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How to be innovative

Don’t be someone who asks “what happened?” — make things happen. Change your attitude, and you’ll find that things really can improve. The next year is full of opportunity, and it’s yours if you want it!


Of course everyone does, particularly young kids. And as you age, you still marvel at these roaring machines and the brave firefighters who command them.

Remote-Fire-Fighting-Wildfire-Truck-future-vehicle-03A few weeks ago, I was thrilled to be the opening keynote speaker for the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association annual conference in St. Augustine, Florida. In the room were key executives from a broad cross of section of the industry.

As with all my talks, I did a tremendous amount of research — its fascinating what you can find with some very targeted searching and analysis. That’s why I’m known for the customized insight I provide in my talks.

What I learned from this industry is the perfect allegory for what is now happening in most major industries — the acceleration of what is known as customer-focused, or better yet, customer-initiated innovation.

For as long as there have been firetrucks, the industry has operated pretty well much the same. The companies that manage these complex vehicles determine what it is they plan to build, present it to the customer (cities, towns, airports ….), who might choose to buy it, or not. Of course, through this time, there has been tremendous change to the sophistication of the offerings and the complex of the machine and support systems.

But what is also apparent is that the entire fire and safety industry is grappling with faster change, such as:

  • the rapid emergence of new hazards and risk (roof photovoltaics & solar present complex new challenges for large industrial or residential fires; there have been several cases of a fire chief pulling back his team due to uncertainty in terms of assessing risk)
  • faster, more complex challenges (new chemicals, nano materials, more pipeline risk with the rapid growth of shale oil, as well as increased rail transport risk)
  • the rapid advancement of science (arson / forensic skills and knowledge requirements are accelerating at a furious pace
  • even such things as rapidly fluctuating community size (100,000 people for tailgate parties) leads to the new emergence of new risk that must be properly managed from a safety perspective.
  • and lots more!

What’s the impact of all this change? I quickly started to discover a lot more folks in the industry talking about ‘Apparatus Architects‘ – fire professionals who work for cities or towns or airports or others, who now specify what they need, given the unique risk within their community. They’ll then, to make it very simple, ask the apparatus manufacturers to build them according to spec.

In other words, the innovation pipeline has gone ‘upside down.’ The customers are driving the innovation that they need; successful apparatus manufactuers will adapt to this change, or find themselves falling behind.

I’ve been writing about this trend for well over ten years. And it’s happening in more and more industries, and the pace at which it is driving industries is speeding up. Customer-oriented or customer-initiated innovation is one of the most powerful, transformative issues in every industry today. What’s happening with firetrucks provides a good overview of just what is at stake.

Of course, that’s not just all — there’s more to come. I threw in a good sampling of future trends that will provide more change, including:

  • aerial drones linked to in-truck multi-screen video system
  • robotic building explorers linked to real-time, 3D location databases
  • instant spectrometry air-sampling analyzers with intelligent fire suppression technology suggestions

Customer-oriented innovation and rapid technological change define the future of most industries today. Pay attention to it, and think about firetrucks!

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“Innovation is about much more than just new products. What is innovation? It is running your business better, growing your business and transforming your business.”

I just found this article, which ran on the ERA blog after my keynote on the future of real estate, for their 2013 conference. It’s a good read!

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5 Things World Class Innovators Do that Others Do Not,
by Tara Reid, from Owning the Fence, ERA Real Estate Blog

Consider this: 65 percent of current preschoolers, kindergartners and first graders will work in a career that does not yet exist. And, if you are working on a degree based on science right now, it is estimated that half of what you learn in your first year will be obsolete by the time you graduate.

That is how fast things are changing in this world and according to Innovation and Trends Expert Jim Carroll; the future belongs to those who are fast. In fact perhaps media mogul Rupert Murdoch puts it best: “The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.”

During the ERA 2013 International Business Conference Think Tank, Carroll explained that to keep up, you have to get ahead the way that today’s best thinkers and changers do. Here are 5 things world class innovators do that set them apart from the rest.

