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Innovators check their speed and focus on corporate agility: they know that to keep up with fast paced trends, it’s their ability to quickly act, react and do that will allow their future success. There’s not a lot of time for debate, studying; inertia is abhorred. They simply DO - and do it fast and right the first time -- Jim Carroll



The photo is from an event I did for an insurance company — an industry that is set to be disrupted in a significant way as direct-relationship business models increasingly take hold. I’ve written and spoken about this extensively, such as in my post, Insurance & Innovation – The Challenge of Change.

People are locked into patterns. In big organizations, that routine develops a structure that is often necessary, but which can choke off creativity and innovation. This leads to a disease that I’ve come to call “organizational sclerosis” – which clogs up your ability to respond to rapid change.

How do you get around this? Try to do something new every day – set your mind to it! Take a look at a trend which is impacting you, and rather than worrying about it, take on some type of activity which helps you to confront it.

Sometimes, you just need to push yourself to try to do things you haven’t done before!

So I golf. Not well, but I have goals. Which makes the fact that the PGA of America has invited me in to keynote their organization twice all the much more remarkable.

This shot is from my keynote for the PGA Merchandise Show — I was invited in for a keynote on how technology could be used to help to grow the game. You can watch the entire keynote online. I also led a panel with senior executives from tech companies in the golf industry, including one of the fastest growing and most infleuential in the sport, TopGolf.

I slice often. But not always. And it won’t be forever. So it is with innovation – you can try and fail. Not always. And it won’t be forever if you keep at it!

Each morning since August, I’ve enjoyed my morning coffee while putting together a little future/motivational quote from some of my stage pictures. You can track this over on Instagram; I also tweet them. I’m hoping to put up a few slide shows on my blog as well in the future; some folks find them inspiring and useful.

Today’s thought? “To win in the race to the future, make sure you show up to the starting line!

Here’s the story behind the thought — and ask yourself, what’s your mindset? Are you in an organization that simply does not show up?

Every day, I get email messages and calls from folks seeking to bring me in for a leadership keynote on future trends and innovation. I do about 50 events a year; this week, I was in London, UK, speaking to a global group of Godiva Chocolates and two other global brands, newly combined in one company. (Yes, they gave me a gift basket!)

That’s what I do — I help global organizations discover and think about the disruptive trends which will provide opportunity and challenge in the future. Check my client list — Disney, NASA, Johnson and Johnson, Whirlpool …. I do many events where organizations are actively aligning themselves to fast paced trends.

And yet, in a world in which the future belongs to those who are fast, it’s clear that others would prefer to hide their heads in the sand. They would prefer not to have to think about what comes next. They don’t want to shake their world. They don’t show up to the starting line.

A few weeks ago, I had an exploratory call with a company in the food/consumer products business. They were holding a combined CEO/Board of Directors meeting. A senior VP reached out to me; we had a long conversation (which I actively encourage – call me!) around the issues I would cover; the trends I would delve into; the message I would bring to the table. She knew that the organization needed to some big, bold moves; take some dramatic initiatives; and actively challenge everyone to align their strategy to future trends.

As in many cases, she ran the idea up the flagpole, and got this response, which still floors me to this day:

“It was decided not to include a futurist in our leadership development program. They don’t think it is a good time to do this – it’s not a good time to rock the boat. “

Wow!

As in, “we don’t think its important right now for our board and senior executives to understand the trends that will challenge us …”

At the end of the day, losing one potential client doesn’t really matter. I’ll do my 50 events this year, and will sit back knowing that I’ve done wonderful working in shaping the direction of some of the most fascinating organizations in the world.

But I’ll also wonder, in the back of my mind, how some people can decide that they don’t want to understand what comes next — and decide to not show up at the starting line!

 

It’s that simple.

Here’s a simple list of companies that were once great successes. Then they weren’t: Blockbuster. Borders. Lehman Bros. Kodak. Circuit City. RadioShack. Pan-Am. Enron. E.F. Hutton.RCA. Tower Records. Polaroid. Woolworths. Compaq. Arthur Anderson. 

The list could go on…. companies that were leaders in their time, and then failed, due to a lack of innovation; a failure to adapt; ethical problems; or other factors that could have been avoided.

In the next 10 years, we will see a number of established companies added to the list. Right now, some of them could be making decisions to avoid that fate.

They aren’t.

Here’s some interesting food for thought from a great article on the trend in which every company is becoming a computer company:

“The S&P 500 lists the 500 most valuable companies in the United States. Dick Foster, a McKinsey consultant, studied their average lifespan. It is a sobering tale that reminds just how fast-paced business innovation has become. In 1937, the average tenure of companies on the list was 75 years. By 1960, it was 61 years. In 1980, 37 years. In 2000, 26 years. Today, an average of 15 years.”

If you are a senior executive, you need a serious gut-check. Here you go:

Your chance for longevity and survival is shrinking.

Disruption, business model change, technological transformation is real, and so you have a simple choice: innovate, or die.

On an exploratory conference call with a client, the question came up: “we’ve had speakers before who didn’t really take any time to customize to our audience. Will you?”

If you are investing in a keynote speaker for your annual event or leadership meeting, you need to make sure you aren’t getting some bland, generic talk. You need detailed, customized research.

Click on the image to access 268 pages (PDF form) of the typical type of research I undertake for an upcoming keynote. That is this mornings project! Then ask yourself, “am I making the right decision when I’m seeking someone for my event or leadership meeting? Or should I just pick Jim Carroll?”

That’s my middle name. Have a look at this PDF: 268 pages of tightly focused research on trends impacting retail, including beacon technology, the impact of the Internet of Things, intelligent packaging, active packaging, mobile influencers and more.

This is all prep for a talk I will be doing in a bit of time on future trends in retail for a global leadership meeting of a major food company.

Their goal is to have their folks understand the key trends and opportunities for innovation in their sector. I’d say they are getting that, and then some!

 

At this point in my career, 70% of my keynotes are for leadership meetings, many involving Fortune 1000 organizations. I’m often brought in my a CEO or other senior executive to inspire top leadership to think about the trends that will impact them, and that will provide both opportunity and challenge going forward.

In these events, I often have the chance to listen to the message of the CEO to his or her team. It’s often a chance to understand what organizations are worried about today.

Recently, I spent time with a global Fortune 500. And the senior executive on stage ahead of me made this comment:

We need to become an organization that our customers like to do business with.

That’s a big challenge for legacy organizations, many of whom are my clients: global banks, insurance companies, retailers, organizations with warranty claims systems….

After all, the customer today is used to a world that involves a simple screen like this:

or this….

But when they visit your Web site, they get this!

Today’s customer has a higher bar of expectations: they expect the same level of service from you that they get at Amazon.com. They want:

  • extreme personalization!
  • extreme simplification!
  • a complete interaction history in an instant
  • pro-active notification when changes in their relationship with you occurs
  • instant online support with ticket references for followup
  • and all of this needs to be supported on mobile – NOW!

Innovating with customer service is one of the most important things you can do, and yet one of the most challenging. It involves complex legacy systems, integration with back end databases that run on COBOL! and very difficult development issues.

That’s not to say it can’t be done — and indeed, in this world of increasing expectations, it must be done!

Are you doing enough in your organization to encourage a culture of failure? It not, why not?

Failure is often a prerequisite for success. In other words, many times, you can’t there from here, unless you take a diversion to there…..

That’s an important lesson when it comes to innovation, and it’s always good to keep the idea of failure in mind.

History is littered with examples of massive failures which later led to astonishing success. Consider, for example, the Apple Newton. I remember being given one at an Apple launch event in 1993. I wish I had kept it!

