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Economic recovery

There are a tremendous number of new companies and new industries being built around the high velocity of ideas that surround us – and that's what will drive future economic growth. And in fact, it's happening now!



We seem to live in two parallel worlds at this moment: the fanciful, political, “let’s make a wish” or “yell and scream” political world, and the real world. I don’t know about you, but I’m with the real world, and it’s obvious that others are too. To that end, I’m doing an increasing number of economic development talks that take a look at the real trends driving our world forward.

Case in point: I’m headlining the Nevada Economic Development Council conference this September in Las Vegas. We’ll have economic development folks, elected officials, industry representatives — all looking for insight on what comes next in terms of opportunity.


In my mind, economic opportunity comes from linking to the fast paced trends that envelop our world today. As the session description notes on my keynote: “He is an authority recognized for his deep insight into the cutting edge trends of our time, including autonomous vehicle technology, sensors and the Internet of Things, 3D printing, virtual reality, alternative energy generation and storage technologies, genomic medicine and healthcare virtualization, advanced robotics and artificial intelligence, blockchain and virtual cash, machine learning and robotics, crowdthinking and next generation R&D.”

Around the world, we are building a giant new machine, and new opportunities abound. They’ll involve new skills, big bold innovators, fast new technologies, and obviously big investments. Nevada woke up to the future when Tesla established the Gigafactory outside Reno, and knows that its’ future will come from aligning itself to other, similar trends.

If only other regions and people could think like Nevada instead of hitching themselves to a failed politician from the land of make believe.

Similar to this event, I’m also headlining (for the 3rd time in 16 years!) the International Asset Management Council annual event in Richmond, Virginia this fall. This is a group that consists of corporate relocation folks for Fortune 500 companies — people who analyze where they might place their next factory or manufacturing facility. They’ve asked me to come in and do a talk around the future of manufacturing, with an eye to better understanding the trends involving the reinvention of this critical sector of this economy.  (Hint: the old jobs aren’t coming back. New jobs are appearing all the time).

As the keynote description outlines: “Collapsing product lifecycles. Mass customization. Digitization, robotics and the cloud. Rapid prototyping, sketch to scale, and agility-based business models … are you ready for the new world of manufacturing? While popular media and opportunistic politicians portray a picture of a sector in crisis, smart manufacturing executives are furiously busy with innovation, reinventing their capabilities, processes and business models using advanced ideas, materials, methodologies and technologies.”

Regions that can align themselves to the reality of future trends, and set the right tone and welcome mat for innovation will discover the future of economic success. I’m pleased to be doing what I can to help people understand the real future — not a fake future dreamed up in someone’s mind.

A few months ago, I opened this conference with a resounding call to action — there are tremendous opportunities to reinvent and transform manufacturing in North America through advanced methodologies, automation, IoT (Internet of Things) factory digitization, additive manufacturing and more!

It’s captured in my blog post, Trend: Why Manufacturing Needs to Reinvent Itself, Fast! That post is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the reality of what manufacturing needs to do today to compete on a world stage.

500 people showed up for the conference in Philly!! This was typical of the many manufacturing keynotes I did last year – I had 3,000 in Chicago, and hundreds more at various other small and regional events in the sector.

There is a passion and purpose by senior executives throughout the industry, and a hunger for knowledge, on how to re-compete on the world stage, with real innovation, as opposed to “wishful thinking innovation.”

Have a watch — and listen to the folks in the room. Share this video!

A few weeks ago, I was in Washington, and filmed a little clip about the need to innovate despite massive uncertainty.

Last week, I was in the UK, and filmed a version for folks trying to think about the future in the context of Brexit. You need to watch it!

And we’re off! A key client just confirmed that for the start of 2017, they need one of my key messages …. right now, in an era of massive uncertainty, they want to kick off the year by shaking off aggressive indecision, and by aligning themselves to fast paced trends. So I wrote them a keynote description that will help them to navigate this complex new world.

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In the face of new challenges, organizations have three choices: they can panic; they can freeze and do nothing; or they can respond with a relentless focus on innovation. In this keynote, Jim outlines the key strategies that align an organization to opportunity in a new era of volatility and uncertainty.

Keynote: Innovating in The Era of Accelerated Uncertainty: How to Adapt to the New World of Volatility

2017 is being marked by the return of higher levels of economic uncertainty, much of it driven by new political realities. Business hates uncertainty — and many react by turning off their innovation engines, waiting to see what happens next in a world in which volatility is the new normal. Yet in the face of new challenges, organizations have three essential choices: they can panic, making rash decisions on structure, markets, investments; they can freeze and do nothing; or they can respond to rapid change through innovation, particularly with respect to strategies, structure, capabilities, markets, products, and activities.

Jim Carroll, one of the world’s leading futurists, trends & innovation experts, shares his insight on the strategies that leading edge organizations are pursuing to stay ahead in a new world of uncertainty. It’s timely and critical insight! Many CEO’s and senior executives understand that in addition to managing existing challenges, now is the time to focus on trends and the future — they must act quickly to establish an innovative mindset before aggressive indecision settles in. Jim provides his unique insight on staying ahead in volatile times, through his signature keynote addresses, discussions at small intimate management/Board meetings, or by speaking and participating in large scale senior management and leadership meetings.

In this keynote, Jim offers his insight into how to innovate in perilous times. History has taught us, over and over again, that those who are aggressive with innovation, and who align themselves to future trends in times of uncertainty, are those who win in the long run. His keynote is loaded with powerful guidance, research and key lessons from the breakthrough performers of the past. Insight from those who have managed to accomplish great things because of a decision to focus on innovation right in the middle of an economic challenge or an era of uncertainty, rather than waiting for future clarity.

I just filmed this today in front of the White House.

You need to watch it.

 

 

A Memo to the CEO
November 1st, 2016

 

 

To:           CEO’s Worldwide

From:     Futurist Jim Carroll

Date:       November 1, 2016


 

I know things are extremely busy, particularly given the current climate of economic uncertainty. Yet, there is a key issue that you need to make sure is on your agenda.

Innovation.

The most important thing that you can do right now, as you work to navigate your way through the challenging economic shoals that surround you, is to make sure that you don’t kill it in its tracks. My observations are that you risk doing so. That’s worrisome.

Read more – click for a higher resolution — or access the PDF

 

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We live in interesting times, to say the least. It’s a time in which some people see the future, and see despair.

I see the future and see nothing but opportunity. And that’s the message I am carrying on stage at every event — including the industry that seems to be defining the gloom of the US election cycle – manufacturing.

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The reaction to my keynotes in the manufacturing sector in the last 3 weeks has been staggering. What I’m witnessing is an industry that is seeking a message of hope, a dose of optimism, and specific guidance on how to align themselves to a future of opportunity.

What’s the reality of this industry? We live in transformative times — there is so much opportunity around us today it is staggering!

The acceleration of ideas is leading to new discoveries at a pace that rivals anything in the past: such as the rapid emergence of sophisticated new manufacturing methodologies. 3d printing or additive manufacturing, the Internet of things, process reinvention, the opportunity that comes from rapid prototyping. The massiveness that is the global maker community! The list goes on.

In the last 3 weeks, I’ve done keynotes on the future opportintities in the world of manufacturing events in Napa Valley, Minneapolis, and in Philadelphia. Folks in the industry are feeling battered and bruised, and have been convinced that the North American manufacturing sector continues in a state of decline.

What I’m witnessing from the reaction and feedback on my talks is an industry that is seeking a message of hope, a dose of optimism, and specific guidance on how to align an organization to a future of opportunity.

If you do anything in this industry today, open up your mind to the opportunity that surrounds you. Don’t succumb to the negativity that surrounds you! Those who embrace the future in this industry today are those who will own the future. If that is your mindset — give me a call!

Let’s talk about organizations that are clearly innovation failures — those who are stuck in a rut, and unable to figure out what to do next.

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While doing so, ask yourself — is this the organization you work within, or are the CEO of?

With a twenty year focus on innovation, I’ve become convinced that many organizations develop a cultural sclerosis that holds them back to such a degree that their failure becomes a blinding liability.

What is common to these organizations? Several things:

  1. Fear of the unknown in times of economic uncertainty: Certainly the US election has placed many companies into a ‘wait-and-see’ mode: decisions are being deferred at a furious pace. The result is that many organizations are driven by uncertainty. What happens if our market doesn’t recover? What happens if we can’t rebuild the top line? What happens if our customers don’t start spending again? So much fear and uncertainty causes a form of leadership and organization wide paralysis to set in; they’re like deer caught in a headlight, and are frozen in time. Avoid that fate – and fast!
  2. Inertia is easy: when confronted by change, many people react by …. doing nothing. When things are uncomfortable, the easiest thing to do to deal with that discomfort is to avoid it. Such thinking causes many organizations and the people within them to fall asleep. They keep doing what they’ve been doing before, hoping that will carry them forward into future. Obviously that can’t work, for a whole variety of different reasons.
  3. It’s easy to avoid tough decisions : organizations are faced with a lot of change, in terms of business models, customer expectations, cost pressures, new competitors, and countless other challenges. To deal with any one of these issues requires tough decisions, but in many cases, it’s easier to put those decisions off into the future rather than having to deal with them.
  4. An unwillingness to confront the truth: your product might be out of date; your brand might not been seen as relevant and keeping up to date with fast paced innovation in your marketplace; your sales force might be wildly out of date in terms of their product knowledge; your competitors might have a more efficient cost structure because they made the heavy IT investments that you did not. I could go on, but the point is this: you might have serious systemic problems, and are simply unable or unwilling to focus on fixing them. Have a reality check, and use that as a catalyst for action.
  5. A short term focus: like many, you don’t think about business trends longer than three months or a year. By doing so, you are missing out on the fascinating transformations occurring in many markets and industries, and don’t see the key drivers for future economic growth, with the result that you aren’t capitalizing on them.
  6. A culture that is risk adverse: so far, you’ve survived through cautious, careful manoeuvres. Yet the fast rate of change around you has left you naked with that strategy: going forward now requires trying to do a lot of things you haven’t done before. You’ve got a culture that doesn’t accept such thinking. Change that — now!
  7. Paralyzed by the fear of failure: related to your risk aversion is a culture that abhors mistakes. Anyone who errs is shunned; people whisper quietly about what went wrong, and what it might mean. Banish that thinking: you should take your failures, analyze them, and better yet, celebrate them! Put them up on a pedestal. It’s more important that you try things out on a regular basis, since it is clear that what worked for you in the past obviously won’t work for you in the future.
  8. Failure to adapt at fast markets : I’m dealing with companies that know that constant innovation with top line revenue — which means product and service innovation — is all about time to market. You must have an innovation pipeline that is constantly inventing and reinventing the next form of revenue. What you sold in the past — you might not sell tomorrow. How are you going to fix that? By getting into the mindset of the high velocity economy!
  9. A refusal or unwillingness to adapt to new methodologies and ideas: in the manufacturing sector, it’s all about Manufacturing 2.0 or 3.0 or the next phase … in every industry, there is no shortage of new ideas, methodologies, processes, and fundamental change in terms of how to get things done. Maybe you’ve closed your mind off to new ideas, with the result that you fail to see how your competitors are rapidly shifting their structure, capabilities, time to market, product line, and other fundamentals. Wake up — we’re in the era of the global idea machine, and the result is that there is a tremendous amount of transformative thinking out there about how to do things differently. Tune in, turn on, and rethink!
  10. A loss of confidence: the economic downturn of 2008-2009 and ongoing volatility since then has had the effect of causing such widespread damage in various industries that some people and organizations and leaders have lost their faith in the future. They aren’t certain they can compete, adapt and change. Perhaps this is the biggest challenge of all to overcome — but you can only overcome it by getting out of your innovation rut and moving forward.

Bill Gates once observed that “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”

It couldn’t have been put better. What’s your choice – to be an innovation leader, aware of where we are going in the future, or an innovation laggard, still mired in short term thinking?

Think growth!

We certainly live in interesting times!

Here’s what I’ve noticed in this new era of hyper-turmoil and uncertainty — many organizations are turning off their innovation engines, waiting to see what happens next in a world in which volatility is the new normal.

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The New Yorker had a great article in 2009 after the financial meltdown, “Hanging tough,” that outlined  how some companies choose to ensure that they stay innovative in recessionary times – while others did not. In the context of the uncertainty of today, it’s worth a read. For example, they contrast two cereal companies: one that chose to focus on innovation despite uncertainty, while another did not.

“You’d think that everyone would want to emulate Kellogg’s success, but, when hard times hit, most companies end up behaving more like Post. They hunker down, cut spending, and wait for good times to return. They make fewer acquisitions, even though prices are cheaper. They cut advertising budgets. And often they invest less in research and development. They do all this to preserve what they have.”

My recent discussions with Fortune 1000 CEOs and senior executives in both UK and the US certainly indicate that this is happening again. Post-Brexit, uncertainty and aggressive indecision is roiling the C-suite in the UK — deferring decisions has become the norm. In the US, the never-ending election has placed a pause on most big decisions — inaction has settled in like a wet-sponge!

Big question – in this context, is the UK done? Can America innovate again, or is this a cultural and leadership ‘new normal?’ Here’s what I know – the winners and losers of the future are being determined right now!

Yet history has taught us, over and over again, that those who are aggressive with innovation, and who align themselves to future trends in times of uncertainty, are those who win in the long run. For years, I’ve talked on stage and in my leadership meetings of the key observation by GE’s Chief Innovation Consultant. Simple, powerful guidance: breakthrough performers manage to accomplish great things because of a decision to focus on innovation right in the middle of an economic challenge or an era of uncertainty– rather than waiting till they came into a recovery phase.

The research found that during the oil shock of 70’s, 80’s and 90’s recession, and the 2000 dot com bust, of those companies surveyed, 70% of companies barely survived, 30% died, but 10% became breakthrough performers. Noted the GE head of innovation: it was explicitly “…because of choices they made in the recession.”

