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Suddenly, there’s a lot of uncertainty in the world. Senior executives who are focused on trying to move their organizations are discovering that aggressive indecision has set in. What should you do? Here’s some video guidance for your innovation soul!

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How can you best guide your organization into a faster future?

As someone who spends a lot of time talking, writing and speaking about trends and innovation, and who is constantly taking a look at trends, I have a list of what I think works.

1. Listen to the grassroots

With the rapid rate of change within every industry, it can be extremely difficult to keep up with what’s important and what’s not, not to mention keeping on top of the trends, challenges and opportunities that should be guiding your activities and strategies. There might be plenty going on within your industry, as the result of rapid new business strategies, rapidly evolving business models, heightened market competition, ever growing volumes of research and knowledge, and countless other challenges.

To be effective at what you do, you must keep on top of these trends, and determine how to adjust your activities and strategies accordingly. You should focus on building a strong collaborative culture within your organization, using both leading edge tools and technology as well as ensuring that your culture supports a heightened degree of informal, personal contact.

Take the time to engender and build an informal, “open-door” culture that promotes regular and ongoing contact throughout the organization. Encourage feedback, complaints and observations, as well as a culture that provides for sharing of leading edge trends, challenges and opportunities.

2. Listen beyond the grassroots

You can’t listen only to people within your organization to spot the trends that will affect you — you have to go beyond them and listen to what others are saying as well.

That’s why figuring out the future is no longer restricted to listening to the “usual suspects” inside; — 21st century leaders recognize that everything in their industry is being affected by events, trends and developments far beyond the norm.

The problem for any executive is that it is all too easy to become isolated and focused on the issues of the day – the management issues and all the fine details that come with running a major organization. There’s so much going that there can be precious little time to come up for air and simply see or “think” through what is going on elsewhere.”

And yet, taking the time to listen “outside of the box” can be one of the most important things you can do. That’s why you shouldn’t just “think” outside of the box – but you should on a regular basis “step” outside of it. One way of doing this is by ensuring that you take the time to place yourself in completely different circumstances. Pick 2 or 3 conferences each year – in completely unrelated, different industries or professional that are far beyond the norm! Go and listen – and see what another industry is saying!

You might be surprised by how invigorating an experience it can be to open up your mind to what is going on elsewhere. You may find that it will help you discover the trends that will affect you in the future, long before your traditional trends radar might have picked them up.

3. Listen to the rebels

Often, the trends that will affect youan be found in the offbeat chatter by those who are busy redeveloping the future right around them.

Those leading edge trendsetters are often at odds with everyone else. They have different views and opinions. They’re the rebels in the crowd, eager to cast off the past to develop a future that will be very, very different. They’re busy tearing apart the conventional business models that have guided you for ages; they have different ideas as to the nature of the product or service that is delivered; they are all too eager to change everything around them to create the future as they see fit. They are often marginalized, simply because their aggressive attitude in changing the future can make them rather unlikable by many.

What should you do? Learn to learn from them! Seek out the rebels in your organization- you might not like what they have to say, but often, they are probably right in what they will tell you. Great leaders recognize that while many people have an attitude, outlook, culture and approach to life and business that is completely at odds with their perspective – they are willing to listen to what they say because change often emanates from such people.

4. Maintain a willingness to do a right turn

There’s no doubt that things change very rapidly in our world today.

Need evidence? A few years ago, there was no Uber. Today, its’ causing havoc, challenge and opportunity worldwide.

The result is that many organizations are now scrambling to deal with a new reality.

5. Redefine your structure

Part of the process of reinventing your relevance consists of challenging the typical organizational structure.

Many people in our economy today don’t work within the traditional corporate model that has worked in the past – they are ‘nomadic workers.’ Many young people continue to reject the traditional career path of long term careers with large organizations. Instead, they establish themselves in small, micro-organizations that provide needed skills to a corporate audience regardless of where they might be. Are you reaching them with your efforts?

Not only that, but there is a lot of talent in the newly-disenfranchised’ : – those white collar workers who were laid off in the last 10 years through a variety of recessions – and who have established small, home-based businesses from which they provide their skills to a global audience. They’re working within your community of interest, but are they a part of your strategic plan?

Step back and consider where the skills you need might exist today, and ensure that you change your strategies, activities and capabilities so that you reaching out to all of them.

