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Organizations are faced with significant challenges, particularly with the continued impact of globalization, heightened market competition, rapid business model change and the impact of new technologies. They must continually challenge themselves to keep up with rapid change in the business environment in which they operate.


Is your organization getting a tad stale? Try rejuvenating staff by prescribing a dose of newfound creativity – through some innovation oxygen!

When my good friend Scott Kress summited Mount Everest two years ago, he used a little bit of oxygen for the final push. Many climbers do — sometimes you need the extra energy to accomplish something massive! (Scott’s also a speaker, and has a great stage story to tell! When he summited the highest peak in Europe last year, he ended in a hi-jacked Russian plane!)

My good friend Scott Kress at the Summit of Everest in 2009!

So it is with innovation — sometimes you need some help to accomplish great things. Here are some thoughts on how you can kick up your innovation efforts a bit more. Most importantly, the idea is that you can generate a little innovation oxygen by investing in some experiential capital!

What’s the use of innovation oxygen?

It is no secret that we are in an economy that has become far more hurried, complex and uncertain. Things are changing at a furious pace out there – from the products we are selling, to the markets we are selling to, to the attitudes of the customers that we are dealing with. Not to mention challenges with business models, marketing, branding, customer service, new forms of competition — and well, just about everything else!

Faster is the new fast!

In such an environment, a constant, relentless focus on innovative ideas might be the key to helping deal with rapid change. And through innovation, you may discover new opportunities.

This is the perfect time for every organization to put in place what I call “innovation oxygen.” This involves establishing a culture where everyone is actively encouraged to test a new idea.

In other words, everyone needs to inhale.

Oxygen. Innovation oxygen. Breathe it Continue Reading

"We really don't understand it all, and so we aren't going to do anything!"

A few years ago, when I was the closing speaker for the Swiss Innovation Forum in Zurich, I made the observation that many  “organizations fail, because their have failure engrained in their corporate culture!”

Do you?

It can be difficult to try to be innovative in many organizations. Many people with an innovation-oriented mindset often find their enthusiasm stymied when they approach senior management with an initiative. And when their effort is turned back, it can extremely frustrating!

One of the most typical situations today in which we are seeing innovation-dead-in-its-tracks involves the many initiatives that people are pursuing with social networks and/or mobile applications. They know that we live in transformative times in which major changes are occurring with branding, production promotion, customer relationships and just about everything else!

So they set off to build a sophisticated customer-oriented Facebook initiative; they roll out a prototype mobile iPhone app; or they simply get a very basic Twitter feed happening that includes a stream of useful news updates that customers might actually appreciate.

Enthusiastic Continue Reading

We are in the era of big thinking, yet a lot of people have a small outlook.

Consider what leading edge innovation organizations are doing today; they’re prepared to:

  • make big transformations: I’m dealing with several organizations who realize that structured operational activities that are based on a centuries old style of thinking no longer can take them into a future that will demand more agility, flexibility and ability to react in real time to shifting demand. They’re pursuing such strategies as building to demand, rather than building to inventory; or pursuing mass customization projects so that they don’t have to compete in markets based on price.
  • undertake big brand reinforcement: one client, realizing the vast scope and impact of social networking on their brand image, made an across the board decision to boost their overall advertising and marketing spend by 20%, with much of the increase going to online advertising. In addition, a good chunk of existing Continue Reading

What do innovative organizations do? They re-orient themselves for an economy in which their ability to react to fast paced change will increasingly define their success.

In this clip, Jim Carroll outlines Continue Reading

I’ve been quite priviliged through the years to be able to observe, within my global blue chip client base (which includes clients such as the National Australian Bank; Diners Club; HJ Heinz, General Dynamics / Northrop Grumman Nestle), some of the fascinating innovation strategies that market leaders have pursued.