So it really comes down to this: when do you innovate? Are you going to wait until you are comfortable that an era of uncertainty is over? Bad decision — because economic and political volatility is the new normal!

Everything we have learned has taught us that the winners were those who decided that it was an important thing to keep moving ahead despite massive amounts of uncertainty. Get out of your future-funk! Try this clip from a keynote I undertook on stage after the meltdown of 2008-2009. “Innovators get out in front of the recession“.

Consider this: the New Yorker article is pretty blunt with it’s findings on innovation-losers:

  • “numerous studies have shown that companies that keep spending on acquisition, advertising, and R. & D. during recessions do significantly better than those which make big cuts”
  • “a McKinsey study of the 1990-91 recession found that companies that remained market leaders or became serious challengers during the downturn had increased their acquisition, R. & D., and ad budgets, while companies at the bottom of the pile had reduced them”
  • “Uncertainty is always a part of business, but in a recession it dominates everything else: no one’s sure how long the downturn will last, how shoppers will react, whether we’ll go back to the way things were before or see permanent changes in consumer behavior. So it’s natural to focus on what you can control: minimizing losses and improving short-term results.”

Innovation winners?

  • “Kraft introduced Miracle Whip in 1933 and saw it become America’s best-selling dressing in six months; Texas Instruments brought out the transistor radio in the 1954 recession; Apple launched the iPod in 2001.”

Read the article. It’s powerful stuff!

Given that, what do you do? Change your culture and set out to achieve breakthrough results despite uncertainty!


Here is some more innovation-soup for your innovation-soul!

I spend my time providing guidance on future trends & innovation to some of the most fascinating companies and organizations in the world, such as Disney, NASA, BASF and IBM.

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Often these are in the form of offsite senior executive leadership meetings …. where a team gets together to examine the deep, substantive changes that must be made in order to move forward. I lend my insight in terms of highly customized talks that focus on future trends affecting the industry in the room, and deep insight into innovation ideas and methodologies that move us forward.

It’s a proven model that has a track record of 20+ years — and I can see many organizations where I’ve made a meaningful impact….

Over those 20 years, I’ve noticed that at times, companies tend to go into an innovation funk. They defer decisions; they lose their focus on the future; they drop their innovation spark. It usually happens during economic downturns and recessions. Fair enough – they’ve got other things to worry about!

But today, we aren’t in a recession. The global economy, although uncertain, is doing ok. And yet this seems to be one of those times. I’m seeing the resurrection of aggressive indecision  (That’s a phrase that I coined years ago ; see below for articles and video on the topic…) — yet this it seems to be driven by a culture of inaction at the top! The CEO has, it appears, gone into a state of inaction!

Example: I’ve had a number of situations where I’ve had extensive exploratory calls with clients about coming in for such a session. They’ve expressed to me that they need to deal with business model disruption; the impact of technology on their industry; the rapid emergence of new competitors; or other countless challenging issues.

And then it has gone to the CEO for approval, and word comes down — “it’s not the right time to do this.”

Really?

Why is this happening? I think that it relates to the current uncertainty with the upcoming US election – and the uncertainty that has brought to many an organization.

Which makes me wonder — if now is not the right time to focus on the future, and what you need to do as organization to align yourself to fast-paced trends, when  is the right time?

History bears out the lesson that those who focus on big ideas and big opportunities during times of uncertainty are those who win in the long run. The head of innovation at GE did a study years that looked at the history of innovation in times of concern — particularly, during previous economic downturns. He found that real innovation breakthroughs came from those who stayed relentlessly focused on ideas and the future, despite that uncertainty. I often tell this story on stage to spur people into action.

The fact is, there are countless examples where history has shown us that it is those organizations who focused on ensuring that they were still actively pursuing innovation — whether through product development, the exploration of new business models, external partnerships, the pursuit of new markets and customer groups — were those who managed to achieve the greatest success in the long run.

The fact is, in todays fast-moving world, the greatest mistake any organization can make right now is to do nothing.” If you don’t do something today, you can be sure that others in your industry are!

So what do companies need to do to make the most of this period of election-driven uncertainty? First, accept reality and uncertainty, but make a determined effort to move along. Those unable to move past shock, denial and anger through to acceptance will be innovation laggards a. Unfortunately, that may be too late.

Be prepared to keep your idea factories running (perhaps not at full tilt, but running nevertheless) in the face of uncertainty. Know that there is still a place for innovative thinking despite what is really a bizarre state of affairs.

Inertia — real or implied — establishes a culture of inaction, and that can lead to another slippery slope.

oday, innovation isn’t simply an option — it’s critical because it is the best way to gain traction.

#brexit #uselection #economic meltdownWhat should you do? Here’s some video guidance for your innovation soul!

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