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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



 

Some of the most fascinating organizations in the world have brought me in to encourage their people to think about the future, and how to nurture a culture of creativity and innovation. Organizations like NASA (twice!), Johnson and Johnson, Whirlpool/Maytag, the Walt Disney Corporation and literally hundreds more!

 

One of my key motivational points for my clients has always been this idea.

Many people see a trend and see a threat. Smart people see the same trend and see opportunity

Think about that, and then ask yourself as to how do you keep yourself in an innovative frame of mind.

A good part of it has to do with the company you keep! To that end, I’d suggest that you surround yourself with:

  • optimists. You need to hang out with people who see all kinds of opportunity – not gloomsters who are convinced there is no future out there!
  • people who do. Action oriented people. Folks who accomplish things. Those that do.
  • people with open minds. Innovators aren’t prepared to accept the status quo – they are willing to explore and understand different viewpoints, and use that as a kickoff for creativity.
  • people who have experienced failure. Innovation comes from risk; risk comes from trying things. Try lots of things, and many will fail. That’s good. That builds up experience, which gives you better insight into a fast paced world.
  • oddballs and rebels. Some of the most brilliant thinking and best ideas can come from those who view the world through a different lens. They may seem odd at times, but they can be brilliantly creative.
  • good listeners and debaters. They’re willing to challenge ideas, analyze issues, and think through the possibilities.
  • people who think differently than you do. If you really want to be innovative, go to two conferences a year that have nothing to do with what you do. You’ll be amazed at what you learn, and how it will re-stir your creative juices.

In every single keynote, I focus on future trends and opportunities, and link that to the process and mindset of innovation. I’m an optimist, continually try new things, listen to other people, watch, observe, and listen.

Most important, I refuse to give in to the pervasive negative thinking that so many people seem to envelope themselves within. Maybe that’s why I see so many opportunities in today’s economy.

Think growth!

For close to 25 years, I have been relentlessly studying what makes organizations successful at dealing with the future and innovation. I know why some fail, while others succeed.

In those who fail, there are some common traits :

  • People laugh at new ideas
  • Someone who identifies a problem is shunned
  • Innovation is the privileged practice of a special group
  • The phrase, “you can’t do that because we’ve always done it this way” is used for every new idea
  • No one can remember the last time anyone did anything really cool
  • People think innovation is about R&D
  • People have convinced themselves that competing on price is normal
  • The organization is focused more on process than success
  • There are lots of baby boomers about, and few people younger than 25
  • After any type of surprise — product, market, industry or organizational change — everyone sits back and asks, “wow, where did that come from?”

Innovative companies act differently. In these organizations

  • Ideas flow freely throughout the organization
  • subversion is a virtue
  • success and failure are championed
  • there are many, many leaders who encourage innovative thinking, rather than managers who run a bureaucracy
  • there are creative champions throughout the organization — people who thrive on thinking about how to do things differently
  • ideas get approval and endorsement
  • rather than stating “it can’t be done,” people ask, “how could we do this?”
  • people know that in addition to R&D, innovation is also about ideas about to “run the business better, grow the business and transform the business
  • the word “innovation” is found in most job descriptions as a primary area of responsibility, and a percentage of annual renumeration is based upon achievement of explicitly defined innovation goals

The fact is, every organization should be able to develop innovation as a core virtue — if they aren’t, they certainly won’t survive the rapid rate of change that envelopes us today.

Each day, I post a motivational quote from a stage to my Instagram feed. Follow me and get inspired!

This morning, I suggested that we need more people with a new degree I’ve proposed, that I call the Masters in Business Imagination!

I’ve been proposing this for quite some time, and in fact, back in 2004, wrote the MBI Manifesto. You can read it here, or access the PDF 

I’ve done several keynotes specifically on the MBI theme; indeed, Fairmont/Raffles Hotel International had me in for a senior leadership meeting, to encourage their team to think differently about the future. How did it go?

Thank you for coming to Whistler and speaking to our leadership team. Wow! What a session – we’ve seen a lot of motivational speakers, but you really managed to capture the reality of what we need to do innovate in the context of some pretty dramatic trends and change. Outstanding!

Need a unique keynote? Read on!

Keynote: The Masters in Business Imagination: Motivational Guidance for the Era of Fast!

In an era of dramatic and relentless change, people and organizations are scrambling to align themselves for a new, topsy-turvy world. Jim Carroll comes to the rescue with his keynote, The Masters in Business Imagination which will inspire your team to adopt relentless creativity and innovation as core virtues. Once you ‘graduate’ from his MBI class, you’ll possess the skills common to this critical degree of the 21st century economy, by linking your initiatives to a carefully calibrated curriculum of change-oriented thinking.