What is it they do? Many of them make big, bold decisions that help to frame their innovative thinking and hence, their active strategies. For example, they:

  • make big bets. In many industries, there are big market and industry transformations that are underway. For example, there’s no doubt that mobile banking is going to be huge, and its going to happen fast with a lot of business model disruption. Innovative financial organizations are willing to make a big bet as to its scope and size, and are innovating at a furious pace to keep up with fast changing technology and even faster evolving customer expectations
  • make big transformations: I’m dealing with several organizations who realize that structured operational activities that are based on a centuries old style of thinking no longer can take them into a future that will demand more agility, Continue Reading

A key innovation message that I spend time with my clients focusing upon involves the concept of “thinking big, starting small, and scaling fast.”

(With all due respect, the thought process comes from a customer-service oriented strategy at McDonald’s many years ago, but it is easily extended to encompass innovation in general.)

What does the message imply:

  • think big: identify the long term transformative trends that will impact you. These could include significant industry change, business model disruption, the emergence of new competitors, product or service transformation; anything. Essentially, you need to get a good grounding in the “big changes” that will impact your future over a five or ten year period
  • start small: from those trends, identify where you might weaknesses in skills, products, structure, capabilities, or depth of team. Pick a number of small, experiential orientated projects to begin to fill in your weak points, and learn about what it is you don’t know. This will give you better depth of insight into what you need to do in order to deal with the transformative trends identified above
  • scale fast: from those small scale projects, determine which areas need to be tackled first in terms of moving forward more aggressively with the future. Develop the ability to take your ‘prototyping’ of skills enhancement from the small scale projects into full fledged operations

It sounds simple, but its’ extraordinarily complex. Having said that, it does give you and your team a good conceptual framework for innovation, and orienting yourself to the trends which will provide you with the greatest opportunities and challenges in the years to come.

How might a company use such thinking? Let’s say you are in the banking industry. You know that mobile, text message, and location-sensitive banking trends are going to have a big impact on you. You know little about what is going. Think about how you might have redefined your customer service out on a ten year basis; where you might see new competitors emerge; and what you need to do to ensure that you stay on top of changing consumer demands. Then start small — take on a number of projects that build up the experience of your team with specific mobile technologies: how quickly can we get financial apps developed? From those ongoing efforts, build up the capability to scale — that is, separating the successes from the failures with these smaller projects, and learning how to quickly roll them out on a national or international basis.

Leave a comment : let me know what you think, suggest or ideas where you’ve seen the concept work!

The return of growth
April 23rd, 2010

My mantra about innovation is that it is always about three questions: how do you run the business better, grow the business, and transform the business. Address those three issues, and you’ve nailed the essence of innovation.

Since the economic downturn, most of my global clients have been focused on the first issue: Continue Reading

jim-carroll-238x300.jpgHere’s a blog post that ran over at the Chicago Hospitality Insider blog with a report on my keynote last week.”

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Moving Beyond The Meltdown” with Jim Carroll
Posted on February 18th, 2010 by Jody Robbins

How is the tourism business impacted by a world where information is passed feverishly around the globe? Immediately and directly; that’s how, says Jim Carroll (Futurist and Trends & Innovation Expert!), today’s lunch-time speaker at Continue Reading

2010WorldClassInnovators.jpgI was in Chicago earlier this week; I had a keynote for the leadership team of a company that’s involved in a sector of the construction industry.

They’ve had some challenges with the economic downturn; they’re also likely to see a resurgence as infrastructure spending kicks in.

But they’re thinking beyond what happens after that — they’re positioning themselves for long term growth — and so they brought me in to stir up some creative thinking as to what they need to do.

The focus of my keynote was the theme: “What is it that world class innovators do that other organizations don’t do?” Here’s some of the insight that I covered.

  1. World class innovators possess a relentless focus on growth: I deal with a lot of CEO’s at a lot of organizations, and in almost every instance, they’ve engaged me because my message of future growth opportunities resonates with their own attitude. In my view, there are unprecedented opportunities for growth in almost every industry. Spend some time on this blog; read my Where’s the Growth overview and other information, and you’ll come away convinced we live in transformative times that offer tremendous opportunities for growth Continue Reading

The chance that your company, markets, competitors will be the same in ten years is virtually zero – so what do you do about that?
2010TenPhrases.png

Here’s 10 phrases I often use to challenge my clients — often CEO’s of large, multinational organizations — to think differently about our fast paced future: