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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 work with many of the world’s leading bureaus, one of who is the Washington Speakers Bureau. They represent such people as Condoleeza Rice, George W. Bush, Tony Blair, John Kerry, Magic Johnson, Terry Bradshaw — global political, sports and other leaders. They’ve just run a blog post that I wrote on trends in the speaking industry. (Many of the worlds leading bureaus book me ; not only Washington Speakers, but also National Speakers Bureau / Global Speakers; Gail Davis & Associates; Leading Authorities; the Harry Walker Agency; Keppler Speakers ; Executive Speakers and many more!)


You can’t open a newspaper without seeing an article on the impact of ‘disruption.’  We now live in a period of unprecedented change in which your business model and the assumptions by which you operate are set to be forever disrupted.

In my own case, I spend a tremendous amount of time with different organizations in a vast range of different industries and professions, helping executives to understand and respond to the disruptive forces around them. And in the last several years, I’ve noticed some pretty significant changes in the speaking industry as organizations struggle with disruption.

If you are someone on your team responsible for organizing corporate or association meetings, you need to think about and react to the trends and forces at work. Quite simply, change is occurring several ways: with the speed with which speakers and topic experts are being booked, the topic areas that insight is being sought for, and the short time frames that everyone is working within.

As a speaker who focuses on how to link trends and innovation, my tag-line has become ‘the future belongs to those who are fast.”

The world is speeding up – and organizations need to respond faster

Consider the changes that everyone is impacted by today. Business model disruption. The rapid emergence of new competitors. The challenging impact of social media. Products that are almost out of date by the time they are brought to market. The digitization of everything and the impact of the Internet of Things.  All of these trends — and more — require that organizations pick up the pace when it comes to their strategies, actions and innovation efforts.

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

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

Organizations are booking speakers faster

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

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

This is no longer the case.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The shifting role of the event professional

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

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

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

Connecting with the right speaker

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

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

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

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

I’ve been doing quite a few keynotes in the automotive and trucking sector around the fast pace of developments and technology with self-driving vehicle technology.

Here’s a clip from a recent keynote in Phoenix on how quickly things are coming together in the trucking sector.

To learn more about the keynotes I do on this topic, visit the topic page Keynote: Accelerating the Auto & Trucking Industry in the Era of Self-Driving Vehicles.

Location intelligence was the hot new opportunity 20 years ago as spatial (GIS) data came to be a big part of the world. 20 years on, it still is. My oldest son is building a fabulous career working in the industry – he’s a leading expert in the use of tools such as ArcGIS, for example.

But move over for spatial data bubbles — all of us are about to become immersed in many different bubbles, and the implications are bigger than you think!

What is a spatial data bubble? It’s a phrase I’ve coined as I’ve come to spend more time thinking about what happens when we add location oriented data to data-sets that will envelope us in multiple dimensions. I first hit upon the realization of how important they will be when I was working out with my personal trainer one day at the gym, and was continuing to ensure she understood the impact of emerging smart clothing technologies upon exercise routines.

The simple fact is, I drive my personal trainer nuts when I’m at the gym. She will try and get me to do a certain routine that has my limbs or torso moving within a certain defined area. If they move within that area, I’m doing it correctly. At the same time that she is trying to get me to do this, I’m busy formulating in my mind how we could reinvent exercise in the future with spatial data bubbles! Here I am on stage talking about this idea — in this case, an opening keynote for the YMCA/YWCA.

How will this work? First off, smart clothing will replace wearable technologies – read my post on that. I’ve been speaking and writing about smart clothing for years — two years ago, I outlined in a keynote for the Sporting & Fitness Industry Association that this would be a major trend to watch. Some of the bubbles which are emerging will be fascinating: a golf ball in the future will be its only little spatial-data bubble information generator as it starts to transmit real time information on speed, velocity, location and acceleration! Most sports equipment will exist in little spatial data bubbles that also align goals and objectives to performance.

So it will be with exercise routines. The  emergence of smart-clothing will solve the problem of ‘firing’ the right muscles during an exercise routine, by providing information on whether I’m in the right spatial area.  In the future, we will be buying clothes that will have a variety of embedded sensors and technology. When my trainer gets to me to do a routine in the future, and these sensors will be used to generate a data bubble around my body. She’ll be able to set a tolerance range — say, 10 or 20%. The bubble will determine if my activities are within that particular spatial range within the bubble — if so, I’ll be rewarded in some way. The better I get at the routine the lower the tolerance with the bubble will be!

If my activities stray outside the bubble — well, maybe the clothing will zap me! Big opportunities for performance-oriented exercise routines!

Spatial data bubbles will soon be everywhere! They are emerging at a furious pace with the rapid emergence of self-driving car technology.

Today’s collision avoidance systems have limited data bubbles, only looking at vehicles around them. In the future, the bubbles will be bigger, talking to the road, linking to other data bubbles, advance telemetry systems, road monitoring and lane allocation systems, and more!

The typical self-driving, connected car is putting off some 7 gigabytes of data per hour. That’s a staggering amount of information — and increasingly, more and more of it will be spatial data bubble oriented. Self-driving cars and trucks will talk to intelligent highway infrastructure technologies which might guide them on their journeys, and in effect, create a little bubble of data around the vehicle involving obstacles, other vehicles, road sensors and other stuff. Then there is stuff that is already here: peloton technology that has self-driving cars and trucks involved cars communicating their lo0cation in time and space with other vehicles so that they can travel in a space-saving, wind-resistant pack. The data bubble of a car has 360-sensing capability, looking for pedestrians, other cars and other information.

Spatial data bubbles aren’t new: they’ve been around for some time. Perhaps the best example are the robots used in advanced manufacturing systems. These robots need to have continual 3D awareness. They used to be able to operate on their own; but as their spatial data bubbles have grown, they’ve become collaborative, designed to work in proximity to people. They’ve become more spatially aware, with cameras, sonar and other tech. This has allowed them to become cognitive and quality-conscious , with feedback on whether assembly is done correctly. Increasingly, they are capable of working in multiple planes at once, with multiple axis movements. Their bubble will extend to human-operators, who might increasingly use spatial bubble technologies such as Google Glass, for remote operation, in a virtual reality scenario.

And therein lies a key point – virtual reality, more than anything else, will accelerate spatial data bubble technologies. This point was hammered home to me on the weekend when I visited Colony VR in Ottawa with my son, his girlfriend and my wife. Here I am smashing some balloons while in a virtual reality spatial data bubble!

A futurist in a spatial data bubble!

Virtual reality is going to have a massive impact on the rate of spatial-data bubble technologies, methodologies, data sets and more! VR will emerge as a significant tool for skills training, telemedicine, sports and so much more. And if you think about it, it’s all about data bubbles!

Location-oriented data is pretty easy and not terribly overwhelming in terms of quantity, because it essentially involves a couple of points on a map. Spatial data bubbles are infinitely more complex, because it will involve thousands or millions of data points involving that point on the map, and the areas above and around it.

If you think we’ve seen a data explosion in the past, we have, as they say, ”seen nothing yet!”

Spatial data bubbles are the new location intelligence!

One of my key themes through the years has been that “faster is the new fast” — that the biggest challenge that organizations must face is how to keep up with the high-velocity economy.

I’m now observing that in many markets and industries, the pace of change is so fast that we need to put in place a senior executive whose sole area of responsibility is ensuring that the organization can keep up with ever-increasing rates of change. Let’s say — a Chief Momentum Officer.

Organizations need to adapt to all kinds of different issues when it comes to the velocity of change: rapidly changing business models, the emergence of new competitors, ever shrinking product life-cylces, a faster pace of new product development, furious rates of technological innovation, furiously fast new trends in terms of customer interaction, the decreasing shelf-life of knowledge and the more rapid emergence of specialized skills: the list could go on!

Hence, a need for someone who aligns all of the moving parts of the organization to high velocity change! This individual will carry a number of responsibilities, such as:

  • managing the product innovation pipeline, so that the organization has a constant supply of new, innovative products, as existing products become obsolete, marginalized, or unprofitable
  • managing the talent pipeline, so that the organization has the ability to quickly ingest all kinds of specialized new skills
  • managing the technology pipeline, so that the organization can adapt itself to constantly improving and ever-more sophisticated IT tools that will help to better manage, run, grow and transform the business
  • maintain and continually enhance brand and corporate image; as I’ve written here many times before, brands can become “tired” and irrelevant if they aren’t continually freshened and refreshed
  • ensuring that the organization is continuing to explore new areas for opportunity, and that it has the right degrees of innovation momentum
  • that the business processes and structure of the organization are fine-tuned on a continuous basis so that it can keep up with all the fast-change swirling around it
  • ensuring that a sufficient number of “experiential” programs are underway with respect to product, branding, markets, and other areas so that the overall expertise level of the organization is continually enhanced

In other words, the CMO has two key responsibilities:

  • keeping a fine tuned eye on the trends which will impact the organization in the future, and which will serve to increase the velocity that the organization is subjected to and;
  • keeping their hands on the appropriate levers throughout the organization such that it can keep evolving at the pace that these future trends will demand.

I don’t know if that makes perfect sense, but I think its a good issue to think about.

One recent client engaged me for a talk for their global team, with the keynote title “Achieving Agility: Aligning Ourselves for an Era of Accelerating Change”. That’s a good example of how I outline the attributes for success in a world of high velocity change. With that, I focus on how organizations and leaders must incorporate four key capabilities: agility, insight, innovation and execution.


Corporate agility concept is perhaps the most critical: organizations must presume that the rate of change today is so fast that product lifecycles are collapsing, business models are relentlessly shifting, and customers are unforgiving and fleeting. To name just a few key trends!

Agility implies that we must innovate and adapt based on rapidly changing circumstances, on a continuous basis.

How do we do that? By adopting several key guiding principles that form the basis for all corporate strategy and activities going forward:

  • plan for short term longevity: No one can presume that markets, products, customers and assumptions will remain static: everything is changing instantly. Business strategies and activities must increasingly become short term oriented while fulfilling a long term mission.
  • presume lack of rigidity: Many organizations undertake plans based on key assumptions. Agile organizations do so by presuming that those key assumptions are going to change regularly over time, and so build into their plans a degree of ongoing flexibility.
  • design for flexibility : In a world of constant change, products or services must be designed in such a way that they can be quickly redesigned without massive cost and effort. Think like Google: every product and service should be a beta, with the inherent foundation being one of flexibility for future change.
  • build with extensibility: Apple understood the potential for rapid change by building into the iPod architecture the fundamental capability for other companies to develop add-on products. Think the same way : tap into the world. Let the customer, supplier, partners and others innovate on your behalf!
  • harness external creativity: In a world in which knowledge is evolving at a furious pace, no one organization can do everything. Recogize your limits, and tap into the skills, insight and capabilities of those who can do things better.
  • plan for supportability: Customers today measure you by a bar that is raised extremely high — they expect you to deliver the same degree of high-quality that they get from the best companies on the planet. They expect instant support, rapid service, and constant innovation. If you don’t provide this, they’ll simply move on to an alternative.
  • revisit with regularity: Banish complacency. Focus on change. Continually revisit your plans, assumptions, models and strategies, because the world next week is going to be different than that of today.

To me, that’s what agility is all about!

With 25 years of working with some of the leading organization in the world on issues related to creativity and innovation,  I’ve seen some of the best and worst approaches to the issue. The worst approach? An innovation suggestion box! That will doom your efforts from the start!

I will often sit back and analyze what I’ve seen in order to establish some powerful lessons for other people. Here’s just such a quick list of 10 more things that smart, innovative companies do to create an overall sense of innovation-purpose.

  • Heighten the importance of innovation. One major client with several billons in revenue has 8 senior VP’s who are responsible for innovation. And the fact is, they don’t just walk the talk — they do it. The message to the rest of the company? Innovation is critical — get involved.
  • Create a compelling sense of urgency. With product lifecycles compressing and markets witnessing fierce competition, now is not the time for studies, committee meetings and reports. It’s time for action. Simply do things. Now. Get it done. Analyze it later to figure out how to do it better next time.
  • Ignite each spark. Innovative leaders know that everyone in the organization has some type of unique creativity and talent. They know how to find it, harness it, and use it to advantage.
  • Re-evaluate the mission. You might have been selling widgets five years ago, but the market doesn’t want widgets anymore. If the world has moved on, and you haven’t, it is time to re-evaluate your purpose, goals and strategies. Rethink the fundamentals in light of changing circumstances.
  • Build up experiential capital. Innovation comes from risk, and risk comes from experience. The most important asset today isn’t found on your balance sheet — it is found in the accumulated wisdom from the many risks that you’ve taken. The more experiential capital you have, the more you’ll succeed.
  • Shift from threat to opportunity. Innovative organizations don’t have management and staff who quiver from the fear at what might be coming next. Instead, they’re alive from breathing the oxygen of opportunity.
  • Banish complacency and skepticism. It’s all too easy for an organization, bound by a history of inaction, to develop a defeatist culture. Innovative leaders turn this around by motivating everyone to realize that in an era of rapid change, anything is possible..
  • Innovation osmosis. If you don’t have it, get it — that’s a good rule of thumb for innovation culture. One client lit a fuse in their innovation culture by buying up small, aggressive, young innovative companies in their industry. They then spent the time to carefully nurture their ideas and harness their creativity.
  • Stop selling product, and sell results. The word solution is overused and overdone, but let’s face it — in a world in which everything is becoming a commodity and everyone is focused on price, change the rules of the game. Refuse to play — by thinking about how to play in a completely new game.
  • Create excitement. I don’t know how many surveys I saw this year which indicated that the majority of most people in most jobs are bored, unhappy, and ready to bolt. Not at innovative companies! The opportunity for creativity, initiative and purpose results in a different attitude. Where might your organization be on a “corporate happiness index?” If it’s low, then you don’t have the right environment. Fix that problem — and fix it quick.

Here’s a good quote to live by:  it is said that doing the right thing when it’s easy to do is easy — it’s doing the right thing when it’s tough that is really tough!

It can be difficult to be tough about things, because it’s always easier to be nicer, to avoid stress, to keep away from things that are challenging systems. But if you study innovative people, the fact of the matter is that they are willing to deal with discomfort, and even seem to thrive on it! They thrive on this by being willing to:

  • ask the tough questions
  • act on the answers to those tough questions!
  • ask questions that make people uncomfortable
  • challenge others to ask tough questions
  • ask why it has become acceptable to not ask questions!
  • ask questions that challenge fundamental assumptions
  • ask questions that show their complete lack of knowledge about something — which is ok
  • ask questions that might make their boss unhappy
  • indicate that while they don’t know the answer to the tough questions, they’re prepared to find out
  • suggest that maybe there have now been too many questions, and now something simply must be done in order to move forward

What’s the key to this line of thinking?

Organizations can become too comfortable with routine, and unless this is challenged on a regular basis, complacency becomes a killer.

By constantly putting a whole bunch of tough questions on the table, innovators can ensure that innovation paralysis does not set in.

Words to live by!

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!