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I was recently interviewed by the UK based Automotive Megatrends magazine, for a special report for subscribers. It offers up my thoughts on the challenges and opportunities faced in the auto industry out to 2020.


Click the image for the PDF of the article…..

The full PDF version of the article can be found in the image here. The text follows below.

Jim Carroll on the automotive world of 2030

What’s coming in the next 15 years could be mind-boggling, says futurist Jim Carroll. As told to Martin Kahl

To paraphrase Bill Gates, most people tend to overestimate the rate of change that will occur on a two-year basis, and underestimate how much change will occur on a ten-year basis. Let’s put that in perspective: Think about the change that has occurred in the last ten years and then consider what might come in the next ten to 15 years: it could be mind boggling. Ten years ago, we only just had YouTube and FaceBook, but we didn’t have Twitter, and we didn’t have the iPhone.

One of the biggest trends that is unfolding, and one that will have a huge impact on transportation, is what I call hyper connectivity, or what people are referring to as the Internet of Things. Everything that is a part of our daily lives will be connected to the Internet – and that has massive implications.

As for how cars and trucks fit into this, there are two paths. One is full vehicle autonomy, the Google self-driving car trend. The other is the development of intelligent highway and intelligent road infrastructure that interacts with everything else via a variety of methodologies that will help the car to drive in a safe manner with a human inside. I don’t think it’s a discussion of whether we will all be either in autonomous cars or human-driven cars – I think there’s going to be a mixture of both.

But is the automotive industry doing enough to prepare for future drivers’ needs? I think the problems are several-fold. The famous image is that of a two-year-old child who walks up to a 50 inch LCD TV and starts pressing it, but she doesn’t get the level of interaction that she expects. Companies like Google and Apple, companies which operate at the speed of Silicon Valley, will increasingly impact the speed of change of vehicle technology, and I don’t think automotive companies are ready for that.

The car companies run the risk of falling behind unless they form very unique and innovative partnerships with some of those tech companies.

In 2003, I made up this little story that maybe Google could decide to become a car company. It wouldn’t actually build the car, simply have it contract manufactured. It wouldn’t have dealerships, the cars would be sold online and delivered to you by FedEx. The car would come in a box, and it would have party in the box too, so that you could celebrate with your neighbours. I was laughed at back then… But maybe that is the business model for the future.

Everybody wants to understand the future. Every organisation has people that plan for what comes next. I think the challenge for the automotive industry could be hubris, in terms of thinking the industry is too big for others to enter: “We’re the big car companies, we’re always going to be the big car companies. The competitors we have today will be the competitors we’ll have ten years from now.”

A car brought out in 2015 was probably modelled in 2009, tested in 2011, put into production in 2013, and sold in 2015. That car, by 2020, is going to look like it’s from the olden days. It’ll be like having an old-generation smartphone. That will have a huge impact on the resale value of that car. Because of how quickly technology becomes obsolete, automotive companies need to build in an increasing degree of modularity, so that the car can easily receive the latest technology updates.

I think that in 2030 we’re going to see a host of new business models. Rather than being based on runs of several hundred thousand vehicles that go into inventory, I see growth in business models that are based on build-to-demand. The sharing economy will shape business models in 2030. The automotive industry is already recognising, in some of its new initiatives, that an entire generation is rejecting the concept of buying a vehicle for a full time purpose.

In addition to the rise of hyperconnectivity and new business models, there are tremendous advances occurring with solar and alternative forms of power generation that will affect the automotive world of 2030. Innovative companies focus on innovation during periods of economic uncertainty so that they are well positioned to come out strong on the other side. It will be fascinating to see what emerges.


Global economic turmoil? Time to innovate!
August 24th, 2015, by Jim Carroll

As the world wakes up on August 24, 2015, to news of turmoil with global stock markets, it’s important to remember the key lessons learned from past recessions – those who focus on innovation despite economic uncertainty, are those who succeed in the long run.

Now is not the time for panic, nor to throw away critical strategic innovation opportunities. Indeed, history has taught us otherwise. Here I am in Las Vegas, speaking to this very issue.

You can choose to do 3 things – you can choose to panic; you can choose to do nothing; or you can choose to innovate and adapt to rapidly changing economic circumstances!

Wrap up summary video from Sao Paolo WorldSkills 2015: “I’m here to inspire the audience about the future, I’m here to get them thinking about the future, and I’m here to get them thinking about what they need to do in terms of innovating and challenging themselves to change to keep up with a fast future.”

Based on the feedback so far, I think I succeeded. Here’s the summary video about my keynote and the panel discussion that followed.

I’ll have a lengthy post of my WorldSkills event soon; let me say it is just one of the most mind-boggling events I have ever attended and participated in – and I’ve been in this business for 20 years!

My Worldskills Sao Paolo speech, live, Thursday Aug 13
August 10th, 2015, by Jim Carroll

On Thursday, August 13th this week, I’ll be the opening keynote speaker for the 2015 Global WorldSkills Leaders Forum.

You should be able to use this link to catch me live on stage.

You should be able to watch the keynote live here beginning at 8:00AM Eastern Standard time. I should be introduced at 8:30AM Eastern, and speak for an hour. I’ll then participate in a panel discussion with 5 “WorldSkills Champions”, wrapping up at 1045 Eastern.

Update at 826AM: We are running 1/2 hr late. Apparently its called “Brazilian time.” (-;

The miracle that is vision!
July 31st, 2015, by Jim Carroll

Two years ago this week, almost to the day, I walked in for the pre-24 hr checkup for a Lasik surgery that I had committed to.

Stream of digital data with a human eye

“My vision is now truly is marvellous, and I owe all this to the tenacity, dedication and sheer professionalism of Dr. Sheldon Herzig and the team at the Herzig Eye Insititue. Truly a world class operation that lives up to their promise to return you to a life of perfect vision.”