Thinking back, it was an iPhone/iPad long before its time. Yet the Newton failed miserably: it didn’t work well, when it worked at all, and was crazy expensive for it’ feature set. Because of its handwriting analysis capabilities — which really did not work well at all  — Newton was fodder for jokes from late night TV hosts, comic strips, and tech publications. Everyone had a grand old time making fun of the Newton — and of Apple — for bringing to market such a failure!

Years later, Apple would go on to become the world’s largest company with  what some might say is the most successful technological invention of all time, the iPhone. Apple positioned itself for success from failure: many of those who originally worked on the Newton went on to develop the iPhone. They learned a lot from their earlier failure, applying those lessons to succeed the next time around.

That wasn’t the only failure in the orbit of companies that surrounded Apple at the time. NeXT Computers, established by Steve Jobs after being unceremoniously dumped from Apple, was but a running joke to many people, because it failed in the market in a pretty big way.

But the operating system for NeXT became the foundation for OS/X, the operating system at the heart of Apple’s Mac products today.

It gets better. When Apple went to develop the Newton, it couldn’t find a computer chip with the processing power to do the advanced work required of this first PDA (personal digital assistant – remember that phrase?). The result was that they invested in a small chip company, Advanced RiSC Machines —  with a 43% share bought for a $2 million investment.

They sold their share in ARM years later for $800 million. Not a bad return!

And what did they do with that $800 million? It went part way to allowing Apple to buy NeXT form SteveJobs, which led to the reinvention and rebirth  of the company. The largest company in the world!

So … Apple failed with Newton. Steve Jobs failed with NeXT. Two failures led to a massive winner.

Failure. We need more of it!

Innovation? Take risks, and be willing to fail!

Here’s my favourite quote from 2016.

It comes from Tesla Motors, and hence, Elon Musk, in a SEC filing on August 5th, having to do with the Tesla Model 3.

A car that does not yet exist, but which 400, 000 people bought into the idea of (I was one of them!)

We have no experience to date in manufacturing vehicles at the high volumes that we anticipate for Model 3, and to be successful, we will need to develop efficient, automated, low-cost manufacturing capabilities, processes, and supply chains necessary to support such volumes.”

An absolutely fascinating statement if you think about it.

Essentially, we’ve never done this before, but we are going to certainly try!

2017 will be about seeing if Tesla can pull off this bold move. Whatever the case may be, that type of thinking should be oxygen to the ears of anyone focused on disruption and innovation!

I spoke about this on stage for a manufacturing conference in front of a few thousand people in May of this year. Disruption was, perhaps, THE word of 2016. I still find a lot of people don’t really understand what it means, but this video clip puts it into perspective.

While I find myself doing keynotes in Las Vegas, Orlando and Phoenix for audiences of up to 7,000, I also regularly do a whole series of small, CEO or Board meetings that are focused on future trends, strategies and opportunities.

I’m thouroughly enjoying myself while preparing for an upcoming 2017 event in this space; I’ve been retained by an organization that is having an offsite with its leadership team and Board that will be impacted by trends in the automative industry. I’ve had several preparatory calls with the Chairman — he obviously gets the opportunities and challenges of disruption. These include what I call introductory ‘should-we-dance’ calls (‘should we book this guy?’), as well as planing calls now that the event is confirmed.

For a recent conference call, I’ve prepared an outline of my approach. You might find it a good overview if you are looking for a session that would involve similar insight for your senior leadership/Board team!

You can access the Pdf 

For as long as there has been the future, there have been people who don’t like it.

Ogden Nash captured that reality perfect, when he observed that “for some people, progress is great, but its’ gone on way too long.”

With that in mind, here’s a clip from my keynote for the PGA of America annual meeting. I suggest that one day soon, we’ll see golf balls with embedded Webcams. Good, bad? Who knows — but consider what happened when golf carts first appeared on the scene, and then what happened when GPS range finders were introduced to the game!