6. Seek offbeat solutions to difficult problems

When a food manufacturer was trying to find out how to improve the changeover time of one of their assembly lines, they hit upon a novel solution: bring in an Indy race pit crew to show them how. Their thinking was, who has better mastered the talent of “quick- thinking, quick work” than a group of people who can instantly change several tires in a highly coordinated team effort that lasts only a few seconds? It was an offbeat solution, but it certainly did the trick.

That’s why you should keep an eye out for the quirky, innovative, unusual things occurring within your industry — look for weird ideas and capitalize upon them!

7. Kill indecision

There is no doubt that every organization has suffered from rather aggressive indecision through the last several years, brought on by war, terror, a challenged economy, and much uncertainty.

The impact has been dramatic – many people just can’t seem to make decisions about many matters of the day. I certainly see this as a speaker – while I used to be regularly booked as far as a year in advance, now some organizations are booking me just a few weeks before their conference or event. Why? Because uncertainty has led to a degree of decision stagnation.

Pummel this trend to the ground before it goes any further. Make sure your organization continues to run by timelines, deadlines and clear goals and objective. Carefully ensure that your culture provides for regular decision making, not deferral and discussion. There are quite a few issues you are probably wrestling with, and maybe some of them have been around for far too long.

What should you do? Encouraging risk taking is one method of ending complacency, as is rewarding failure. If your organization can’t make decisions, then a bit of a cultural change is probably necessary!

8. Restore your sense of passion and purpose

Last but not least, get excited about the future again!

There have been so many challenges through the last few years, that many people in the business community have lost their sense of purpose and their passion for the future.

The key message for you is – get over it! We’re in for a bright and wonderful future, and it’s by getting excited about the future again that you can best prepare and plan for it.

There are people in every organization who, when they wake up in the morning, think “what am I going to do today to kill great ideas?”

Are you suffering from organizational sclerosis? Watch this!


Here’s a video clip from a few years back — in which I outline “10 Things That are True About the Future.” A useful reminder on how to conduct your own type of trend thinking.

Video from my keynote for APICS 2015 in Las Vegas. Simply stated.

I had a long conversation with a potential client in the manufacturing sector the other day; they’re looking to bring me in for a keynote in 2016. I’ve developed a reputation in the industry for some cutting edge insight into the key trends that are redefining every single aspect of the sector at an extremely furious, fast pace. I’ve headlined events for tens of thousands at major manufacturing conferences in Las Vegas, Chicago, Orlando and Detroit.

Jim Carroll on stage in September 2011, keynoting the IMXchange - Interactive Manufacturing Exchange -- conference, with a talk on the future of manufacturing and the necessity for continuous, relentless innovation

Jim Carroll on stage in Las Vegas keynoting the IMXchange – Interactive Manufacturing Exchange conference, with a talk on the future of manufacturing and the necessity for continuous, relentless innovation

What’s going on? Here’s a quick snapshot:

  • collapsing product life cycles – simply put, products don’t have as long a lifespan in terms of relevance, consumer attention, rapid escalation of design ideas — whatever the case may be, with shorter life spans, manufacturing organizations are having to pick up the pace!
  • the Internet of Things and product redefinition – every device becomes connected, intelligent, aware… this has major implications in terms of how devices are designed and manufactured. Suddenly, many manufacturers are finding that they must integrate sophisticated user interface capabilities into their products, not to mention advanced computer and connectivity technology.
  • rapid design and rapid prototyping. We’ve seen incredible advances in the ability to conceive, design and develop new products faster than ever before. There is a constantly rising bar in terms of capabilities, and if you can’t pick up on this, you can be sure that your competitors will. The first to market with a new idea is often the winner.
  • the influence of crowdfunding on product design. There is no doubt that the global connectivity that the crowdfunding business model provides is resulting in a change in product conception. Suddenly, anyone can have an idea, fund it, design it, and bring it to market. What I’ve witnessed are situations where these small scale projects are light years ahead of what we’ve seen with established industry players. Crowdfunding is the new garage in many industries.
  • build to demand vs. build to inventory business models. Big auto companies build hundreds of thousands of vehicles, and shove them out to dealers hoping they sell. Tesla Motors takes an order, and builds the vehicle to send to the customer. Big difference — and this model is driving fundamental business model change across every aspect of the manufacturing sector.
  • agility and flexibility. The impact of build-to-demand models is that manufacturers must provide for a lot more change-capability throughout every aspect of the process, from supply chain to assembly to quality control. The ultimate in agility? The Magna factory in Graz, Austria, which can custom build a wide variety of automobiles from completely different car companies.
  • post-flat strategies. What happens when the world gets flat? Put a ripple in it! That’s been the focus of a few of my keynotes for several manufacturing clients. I’ve spoken about organizations who have evolved from having to compete with low-cost producers by focusing on price, to a new product lineup that is based on quality, consumer perception, brand identity, or IoT connectivity.
  • faster time to market. Consumers today have perilously short attention spans. In some sectors, such as fashion, high-tech (smartphones!), food and others, you’ve got to get your product to market in an instant — otherwise, you lose your opportunity.
  • rapidly emerging consumer demand. Closely related to time to market is the fact that new fashion, taste trends or other concepts now emerge faster given the impact of social networks. Think about the impact of food trucks — people can now experiment with new taste trends at an extremely low price point. The result is that new taste trends emerge faster — and food companies must scramble to get new products out to the customer faster. Long, luxurious product development lead times are from ‘the olden days.’ If you can’t speed up, you won’t be able to compete.
  • the fast emergence of same day delivery business models. Amazon, WalMart, Google and others are quickly building big infrastructure that provides for same day shipping. This has a ripple impact on demand, inventory, logistics …. a massive change from the old world of stockpiled inventory.
  • the arrival of 3D, additive manufacturing 3D printers and the inevitable shift to “additive manufacturing” from “subtractive manufacturing based on cutting, drilling and bashing metal..  probably the biggest change the industry will witness in coming years.
  • the acceleration of education requirements. Robotics, advanced manufacturing methodologies, machinining-in-the-cloud, advanced ERP processes : you name it, the skill of 10 years or even 5 years ago doesn’t cut it today. I had one client in the robotics sector observe that “the education level of our workforce has increased so much….The machinists in this industry do trigonometry in their heads.” That’s the new reality going forward!

That’s a lot of change, and there’s even more underway.

Want more? Watch this!

VIDEO: Atlantic Design and Manufacturing 2013 Interview with Innovation Expert Jim Carroll from ThomasNet on Vimeo.

AskTheExpert

“I keep discovering things that I think world-class inno- vators do, such as focus on their speed and ability to change. They focus on understanding how their customers are chang- ing or changing their business model before they change it themselves”

Here’s a quick little article in which I’m asked a variety of questions around innovation. Get the PDF.

A few key observations that I make:

  • “I think people shouldn’t make the word [innovation] mysterious. They need to understand that it’s not just about the invention of new products or new services. It goes back to that fundamental issue of ‘how do I run my business better, grow my business and transform my business.’ I think if people get caught up on innovation as new product development, they miss a huge opportunity in terms of what they can do.”
  • “One of my catchphrases, which I picked up from a big financial client, is: “Think big, start small, scale fast.” That can work for big organizations, but it can also work for a small company.

“Think big”—you’re small and obviously want to grow. You’ve got to have really big ideas and big goals in terms of what you might hope to accomplish, in terms of trying new ideas and exploring new things and doing things you haven’t done before.

“Start small”—play with a lot of new technologies, try a lot of new ideas, take risks. Do some projects in which you might succeed at some things and you might fail, but at least do things. So you start small, you try out a whole bunch of small things. This builds up your experience, and the more experience you have, the better position you’re in for success in the future.

“Scale fast”—learn how to scale it. How do you ensure you can keep doing these things as you grow?

 

 

For years, I’ve spoken throughout my client base as a keynote speaker as to how the essence of global research and development is changing.This includes keynote presentations to some of the world’s leading educational associations and corporations; industry and professional conference associations; and even two events for NASA, with a number of astronauts, astrophysicists and other deep thinkers in the room!

WCGatineau

Watch a true piece of art – this time-lapse video by my 22 year old son, using a ‘time-lapse slider’ running on a Raspberry Pi, that he built by drawing upon ‘the global colloborative mind.’

My emphasis has always been that the Internet has led us to a new world of ‘crowd-thinking’ in which anyone can look at any idea, and figure out how to pursue the idea, and develop a new skill, capability, form of insight or simply a new “thing.” The foundation for crowdthinking includes crowdfunding initiatives; vast knowledge and information archives; the sharing economy, global collaborative communities and other fascinating developments. It’s a trend that is shaking up R&D efforts worldwide, because it accelerates knowledge. Ultimately, crowd-thinking is leading to some very significant change in every industry. More on that later….

No trend is complete without it ‘hitting home’ in a personal way. That’s why you need to watch this this fabulous time-lapse video, which my 22 year old son Willie Carroll painstakingly filmed, edited and pulled together over a period of over a month. Watch it here, or view his blog post about the project WcFotography.

It’s a ‘time-lapse’ video — in which Willie’s 35mm camera takes a picture using a time-lapse slider ‘machine’ that he built. The slider makes the camera moves a fraction of an inch, then waits, and then takes another picture. Repeat, several times over an hour. Stitch together multiple photos into video clips; link those together, layer on some fabulous music, and you’ve got a true piece of art. Willie built the hardware and figured out the software, by tapping into the global creative mind. You can get a basic sense of how it works below. When he first got it working — which, even though I was away at a keynote — was a truly inspiring and fabulous moment!


As an avid part-time professional photographer (see WcFotography.com) involved in corporate, wedding and other photographic shoots, Willie is always eager to push his skills to the limit.

Willie spotted the idea for a time-lapse slider when it was floated as  a KickStarter project — but at $1,000, it was a bit out of his range. He decided that he could build one on his own; he researched the project and found both the hardware and software solutions online. Through a sometimes excruciating process through the summer, he saw the project through to success. The slider was built using a Raspberry Pi computer; rails, a motor and timing belt that he sourced through eBay; and software that was developed by a fellow named David Hunt in Ireland, who ultimately provided Willie with the inspiration for his project.

Once it was finished, Willie took the rig back to university, and on weekends and during time off, visited his beloved Gatineau Park to capture a wide variety of fabulous photographic-video sequences.

As a dad, I couldn’t be prouder.

I’d encourage you to share the video — it’s posted above on Vimeo. I’d also encourage you to check out his  photography Web site. If you’re based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, you might consider engaging him for your next photography project!

Learn more over at http://www.wcfotography.com.

DerekSprague

“As consumer expectations for technology driven experiences increase exponentially, answering the phone and handwriting tee times onto a paper tee sheet are no longer the norms.” – Derek Sprague, President, PGA of America

In many of my keynotes focused on future trends and the necessity for constant, fast innovation, I often speak about the massive transformation occurring in most industries as the result of the acceleration of business models through technology.

Just consider the impact of Apple Pay, which speeds up the pace of change in the credit card industry; Internet-linked medical devices which allow for virtual healthcare; and Tesla Motors, which is shaking up the global auto industry.

What’s the impact? One estimate suggests that up to 40% of the S&P 500 will no longer exist ten years from now, if they fail to keep up with fast moving technology trends. That’s a pretty staggering thought.

Given this, every CEO in every industry needs to think as to how they avoid THE BIG MISS — playing up a golf analogy — and avoid the disruption occurring all around them.

While preparing for my keynote for the Sporting & Fitness Industry Association keynote, I reached out Derek Sprague, President of the PGA of America, for his observations on how technology has impacted the golf industry, and more specifically, the membership of the association, the PGA Professional. These are folks who are instrumental in the management and growth of golf courses, professional instruction on learning the game, and other aspects of a multi-faceted career. (I was the opening keynote speaker for the 94th Annual General Meeting of the PGA a few years back.)

Derek nailed it in two succinct observations:

In the last five years, video software, launch monitors and game tracking devices (like Game Golf) have brought the technology tools of elite professional players to the masses.  Understanding how to integrate volumes of performance data into traditional teaching methods has become “commonplace for PGA Professionals.”

Not only that, but yield management and mobile-oriented buying platforms aren’t just for hotels and airlines anymore.  As consumer expectations for technology driven experiences increase exponentially, answering the phone and handwriting tee times onto a paper tee sheet are no longer the norms.

That’s a pretty concise summary – the skills of the membership base has to change at a very fast pace as dealing with new technology comes to dominate an increasing aspect of their role. And it won’t end anytime soon — for example, think about how quickly drone technology will come to challenge the game in new and different ways.

Here’s a video clip from my keynote, about why it’s necessary to avoid THE BIG MISS.

 

Some years back, I worked on a project for Deloitte, which resulted in the video, “What Do World Class Innovators Do That Others Don’t Do?” It’s become a very popular video, and keynote topic. Read more about the topic here.

I’ve gone back and had a look at the raw footage, and there is some great stuff that wasn’t used in its entirety. Here’s a clip around the theme of speed,’ appropriate in an era of accelerating knowledge, rapid change in business models, new consumer expectations, the instant obsolescence of new products, and other challenges!

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