Just a few minutes after our final pre-surgery consultation, my wife and I decided I should cancel the procedure, and we walked out. We’d gone into this meeting with some about the organization — it was a member of a ‘chain’ of Lasik companies, and I just didn’t feel comfortable already with  some lack of information, the fact that charts from my own eye doctor had not yet arrived, and other issues. This meeting confirmed my thinking.

Leaving, It was a pretty depressing day. I’d been wearing contact lenses at that point for some 34 years, and glasses for several years before that. With age, my eyesight was becoming less reliable. I had thought to myself that within 24 hours I would have had a solution to that. Now, I did not.

My wife and I chatted that weekend as we drove to the cotttage; I still wanted to do something to try to ‘fix my vision.’ And in one of those serendipitous moments, a commercial came on the radio for the Herzig Eye Institute in Toronto. It caught my attention; and by the middle of the next week, we had made an appointment for an assessment.

We met with one of the optometrists, Dr. Jeffrey Tolmie, one of the nicest, most courteous and patient optometrists I have ever met. After examination of my eyes with a whole series of fascinating machines, I was advised that my corneas were just on the edge of being a little too thin for full Lasik. He was instead recommending “Lens Replacment Surgery” (aka “Refractive Lens Exchange” instead.”) Basically, cataract surgery before you get cataracts — with the added benefit of almost immediate better vision.

I was also given the option of going with monovision — that is, one eye set for distance, and the other set for close, so as to avoid the use of reading glasses. That certainly sounded appealing!

Of course, I immediately went home and started doing my own homework — with the main observations being that this is the most common type of surgery in the world, and the second observation that with monovision, most patients brains eventually balance out the different vision distances….

In December 2013 I took the plunge and had the surgery, performed by Dr. Sheldon Herzig. Within a few days, my right eye could see distance extremely well, while my left eye could read the tiniest of tiny print. So far, so good. But to be honest, my brain was having a hard time figuring things out; some moments, the different eye settings were barely noticeable, but at other times, very difficult to deal with it.

And then I went on stage for an event in Las Vegas in January 2014, and it didn’t go so well. I couldn’t see the audience through the lights; I struggled with the floor monitor; my ability to hit my stage marks didn’t seem quite right. After that, I started wearing a 1.0x power contact in the left eye, on my own initiative, which seemed to make things easier, and went for my 3 month followup appointment with Herzig.

And at that point, I began to learn that Herzig really sticks to their “vision guarantee.” It can take the eyes some time to optically stabilize after surgery. By the 3 month point, Herzig came to the conclusion that both my left and right eye could use a bit of Lasik “tweaking” to get closer to their goals of 20/20 on the right, and reading vision on the left that my brain could better balance.

I had two more Lasik’s — the right eye was now incredible — I could see things at a distance that I had seen in decades…… yet this took time, as I had to fit these procedures into my tight speaking schedule.

But still the left eye just didn’t seem right; I still stuck to wearing a contact. After another visit, Dr. Tolmie suggested, and then Dr. Herzig confirmed, one more Lasik touch up to the left eye…. and I had that done just over a few weeks ago in mid-June.

I’ve now been living for six weeks without any need for any type of contact lens. I have occasional need for reading glasses in low level light — but the rest of the day, I get up, go to work, golf, cycle and live my life, with what to me seems to be near perfect vision. Every once in a while I stop and ponder; my world view is marvellous and crystal clear and unbelievable. And monovision works completely!  I can read my iPhone without the need for reading glasses, and interact with my computer(s) without any vision aids. I’ve got the best of both worlds — clear distance vision and close vision.

My vision is now truly is marvellous, and I owe all this to the tenacity, dedication and sheer professionalism of Dr. Sheldon Herzig and the team (particularly Dr. Tolmie) at the Herzig Eye Insititue. Truly a world class operation that lives up to their promise to return you to a life of perfect vision.

Thank you Dr. Herzig!

At my recent opening keynote for the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, part of my role was to challenge the audience to think about how rapidly new careers are emerging all around us. I used an agricultural trend to put it into perspective. It’s a good watch.

Not only I am talking about \vertical farming infrastructure managers, but other forthcoming careers include robotic pharmaceutical therapy monitors, water footprint analysts, and drone helicopter insurance crop risk managers! Not to mention manure managers — a unique, specialized skill set that has already been around for at least a decade.

I was thrilled to have been invited to address the 2015 Graduating Class at the University of North Carolina School of Government -CGCIO program in Chapel Hill the other day!

IMG_7102It was part of a full day program which led to their graduation ceremony; I was invited in to challenge them to think of the opportunities and challenges they face as they go forward into the future at the start of their day.

Attendees were from a broad spectrum of local and municipal governments, as well as school boards and legal bodies; particularly responsible for information technology and infrastructure.  I’ve previously spoken to many such groups, including a keynote for 3,000 folks at the annual Government Finance Officers Association annual conference in Austin, Texas; 2,000 mayors and civic officials for the Texas Municipal League annual conference in Dallas, Texas; and 500 at the Utah League of Cities and Towns annual event in Salt Lake City (among many other events.)

Certainly the challenge for government today is pretty big;I opened with this quote:

“Increasingly, citizens are demanding that governments provide the same level personalized service that they receive from business organizations.” International Innovations in Public Sector External Service Delivery, 
Brock University, March 2010″

That certainly became evident with the rollout of the Web site for the Health Care Reform Act (aka “Obamacare”); with a failed implementation, it became clear that the expectations of society are that any government should provide the same degree of online service as Amazon, FedEx or others. I spoke of what people expect in terms of online interaction today, using the example of pension benefits:

  • extreme personalization
  • extreme simplification
  • complete interaction history
  • pro-active delivery by new platforms (i.e. instant text messages when pension plan changes occur)
  • Web interaction > call center (i.e. chat / video / Skype/ Google Hangout?)
  • and mobile!

Yet the problem for many government organizations is that they have to try to provide this service within the reality of the existence of a creaky, lumbering, complex back-end information technology platform. I use a simple picture to illustrate the problem (which brought down the house with laughter; they know all too well that the problem is very, very real.)


But then I continued : that’s not the biggest challenge; it’s the fact that they very definition of technology and infrastructure — their area of responsibility — will be subject to rapid change.

