faster “store fashion” with rapid evolution of in-store promotion, layout and interaction will become critically important.’

Although the average consumer can scan 3.6 m of shelf space per second, consumers wander around stores today glued to the screens of mobile devices, paying only incidental attention to merchandise, store layout, branding or promotional messages. No wonder TV screens and video projections are filling stores. ‘Mobile interactions in the retail space are the new normal for purchasing influence,’ Carroll says. ‘Retailers have got only micro-seconds to grab the attention of the low-attention-span shopper, which means that we will have to constantly innovate and adapt our retail space. The very nature of in-store interaction, flow and layout is changing very fast.’

How designers will respond to these rapid changes imaginatively is still a blank page for designers to fill. ‘We are going to see more change in the world of retail in the next five years than we have seen in the last 100. That doesn’t mean traditional design parameters and methodologies will disappear. It’s just that we now have opportunities to integrate unique technology interaction into retail design in a wide variety of ways,’ Carroll says. ‘I think there’sopportunity coming for innovation in the design of retail space, not less.’

Lessons from My Youngest Son: Taking Initiative!
April 4th, 2017, by Jim Carroll

My youngest son Tom turns 22 today. Time flies!

Both of my sons have been a huge inspiration to me on my approach to life, innovation, the future and trends — I know they live in a world that is completely different than my own, as they’ve grown up in a world of fast, relentless technology. This is caught, for example, in a stage story I often tell about Things from the Olden Days.

For many years, I told the story on stage of Tom and his hockey blocker. You see, when he was 3, he wanted one (a goalie blocker glove). We explained to him that we wouldn’t just go and buy one at the spur of a moment…

So he made his own. Out of a cereal box. What an inspiration! He kept and used it for two years, until it was absolutely falling apart.

Around that time, I often used Tom and the story of his hockey blocker as part of my “What I Learned from Frogs in Texas” story — which eventually became a book of the same title. His part in the story was the power of initiative, determination and action. It remains for me a powerful lesson.

 You can watch a short form of the video clip in which I talk about Tom and his hockey blocker here:

Happy birthday Tom! Always make sure that you construct the hockey blockers in your life – and always take the initiative!

One of my key themes through the years has been that “faster is the new fast” — that the biggest challenge that organizations must face is how to keep up with the high-velocity economy.

I’m now observing that in many markets and industries, the pace of change is so fast that we need to put in place a senior executive whose sole area of responsibility is ensuring that the organization can keep up with ever-increasing rates of change. Let’s say — a Chief Momentum Officer.

Organizations need to adapt to all kinds of different issues when it comes to the velocity of change: rapidly changing business models, the emergence of new competitors, ever shrinking product life-cylces, a faster pace of new product development, furious rates of technological innovation, furiously fast new trends in terms of customer interaction, the decreasing shelf-life of knowledge and the more rapid emergence of specialized skills: the list could go on!

Hence, a need for someone who aligns all of the moving parts of the organization to high velocity change! This individual will carry a number of responsibilities, such as:

  • managing the product innovation pipeline, so that the organization has a constant supply of new, innovative products, as existing products become obsolete, marginalized, or unprofitable
  • managing the talent pipeline, so that the organization has the ability to quickly ingest all kinds of specialized new skills
  • managing the technology pipeline, so that the organization can adapt itself to constantly improving and ever-more sophisticated IT tools that will help to better manage, run, grow and transform the business
  • maintain and continually enhance brand and corporate image; as I’ve written here many times before, brands can become “tired” and irrelevant if they aren’t continually freshened and refreshed
  • ensuring that the organization is continuing to explore new areas for opportunity, and that it has the right degrees of innovation momentum
  • that the business processes and structure of the organization are fine-tuned on a continuous basis so that it can keep up with all the fast-change swirling around it
  • ensuring that a sufficient number of “experiential” programs are underway with respect to product, branding, markets, and other areas so that the overall expertise level of the organization is continually enhanced

In other words, the CMO has two key responsibilities:

  • keeping a fine tuned eye on the trends which will impact the organization in the future, and which will serve to increase the velocity that the organization is subjected to and;
  • keeping their hands on the appropriate levers throughout the organization such that it can keep evolving at the pace that these future trends will demand.

I don’t know if that makes perfect sense, but I think its a good issue to think about.

One recent client engaged me for a talk for their global team, with the keynote title “Achieving Agility: Aligning Ourselves for an Era of Accelerating Change”. That’s a good example of how I outline the attributes for success in a world of high velocity change. With that, I focus on how organizations and leaders must incorporate four key capabilities: agility, insight, innovation and execution.