  1. Think big and bold. You can view a future trend as a threat or an opportunity. Take it as an opportunity, embrace it as change for the better and prepare to make the trend work for you by thinking beyond the now. How can you make the trend bigger and better? And, how can you help others navigate change? For example, in real estate, keep in mind, according to Carroll, people want a qualified advisor to help them get through the biggest investment of their lifetime. Figure out how to exceed their expectations and you have carved out your niche.
  2. Check your speed. You have to move quickly to stay in the game. World class innovators constantly up their speed while checking their quality. For example, it took Apple two years to sell two million iPhones; it took them two months to sell two million iPads. It then took them one month to sell one million iPhone 4’s but only one day to sell one million of the upgraded iPhone 4S model. They get faster while they get better.
  3. Reframe the concept of change. Innovation is about much more than just new products. What is innovation? It is running your business better, growing your business and transforming your business. If you want to be innovative think about how you can use technology to address those three actions.
  4. Ride generational acceleration. According to Carroll, the next generation thrives on moving things forward. Follow their lead and adapt to new ways of thinking and acting. Half of today’s global population is under the age of 25. Your role is to understand their ideas so that you can manage their capabilities.
  5. Challenge organizational sclerosis. Ever hear or say the words, “It won’t work,” or “I don’t think I can,” or “It’s too risky?” Such phrases are symptoms of organizational sclerosis, the fear of change. It is important to think big, be fast and transform how you do business so that you do not end up in an innovation rut. When change gets scary, keep this in mind: “Some people see a trend and see a threat. Innovators see the same trend, and see an opportunity.”

With these five actions in mind, turn your next “oh no!” moment into an “a ha!” moment. Take that threat and turn it into an opportunity to grow. The world is not going to stop changing and trends will pop up even more quickly so grab on, hold on tight, and go for it!

I spend a LOT of time doing talks at corporate meetings; often, a CEO or CxO leadership event for a Fortune 1000 company.

hand pushing innovation button on a touch screen interfaceI’ve been invited in to give a keynote that will focus on future trends that might impact the organization, and outline some opportunities for innovation. I’ve been this for well over twenty years.

Yet often times, I’ll discover an organization that is stuck, like a deer in the headlights, because innovation remains a concept that is somehow totally foreign. And so I’ve seen this type of thing happen over and over…. why organizatons often fail at innovation:

  • everybody knows something needs to be done
  • there are an awful lot of ideas as to what to do
  • no one knows where to start
  • no one has the courage to make the first step
  • and in fact, no one has been charged with the responsibility to take over and manage a first step
  • there is a rampant fear that if we don’t do it, it just won’t end up well
  • everyone remembers the other time somebody tried to do something new, they ended up being recriminated
  • the result is that likely some other company – most likely a competitor — will end up doing exactly what should have been done

World class innovators don’t fall into this trap. They just do what needs to be done!

 

I did a keynote a few weeks back for a leading North American food company.

It was a highly customized keynote, built around the theme, “Being Agile: How Innovators Thrive in the High Velocity Economy.” I think it took about 5 or 6 conference calls with senior executives at the client as I worked to build my content and insight into their overall theme. They had about 200 of their top executives at the corporate offsite. (This is typical of about 50% of the events I do ; a lot of “corporate off-sites” for Fortune 1000 companies, often at the behest of a CEO).

Agility2015

A quick screen shot of one of my opening slides!

What is “corporate agility” or “business agility”? From my perspective, it involves an organization that has aligned itself so that it can “respond to fast external trends in order to spot opportunity, ward off challenge and align resources for fast success.”

Of course, a good part of my talk focused on the trends in this particular sector that are driving the need for agility; specifically, the rapid emergence of new forms of in-store promotion known as “shopper marketing,” which combines location intelligence, mobile technology and in-store display technology; massive changes to the in-store payment process, including mobile payment involving Apple Pay and the complete elimination of the concept of the cash-register; the emergence of same-day shipping from titans such as Google, Amazon and Walmart; the rapid installation of “click and collect” infrastructure (i.e. an online purchase, with same day pickup at a retail location); faster ‘store fashion’ with rapid evolution of in-store promotion, layout and interaction; the arrival of intelligent packaging and intelligent (“Internet of Things”) products; and collapsing product life-cycles, rapid product obsolescence and the implications on inventory and supply chain! (All of which is covered in depth in a previous retail trends post….). Not to mention all the fast changing consumer, taste, food and social networking trends influencing today’s food purchasing decisions…

How do achieve agility in a fast moving environment? I focused on these issues:

  • structure for execution
  • rebuild your competitive intelligence capabilities
  • watch the “edges”, particular crowdfunding initiaitves in your space
  • abandon tradition – get more projects on the leading edge
  • be decisive – avoid aggressive indecision
  • innovate with structure – form fast teams!
  • enourage entrepreneurial units – spin out units rather than reining them in
  • partner up in unique ways
  • redefine strategic planing – flex it to short term thinking
  • build a culture that supports new ideas
  • challenge decisions
  • rapidly ingest new technology
  • “test and learn”
  • spots trends quicker
  • risk failure faster
  • align different generations on social projects

I spent some time walking through each of these issues in a fair bit of depth; and there is a copious amount of insight on each elsewhere throughout my blog.

And of course, avoid the “innovation killers” — which can shut down opportunities in learning how to be agile!

It was a great keynote talk on agility, and the client was genuinely thrilled.

Agility is a critical issue that organizations need to think about in a world in which the future belongs to those fast….! Here’s a video clip to whet your appetite!

 

Here’s one from the vaults — from a keynote for SAP way back in 2003!

Lots of organizations still suffering from this dread disease 11 years later!

C’mon folks – make a decision! You might find you like it!

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Are you in the right frame of mind to cope with the future? Are you really ready?

Here’s a few questions you can challenge yourself with:

  1. Are your prepared for hyper-innovation and rapid time to market?
  2. Do you actually know what major trends will affect your industry, profession and career in the next five years?
  3. Are you frustrated by the lack of decisiveness that surrounds you, and need to focus your team on the future with passion and purpose?
  4. Have you really come to accept that “volatility is the new normal,” and have you structured yourself to deal with this reality?
  5. Do you really understand how your quickly customers are changing as they take more control of your brand image through the online social networks in which they participate?
  6. Do you really know what will be expected in your job 10 years from now?
  7. Could you define the biggest threat to your company five years out?
  8. Have you thought about where you need to establish new partnerships in order that you can work smarter, better and faster?
  9. Are you ready for a smarter-type-of-thing?
  10. Are you someone who makes things happen — or do you sit back and wonder, “whoah, what happened?”

A good starting list to challenge yourself as the economy begins to move forward!

Back in June, I was invited to open The BigM, a major manufacturing conference held in Detroit; I followed President Obama’s Treasury Secretary, Penny Pritzker on stage.

There were about 1,000 folks in the room – this is a pretty significant conference that is focused on the renaissance that is North American manufacturing.

This is the 3rd clip from that talk — in which I talk about how world class innovators ‘focus on speed.’ The focus on generating revenue where revenue has not existed before; they reinvent their product lines faster; they plan for shorter product life cycles.

Give it a watch — this is the reality of business velocity today!

Whoah! Dude! What Happened?
June 18th, 2014

Ask yourself this question: do you work in an organization that just simply doesn’t get it?

Stressed businessman

In almost every industry, there are situations where the blindness of current market leaders will eventually lead them to their own own “whoah, dude” moment.

Who is oblivious, blind, completely unaware of just how much business model change is occurring out there?

Who you know that one day, wake up and discover that the business model it operated under is forever gone; that new competitors have emerged where there was no competition before; that the pace of change and the speed of innovation has been forever changed as a massive acceleration of new ideas took hold?

Sadly, I see it happen all the time. And here’s what I have learned when it comes to trends and the future: — there are three types of people in the world — and indeed, three types of leaders.

  • those who make things happen
  • those who watch things happen
  • and those who say, “what happened?”