My intent was to put into perspective that as CIO’s for government organizations, they had better be ready to assume responsibility for a lot more than just citizen facing service systems and other existing infrastructure. It’s the new, rapidly evolving technology and trends which will see them becoming responsible for even more technology — and it could all happen pretty quickly.

There were several themes:

  • Big, disruptive ideas: we all know big change is happening in every industry. How quickly will we see online voting; text message based democracy, and other new forms of technology based citizen democracy? I wrote about this in my “25 Trends for 2025” document — take a look at the trend, “Poll-democracy takes flight“, in which I suggest that “the mobile generation, weaned on the technology of text messaging and social networks, finally convinces a few brave countries to consider the idea of real time 
citizen-voting.” It’s not a question of if it will happen; it’s a question of when it will happen.
  • Infrastructure of 2025: it’s emerging now, and its happening fast. In cities and towns, we’ll see  local business and citizen groups using mobile energy shared insight apps to actively monitor and manage local lighting usage; global community vs. community challenges become common as gaming generation comes to manage their ‘personal energy infrastructure usage’ ; deep analysis capabilities move cities to prognostic maintenance of traffic, electrical, lighting, wastewater and water infrastructure systems. Wow!
  • Moore’s Law everywhere: Of course, the Internet of Things. Opportunities involving the virtualization of health care; seniors community care networks that allow seniors to live in their homes instead of seniors care facilities, supported through vast, interconnected medical devices ; intelligent LED networked streetlights with proximity sensors that indicate open parking spots; payment technology embedded into cars that will link and pay through smart meters.
  • Grand challenges: there are big challenges with civic infrastructure today. 16% of the water supply in the US is lost due to leaky pipes, and goes back in the ground!Put it another way: utilities lose enough water every six days to supply the nation for a day! Only 7% of the communities in the US recycle wastewater. Compare that to Israel: more than 80% of household wastewater is recycled, 1/2 going to irrigation. Of course, someone will solve this challenge with technology — perhaps this company. “Nexus eWater, maker of the world’s first home water and energy recycler, today announced that it is the first company ever to receive certification to the NSF/ANSI 350 global standard for residential grey water treatment for its ‘NEXtreater’ home water recycler. (Nexus eWater is World’s First Company to 
Obtain Certification for Residential Grey Water Treatment 13 March 2015, Business Wire). Their goals? reducing city water into the home by up to 40%; reducing sewage from the home by 70%; reducing water heating energy by 75% ; reducing home energy use by 15-25%; generating total savings of up to $50-$200 per month per home for water, sewer and electric bills. Oh, and harvesting rainwater. Pretty bold goals, but that’s the type of world we live in today
  • The next generation: My sons are now 21 and 20. I pointed out that they have never known a world without the Internet, and have never known a world for the last decade without some type of mobile device. They simply will not expect to deal with a government that is not prepared to service them quickly, efficiently and effectively through mobile.

It was a fun talk; and certainly inspired a lot of thinking, with a solid 1/2 hour of Q&A.

I’m extremely impressed by the level of insight provided by a program such as that at UNC. We should do more to encourage innovators in government to take on and assume more responsibility for some of the grandest opportunities of our time!

Potatoes, Fiji, and the Future
June 22nd, 2015, by Jim Carroll

Fiji-46699If you are a futurist (like me), you always must be focused on the upside.

Otherwise, you don’t have much in the way of career potential.

You have to be an optimist. Always seeing the bright side of life!

So imagine my surprise while wandering around the trade show floor at Potato Expo 2015, last January, where I had finished a keynote, and coming across the booth for Fiji.

That’s the Pacific nation best known for tourism, fruit exports, and other niche economic sectors. And here they are, at Potato Expo 2015.

And apparently, don’t have much of a potato industry. Of the top 10 potator producing countries in the world, Fiji ranks 153rd.

In fact, the country has to import most of it’s potato supply, some $22 million USD worth per year.

But they are also thinking beyond that, and are thinking of export potential. I spoke to the folks at the booth, and their attitude was simple. Growing food demand and a lush agricultural sector meant that they could see nothing upside, potential and opportunity. So they thought it important to be there, as a way to begin exploring the opportunity.

Now that’s optimism and innovation!


What Will Golf Do With the Arrival of The Drones?
June 16th, 2015, by Jim Carroll

Sometime in the next few years, someone is going to arrive at a golf course, and have their entire round filmed by a drone up in the air overhead. It will follow them around via a GPS link ; their fellow players might be annoyed at first, but with the ultra silent motor, they’ll soon barely notice.

A drone flies over Pebble Beach, providing some unique views of one of the world's most famous golf courses.

A drone flies over Pebble Beach, providing some unique views of one of the world’s most famous golf courses.Sometime in the next few years, someone is going to arrive at a golf course, and have their entire round filmed by a drone up in the air overhead.Sometime in the next few years, someone is going to arrive at a golf course, and have their entire round filmed by a drone up in the air overhead.

Later, that someone will edit the highlights of their round to share it with friends; they might sent it to the their PGA Pro to help analyze it for training purposes; or they put it some other unimaginable use.

Right now, drone technology is where the Internet was in about 1993, and in the next 5-10 years we are going to see explosive growth in both the number of drones as well the sophistication of the feature set they support.

I was thinking about this while out for my latest golf round yesterday; I’m pretty wired up already, and maybe I just need a drone to complete my wired golf-self.

And I’m thinking about it, because I’m scheduled to keynote the 2015 Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) conference in New Orleans in September; I’ll focus on the future of interactive sport. It’s a pretty big organization: “The Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) is the leading global trade association of manufacturers, retailers, and marketers in the sports and fitness product industry. SFIA’s membership represents 500+ premier brands who account for more than $150 billion in annual sales.”

I’ve got my GPS watch to help plan the accuracy of my shots, and for the last several weeks, have been wired up with the GameGolf GPS tracking system. It monitors every swing, and at the end of the day, builds me an interactive map of my round with all kinds of useful insight on my performance. I joked to my playing partner: “It provides me with really good insight on how bad I am. But wait until I have a drone helicopter over my head, filming my round!” (More on the GameGolf technology below — it’s fabulous!)

