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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



The photo is from an event I did for an insurance company — an industry that is set to be disrupted in a significant way as direct-relationship business models increasingly take hold. I’ve written and spoken about this extensively, such as in my post, Insurance & Innovation – The Challenge of Change.

People are locked into patterns. In big organizations, that routine develops a structure that is often necessary, but which can choke off creativity and innovation. This leads to a disease that I’ve come to call “organizational sclerosis” – which clogs up your ability to respond to rapid change.

How do you get around this? Try to do something new every day – set your mind to it! Take a look at a trend which is impacting you, and rather than worrying about it, take on some type of activity which helps you to confront it.

Sometimes, you just need to push yourself to try to do things you haven’t done before!

My job as a futurist has me doing an increasing number of CEO level events for Fortune 500 companies around the world, helping at leadership meetings which are focused on the massive transformations and disruption occurring in every single industry.

Disruption is real, it’s big, and it’s happening faster than you think.

Here’s what you need to think about today, as the pace of change picks up:

1. Multiple trends merge. At no other time in the world of business have we seen so many trends come together all at once. Computers, exponentiating bandwidth, connectivity, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, robotics, neural networks, deep analytics, autonomous vehicles, self-learning systems. All of these trends and more are merging together,  leading to a massively new, connected, intelligent machine that will transform, change, challenge and disrupt every industry. As this happens….

2 Every company becomes a software company. From healthcare, home appliances to automotive, manufacturing to packaging, retail to sports & fitness, energy to agriculture: every industry is seeing massive change as it becomes enabled, challenged and transformed by technology and connectivity. From precision agriculture to self-driving cars, smart clothing to connected microwaves, remote medical monitoring devices to active packaging  — every company in every industry is becoming a computer company, with software and technology at its heart and soul. What this means is that …..

3. Velocity accelerates and speed defines success. Moore’s law — the rule that defines that the processing power of a computer chip constantly increases while the cost collapses at an exponential rate — is coming to drive the speed of innovation in every single industry. Companies are having to innovate and transform at a pace never seen before. Some can do it, and others can’t, which leads to the new rule in the economy that….

4. Small beats big. Agility and speed are the new metrics for success. Big organizations are often encumbered by legacy, and are suffering from the disease of  organizational sclerosis. New, aggressive upstarts can move faster, with the result that they can make decisions that provide for big disruption and challenge. In their world….

5. Edge thinking dominates. These small upstarts don’t follow long-established ‘rules’ for changing the future. To move faster, they source ideas and inspiration through crowd-thinking, raise their funds through crowd-funding, and prototype products through 3D printing and other fast-to-market methodologies. Global R&D has moved from massive labs to globally dispersed idea factories. The result of this trend is that ….

6. Ideas accelerate. In every field, the pace of innovation and discovery is speeding up to an unprecedented level. What use to seem like science fiction just a few years ago is todays’ reality. In such an environment …

7. Big, bold thinking predominates. We are seeing the emergence of an entire world of big dreamers and doers, individuals who dare to challenge the orthodox, and abandon routines. The concept of the ‘moonshot’ is no longer restricted to those with deep pockets — but is oxygen for those with big ideas. To get their fast, they realize that….

8. Skills access is the new gold. Did you notice Ford paid $1 billion to get access to some experts in self-driving car technology? Enough said. Those who can access the skills in trend #1 above win. We’re in a global war for niche talent, and that pretty much defines a critical strategy for the future. If it is all about skills, then success involves a strategy in which ….

9. Experience is oxygen. There’s no time to learn, to study, to plan. It’s time to figure out what you don’t know, and do the things that are necessary to begin to know about it. Experiential capital is the new capital for the 21st century. To get there, you need to know that….

10. Action is the best reaction. If you don’t disrupt, you will be disrupted. It’s your ability to quickly act, react and do that will allow for future success. There’s not a lot of time for debate, studying; inertia is abhorred. Simply DO. That should be you.

Remember that song by the Who? “I hope I die before I get old!”

You better change before you can’t.

You might be obsolete before you know it.

Quit talking about disruption.

Do something about it.

Each morning since August, I’ve enjoyed my morning coffee while putting together a little future/motivational quote from some of my stage pictures. You can track this over on Instagram; I also tweet them. I’m hoping to put up a few slide shows on my blog as well in the future; some folks find them inspiring and useful.

