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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! -- Jim Carroll



The last several months have involved a tremendous number of unique, and exhilarating keynote presentations.

Jim Carroll on stage in Dallas, Texas -- with a pink elephant! (He's still not quite sure what it was doing there, but hey, every stage is a different stage!)

Jim Carroll on stage in Dallas, Texas — with a pink elephant! (He’s still not quite sure what it was doing there, but hey, every stage is a different stage!)

Every once in a while I offer up a summary of what I’ve been doing, as it proves to be useful to potential clients who are exploring my services. It also will give you a sense of the tremendous range of talks and topics that I undertake.

Quite simply, I seem to stand out in the industry of futurists and speakers for the really extensive work and customization I put into my talks, as well as the breadth of the unique topics that I take on.

Here’s a sample of just a bit of what I’ve been up to:

  • an opening keynote for the 2016 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, with a focus on the role of technology in helping to grow the game, attract younger players, and improve the player experience. I was on stage after Lee Trevino, and followed later by Bubba Watson. It was a real thrill, and the 2nd time the PGA has brought me in for a major event! You can read more simply by hitting the PGA tag in my Web site.
  • I opened the Sporting and Fitness Industry Association with a talk on trends impacting the future of sports and fitness. It was kind of fascinating to be followed on stage by Roger Goodall, Commissioner of the NFL! There’s on extensive post I wrote post-event – Avoiding the BIG MISS – Will Your Company Be the Same in 10 Years? as well as Trend: The Future of Sports? All Interaction All the Time. And there’s lots more on the future of sports and fitness in that section of my Web site.
  • a keynote for the 2016 Manufacturing in America Summit in Detroit, with a good, hard look at what is a real renaissance in the sector in North America. There were several other manufacturing keynotes along the way, including for QAD (ERP software for manufacturing companies) and the PowderMetal Manufacturing Association. Everyone knows there is a lot of political rhetoric around manufacturing right now (most of it dishonest) and so I am getting a significant number of bookings in this space from people looking for real insight into the challenges and opportunities in the sector. What’s really going on? Read my blog post, Trends: Why Manufacturing Needs to Reinvent Itself – Fast for more, or hit the Manufacturing Trends section for extensive blog posts, video clips from the stage and more on the reality of manufacturing today.
  • Cruise Line International Association, which represents most if not all of the major and minor cruise line organizations in the world, brought me into their annual leaders summit for a talk on innovation and future trends.
  • Johnson and Johnson, Whirlpool/AON Hewitt and other Fortune 1000 organizations had me in to speak at major leadership events on specific industry trends and broad trends involving business model disruption and other issues, built around  the theme, What Do World Class Innovators Do That Others Don’t Do?  The comments back? “We received great feedback about your session.  Attendees found it valuable, insightful, interesting and somewhat terrifying J.  Thank you for being such a great contributor to the event’s success!”
  • three events for key customers of CDW, a major distributor and infrastructure company in the hi-tech space. My talk focused around the future of IT, particularly as a foundation for innovation for high velocity companies. There’s a good synopsis of the topic here — Think Big, Start Small, Scale Fast: Aligning Yourself for the Era of Acceleration
  • the future of agriculture with Reinke Manufacturing ; this is the company that manufactures those giant irrigation wheels you see on farms across North America. In the room were approximately 500 representatives of their dealer network, who were seeking insight on where agriculture goes next. For more, check the agriculture trends section of my Web site, as well as the 10 Trends for Agriculture post, which is undeniably the most popular page on my Web site, as well, it seems, one of the most popular pages on the Internet with respect to the future of agriculture!
  • an invitation-only keynote for leaders of major national and regional veterinary associations, held at the massive National Association of Veterinary Medicine conference in Orlando. My talk took at look at the issues of business model disruption, the impact of social networking on pet care, the rapid evolution of veterinary science and more. I still  have to blog about this one — it was fascinating!
  • a look at the future of automotive, trucking and transportation for the North American leadership team of Volvo/Mac Trucks. This was a repeat performance for the group – it’s always great when they invite you back again! This was a talk around the future of the sector — autonomous vehicles, intelligent highway infrastructure, the end of car ownership and more. I’ve been doing quite a few talks around these topic areas — it’s a hot topic. For more, read my post , Accelerating the Auto Industry — and the Challenge of Change, as well as the Automotive and Transportation section of my Web site — lots of video.
  • APICS — the Association of Professional Inventory Control Specialists, featured me for their annual conference in Las Vegas, with about 3,000 in the room, where I shared the event stage with the legendary Jack Welch, ex-CEO of GE. Read the press release here. I took at a wide ranging look at the future of retail and wholesale, consumer behaviour, shortened product lifecycle, the new state of manufacturing and more!
  • a talk for the senior leadership and legal team for Kiewit. Who are they? One of the largest organizations involved in massive infrastructure and constructions projects, including energy, highways and more. Check the Energy & Infrastructure section for a bit of insight into the topic areas I covered for these folks.
  • PracticeMatch, which is involved in physician recruitment, had me in for a talk that looked at the challenges and opportunities in recruiting the next generation of doctors. Read the blog post I wrote around my keynote – Trend Report: Physician Recruitment in the Era of Digital Intimacy. this is indicative of the type of massive, customized research that I often put into my talks.

That’s scratching the surface!

Going forward, September onwards looks like a lot of fun, with a similar broad range of topics, keynotes for major events, as well as private leadership meetings. Stay tuned!

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.

Investing in experiential capital is one of the most important things you can do.”

When people ask me about the “secrets” of innovative organizations, this is one of the key attributes I outline. They realize they are immersed in a world of fast-paced ideas — and they take on many different projects, some of which are doomed to fail, in order to build the overall experience of the organization.

Innovation is a mindset. Do you have what it takes?

BabyEinstein

“Don’t expect them to subscribe to the same old beliefs as to structure and rules, working hours, and corporate culture, or business models. You won’t survive in their future if you don’t take the time to understand what they are doing, talking about, and thinking.”

Here’s a few simple thoughts on how to get out of your innovation rut!

Reward failure, and tone down the “I told-you-so’s”

Too many people think when times are volatile, that it’s not a good time to focus on big ideas. Not true! Consider history: many people stuck their neck out in the 1990’s and tried out new ways of doing business, new technologies, and innovative methods of dealing with markets and customers. Yet many of those efforts collapsed in spectacular fashion due to the dot.com/technology meltdown, and a dangerous sense of complacency set in. Back then, innovators had to hang their head in shame, and the nervous nellies who dared not innovate reigned supreme! Yet those who took risk excelled — they invented Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram…. When times are volatile and fear reigns, that’s the best time to make big bold moves.

Listen up!

We live in a time of unprecedented feedback and communication – and yet few organizations are prepared to listen! Customers are telling you, loudly, what they want. Young people are defining a future that is different from anything we’ve dealt with before. Competitive intelligence capabilities abound. And yet most or- ganizations ignore these signals, or don’t know how to listen – or even where to look. Organizations should reconsider the many effective ways of building effective digital feedback systems, in order that they can stay on top of fast-changing events, rediscover markets, and define opportunity – which will help them understand how and where they need to innovate.

Let your customers in the building

Don’t just listen to your customers – lead them in through the front door! The vir-tual building, that is. Global connectivity now provides an unprecedented opportunity for interactive design and innovation. Customer-oriented innovation should be your guiding phrase — les customers become intimately involved in the overall design and evolution of your products and services.

Encourage frivolous education

Learning is what most adults will do for a living in the 21st century” – that’s a phrase that neatly captures the reality of the fast pace of change that envelopes us. Yet, how can employees innovate if they are restricted to formal education programs? Why not establish some “playtime” where staff can try out a multitude of new technologies, go shopping in a mall, or surf social networks – and then share what they’ve learned? Set them out onto frivolous activities with a goal in mind – to measure customer service, examine competitive activities, take a look at new products, or simply come up with some cool new ideas. Maybe you’ll get some unique insight that doesn’t come from traditional, boring, staid educational programs!

Promote offbeat time

Don’t stop at sending them to the mall – send them to the beach! Don’t restrict innovation into the organizational structure. Some years back, a mobile device company developed rainbow-colored cell phones, popular with young people, after some executives decided to hang out at the beach one day. It’s by promoting “whacky time” that organizations can come up with great ideas.

Destroy organizational sclerosis

It’s been said before, but needs to be said again – hierarchy is the enemy of inno-vation. Everyone knows that the big challenge in many organizations are silos, uncommunicative departments, and a culture that doesn‘t promote openness. To improve the ability of an organization to innovate, communication barriers need to be broken down.Today, there are countless methods to  destroy “organizational sclerosis,” particularly through frivolous employee communications. Establish informal innovation idea channels, and magic will flow!

Get young.

Throughout the next year, take the time to listen to young people — anyone 10 years younger than yourself, or even more. They’re building the future right now, and you’d do well to understand it. Their future is hyper-active, interactive and multi-tasking – this generation gets bored quickly, and they are beginning to dominate your workplace. They are also becoming your new competitors. Don’t expect them to subscribe to the same old beliefs as to structure and rules, working hours, and corporate culture, or business models. You won’t survive in their future if you don’t take the time to understand what they are doing, talking about, and thinking.

Video: Redefining Innovation
August 8th, 2016

A short, quick clip that will help you to rethink the idea of innovation!

“You have the opportunity to innovate with your business model to do great things!”

 

Video: When Do You Innovate?
August 8th, 2016

When should you focus on innovation?

The high-velocity economy demands that you do things in different ways — how will you ingest future trends to your advantage? A video clip for an audience of 7,000 in Las Vegas!

#brexit #uselection #economicmeltdown

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.