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MBI’s see things differently – they don’t look at things like most people. MBI’s spur creativity in other people – they inspire others to develop similar levels of imaginative thinking. They focus on opportunity – not threat, and realize that action, not inaction, is the driving force for the future. They refuse to accept the status quo and are prepared to eliminate habit. MBI’s bring big ideas to life – and paint pictures of where the organization is going to go, rather than focusing on where it has been in the past. They learn and unlearn, forgoing the dangerous assumption that what they know today will carry them into tomorrow. Most important of all, they refuse to say the word CAN’T. They know that barriers, perceived or otherwise, are simply temporary roadblocks that they can get around with fresh insight, imaginative analysis, and creative thinking!

Fire up your enthusiasm, energy and innovation spirt with a unique motivational keynote by futurist Jim Carroll, as he inspires your team to align themselves to the only degree they will need for the future – The Masters in Business Imagination!

“Why did this get me in trouble? The firm I was with had a contract with a large national postal services organization, and it seems the CEO took exception to someone internal promoting the virtues of a whacky new form of communication that could replace paper mail.”

The folks at Postal and Parcel Technology Magazine approached me some months back to write an article about the future of mail in the era of technology, and particularly, e-mail.

I suggested to them that rather than looking forward, why not look to the past for valuable lessons?

Such as, how organizations seem to always react in a negative way to new technologies, new ideas and innovation?

What better way to do so than by writing about the fact that I was almost fired in 1989 (yup, 28 years ago) because of a cover story that I was featured in about electronic mail. And the fact that some folks who had a vested interest in paper mail read the article, didn’t like it, and complained. Kind of loudly. Because they didn’t like change….

The folks at Postal and Parcel loved the idea – and so we ran an article, below.

So what happened in 1989? I wasn’t fired. I ended up quitting the firm some months later, after 10 years, because the senior leadership team couldn’t comprehend my indications that something ‘big’ was happening.

For a few years, I made a lot of money actually consulting to companies on technology. Then I wrote some books (34, actually) about the Internet, and sold about 2 million books. That got me on the speaker circuit. I started speaking about the future. Companies took notice of what I was saying. More and more people and companies noticed, and I soon found myself providing guidance on the future to some fascinating organizations. One day, I found myself in front of some astronauts and astrophysicists at NASA, speaking to them about the future of space, the space industry, and the realities of innovation!

The article — click the image for a full version. Or access the PDF : . Read it below!

 

 

Fright Club
Jim Carroll Explains Why Organizations Should Never Fear Change
Postal and Parcel Technology International, March 2017

In October 1989 I was almost fired from a job with a global professional services firm because of email! Not because of anything I had sent or received, but because I appeared in an office automation magazine extolling the benefits of using electronic mail over regular paper mail.

Why did this get me in trouble? The firm I was with had a contract with a large national postal services organization, and it seems the CEO took exception to someone internal promoting the virtues of a whacky new form of communication that could replace paper mail. After some explaining that I had no nefarious intent, cooler heads prevailed and I kept my job, although I later decided it was developments like email that really interested me, so I became a global futurist and expert on innovation, and today count Disney, NASA and Johnson & Johnson among my clients.

Email is an example of something that forever changed the way we communicate, but as my story shows, there are people who don’t like new technology and the change it represents. But it also makes the point that you have to move beyond that type of thinking if you are to survive.

Over the years, I have spent time with a tremendous number of organizations and have seen some business models decimated by technology – just as others turn the same ideas into an opportunity. Ideally you want to be in the latter camp, but how?

First of all, accept that in the future you won’t even recognize the industry you are operating in. That’s because the rate of business model change is accelerating in every single industry. In 10 years’ time your business model will look nothing like it does today, with a huge disruption most likely to stem from a younger generation with a better grasp of the latest technologies.

Now, the technology they use will probably seem unrelated or irrelevant to your area of business at first, and you may discount it, but the truth will be that if you don’t embrace it, your operation won’t survive. Examples of this type of disruption are occurring right now.

Battling against a culture of innovation can set you upward this. form of organizational sclerosis. It will clog up your ability to pursue new ideas. How do you recognize if you have a problem? There are a few recognizable signs For example, do you laugh at new ideas? Is your organization more focused on process than success/ Is the company culture very much, “Well, this is how we do it because we’ve always done it this way?”

Innovative companies are different. Ideas flow freely throughout the organization, and success and failure are championed. There are many leaders who encourage innovative thinking, rather than magaers who run a bureacracracy, and a number of creative champions who thrive on thinking about how to do things differently. These companies recognize that innovation is also about how to run, grow and transform the business.

The fact is, every organization should be able to develop innovation as a core virtue – if it isn’t, it certainly won’t survive the rapid rate of change that envelopes us today.

I am a big believer that the world of communications and logistics – as found in the postal industry – has a fascinating and marvellous future in this new, fast-paced, virtual/physical economy that is being created. But to do that, you must have an open mind and a willingness to embrace the future.

In other words, don’t fire the messenger. Ask yourself, “What is the messenger really trying to tell us?

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Read the original 1989 article here!

Does your organization have the right stuff to deal with todays’ information-empowered, globally collaborative, we-know-better-than-you-do customer? Probably not!


Imagine that you are a big company. Imagine that you roll out a new piece of software that was supposed to make things better for your customers.

Imagine that it doesn’t do that — and it makes things worse, in that a feature that existed for your best customers has now disappeared. Even worse — those very same customers now have to pay a fee to do what they could previously do for free. In other words, imagine that you’ve broken a customer-system, and you are now penalizing those customers for your mistake.

Imagine this : you’ve tried to make things better, and you’ve only made them worse. Does this happen in the real world? Alarmingly, often. I’m going through this exact type of experience right now with a billion-dollar company that I deal with regularly.

Out of respect — since I think their CEO is a smart guy — I won’t name names. I will, however, offer up my advice on how to respect, not mistreat, your customers. The fact is, in this hyper-connected world, your customers know a lot more about what is going on than you do. If you fail at customer service or customer interaction, it can go public in a big way.

You don’t just need to be excellent in customer relationships – you need to be relentless excellent.

These are the fundamental truths of the new customer relationship.

  1. Fix things fast, because things break fast. As things go wrong, fix them fast. Have a communications plan. Be prepared to reassure the customer quickly. In this new era of hyper-information feedback, don’t let the customer sit and stew for a moment — proactive information and proactive action is the only weapon you have, and you have to use it.
  2. Adopt customer-niceness as a core virtue during the pain period. There are rules and fees and structure that can exist in any customer relationship. But make everyone aware on the team that there are likely some things that are going to have to be waived during the rollout. The core virtue is, “we’re going to be nice to the customer, because we know it is not the customers fault that things have gone wrong.”
  3. Admit that mistakes will happen . It’s ok. It’s the 21st century. Bad things go wrong all the time. Accept that, and use that as a go-forward strategy. “Things will go wrong and we will work to fix them fast” is a better strategy than “we plan on rolling it out and holding our breath that things don’t get messed up.”
  4. Don’t hide from the customers. Customers today can turn on you in an instant. Rumors, stories, misinformation can abound. The customer has a lot of information, and might not always be reading it right — but they can certainly make it go wrong in a hurry. A clear, and open, and honest, reactive strategy with the customer is in your best interest. More communication is the best rule.
  5. Be open. Solicit feedback – get the customers on side. Don’t just rollout new ideas, technologies, services or other things, and hope for the best. Know that there will be problems, issues, and things that will go wrong. Start out on the right foot with the customer base when things go wrong by admitting that you screwed up, and by seeking their input, guidance. The new business world is all a beta — Google gets this, and you should get this too.
  6. Turn customers into fixers. The customer is a new customer. They expect operational excellence, and if they don’t get it off the bat, they are prepared to help fix it. The complexity of a new customer software system can undergo all kinds of testing internally, but some things will never show up until it goes live. That’s why you want to recruit the customer as a problem solver. Turn it from a “bad rollout of new software” into something different, by letting the customer know that you want them to help stress test the system and find the things that aren’t working quite right.
  7. Get everyone inside on the same page. Let everyone throughout the organization know that something new is going to be happening that could cause customer stress. Get them to understand that the new JOB #1 is Customer-Destressification.
  8. Have an escalation plan. As things go wrong, be prepared to pump them up the chain in a hurry. Have a team ready to analyze what the customers are saying, do triage on the big ones, and work them quickly.
  9. Empower people with niceness. Customer-centricity and the instant-age demands that the customer be made happy — quickly. Give staff who have not previously had the authority, the authority to do things to the customer that are nice. That will help to ease the early part of the “pain process.”
  10. Learn from the experience. Learn from this rollout to figure out how to do it better the next time.

In today’s hyper-competitive environment, your customer relationship can be fleeting at best. They often know more about your market than your staff does. Act accordingly, or you look like a fool — and you end up losing customer loyalty.

Many organizations engage me for an offsite CEO or executive session that is focused on how to move the organization forward in a period fast paced change. So it was this client in the hi-tech sector — where I delivered a keynote around the idea of ‘agility’ as a key response to an extremely fast moving industry.

It’s not just in the world of hi-tech that is subjected to extremely fast change – everyone is!

Today, I was scheduled to be in NYC for a leadership meeting for a company in the medical device/supplies industry. The event was cancelled/ postponed due to weather….

My keynote was built on the theme of “collaboration, ac celebration and transformation.”

In other words, to get ahead in the high-velocity business world, organizations need to do 3 things, and do them well:

  • collaborate. Things are happening so fast, we need to focus on how to best shares ideas, insight into customer and external change, and other issues. A connected team is a better team
  • acceleration: we need to move faster, in terms of keeping up with rapidly changing customers, the rapid evolution/change in the products that we sell, the impact of Amazon and other new competitors
  • transformation: our business model is and will continue to be subject to big change — so we need to think how we will evolve it, change it, transform it

We live in a time in which leaders and people need inspiration on how to live and work in a world in which the future belongs to those who are fast.

That’s my job, and that’s what I do!

Those who succeed possess a daring need for speed.

That’s your reality. If you think your world, industry, company, business model, platform, technology or anything else will look the same a year from now — you’re wrong.

What are you going to do about it? Change things. Change things big. Don’t think small – be daring. Start with these ideas – they might be too radical, but maybe they are what is needed.

1. Hire people you don’t like. Otherwise, you have a team that is all the same. You end up with sameness, oneness, a monoculture of thinking that will kill any creativity you might have left.

2.  Stop searching for common ground. Too many people try to accommodate every viewpoint. It’s often a waste of time, since your efforts will lead to a mishmash of a complicated, ugly, unconnected idea. That will fail, in spectacular fashion.

3. Seek the consensus – do the opposite. In fact, to avoid groupthink, see what the group is thinking, and do the opposite thing!

4. Kill the committee. They kill ideas. They stifle creativity. They smother opportunity. They are a blight on the concept of creativity.

5. Find the danger zone – pursue it. You are probably complacent, and so is your team. Avoid that by finding the riskiest path – and do it. Now.

6. Look outside. The answer to your dilemma probably isn’t where you think it is. You won’t find it with the ‘usual suspects.’ It’s hidden, mysterious, out on the edges. Get out of your comfort zone and go find it.

7. Get over yourself. You might not be that bright. No one is. Listen to other people — particularly those who don’t think like you do.

8. Banish excuses. The world is fast. Get over it. You need to do, not find reasons not to  do.

9. Ride the friction. Teams that are in alignment work ok. Angry teams make better teams.

10. Get momentum. Pick up the speed. Kill the calendar. Set bold goals. Get it done yesterday.

11. Stop motivating – start leading. Make the decisions that others are not able to!

12. Go with your gut. Over-analysis will inhibit your ability to do what you know is the right thing.

13. Don’t commit. Maybe you’ll get it wrong the first time around. Try it again. Pivot and re-pivot.

14. Challenge people. They are all unsure about what to do, but want to try, and might have their own unique ideas. Let them try.

15. Don’t fear the results. Learn from them.

What do you think? Tweet to #doitnow

Many people have a belief system that has them convinced that the world of tomorrow will look much like it does today, with the result that when they are confronted by the future, they dismiss it.

Case in point – back in 2006, I was the opening keynote speaker for a conference of telecom and cable engineers. I had about 3,000 of them in the room. One of the trends I outlined was that we would see accelerating innovation in terms of bandwidth capacities, particularly as we innovated in terms of optical fibre technology. I suggested to them, for example, that one day soon we would build a router that would stop light in its tracks, examine its packets, and in doing so, see innovative opportunities that would lead to massive increases in accelerated bandwidth.

Of course, they laughed at me. It’s ok. I get used to it.

Some complained to the conference organizers. “How can you bring in someone with such crazy ideas?” Others voiced their skepticism to an industry publication, which ended up writing an article on my crazy observation, dismissing it entirely.

But wait — after that, a number of leading optical scientists came to my defence, and said my prediction was bang on! You can read the resulting blog post which covers the industry publication, When Light Stops.

Fast forward – this news story a few weeks ago caught my attention. We seem to be getting really good at stopping light! Who would have thought? But that’s not the first story in this regard; I’ve been tracking the trend for years.

Here’s the thing about the future — it’s fast, its huge, and it increasingly involves ideas that once seemed crazy becoming a reality.

If you want to be innovative, focus on the crazy. You just might discover some gems of creativity in there. You’ll discover the future.

And realize the best time to pursue an idea is when other people laugh at it.


Need another example? How about printing solar cells on paper? Crazy idea? Not at all! Here’s a clip in which I’m talking about the fact that at MIT, they are learning how to print solar cells onto paper! Oh, and the whole issue of how we can stop light in its tracks….


Be crazy, think crazy, pursue crazy.

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!