Corporate agility concept is perhaps the most critical: organizations must presume that the rate of change today is so fast that product lifecycles are collapsing, business models are relentlessly shifting, and customers are unforgiving and fleeting. To name just a few key trends!

Agility implies that we must innovate and adapt based on rapidly changing circumstances, on a continuous basis.

How do we do that? By adopting several key guiding principles that form the basis for all corporate strategy and activities going forward:

  • plan for short term longevity: No one can presume that markets, products, customers and assumptions will remain static: everything is changing instantly. Business strategies and activities must increasingly become short term oriented while fulfilling a long term mission.
  • presume lack of rigidity: Many organizations undertake plans based on key assumptions. Agile organizations do so by presuming that those key assumptions are going to change regularly over time, and so build into their plans a degree of ongoing flexibility.
  • design for flexibility : In a world of constant change, products or services must be designed in such a way that they can be quickly redesigned without massive cost and effort. Think like Google: every product and service should be a beta, with the inherent foundation being one of flexibility for future change.
  • build with extensibility: Apple understood the potential for rapid change by building into the iPod architecture the fundamental capability for other companies to develop add-on products. Think the same way : tap into the world. Let the customer, supplier, partners and others innovate on your behalf!
  • harness external creativity: In a world in which knowledge is evolving at a furious pace, no one organization can do everything. Recogize your limits, and tap into the skills, insight and capabilities of those who can do things better.
  • plan for supportability: Customers today measure you by a bar that is raised extremely high — they expect you to deliver the same degree of high-quality that they get from the best companies on the planet. They expect instant support, rapid service, and constant innovation. If you don’t provide this, they’ll simply move on to an alternative.
  • revisit with regularity: Banish complacency. Focus on change. Continually revisit your plans, assumptions, models and strategies, because the world next week is going to be different than that of today.

To me, that’s what agility is all about!

With 25 years of working with some of the leading organization in the world on issues related to creativity and innovation,  I’ve seen some of the best and worst approaches to the issue. The worst approach? An innovation suggestion box! That will doom your efforts from the start!

I will often sit back and analyze what I’ve seen in order to establish some powerful lessons for other people. Here’s just such a quick list of 10 more things that smart, innovative companies do to create an overall sense of innovation-purpose.

  • Heighten the importance of innovation. One major client with several billons in revenue has 8 senior VP’s who are responsible for innovation. And the fact is, they don’t just walk the talk — they do it. The message to the rest of the company? Innovation is critical — get involved.
  • Create a compelling sense of urgency. With product lifecycles compressing and markets witnessing fierce competition, now is not the time for studies, committee meetings and reports. It’s time for action. Simply do things. Now. Get it done. Analyze it later to figure out how to do it better next time.
  • Ignite each spark. Innovative leaders know that everyone in the organization has some type of unique creativity and talent. They know how to find it, harness it, and use it to advantage.
  • Re-evaluate the mission. You might have been selling widgets five years ago, but the market doesn’t want widgets anymore. If the world has moved on, and you haven’t, it is time to re-evaluate your purpose, goals and strategies. Rethink the fundamentals in light of changing circumstances.
  • Build up experiential capital. Innovation comes from risk, and risk comes from experience. The most important asset today isn’t found on your balance sheet — it is found in the accumulated wisdom from the many risks that you’ve taken. The more experiential capital you have, the more you’ll succeed.
  • Shift from threat to opportunity. Innovative organizations don’t have management and staff who quiver from the fear at what might be coming next. Instead, they’re alive from breathing the oxygen of opportunity.
  • Banish complacency and skepticism. It’s all too easy for an organization, bound by a history of inaction, to develop a defeatist culture. Innovative leaders turn this around by motivating everyone to realize that in an era of rapid change, anything is possible..
  • Innovation osmosis. If you don’t have it, get it — that’s a good rule of thumb for innovation culture. One client lit a fuse in their innovation culture by buying up small, aggressive, young innovative companies in their industry. They then spent the time to carefully nurture their ideas and harness their creativity.
  • Stop selling product, and sell results. The word solution is overused and overdone, but let’s face it — in a world in which everything is becoming a commodity and everyone is focused on price, change the rules of the game. Refuse to play — by thinking about how to play in a completely new game.
  • Create excitement. I don’t know how many surveys I saw this year which indicated that the majority of most people in most jobs are bored, unhappy, and ready to bolt. Not at innovative companies! The opportunity for creativity, initiative and purpose results in a different attitude. Where might your organization be on a “corporate happiness index?” If it’s low, then you don’t have the right environment. Fix that problem — and fix it quick.