Today’s thought? “To win in the race to the future, make sure you show up to the starting line!

Here’s the story behind the thought — and ask yourself, what’s your mindset? Are you in an organization that simply does not show up?

Every day, I get email messages and calls from folks seeking to bring me in for a leadership keynote on future trends and innovation. I do about 50 events a year; this week, I was in London, UK, speaking to a global group of Godiva Chocolates and two other global brands, newly combined in one company. (Yes, they gave me a gift basket!)

That’s what I do — I help global organizations discover and think about the disruptive trends which will provide opportunity and challenge in the future. Check my client list — Disney, NASA, Johnson and Johnson, Whirlpool …. I do many events where organizations are actively aligning themselves to fast paced trends.

And yet, in a world in which the future belongs to those who are fast, it’s clear that others would prefer to hide their heads in the sand. They would prefer not to have to think about what comes next. They don’t want to shake their world. They don’t show up to the starting line.

A few weeks ago, I had an exploratory call with a company in the food/consumer products business. They were holding a combined CEO/Board of Directors meeting. A senior VP reached out to me; we had a long conversation (which I actively encourage – call me!) around the issues I would cover; the trends I would delve into; the message I would bring to the table. She knew that the organization needed to some big, bold moves; take some dramatic initiatives; and actively challenge everyone to align their strategy to future trends.

As in many cases, she ran the idea up the flagpole, and got this response, which still floors me to this day:

“It was decided not to include a futurist in our leadership development program. They don’t think it is a good time to do this – it’s not a good time to rock the boat. “

Wow!

As in, “we don’t think its important right now for our board and senior executives to understand the trends that will challenge us …”

At the end of the day, losing one potential client doesn’t really matter. I’ll do my 50 events this year, and will sit back knowing that I’ve done wonderful working in shaping the direction of some of the most fascinating organizations in the world.

But I’ll also wonder, in the back of my mind, how some people can decide that they don’t want to understand what comes next — and decide to not show up at the starting line!

 

It’s that simple.

Here’s a simple list of companies that were once great successes. Then they weren’t: Blockbuster. Borders. Lehman Bros. Kodak. Circuit City. RadioShack. Pan-Am. Enron. E.F. Hutton.RCA. Tower Records. Polaroid. Woolworths. Compaq. Arthur Anderson. 

The list could go on…. companies that were leaders in their time, and then failed, due to a lack of innovation; a failure to adapt; ethical problems; or other factors that could have been avoided.

In the next 10 years, we will see a number of established companies added to the list. Right now, some of them could be making decisions to avoid that fate.

They aren’t.

Here’s some interesting food for thought from a great article on the trend in which every company is becoming a computer company:

“The S&P 500 lists the 500 most valuable companies in the United States. Dick Foster, a McKinsey consultant, studied their average lifespan. It is a sobering tale that reminds just how fast-paced business innovation has become. In 1937, the average tenure of companies on the list was 75 years. By 1960, it was 61 years. In 1980, 37 years. In 2000, 26 years. Today, an average of 15 years.”

If you are a senior executive, you need a serious gut-check. Here you go:

Your chance for longevity and survival is shrinking.

Disruption, business model change, technological transformation is real, and so you have a simple choice: innovate, or die.

I have been providing my insight, and have been speaking to organizations about the future, for more than 25 years.

Over the years, I have come to realize that while the majority of my audience appreciates a whirlwind ride into the future, there are others who just wish the future would go away.

I used to worry and obsess over this challenge, often leaving a stage wondering why I wasn’t able to get through to everyone. Then years ago, I realized that no matter what I do, there will always be a core group who prefer the status quo. They fall prey to the sentiment of Ogden Nash: “progress is great, but its gone on way too long.”

This issue and challenge has become more pronounced and visible in the last year. And a recent event demonstrates to me that leaders today must work harder to deal with, manage and confront the internal conflict that exists over how to deal with the fast future.

Since I’m on a Jetsons’ theme this year with many of keynotes (Keynote: The Jetsons Have Arrived 50 Years Early: What are YOU Going to Do About it?) , I thought that the image below beset captures the nature of challenge!

Leaders today must steer their organization into a fast paced future — through the shoals of disruption, the emergence of new competitors, technology, automation and other challenges — while understanding that there is a core group that will do little to embrace that change. It’s the Flintstones and the Jetsons, in one workplace!

I’m having quite a bit of fun watching the movie in which the Jetsons meet the Flintstones. Consider what is happening with the acceleration of the automotive industry: self-driving cars, intelligent highways, prognostic self-diagnosing vehicles. The industry will be barely recognizable in 10 years! Cars tomorrow will be barely recognizable compared to what we drive today.

And yet, there remain folks who just refuse to participate in the inevitability of the future, and that can be a significant leadership, strategic challenge.

The issue became crystal clear to me with a recent keynote. Anyone familiar with my keynotes knows that I do a variety of text message polls while on stage, whether in front of a few thousand in Vegas or with a small executive group of 15 or 20. It’s a fun, interactive way to get insight from those I am working with.

I started out with my opening poll, after I spoke briefly about the fast trends that envelop our world. The response is typical : most people today feel that the world is moving way too fast for them! Fair enough — the pace of change is overwhelming.

My next question, before I dove into the issues of business model disruption and innovation? A question asking them if they thought their industry would see much change.

Not at all, indicated 40%! In 10 years, things would be the same as they would today. To be honest, this left me kind of stunned. It’s not the typical response.

 

In my wrap up, I asked the audience what barriers might exist in the way of dealing with change? And the answers here were untypical of the many hundreds of such polls I’ve done, with a majority indicating a belief that it isn’t necessary to do anything!

What are we left with? An organization that feels overwhelmed by change; in which almost half this change won’t impact them, and that they didn’t really need to do anhyting to deal with it.

In other words, the future can be safely ignored.

I started using the Jetsons-Meets-the-Flintstones cartoon as a joke; a bit of ill-conceived humour on some recent political events. But it’s not a joke, and this is a real and substantive leadership issue.

As a CEO or senior executive, how are you going to align a fast paced future — one full of challenge and opportunity — to an organization where a significant number of people don’t think that the future will impact them?

Over the last 25 years, many CEO’s of Fortune 1000’s and other companies have brought me in for sessions to encourage their teams to align to the future. Simply take a look at my client list!

Over this period of time, I’ve become quite adept at spotting the challenges that a client might face. There’s a laundry list of issues I can spot. Ask yourself if you have these ones:

  • actions are based on lifelong lessons that no longer apply
  • variation in routine is abhorred
  • the strategies they have in place are often outdated by faster trends
  • they are structured by command and control structures that don’t allow for agility
  • outdated HR practices reward mediocrity
  • individualism is punished
  • risk is something to be feared, not embraced
  • collaboration is often absent
  • corporate culture breeds change-resistance anti-bodies
  • they prefer to discount the big thinkers who are discounting their industry

It’s an interesting time to be in business. Disruption, fast paced business model change, technology!

The future belongs to those who are fast, and yet many are structured for slow.

 

A little video clip from my keynote for the PGA – think about what happened when golf carts were introduced to the world of golf!

Food for thought when it comes to innovation and change…!

We live in terrifying times! Terrifying headlines! We’re all going to lose our jobs! The juggernaut of automation has us all in its sights!

Everywhere we turn, there’s terror in the news. Is it real, is it fake? I don’t know, but it sure seems that 2017 is the year of the big job automation disruption!

 

What should we do! Let’s come up with some sort of plan to help all these displaced workers! A big dialog is necessary. Plans. Guaranteed income strategies. Things like that.

 

 

OMG! It’s pretty clear that mankind is doomed by the era of automation! Doomed by the machine age!

 

 

After all, machines are destroying jobs! There are photos! Pictures even!

It’s even the end of jobs for musicians!

Not only that, but robot brains are even coming up with story plots, having a dreadful impact on creative industries!

 

And hey, maybe we shouldn’t worry — we can all just enjoy all the extra leisure time that we are going to have.

Look maybe everybody should calm down some.

The older images in this post are from Modern Mechanix and Popular Science, from the 1930’s.

I’m sorry, I don’t want to seem insensitive or anything, but can every body just calm down with all the hysteria about this issue?

Yes, there are serious issues at work here. And yes, the future happens. But as I wrote in my other blog post, Things That Won’t Happen in 2017: and What it Means,:

  • AI and robots aren’t going to make a lot of jobs disappear in 2017. People are freaking out about this one everywhere! This idea is perhaps one of the defining trends observations of 2016: that sweeping technological change – parituclarly AI and robotics — is going to render countless jobs, professions and skills obsolete. It’s certainly going to become real, and this is a pretty significant and profound trend. But like these other trends, it  isn’t something that is going to happen with split-second instantaneity. Also, missing in this conversation is the reality at the same time that existing jobs and careers disappear, we are seeing the emergence of all kinds of new jobs and careers.

Consider that last bit of that phrase:  the reality at the same time that existing jobs and careers disappear, we are seeing the emergence of all kinds of new jobs and careers.

Yes, automation has destroyed jobs in manufacturing and countless other industries. And yet, there are many new jobs in manufacturing and elsewhere. New jobs and careers being created, right before our very eyes.

That’s always been the case in the past. Will be in the future.

Can there be some rational discussion around this stuff?

And maybe, just maybe, it might be a good time for some tools to test the intellect of many of those at the forefront of the hysteria. There’s a tool for that. Click to enlarge….

For as long as there has been the future, there have been people who don’t like it.

Ogden Nash captured that reality perfect, when he observed that “for some people, progress is great, but its’ gone on way too long.”

With that in mind, here’s a clip from my keynote for the PGA of America annual meeting. I suggest that one day soon, we’ll see golf balls with embedded Webcams. Good, bad? Who knows — but consider what happened when golf carts first appeared on the scene, and then what happened when GPS range finders were introduced to the game!

 

I’ve always liked the children’s book series which involved Curious George and the Man in the Yellow Hat. It was fabulous to read to my kids, as it featured this adorable little monkey who was always thinking about things, and always ended up getting into trouble as a result. It made me think about the link between curiosity and future trends and innovation.

(I loved book reading time with the kids! There was always such wonderful innovation insight that came from kids books! ****)

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That’s why I was quite intrigued when I recently came across a study released by Merck — what they called their “First International Curiosity Study” — which featured some not-so-unsurprising results.

  • more than 8 out of 10 people from Germany, the US and China agreed that “a curious person is more likely to bring an idea to life at work”
  • even so, the majority did not describe themselves as innately curious – only 20% did!
  • instead, the majority described themselves as ‘organized, collaborative and detail-oriented’
  • curiosity came in 12th place on a list of attributes! (funny and talkative beat out curiosity, if you can believe it!)

How did the study define curiosity?  Inquisitiveness, creativity, openness, and what they called ‘distress tolerance’ — which I would define as the ability to cope and deal with significant change, and turn it into advantage and opportunity through great ideas.

The result of the lack of curiosity is kind of staggering: buried away in the report is all kinds of other insight:

  • 73% of those surveyed did not feel comfortable in asking more questions at work
  • 50% in Germany indicated that they feel discouraged by their employee from changing the status quo!
  • only 9% felt that the organizations they worked for were “extremely encouraging’ of curiosity
  • 61% indicated that the organization was not at all encouraging at all, or only somewhat encouraging

Gosh, these results are pretty sad! Pathetic, really!

Here’s what it means: many organizations, in the face of rapid business model, technological, competitive, social and political change, would prefer that their staff simply remain in a drone-like state, focused on getting things done, rather than figuring out now to do things better!

What should we do with the observations from such a study? Clearly, since we know that curiosity is at the root of much of innovation, the ideas should be obvious for anyone with a curious mind:

  • curiosity should be encouraged as part of your corporate or organizational DNA
  • people should be provided with some sort of “curiosity time”
  • while unfocused curiosity is great, channelling curiosity into activity is even better
  • the next step beyond having curiosity involves learning how to ask the right questions

And maybe it needs to be taken a step further: Curiosity should be imbued and baked into the organizational structure, and given a suitable level of importance. Why not have a senior VP of Curiosity?

Don’t give up — over at LinkedIn, a simple search shows a list of people who have Curiosity in their job title. There might be hope yet!

**** Kids books and innovation? One day I wrote a promo brochure for fun about the Leadership Secrets of Bob the Builder!