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The global economy is changing rapidly, and increasingly involves significant structural change based on an acceleration of business cycles. Jim excels at putting into perspective the significant, long term transformative trends that will reshape the global economy through the next 10 to 20 years.



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.

 

 

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!

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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It’s been a fun week, with keynotes in Dallas and Napa Valley – one on the future of education, and the other involving the future of manufacturing.

Yet my talks don’t just include keynote presentations — I’m often engaged to come in to small, intimate leadership meetings to help senior executives understand some of the trends that will shape their world. This week, that included a presentation to a group of CEO’s at an off-site event in Colorado Springs. The event was organized by a private company that has equity interests in the organizations in the room — representing some $10 billion worth of value.

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“At one event I spoke at, it was suggested to me that some $10 trillion of wealth was represented in the room”

My talk focused on the trends that will provide opportunity and challenge in the future — ranging from business model disruption, to the Internet of Things, the impact of the next generation, accelerating science and the new R&D, and many other topics.

In these situations, I don’t provide insight on particular stocks to invest in — but do provide guidance on the trends that will shape our world on a 5,10, 15, 25 year basis.

And it is clear that with an increasing number of these bookings, private equity managers have come to rely on my insight in a way that helps them to assess where they are going with their own investments and interests.

What’s interesting is that through the years, I’ve done quite a few of these presentations for very-high net worth families and firms. It has included such groups as the Wrigley family foundation and companies that manage the Rothschild wealth.

And in one of the most fascinating events I’ve participated in, I was invited to Athens to address several hundred representatives of what are known as  ‘family offices’ — organizations that manage the wealth of the world’s wealthiest. While I did not get a complete list of attendees, I do know that some of those in the room represent and manage the wealth of folks such as the Bill & Melinda Gates family office; the Accellor-Mittall families, those of the founders of Google and many, many others.

It was suggested to me that some $10 trillion of wealth was represented in the room.

What’s common to all of these talks?

Viewpoints on the trends that will define our world, and which will spell opportunity in the future!

 

Is your community positioned for success in the era of autonomous vehicle technology? Are you thinking about this from an economic development perspective?

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“Towns withered and died on whether they were on the mainline of a railroad – Do you want to be a community that wants to be on the forefront of this shared technology…or are you going to sit back and wait? It’s going to be a big economic driver.” – Futurist Jim Carroll

It’s a valid question, and one that I’ve been addressing for a number of years. I covered this issue in a keynote for 2,000 mayors and elected officials when I was the opening keynote the Texas Municipal League, as well as the Colorado Department of Transportation Summit. There have been many other similar situations. But I think that perhaps now, the opportunities that come from community that supports advanced, intelligent and hyperconnected transportation infrastructure is only just beginning to hit the radar of those responsible for economic development.

At least, because I’m finding an increasing number of people reaching out to me to talk about the issue. For example, BisNow recently ran an article, The Future Intersection of Driverless Cars and CRE (Commercial Real Estate); read it here.

Jim Carroll, a noted futurist who has spoken to a number of automotive companies as well as such organizations as NASA and the PGA, says autonomous vehicles will have the same economic impact railways did in the 19th century and highways did in the 20th century. And those cities that quickly adopt and build “intelligent infrastructure” to accommodate driverless technology will be the ones to thrive in this new world. “Towns withered and died on whether they were on the mainline of a railroad,” Jim says. “The same went for highways: Cities that were connected directly by major interstates thrived. And now cities are facing a similar paradigm shift, “and really that becomes an economic decision,” Jim continues. “Do we want to be a community that wants to be on the forefront of this shared technology…or are we going to sit back and wait? It’s going to be a big economic driver.”

And Ian Frisch (who sometimes writes for : The New Yorker, WIRED, Bloomberg and Playboy), notes in his article, So, Do Self-Driving Cars Mean We’ll Work During Our Commutes? – read it here.

We will see situations where some cities will want to be at the forefront of this trend and encourage the infrastructure needed to support self-driving cars,” says Jim Carroll, a futurist, trends, and innovation expert. “That will have bigger implications because companies will want to relocate to where this technology is emerging first.”

If your company does relocate, and your commute gets bumped up a few hours, being able to work while your car drives you to the office would dramatically increase efficiency.

Right now, there are buses in the Bay Area with wi-fi,” Carroll says. “If you have a three-hour commute to San Jose, you’re fully equipped to jump in on a meeting on that bus. This will be a more personalized extension of that trend. People are already shifting how they work, but autonomous vehicles will push them to shift work in new and different ways. But, before that’s a reality, we will see organizations investing in communities that are open to the intelligent infrastructure that encourages things like auto vehicles. That’s the key to all of this.

I’ve covered this issue in numerous keynotes: here’s a clip from my Texas Municipal League keynote:

The key issues are this:

  • self driving cars, tractors and trucks – there’s a lot going on, but it’s not going to happen all at once
  • this new era isn’t just about the vehicle — it’s about the infrastructure that surrounds and supports them
  • in other words, there is a lot going on with intelligent highway infrastructure ….
  • there are going to be different levels of intelligence when it comes to the roads and highways that support such vehicles
  • communities will discover that they have an opportunity to get in front of others if they support advanced intelligent highway and road infrastructure
  • some will upgrade existing transportation corridors that accelerate the adoption and use of intelligent autonomous vehicles
  • others will put in place entirely new transportation corridors – self-driving dedicated roads
  • an increasing number of companies will begin to make relocation decisions to those communities who have advanced intelligent transportation plans in place

If you are involved at a political or economic delveopment level, the big issue for you is : where do you want to position your community?

Or will you go the way of communities that died when railroads and the interstate highway system came along?

We live in interesting times, where an inane political debate makes it seem that with a wave of a magic wand, an entire industry can be transformed overnight.

It won’t happen like that, folks.

It will happen through constant innovation, big bold moves, skill set reinvention and challenging thinking that will – and already is — providing for significant transformation.

I speak at quite a few major manufacturing events. Here’s a clip where I’m in front of 2,000 manufacturing executives and engineers in Chicago a few months ago, speaking to the reality of what is occurring on the ground.

The Globe & Mail in Toronto ran a great article last week, which included some key statistics on the reality of manufacturing in America. Those in the sector should keep these in mind, in light of the stupidity of the political debate, and the reality of the real opportunity:

  • in 1960, 24% of the US labor force was involved in manufacturing, while today, that number is 8% (yes, 5 million jobs have vanished)
  • robotics and intelligent manufacturing technology has replace far more US workers than have Mexican or Chinese faciltiies
  • today US factories produce twice as much stuff as they did in 1984 but with 1/3 fewer workers
  • manufacturing as a % of GDP is virtually unchanged since 1960
  • much of US manufacturing has shifted from the rustbelt states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan to Southern states, much of which has involved significant new intelligent facilities

It’s kind of sad and tragic that a sector which has been so busy innovating finds itself in the midst of what really is a dishonest debate.

The key going forward? Manufacturing needs to continue to focus on what it has done so well in the past — innovate, focus on the future, reinvent!

As the world wakes up on August 24, 2015, to news of turmoil with global stock markets, it’s important to remember the key lessons learned from past recessions – those who focus on innovation despite economic uncertainty, are those who succeed in the long run.

Now is not the time for panic, nor to throw away critical strategic innovation opportunities. Indeed, history has taught us otherwise. Here I am in Las Vegas, speaking to this very issue.

You can choose to do 3 things – you can choose to panic; you can choose to do nothing; or you can choose to innovate and adapt to rapidly changing economic circumstances!