Like every sport, golf is bound up in a rich tradition and history. The idea that drones might become part of the game will make some go apoplectic; as did the arrival of golf carts in the 1960’s, and of GPS shot tracking technology in the 1990’s!

I addressed this thinking, and the future of interactive sport, when I was the opening keynote speaker for the 2010 PGA of America annual meeting. Here’s a clip — think baseball bats with embedded chips! And in the video, I seemed to correctly predict the arrival of the GameGolf type of technology!

All sports are entering and new and complex future. Webcams, Internet connectivity, motion, GPS and all kinds of other sensor technology are being embedded into equipment now, and there is only more yet to come. This will come to challenge and redefine every sport, but is probably critical to attracting the next generation of kids to a sport — you, the ones that have never known a world without an iPad.

Consider the GameGolf technology. It’s both fun and useful. Here’s the detail on my performance on the first hole (a double bogey…..).


I can review my entire game, post-round, and learn from what I did wrong, and what I did right. The system works with a small sensor inserted into the end of each club; before each swing, I tap the club to a GPS device on my belt. From that, magical information is uploaded later at the end of the day.

Over time, the system is building up some remarkable statistical insight for me. For example, here’s my performance for shots into the green from within 100 yards. I never realized that almost 1/3 of my shots were short; I’ve started to ‘club-up’ and am getting better performance already!

GreenapproachNext! A drone that will film me from up above; I’ll then be able to examine my swing and see what I might or might not be doing wrong.

A foolish concept? Golf carts were considered a horrific attack on the game when they first appeared.

So what will the world of golf do when it sees the arrival of the drones?

It’s going to happen, sooner than people think!


Why Prague Matters….
June 5th, 2015, by Jim Carroll

I grew up during the Cold War.

FG4ulI remember the era of atomic weapons as a threat above our heads; I remember my Mom preparing for the end of the world with the situation in Cuba in 1963; she seemed very busy getting lots of extra water and food down into the cellar. I was barely 4 years old. I remember being very scared.

It is a memory that is seared in my mind.

I have another memory of the cold war. My dad was a Chemical Engineer, working with a company known then as Emery Industries, in London, Ontario, Canada. I have a vivid memory, sometime around 1969, when he spoke of having hired a young, new engineer; the fellow had asked for ‘asylum’ in Canada; was succesful, and was now going to be working with my dad.

My dad explained to me, after I had pestered him, that the young fellow had run from the plane in Gander, Newfoundland — seeking freedom. The plane was going from Prague to Cuba; Gander was a fuel stop. He had decided to risk his life, by running, after the horror that was the Prague Spring.

The entire concept was new to me. The idea that someone ran from a plane to be free boiled my mind.

When Václav Havel helped to immerse the world in freedom in 1989, my mind was boiled again.

I’m travelling tomorrow to Prague with my wife. I am so inspired by the idea of what the Prague Spring meant. I think I am lucky to have been touched by it in a small way, through a fellow who ran from a plane almost 40 years ago, in order to gain freedom.

I am inspired, simply, by Prague.


My son and I in front of one of Volvo’s newest trucks. “The typical truck now generates 3 gigabytes of diagnostic and other information every month!”

It was quite a thrill to be the opening speaker a short while ago for the annual Dealers Meeting of Volvo/Mack Trucks North America, in Dallas, Texas.

My role was to talk about the future of transportation and trucking, and put in perspective how the reality today and going forward that for trucks, connectivity is the new horsepower!

My talk focused around several broad themes; the evolution of trucks into a world of predictive diagnostic maintenance; data-driven hyper-connectivity that leads us into future efficiencies and opportunities; the increasing skills challenge that comes with the shift; and the opportunity that this presents to dealers as we move into an era of sophisticated, post-sale, connected service and support. That was a mouthful!

Going in, I already knew I’d be speaking in the exact same conference room where a few years ago, I was the opening keynote speaker for the Texas Municipal League.

In the audience at time I had more than 2,500 mayors and other elected officials of cities and towns large and small from throughout the state of Texas. And it’s just a few days after President Obama swept to his second term in office – and so I needed to move these folks into thinking about the opportunities of the future! Here’s a clip from that talk, in which I was speaking how quickly the intelligent infrastructure of the 21st — including intelligent highway technology — was becoming a big part of our world.

That’s part of the approach I took for the Volvo / Mac Trucks event as well, opening with a quote from their CEO which really summarizes the connectivity being built into the next generation of transportation technology: “We are rapidly approaching the point at which no trucks will ever really be ‘offline.’ ”

Part of the big focus of the meeting, and the focus on my keynote, was the opportunities that come from building predictive maintenance technology into a truck. This provides for fascinating reductions in overall fleet downtime — we’ll know when a vehicle is going to have a problem, and can call it in for preventative maintenance before it gets worse. Volvo already has 80,000 trucks on the road with remote diagnistics buit in.  The typical truck now generates 3 gigabytes of diagnostic and other information every month! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

This is just one trend that is underway with all kinds of vehicle technology. We’ve also got an acceleration in all kinds of trends that is leading us to vehicle autonomy — that is, self-driving cars.

Already, we are seeing rapid advancements with :

  • collision avoidance
  • pedestrian and object detection
  • spatial awareness and GPS
  • V2V (Vehicle to Vehicle) communications for lane, distance, time compression
  • remote vehicle control
  • predictive fuel efficiency routing
  • intelligent highway technology
  • lane, distance, time compression

Noted Volvo, “We think that a few years from now the vehicle will have a 360-degree ‘awareness’ of what’s going on around it, and will even be able to predict what the moving entities it is scanning might do next.”

Of course, all of this leads into a fascinating new skill set requirement throughout the dealer support network as well for trucking/automative companies. This includes:

  • engineering and technology staff that can predict & prevent failure
  • marketing that can optimize the customer experience in terms of new opportunity
  • maintenance and warranty staff who can work with the new prognostic capabilities and realign their efforts
  • …. and the leadership who makes it go

How quickly will this come about? Pretty fast: consider this observation”

 “It is early spring in 2018. Most major fleets have become such sophisticated users of data to do prognostics or predictive maintenance these days that they don’t even use the predictive word anymore. It is just part and parcel of routine maintenance—business as usual” Maintenance in the cloud, 16 March 2015, Fleet Owner

The potential impact for truck dealers could be significant; according to Frost & Sullivan’s Fleet Dealer Magazine

  • parts, servicing and maintenance will grow as the “pillar” of successful dealerships
  • profit margins of 40-50% growing an additional 5-10% by 2020 (do the math!)
  • telematics, prognostics and remote diagnostics represents a new potential revenue stream of 10-15% of profits by 2020
  • (and as I noted on stage, anyone asking about, um, loyalty?)
Trend: The End of Life (Insurance)
April 8th, 2015, by Jim Carroll

Through the years, I’ve done a tremendous number of talks within the insurance industry, both the life and P&C (property and casualty) sides of the business.

For years, it’s been a pretty slow industry. That’s all about to change — in a big way! Indeed, we might soon see Google, or Amazon, or some other company with big technology, lots of data, and new methods of reaching potential customers that will forever disrupt and change the industry. Some folks have been talking to this potential for a few years, as seen in this article.


I just did a talk for the CEO and senior executive team of one of the largest life insurance organizations in the U.S.

The main thrust of my talk was that the opportunity for big,  disruptive transformation in the life insurance industry is now accelerating, as three major trends come together.

  • bio-connectivity drives medical care, with opt-in for performance oriented life policies based on real time reduction of morbidity stats. People are using health and fitness monitors on their iPhones. If they can show good results from their health and wellness goals, an insurer would be far more likely to take a risk on them
  • we’re moving into a world of real time analytical community healthcare status updates that feed into actuarial tables; think about Apple’s recent initiative with it’s HealthKit (first to be used for medical research). It’s only a matter of time before real time healthcare dashboards are part of the health system in the Western world. I wrote about that before, in my post: “Trend: The Emergence of Real Time Analytical Predictive Healthcare Dashboards.”
  • every industry is being disrupted, as big, bold thinkers take over the agenda of an industry. Maybe in just a few years, we’ll see the Amazon Prime “No Hassles, Real Time, No Questions” Life Policy.

Some people in the life insurance industry see this trend, and see a threat.

The most amazing thing is that this is happening in the context of an industry that, if it is not dead yet, is certainly in the triage department:

MetLife’s premiums on policies sold to individuals last year totaled $409 million, a decline of 26% from $553 million in 2005. Industrywide sales of individual life-insurance policies are down 45% since the mid-1980s, according to industry-funded research firm Limra. About 30% of American households have no life insurance at all, up from 19% about 30 years ago. People of Wal-Mart: Struggling Life Insurers Seek A Middle-Class Revival, 25 July 2014, The Wall Street Journal

Those are staggering numbers.

Real innovators see the same trends, and see nothing but opportunity. The industry is totally up for grabs.

Of course everyone does, particularly young kids. And as you age, you still marvel at these roaring machines and the brave firefighters who command them.

Remote-Fire-Fighting-Wildfire-Truck-future-vehicle-03A few weeks ago, I was thrilled to be the opening keynote speaker for the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association annual conference in St. Augustine, Florida. In the room were key executives from a broad cross of section of the industry.

As with all my talks, I did a tremendous amount of research — its fascinating what you can find with some very targeted searching and analysis. That’s why I’m known for the customized insight I provide in my talks.

What I learned from this industry is the perfect allegory for what is now happening in most major industries — the acceleration of what is known as customer-focused, or better yet, customer-initiated innovation.

For as long as there have been firetrucks, the industry has operated pretty well much the same. The companies that manage these complex vehicles determine what it is they plan to build, present it to the customer (cities, towns, airports ….), who might choose to buy it, or not. Of course, through this time, there has been tremendous change to the sophistication of the offerings and the complex of the machine and support systems.

But what is also apparent is that the entire fire and safety industry is grappling with faster change, such as:

  • the rapid emergence of new hazards and risk (roof photovoltaics & solar present complex new challenges for large industrial or residential fires; there have been several cases of a fire chief pulling back his team due to uncertainty in terms of assessing risk)
  • faster, more complex challenges (new chemicals, nano materials, more pipeline risk with the rapid growth of shale oil, as well as increased rail transport risk)
  • the rapid advancement of science (arson / forensic skills and knowledge requirements are accelerating at a furious pace
  • even such things as rapidly fluctuating community size (100,000 people for tailgate parties) leads to the new emergence of new risk that must be properly managed from a safety perspective.
  • and lots more!

What’s the impact of all this change? I quickly started to discover a lot more folks in the industry talking about ‘Apparatus Architects‘ – fire professionals who work for cities or towns or airports or others, who now specify what they need, given the unique risk within their community. They’ll then, to make it very simple, ask the apparatus manufacturers to build them according to spec.

In other words, the innovation pipeline has gone ‘upside down.’ The customers are driving the innovation that they need; successful apparatus manufactuers will adapt to this change, or find themselves falling behind.

I’ve been writing about this trend for well over ten years. And it’s happening in more and more industries, and the pace at which it is driving industries is speeding up. Customer-oriented or customer-initiated innovation is one of the most powerful, transformative issues in every industry today. What’s happening with firetrucks provides a good overview of just what is at stake.

Of course, that’s not just all — there’s more to come. I threw in a good sampling of future trends that will provide more change, including:

  • aerial drones linked to in-truck multi-screen video system
  • robotic building explorers linked to real-time, 3D location databases
  • instant spectrometry air-sampling analyzers with intelligent fire suppression technology suggestions

Customer-oriented innovation and rapid technological change define the future of most industries today. Pay attention to it, and think about firetrucks!

