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Change

Ogden Nash caught the change dilemna perfectly: for some people, progress is great but its gone on way too long. You've got to quickly move beyond that type of thinking! -- Jim Carroll



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 Products that are almost out of date by the time they are brought to market.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.

I’m seeing that within my global client base, where I am being engaged more frequently by senior executives in companies to help them assess and identify strategic plans in the light of these high velocity trends.

The theme of faster innovation is an undercurrent for events. The guiding cry seems to be, ‘we know we need to change — and we know we need to change faster!”

Organizations are booking speakers faster

These rapid changes are leading to some absolutely fascinating booking cycles in my speaking career — with an increasing number of my events booking just a few weeks or a month out. That’s a big change. It used to be that speakers were booked a year or more in advance. That still happens, but it is an increasingly uncommon occurrence.

Consider the old, traditional booking cycles. In the past, the typical speaker was booked by someone with MPI or other event industry credentials – an association or corporate event planner. They would work on a long, elaborate timeline, often a year in advance, for an annual conference of meeting. In addition to the speaker selection the process would involve a detailed site selection, a comprehensive RFP process, site visits, and lots of committee discussions around the tone, direction and theme of the meeting.

This is no longer the case.

In the new high-velocity economy, in which organizations are suddenly confronted with new challenges and opportunities at an increasing pace, organizations must challenge themselves from a leadership and strategic perspective faster.

This involves finding a content or subject effort fast, and bringing that individual in quickly. That’s because rapid market, business, industry, and skills change leads to a need for faster “knowledge delivery”.

The result? Corporate and association events take on a more strategic role, with a resulting shorter planning cycles and smaller, more tightly focused events with a specific strategic purpose.

New strategic meetings need to serve a very specific purpose – not a broad ‘theme’

Organizations don’t just want inspiration any more — they need specific ideas with specific action plans. In a world of fast change, speakers can’t just provide inspiration: they need to provide real solutions.

Audiences are looking not only for detailed trends analysis that are specific to them, but real solutions that they can pursue right out of the gate. Insight on how to develop a relentless focus on growth, or opportunities in solving customer problems before the customer knows it’s a problem. They want to concentrate on ingesting fast ideas; checking their speed and focusing on corporate agility; or focusing on long term wins through constant incremental improvements. They know that skills partnerships are a key success factor. They know that right now is a great time to made bold decisions, and to take decisive advantage to forge aggressive new paths against their competitors.

Whatever the case may be, these new strategic meetings are all about real solutions to real challenges and opportunities.

The shifting role of the event professional

Traditionally, speakers have been booked by meeting professionals, event planners, or others who bear responsibility for their events. That’s no longer the case.

When meetings and events come together with an entirely new, fast and specific strategic purpose, the person charged with the responsibility of organizing the content is someone entirely different. Usually an executive assistant, senior vice president or someone else with many other responsibilities.

Some research indicates that today, only 17% of meeting planners have “meeting planner” in their job titles; and less than 20% of meeting planners spend over 50% of their work time planning meetings!

Connecting with the right speaker

My experience has shown that event professionals often feel overwhelmed by the vast number of speakers available to them and the massive range of potential optics. It’s confusing, overwhelming, and intimidating.

Here’s the most interesting thing: they might not necessarily be aware of the role that a speakers bureau can play in helping them to make their way through the vast number of options that are out there. That’s why I continue to invest a lot of time in ensuring that my friends at the Washington Speakers Bureau understand what I do and how I do it; how I customize; how I work with the client to help them achieve their very specific strategic objectives. In that way, WSB is better positioned to help potential clients understand the very unique role in can play in this highly specialized world.

In other words, if disruption is happening, it’s better to lead the disruption through innovative thinking and actions!

Jim Carroll is one of the world’s leading international futurists, trends and innovation experts, with a client list that ranges from Northrop Grumman to Johnson & Johnson, the Swiss Innovation Forum to the National Australia Bank; the Walt Disney Organization to NASA. His focus is on helping to transform growth oriented organizations into high-velocity innovation heroes.

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!

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!

 

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

In those who fail, there are some common traits :

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

Innovative companies act differently. In these organizations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 1989office_automation

Read the original 1989 article here!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s my job, and that’s what I do!

Those who succeed possess a daring need for speed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think? Tweet to #doitnow

Today’s photo is actually from a keynote for an agricultural organization, but the quote in the picture actually started out having to do with the fast pace of change in the automotive sector. The thought came to mind with my morning photo preparation, because I’m currently preparing for a hands-on, interactive session with a Board of Directors, on the future of self-driving cars and more.

Companies that don’t yet exist will build cars that aren’t yet designed, using materials not yet invented, with manufacturing methods that have not yet been conceived..…”

I could have made this quote back in 2000, in the context of where Tesla Motors is today. I pretty much did when I predicted the emergence of Tesla back in 2003 when I led a leadership team for an event with DaimlerChrylser at Mercedes Benz HQ in Germany.

After I prepare my morning picture, I send it out via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. (You can find all of them on my Instagram feed). This one drew some instant response:

Good point — every industry is subjected to the similar trend of uncertainty.

Since I still had the picture on my laptop and was having my morning coffee, I did a quick revision, to make it more general. “”Companies that don’t yet exist will build products that are not yet conceived, based on ideas that have yet been generated, using materials not yet invented, with manufacturing methods that have not yet been conceived..…”

That too got a fast response, with a number of shares  – but one curmudgeonly fellow decided to take a few shots:

So I tweeted back.  “Geesh you are in a bad mood. Cheer yourself up. The type of thinking is real.” I linked to a quote from Tesla Motors on their unique experience with the Model 3. It somewhat parallels my thinking.

I really should know better.

 

Futures-babble? Sure. Let’s check the assumptions and deconstruct my quote from a historical perspective to put this type of future-babble in perspective:

  • companies that don’t yet exist: Netflix, AirBNB, Uber are the easy ones. We’re seeing a lot of existing ones disappear. The entire history of business involves companies that come into industries, change it, do something new, and upset the balance.
  • products not yet conceived. Really? CD’s, DVD’s, drones, curved skis…. isn’t the whole human experience about conceiving new products?
  • ideas not yet generated. Um, iPads? Didn’t someone invent the concept of a car?
  • materials not yet invented. Velcro, folks. I actually just did a talk for the senior leadership team of Arconic — a new spinoff of the aluminum giant Alcoa. I can tell you that capitalizing on the rapid emergence of new materials based on advanced science is very much on their mind. Should I tell them that maybe it’s just future-babble?
  • manufacturing methodologies not yet conceived. Additive, 3DPrinted manufacturing? Build to demand manufacturing models? Mass customization? Rapid prototyping and SmartThings? Seems we have had a constant stream of new methodologies and capabilities.

I always find it fascinating when curmudgeons jump out and undertake critic-babble.

My quotes stand on their own. I don’t see anything the least bit wrong with them. They will become true, over and over and over again.

Challenge yourself to align to a future that is not yet invented, but in fact, is being invented all around you. Listen to the future-babble. Watch for all the signs and trends that are changing everything – faster. Refuse complacency.

It might make a difference in how you approach things.