Here’s a good quote to live by:  it is said that doing the right thing when it’s easy to do is easy — it’s doing the right thing when it’s tough that is really tough!

It can be difficult to be tough about things, because it’s always easier to be nicer, to avoid stress, to keep away from things that are challenging systems. But if you study innovative people, the fact of the matter is that they are willing to deal with discomfort, and even seem to thrive on it! They thrive on this by being willing to:

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

What’s the key to this line of thinking?

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

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

Words to live by!

Anyone who has worked with me knows that I do a tremendous amount of research as I customize for my keynotes, often reading several hundred articles on a particular issue or topic as I prepare.

A few months back I was going through a set of articles about the Jetsons, a new keynote topic for me that is getting a huge amount of attention! In doing so, I came across a fascinating story about a school in Seattle that just opened a time capsule that was put away in 1962. The article took a look at what was predicted in 1962, where we are today, and what the kids of 1962 now thought we would see in 2062! You can read it below.

This got me thinking — why not get involved in a project to do the same thing! And so I turned to my good buddy Ian Bates, a Grade 5 teacher. I’ve previously written about him in a post, Things I’ve Learned from Golfing with a Grade 5 Teacher, to see if this might be an idea worth pursuing. (I also went into his classroom last year for a fun little project – What’s the Future of Education? Let the Kids Have a Say — with his Grade 5 kids about careers in the future.)


It took him about 30 seconds before he responded, and so we’ve got a project underway. I went into the classroom and spoke to the kids about the project. They are now busy preparing their predictions and ideas; we’ll revisit in April and put away an actual time capsule to be opened in the year 2045.

This should be interesting! Stay tuned! But to really find out what they are thinking, you are going to have to wait a number of years…..


Pocket phones to flying cars: Third-graders predicted them in ’62
15 April 2012, The Seattle Times

How did Laurelhurst’s 1962 third-graders do at predicting the future?

For expert input, we turned to the Pacific Science Center, which tapped two of its “Science Communication Fellows” — Erika Harnett, a University of Washington professor in Earth and space sciences, and Alex Miller, a UW postdoctoral researcher in chemistry.

We also asked the former Laurelhurst students for predictions about life 50 years from now.

Bert Kolde, 57, Mercer Island, senior director of Vulcan
His 1962 prediction: In space “we will eat paste from tubes.”
The reality: Astronauts don’t eat paste from tubes, but they do eat ice cream from foil packets, and other things, too. The word I’ve heard from astronauts is that the food in space is much like what we eat on Earth, and quite good, too — much better than one would find in many a school cafeteria. — Harnett
Kolde’s prediction for 2062: Rosie the Robot, from “The Jetsons,” will be a mainstream household appliance.

Phoebe Russell, 59, West Seattle, soccer scheduler and registrar
Her 1962 prediction: “There will be a rocket for everyone.”
The reality: While we don’t each have a rocket yet, a commercial spaceport is being built in New Mexico and a firm, Virgin Galactic, is taking bookings for the public to fly into space, for a brief few minutes. — Harnett
Russell’s prediction for 2062: “Government-supplied, accident-proof, sustainable nano-tech-fueled vehicles for all.”

Chris Rich, 58, Seattle, forest-resource company executive
Her 1962 prediction: “You will be able to have a telephone in your pocket.”
The reality: Not only do we have pocket phones, but they have cameras, video cameras, music players and the Internet inside them. — Miller
Rich’s prediction for 2062: “We will have a cashless society and use digital money stored on an all-purpose device that fits in your pocket.”

Tom Greene, 58, Bainbridge Island, co-founded frozen-food company
His 1962 prediction: “The best change will be to go way past Pluto in a rocket so we can find more planets and find out if there is any more life way out in space.”
The reality: Four spacecraft have traveled past Pluto’s orbit, Pioneers 10 and 11 and Voyagers 1 and 2. We still receive signals from the Voyager spacecraft with useful science and hope to do so until 2025, when the power systems will fail. — Harnett

Tom Norwalk, 58, Bothell, heads Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau
His 1962 prediction: “If I went to Pluto. Then I could see the Earth as a star.”
The reality: ∫ A spacecraft, called New Horizons, will be flying past Pluto in 2015 … Scientists will likely try to take an image of the Earth but I don’t know how sensitive the optics are and what the Earth will look like. — Harnett
Norwalk’s prediction for 2062: Seattle will finally have an NBA team and our city will be in the top five destinations to visit in America.