It’s an interesting time for many organizations. There is a wave of business model disruption, new competition, fast paced change, a massive transition in skills and knowledge — not to mention the impact of a massive wave of technology.

That’s often the context for the keynotes that I do;  many times over the last 15 years, I’ve been invited in to challenge a global leadership team to how to deal with a fast paced future. Innovation is a key theme, and my job is the wake people up to the trends that will change their industry, careers, and opportunities.

I’ll always work several text message polls into my talks (through to gauge the mindset of those in the room.

And in the last 18 months, I’ve woven into most of my talks, three key questions:

  • do you believe you are capable of dealing with a fast future?
  • do you think your business model will survive the next ten years?
  • are you prepared to innovate now, to deal with this reality?

I’ve come to this conclusion. Every single audience group has answered “No.” “No”. “No.”

In other words: we’re not ready for a lot of change; we know this change will likely have a devastating impact; but we’re just going to wait a while before we do anything about it!

The thinking, to me, is truly mind-boggling.

Case in point: here’s a recent poll with one recent global leadership meeting that I was asked to open.

The first question: are you ready to deal with a fast future?


Well, not really

Next question: do you think your business model will survive?

Definitely not.


Last question: What are you going to do about it?

Um, we will just wait it out.

I’ve tried this scenario with multiple groups through the last 18 months, and there is a deadly commonality to it.

It’s kind of scary, because it implies to me that a lot of organizations, associations, professions and industries are sleep walking into the future.

We live in fascinating times!


I’m thrilled that I’ve again been cover in CG&T Magazine’s annual outlookCGT2015.  This marks 4 years in a row!

This year my comments are short and sweet – I continue to believe that accelerating change with retail models, products, technology, mobile and just about everything else makes it difficult for organizations to ensure that their capabilities are aligned to their strategies.

Here’s what I wroe for this years piece:

Going into 2015 and beyond, the biggest issue for CG executives will be to think about how they have big holes that they need to fix — and fast.

The challenge is that with this tsunami of change, many companies still aren’t capable of coping, and so many mismatches become painfully clear:

  • Strategy mismatch: Are you still trying to solve the social media challenges from 2013, while in 2015 it has shifted mobile?
  • Skills mismatch: What’s your bench strength with all the new technologies flooding the space?
  • Cultural mismatch: Are you equipped for speed? Everyone is talking about being agile and lean — but do you find that even with those strategies you are still falling behind?
  • Worse yet, your technology mismatch is probably becoming bigger than ever. How are you going to fix these holes?

Here are some key secrets of success in an era of high-velocity change: an accelerated innovation cycle, fuelled by the rapid ingestion of new technologies/methodologies. Work on your internal pipelines to gain a faster time to market, and know how to rapidly re-focus resources for opportunity or threat. All that needs to be done in a time in which volatility is the new normal. A pretty tall order, but it will help you close the mismatches that likely exist.


“Innovation is about much more than just new products. What is innovation? It is running your business better, growing your business and transforming your business.”

I just found this article, which ran on the ERA blog after my keynote on the future of real estate, for their 2013 conference. It’s a good read!


5 Things World Class Innovators Do that Others Do Not,
by Tara Reid, from Owning the Fence, ERA Real Estate Blog

Consider this: 65 percent of current preschoolers, kindergartners and first graders will work in a career that does not yet exist. And, if you are working on a degree based on science right now, it is estimated that half of what you learn in your first year will be obsolete by the time you graduate.

That is how fast things are changing in this world and according to Innovation and Trends Expert Jim Carroll; the future belongs to those who are fast. In fact perhaps media mogul Rupert Murdoch puts it best: “The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.”

During the ERA 2013 International Business Conference Think Tank, Carroll explained that to keep up, you have to get ahead the way that today’s best thinkers and changers do. Here are 5 things world class innovators do that set them apart from the rest.

  1. Think big and bold. You can view a future trend as a threat or an opportunity. Take it as an opportunity, embrace it as change for the better and prepare to make the trend work for you by thinking beyond the now. How can you make the trend bigger and better? And, how can you help others navigate change? For example, in real estate, keep in mind, according to Carroll, people want a qualified advisor to help them get through the biggest investment of their lifetime. Figure out how to exceed their expectations and you have carved out your niche.
  2. Check your speed. You have to move quickly to stay in the game. World class innovators constantly up their speed while checking their quality. For example, it took Apple two years to sell two million iPhones; it took them two months to sell two million iPads. It then took them one month to sell one million iPhone 4’s but only one day to sell one million of the upgraded iPhone 4S model. They get faster while they get better.
  3. Reframe the concept of change. Innovation is about much more than just new products. What is innovation? It is running your business better, growing your business and transforming your business. If you want to be innovative think about how you can use technology to address those three actions.
  4. Ride generational acceleration. According to Carroll, the next generation thrives on moving things forward. Follow their lead and adapt to new ways of thinking and acting. Half of today’s global population is under the age of 25. Your role is to understand their ideas so that you can manage their capabilities.
  5. Challenge organizational sclerosis. Ever hear or say the words, “It won’t work,” or “I don’t think I can,” or “It’s too risky?” Such phrases are symptoms of organizational sclerosis, the fear of change. It is important to think big, be fast and transform how you do business so that you do not end up in an innovation rut. When change gets scary, keep this in mind: “Some people see a trend and see a threat. Innovators see the same trend, and see an opportunity.”

With these five actions in mind, turn your next “oh no!” moment into an “a ha!” moment. Take that threat and turn it into an opportunity to grow. The world is not going to stop changing and trends will pop up even more quickly so grab on, hold on tight, and go for it!

Trend: The Looming Corporate Governance Strategy Crisis
February 26th, 2015, by Jim Carroll

There was an interesting article in the New York Times on Feb 18: “Careers: ‘Board Doctors,’ to Supervise the Supervisors — More companies bring in experts to scrutinize effectiveness of directors, creating a growth business.” (read the article)


Sadly, with all the current focus on “compliance,” I’ve come to believe that there is a critical lack of future planning on many other corporate boards around the world — Jim Carroll

The article opens with the observation: “Amid unprecedented pressure from investors, more boards are tapping outside experts so they can monitor management better and clean their own house. The legion of advisers — which some dub “board doctors” — scrutinize boards’ inner workings and prescribe cures for such ills as an entrenched chief executive, 800-page briefing books, or even a director who plays Sudoku during management presentations. The experts often enable board members to make tough choices they are too squeamish to do on their own.”

Essentially, the gist of the article boiled down to three key points:

  • boards are becoming less effective at making ‘hard decisions’
  • the result is a trend in which there is more outside (hired) scrutiny of the effectiveness of board performance
  • the scrutiny adds in assessment of the effectiveness of individual board members

In an amusing point, the article comments on one director who was known to regularly play Sudoku during board meetings.

The article is a good read, and a great outline of some of the problems facing the world of corporate governance today. But from my perspective, it missed a key point that I’ve been raising in many of my sessions with Boards through the years — most boards are not structured to deal with issues of future strategic direction.

If you understand how boards work, there are two key issues:

  • it’s a very insular club ; still, globally, very much an ‘old boys network’ (although gender diversity is a key issue that many national Director associations are working hard to solve)
  • the board ‘skills matrix’ — that is, the type of people that boards seek to recruit — generally consists of finance/accounting; legal; executive compensation; IT; human resources; and specific industry experience. Few seem to have expanded their matrix to include “future strategic insight.”

A few years ago, I thought it might be interesting to apply my skill of anticipating and outlining future trends by actively seeking involvement in a few boards. I took a director education course at the University of Rotman. It was a fascinating world to immerse myself in. Sadly, since then, I’ve had few opportunities (probably, to be honest, because I don’t network with the board world as most other folks do.)

What’s the looming crisis? I outlined this back in a post in 2007, “The Future of Governance.” Essentially, there are numerous boards who do not take on the responsibility of actively and regularly assessing trends for future threats and opportunities, and include this assessment in their evaluation of the effectivness of the CEO (which is one of their key responsibilities.)

I’ll repost the 2007 post in fulll below; it still makes what I believe is a useful and powerful read.

I’m not sure much has changed since I wrote it; consider, for example, the recent security/hacking issues with Sony. Should they not have had a high level Board member who would be asking tough questions as to what structure the CEO had in place to deal with an obvious looming security infrastructure challenge. You can lay the Sony debacle at the door of the CEO. You can also lay blame directly against the Board of Directors.

Have a look at the article, and then consider if the Board you participate on has a significant ‘future oriented challenge.’


I was in Colorado Springs yesterday, as the opening keynote of the Leadership Institute for Directors for FCCServices — they’re the business services arm of the US federal Farm Credit System.

In attendance were members of the Boards of Directors for a wide variety of state and community farm credit co-ops; these folks are the backbone of the US farm lending infrastructure. The Directors are local farmers, community leaders and business executives, and hence, need to be aware of the trends impacting the local and global agricultural industries, so that they can plan accordingly, assess risk, and make sound business decisions with respect to their co-ops.

My keynote took a look at “what comes next in the agricultural sector” – it’s one of many talks I do within the industry. And agriculture is certainly subject to high velocity change: there’s rapid evolution in science (bio-crops); new markets (bio-fuel) ; rapidly changing skills; new direct to consumer market opportunities; globalization (current food production must double in the next 30 years to keep up with global population growth.) All of which could spell opportunity if approached correctly — or turmoil and challenge if ignored.

The intent of the talk — and the overall theme of the leadership conference — was to ensure that these folks have the insight to direct their organizations into the future. That’s an important and critical role for Boards; and FCC Services is an example of an organization that has made sure that the “future” is closely linked to the issue of “governance.”

I think there are too many organizations that don’t do this. Sadly, with all the current focus on “compliance,” I’ve come to believe that there is a critical lack of future planning on many other corporate boards around the world. The result is that potential risks are often ignored; then things go wrong; then the company gets sued for significant sums of money. Is this Board negligence? That’s an interesting question, isn’t it!

Here’s an example: years ago, I wrote an article indicating that one of the critical CEO/Board level issues that must be addressed had to do with network security; certainly, everyone knows that organizations should properly secure their information assets. Yet in the article, I suggested that I believe that many Boards aren’t dealing with the issue, and that it was an area ripe for future exposure, noting that: “If I were a tort lawyer, I’d be licking my lips in anticipation of the opportunities to come in the next few years.”

Boards and CEO’s should ensure — as they are required to do with financial controls — that the information assets of the organization are properly locked down. They must understand obvious future trends, and ensure that management has planned accordingly. I strongly believe this to be the next wave in Board responsibility.

Do many Boards of Directors ensure that the organization is properly preparing for the rapidity of trends? Not many. Witness the shenanigans with the TJX Group, which had its corporate network hacked and millions of credit card numbers stolen. (The company runs HomeGoods, Marshalls, A.J. Wright, Bob’s Stores and The Maxx stores; in Canada the chain consists of Winners and HomeSense.) Now comes news that a group of banks want to sue the company with respect to the issue.

I can only imagine the questions that the Board of TJX is now asking!

Currently, much of the focus of board governance has to do with “compliance” — how well are boards, and the companies they are responsible for, dealing with the new realities of the post-Enron era.

I believe that within the next decade, we will see Board responsibility quickly evolve into a new and much more complex era than simply making sure that “i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed.’ All we need are a few savvy lawyers to launch a few negligence suits against a few public companies, alleging that a Board failed to develop a plan for and respond to obvious future trends.

It’s a trend worth watching.


“Of particular interest to your editor were the words—and the AK-47 speed at which they were uttered—of Jim Carroll”

At this time back in 2007, I was the opening keynote speaker for the Cayman Business Forum.

I had about 700 people in the room; international financiers, wealth managers, bankers. At the timel, Cayman was one of the world’s leading offshore banking centers.

I write about this now, because I return there tomorrow with my family, for a personal vacation. No keynotes! But having visited Cayman, I always vowed to go back, and am thrilled to be doing so.