I’ve often pointed this out on stage, and have emphasized the point, by suggesting that the folks who find themselves last on the list sit back and say, “whoah, dude, what happened? Where’d that come from?”

In other words, they’ve been completely blind to the trends which would cause massive upheaval within their industry, or refuse to accept the significant business model disruptions which are already occurring.

Guess what — it’s happening right now in countless industries as technology comes to drive the pace of innovation. In banking, the speed of innovation is shifting from banks to companies like Apple, PayPal and Facebook. In the auto industry, as technology takes over the dashboard, it is companies like Tesla Motors and Google that are defining the future — not auto companies. In the retail sector, the speed of innovation is being set by Amazon and others with their emphasis on massive logistics systems that provide for same day delivery.

I could go on — and the fact is, in almost every industry, there are situations where the blindness of current market leaders will eventually lead them to their own own “whoah, dude” moment.

So let’s make it simple: when it comes to innovation, make sure that you are in the first camp! Make things happen!

What should you do if you make that conscious decision, and are trying to steer your organization into the future?

  • turn forward! establish an overall organizational culture in which everyone is firmly focused on the future while managing the present.
  • change the focus: make sure that you link the corporate mission of today to the major trends and developments that will influence the organization through the coming years;
  • pursue speed: use a leadership style that encourages a culture of agility and allows for a rapid response to sudden change in products, markets, competitive challenges and other business, technological and workplace trends;
  • watch more stuff: establish and encourage an organization-wide “trends radar” in which all staff keep a keen eye on the developments that will affect the organization in the future;
  • share more: make sure that you’ve got a culture of collaboration in which everyone is prepared to share their insight, observations and recommendations with respect to future trends, threats and opportunities;
  • change responsibilities: ensure that staff are regularly encouraged to not only deal with the unique and ongoing challenges of today, but are open and responsive to the new challenges yet to come;
  • take risks: you won’t get anywhere if you don’t make sure that are encouraged to turn future challenges into opportunities, rather than viewing change as a threat to be feared.

I continue to be stunned by how many organizations today continue to be caught flat-footed by the pace of rapid trends that impact them.

It seems like it should be so simple to avoid this.

Yet there likely still lots of “whoah, dude” dudes out there.
Here’s a quick little video hit that fits the theme.

Caught your attention, didn’t I, and you obviously want to point something out to me!

Farmer

“Here’s a good question: when it comes to you, or the organization that work for, what type of farmer are you?”

But now that I have your attention, think about the honourable profession of farming — it’s been around almost since the beginning of time.

And it’s a profession that has involved a lot of trial and error; failure and success; and a heck of a lot of innovation.

Often, during a keynote, I will tell the story that there are really two different types of farmers in the agricultural industry. And I make the point to the audience that their attitude towards innovation should be considered in the light of the attitudes carried by each type of farmer.

The first type of farmer is what we might call the ‘apathetic minority’, who share these attributes:

  • they are not optimistic about the future
  • they tend to seek the “same old advice” from the “same old sources”
  • they have a high intolerance for risk
  • they’re not convinced they can continue to make a comfortable living despite all the contrary evidence
  • they’re skeptical of their potential since they feel they’ve seen too many ups and downs in the industry

Then there is the second group we might call the ‘future positive‘ type of farmer. They share these attributes :

  • they’re quite optimistic about the future
  • they’re very business minded, using all the latest tools and ideas at their disposal
  • they are very innovation oriented, willing to approach everything in a new way with new ideas
  • they are very collaborative for advice, seeking ideas from anyone and everyone
  • they’re often focused on planning, profit, growth, with clear objectives in mind

So here’s a good question: when it comes to you, or the organization that work for, what type of farmer are you?

Here’s a good video clip where I go into this storyline on stage. Enjoy!

With almost 200 video clips on my site, people have been asking me to organize them into manageable chunks.

I’ve finally found a great tool that will help me to do that — the SmartSlider from NextGen. Here’s a quick set of quick clips about innovation — enjoy!