David Shulman, 59, Seattle, film-institute founder
His 1962 prediction: “I want to go to Jupiter because it is the largest planet.”
The reality: Although people have not traveled to Jupiter, the U.S. has sent several spacecraft past Jupiter and one, Galileo, not only spent several years orbiting Jupiter, it launched a probe into Jupiter’s atmosphere and then took a final, fatal plunge into Jupiter’s atmosphere. — Harnett
Shulman’s prediction for 2062: Communication occurs through touch, voice, and even thought. Global warming and rising sea levels; U.S. power concentrated by wealthy under a near-totalitarian government.

Bruce Williams, 58, Leavenworth, retired bank head
His 1962 prediction: Cars that will “float through the air … without stopping for gasoline.”
The reality: A startup company, Terrafugia, has a working prototype of a flying car, and it is taking pre-sales orders … So, flying cars do exist, but not for everyone yet, but soon. We don’t yet have cars that can travel without stopping for fuel, apart from prototypes. Some spacecraft don’t have to stop for fuel because they use solar panels to generate electricity to power the instruments. — Miller
Williams’ prediction for 2062: Zero communicable-disease deaths; 15 percent probability of a catastrophe, such as a nuclear attack, pandemic, mega-earthquake, volcanic eruption or environmental disaster.

Webb Nelson, 59, Seattle, co-founded toy company
Third-grade prediction: “We would have a new invention to get us somewhere under the Earth … something different. And faster.”
The reality: Subways and tunnels conduct below-ground traffic, but largely in transportation forms that have existed for decades. Nelson’s prediction for 2062: Concrete gets harder and stronger with age; the Space Needle will have a centennial anniversary. — Miller
Nelson’s prediction for 2062: Concrete gets harder and stronger with age; the Space Needle will have a centennial anniversary.

 

How many times does this happen – you have a great idea that you know will succeed – only to have it go to a committee, who proceed to destroy your idea?

As I dig into the culture and attitude of a client through interviews with the CEO and other team members, I’m always mystified to find  that some organizations just seem to do everything they can to shut down new ideas. Committees are one of the worst sources of failed innovation.

It happens a lot as a speaker and innovation expert. I will often be contacted by someone in an organization who is convinced that they need my insight in order to move ahead. We have a great discussion, form an outline of how I will help them, and then they try to move it forward. It goes to a committee, gets bogged down, and eventually, they end up booking a motivational speaker!

A few years back, on stage, I went through a list of what goes wrong when it comes to innovation. Innovation failures:

  • form a committee. An absolute sure fired way of shutting down ideas! The herd mentality takes over, and activity sclerosis soon sets in.
  • defer decisions. It’s easier to wait than to make any bold, aggressive moves. Uncertainty is a virtue; indecision is an asset.
  • hide failure. If anyone tries something new and doesn’t succeed, make sure that no one else sees it. You don’t want to set a message that it is important to take risks.
  • let innovators work in secret. You want to make sure that the concept of innovation remains some deep, mysterious process that not everyone can participate in. That will help to ensure that most of your team doesn’t pursue any type of fresh new thinking. They’ll just keep doing what they’ve always done.
  • banish fear. Make sure that everyone thinks that everything is going to be all right. You don’t have to deal with potential business market disruption, new competitors, significant industry transformation or the impact of globalization. Everything will look the same ten years from now, so just keep everyone focused on doing the same old thing!
  • accept the status quo. Things are running perfectly, you’ve got the perfect product mix, and all of your customers are thrilled with your brand and the levels of customer service. There’s no need to do anything new, since it’s all going to work out just fine!
  • be cautious. Don’t make any bold, aggressive moves. Just take things slowly, one step at a time. If you move too fast, things are likely to go wrong. Let complacency settle in like a warm blanket.
  • glorify process.  Make sure that everything is filled out in triplicate; ensure that process slows down any radical ideas.  It’s more important to do things perfectly than to make mistakes.
  • be narrow. Keep a very tiny view of the future. You can’t succeed with any big wins, because there aren’t going to be any dramatic surprises in the future. Think small. Act accordingly.
  • study things to death. Don’t let any uncertainty creep into your decision making process. Make sure that if you are to do anything, that you’ve spent sufficient time and effort to understand all the variables. Your goal is ensuring that any decision is free of risk, unlikely to fail, and will in retrospect be carefully and fully documented.

Wait! That’s 11 ways! And there are certainly more attitudes that help to destroy innovative thinking.

What do you think? What are the other attitudes and ways of thinking that manage to shut down organizational idea machines?

And do you want more insight like this? Check my Innovation Inspiration page!

 

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!