When I was preparing for my keynote, I had the delightful opportunity of speaking for about 1/2 hr the prior evening with the Governor of the Cayman, H.E. Stuart Jack, at his home, where he hosted a small party with the local elite.

Part of my discussion with the Governor revolved around my belief that with forthcoming growth in Asia, and other major trends involving high-end skills, Cayman was certainly in the position of losing its lustre and standing in the global money race.

My keynote was open, honest, aggressive, and blunt.

Later press coverage showed that I certainly caught some attention — and that my message resonated with the Governor.

To set the scene, the best and the brightest from both Cayman’s private and public sectors had gathered at the Ritz-Carlton to hear presenter after presenter look into their crystal balls to predict the future of the Cayman Islands. Each year Fidelity Bank sponsors this event, bringing in distinguished speakers from overseas.

Of particular interest to your editor were the words—and the AK-47 speed at which they were uttered—of Jim Carroll, a chartered accountant from Canada who now bills himself as a “futurist.” Carroll makes a tidy sum sharing his knowledge and insights with large corporations and audiences throughout the world.

Carroll believes—and certainly convinced many in the room — that the global velocity of change is affecting every area of our lives. He cautioned that if we don’t adapt to this super-synapsed new world, well, we all recall what happened to Tyrannosaurus Rex.

To illustrate the concept of velocity, Carroll projected on a large screen an image of a charging
cheetah in full pursuit of one thing or another—our guess is a gazelle (lunch) — but it makes no difference to our tale . . .

By chance, after Carroll finished his dissertation, it was time for a coffee break, and we approached our good Governor, H.E. Stuart Jack, with a smile on our face and a question on our lips: Do you see any irony between the cheetah on the screen and the fact that the national symbol of the Cayman Islands is a turtle?

Today, Singapore, Dubai and London have transitioned to take over the role as global economic powerhouses in terms of wealth, money and banking. And the Cayman still finds itself playing a powerful role as the world’s sixth largest international banking center — but lagging behind the growth rates of other financial centersas most global wealth concentrates in Asia and the Mid-East.

What’s the moral of the story? I’m not sure — but sometimes, I hope that in some small way, my thoughts on stage, and the opportunity to speak at such an event, can help to shape future outcomes! Maybe turtles can transform into cheetah’s!

I spend a LOT of time doing talks at corporate meetings; often, a CEO or CxO leadership event for a Fortune 1000 company.

hand pushing innovation button on a touch screen interfaceI’ve been invited in to give a keynote that will focus on future trends that might impact the organization, and outline some opportunities for innovation. I’ve been this for well over twenty years.

Yet often times, I’ll discover an organization that is stuck, like a deer in the headlights, because innovation remains a concept that is somehow totally foreign. And so I’ve seen this type of thing happen over and over…. why organizatons often fail at innovation:

  • everybody knows something needs to be done
  • there are an awful lot of ideas as to what to do
  • no one knows where to start
  • no one has the courage to make the first step
  • and in fact, no one has been charged with the responsibility to take over and manage a first step
  • there is a rampant fear that if we don’t do it, it just won’t end up well
  • everyone remembers the other time somebody tried to do something new, they ended up being recriminated
  • the result is that likely some other company – most likely a competitor — will end up doing exactly what should have been done

World class innovators don’t fall into this trap. They just do what needs to be done!


I did a keynote a few weeks back for a leading North American food company.

It was a highly customized keynote, built around the theme, “Being Agile: How Innovators Thrive in the High Velocity Economy.” I think it took about 5 or 6 conference calls with senior executives at the client as I worked to build my content and insight into their overall theme. They had about 200 of their top executives at the corporate offsite. (This is typical of about 50% of the events I do ; a lot of “corporate off-sites” for Fortune 1000 companies, often at the behest of a CEO).


A quick screen shot of one of my opening slides!

What is “corporate agility” or “business agility”? From my perspective, it involves an organization that has aligned itself so that it can “respond to fast external trends in order to spot opportunity, ward off challenge and align resources for fast success.”

Of course, a good part of my talk focused on the trends in this particular sector that are driving the need for agility; specifically, the rapid emergence of new forms of in-store promotion known as “shopper marketing,” which combines location intelligence, mobile technology and in-store display technology; massive changes to the in-store payment process, including mobile payment involving Apple Pay and the complete elimination of the concept of the cash-register; the emergence of same-day shipping from titans such as Google, Amazon and Walmart; the rapid installation of “click and collect” infrastructure (i.e. an online purchase, with same day pickup at a retail location); faster ‘store fashion’ with rapid evolution of in-store promotion, layout and interaction; the arrival of intelligent packaging and intelligent (“Internet of Things”) products; and collapsing product life-cycles, rapid product obsolescence and the implications on inventory and supply chain! (All of which is covered in depth in a previous retail trends post….). Not to mention all the fast changing consumer, taste, food and social networking trends influencing today’s food purchasing decisions…

How do achieve agility in a fast moving environment? I focused on these issues:

  • structure for execution
  • rebuild your competitive intelligence capabilities
  • watch the “edges”, particular crowdfunding initiaitves in your space
  • abandon tradition – get more projects on the leading edge
  • be decisive – avoid aggressive indecision
  • innovate with structure – form fast teams!
  • enourage entrepreneurial units – spin out units rather than reining them in
  • partner up in unique ways
  • redefine strategic planing – flex it to short term thinking
  • build a culture that supports new ideas
  • challenge decisions
  • rapidly ingest new technology
  • “test and learn”
  • spots trends quicker
  • risk failure faster
  • align different generations on social projects

I spent some time walking through each of these issues in a fair bit of depth; and there is a copious amount of insight on each elsewhere throughout my blog.

And of course, avoid the “innovation killers” — which can shut down opportunities in learning how to be agile!

It was a great keynote talk on agility, and the client was genuinely thrilled.

Agility is a critical issue that organizations need to think about in a world in which the future belongs to those fast….! Here’s a video clip to whet your appetite!