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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



 

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.

Todays’ photo was another one taken during my keynote for Godiva/McVitie’s/Ulker in London, UK, all operating under the new company name of Pladis.

The fact that Einstein is in there is great; I often use his observation that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result each time.” That’s a great quote about innovation!

But that’t not the focus of the quote. The quote is all about the fact that organizations that manage to create a culture in which ideas float freely throughout the organization generally achieve greater success with innovation.

Many of the global leadership events that I am brought into have a specific focus on how to use the power of collaboration to achieve innovation; how to better develop a collaborative culture within the organization; or to discuss the opportunities that history have taught us come from successful collaboration.

Collaboration is one of the “Six C’s of Innovation” which I’ve identified as being crucial to success, the others being curiosity, creativity, change capable, courage and the ability to create excitement every day!

Focus on creating a culture of collaboration — you’ll find it to be one of the most powerful things that you can do!

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!