Each megawatt of installed wind energy capacity creates 4.85 full-time jobs

Home > Archives

Faster

Going forward, the reality of the new economy is that the future belongs to those who are fast. Have you checked your speed? -- Jim Carroll



I’m always thinking about my clients and my keynotes and the messages that I need to deliver on stage. With that, I’m always keeping my eye open for a good business parable. So here’s another one, that came from a unique opportunity for a quick little ski lesson from one of the top downhill racers in the world, Larisa Yurkiw.

Advice for me in a personal lesson from one of the top 3 downhill ski racers in the world: “Focus forward — keep your shoulders pointed to where you want to go. And be like a slinky. You never know what the next bump in the snow is going to throw at you, so you need to be prepared for anything. You can only do that if you are in a position that will let you flex quickly.”

I was skiing this weekend at my home ski club — it’s a small eastern hill known as Georgian Peaks. Bluebird skies and great conditions. And so at one point, I came down one particular run — Rogers — which is rather steep and challenging for someone who only took up the sport at the age of 40.

Normally, I would look like a total doofus on this hill, but the conditions were so good that maybe I looked like I knew what I was doing or faked it well. But I felt that I actually skied it pretty well.

And then a voice in the lift line behind me — “I followed you all the way down!” Larisa Yurkiw was standing there. “Let’s do a few more runs.

If you don’t know Larisa’s story, you should. She started at the same small Ontario ski hill, and progressed to the elite of the global downhill ski racing circuit, racing against her friends Lindsay Vonn, Julie Mancuso and others. Before her retirement, she was ranked number 3 in the world, competed in the Olympics, and more. What makes the story more unique is that she did it all on her own terms, establishing and funding her own ski team because the national sports association didn’t step up and believe in her. She did!

It’s a great story, and she’s now telling it in a powerful stage keynote – A Daring Need for Speed. (Full disclosure : I’ve been mentoring Larisa on how to take her story to the stage, and she’s doing a great job. If you are looking for a powerhouse speaker with a fascinating keynote, check her out!)

Back to my story — so we went up the lift, and then she gave me a tip at the top. I might not have it exactly right, but it was something like this:

“Focus forward — keep your shoulders pointed to where you want to go. And be like a slinky. You never know what the next bump in the snow is going to throw at you, so you need to be prepared for anything. You can only do that if you are in a position that will let you flex quickly.”

The essence of her 2 point lesson for me was to keep focused on where I was trying to go, and to be flexible and agile in my stance. Did it work? We did several more runs together, and I felt a fair bit more control in what I was doing. It’s too bad the season is coming to an end!

But for me, there was more than just a quick ski lesson — there was a great business story in that simple guidance! It’s almost the perfect business leadership lesson for the high velocity economy! With business model disruption, the emergence of new, nimble competitors, the onrush of technological change, challenging consumers and more, organizations today must have have more flexibility than ever before to respond to a sudden change in conditions, just as on a ski hill.

But that must be done in the context of keeping a key goal and strategy in mind — staying focused on where you want to go on the journey.

So your leadership lesson for today? Focus forward & be a slinky – simple, yet effective and compelling!

 

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.

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

Many people have a belief system that has them convinced that the world of tomorrow will look much like it does today, with the result that when they are confronted by the future, they dismiss it.

Case in point – back in 2006, I was the opening keynote speaker for a conference of telecom and cable engineers. I had about 3,000 of them in the room. One of the trends I outlined was that we would see accelerating innovation in terms of bandwidth capacities, particularly as we innovated in terms of optical fibre technology. I suggested to them, for example, that one day soon we would build a router that would stop light in its tracks, examine its packets, and in doing so, see innovative opportunities that would lead to massive increases in accelerated bandwidth.

Of course, they laughed at me. It’s ok. I get used to it.

Some complained to the conference organizers. “How can you bring in someone with such crazy ideas?” Others voiced their skepticism to an industry publication, which ended up writing an article on my crazy observation, dismissing it entirely.

But wait — after that, a number of leading optical scientists came to my defence, and said my prediction was bang on! You can read the resulting blog post which covers the industry publication, When Light Stops.

Fast forward – this news story a few weeks ago caught my attention. We seem to be getting really good at stopping light! Who would have thought? But that’s not the first story in this regard; I’ve been tracking the trend for years.

Here’s the thing about the future — it’s fast, its huge, and it increasingly involves ideas that once seemed crazy becoming a reality.

If you want to be innovative, focus on the crazy. You just might discover some gems of creativity in there. You’ll discover the future.

And realize the best time to pursue an idea is when other people laugh at it.


Need another example? How about printing solar cells on paper? Crazy idea? Not at all! Here’s a clip in which I’m talking about the fact that at MIT, they are learning how to print solar cells onto paper! Oh, and the whole issue of how we can stop light in its tracks….


Be crazy, think crazy, pursue crazy.

Earlier this week, I spoke to several hundred executives from the trucking industry at a keynote for the Omnitracs customer conference in Phoenix. My keynote focused on the trends which are sweeping the industry, including prognostic diagnostics, the connectivity impact of the Internet of Things (#IoT), the rapid evolution of autonomous trucks and self-driving technologies, drones and the impact of bio-monitoring devices. I’ll have a full blog post on that in the next few days.

It’s a topic that I’ve been doing all over — Keynote: Accelerating the Auto & Trucking Industry in the Era of Self-Driving Vehicles

In the meantime, the trucking industry provides a good example of how the new workplace is being transformed by technology.

Here’s what you need to know: first, do you think of trucking as a kind of unsophisticated, low-tech industry, full of a bunch of guys and gals performing boring tasks while moving down the road? Forget that — here are some simple facts:

  • the typical truck today is putting off some 3 gigabytes of data per month, and that number is increasing at a furious pace
  • the typical truck cabin contains more technology than a typical small airplane
  • in the race to self-driving vehicles, trucks will be the first to cross the finish line

A few years ago, Volvo/Mack Trucks had me in for a series of leadership and dealer meetings, where I noted that “in the world of trucking, connectivity is the new horsepower.” Given those stats above, that much is true!

And here’s a key thing: with those trends, the process of innovating in the industry has gone hi-tech. The result is that the workspace in the world of trucking is less like a grimy, dirty garage, and more like an airline control tower, at the same time that the truck cabin has come to be more like an airline cockpit.

To emphasize that point, I spoke about the folks at Bison Transport, based in Winnipeg, Canada. I’ve used them in a few talks on the future of the workplace and on the future of trucking:

“It’s not how one might envision the head office of a trucking company. Youth abound in 20- and 30-somethings tracking payloads in the operations room — think of a flat airplane control tower — or working in the IT department (which in the last 15 years has grown to 15 from two). There’s the “quiet room” for breaks. The fully stocked fitness room, the laundry room, the cafeteria.” Taking Trucking into the Future, Winnipeg Free Press, June 2014

Well, freak me out with a fork! It turns out that unknown to me, the folks from Bison Trasnport were in the room, and came up to me after my keynote. I think they were a little freaked out too!

Trevor Fridfinnson, Chief Operating Officer, Bison Transport with Keynote Speaker Jim Carroll at Omintracs 2017

Their office is at the forefront of the connectivity and technology revolution accelerating the world of trucking and transportation into the future. The folks at Trucking News covered this trend from my keynote in an article, detailed below.

Clearly, in trucking, the office space, culture and fast innovation speeds of Silicon Valley are coming in, and they are coming fast!

 


Carroll on the future during opening of Omnitracs Outlook 2017
TruckingNews.com

Futurist, trends and innovations expert Jim Carroll advised attendees to ‘think big, start small, scale fast,’ when it came to embracing technology.

Carroll said automated trucks were one of the trends that were changing the face of trucking, and questioned what would happen to the traditional driver once that occurs.

Carroll’s overall theme was that the world changes fast, has been for some time, and the trucking industry cannot get left behind.

Several factors contribute to the ever-changing world, Carroll said, including what he called the ‘era of big transformation.’

Autonomous trucks is part of that ear, according to Carroll, who declared that trucking would be the first to move to fully autonomous vehicles because it made financial sense to do so since drivers account for one third of the operational costs pie.

Servicification, the intensifying of skills training, acceleration of innovation and the impact of future generations were also factors Carroll said would contribute to how quickly the world would continue to change.

As an example of this, Carroll pointed to statistics showing that the vast majority of children aged five to six would one day have a job that today does not even exist.

Carroll said today’s truck manufactures worry not only about putting out a quality product, but also about how to best maintain that product through diagnostics and other predictive technologies.

“We are in a world in which we can determine when parts and components in a truck are going to break down,” Carroll said. “And we can bring it in for maintenance and thereby avoid the problem in advance of a truck breaking down on remote Arizona highway somewhere and thereby reduce downtime and costs.”

To further illustrate how the world and traditional workplace have experience a facelift over the years, and how the next generation will continue that trend, Carroll posted a quote from Manitoba’s Bison Transport on the screen that read: “It’s not how one might envision the head office of a trucking company. Youth abound in 20- and 30-something tracking payloads in the operations room – think of a flat airplane control tower – or working in the IT department (which in the last 15 years had grown to 15 from two). There’s the ‘quiet room’ for breaks. The fully stocked fitness room, the laundry room, the cafeteria.”

This one is from a stage in New Orleans. The story itself is simple and to the point.

In my list of global clients, I encounter far too many people and leaders who subscribe to the idea that if they are going to do something, they need to do it absolutely perfectly the first time around.

In my view, this doesn’t fit within the fast economy of today. Take a look around at successful innovators, and they are willing to do something fast, see how it worked, and try again. Obviously quality and risk issues come into play.

The best way is to understand how manufacturing is changing with 3D printing. We now have the ability to conceive product, design them, build them, test them, and then re-conceive and re-design and re-deploy. It’s become an iterative process instead of a final step process. That type of innovation thinking needs to come to every process and every industry.

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.

From a recent keynote for a global leadership team, covered in another recent post.

A few weeks ago, I was on stage in London, UK, for a global leadership meeting of Pladis — a new entity which includes 3 organizations, including Godiva Chocolates. The picture was from that presentation, and presents the futuristic push-button kitchen of the future from The Jetson’s.

Part of my talk focused on the impact of the Internet of Things — #iot — on food products, packaging and the supply chain.

There is no doubt that we will see the emerge of highly connected, intelligent kitchen appliances. I led a senior leadership meeting at Whirlpool/Maytag a month ago on this trend. I wrote a blog post about the rules of design for products and devices in the era of the Internet of Things.

Combine that trend with the emergence of intelligent, active connected packaging, which will have pretty profound impacts on both consumer interaction as well as supply issues. I’ve done numerous talks around these trends, including an event in Prague for Mondi, a leading global packaging company and others.

Both of these trends bring more technology to the kitchen, consumer products and supply chain. Add technology to any industry, and you get faster change. The era of acceleration, as it were!

Push button kitchens? Not quite like the Jetsons’, but you can expect a lot of smart appliances integrating with smart products!

For more, check the topic, Internet Of Things: Disruption and Opportunity in the Era of Pervasive Connectivity.