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Disruption



This fall, I’m headling a major retail event in Las Vegas – Xcelerate 2017! Details are here.

 

There’s a lot of change underway – and certainly, the Amazon/Whole Foods situation is a wake up call for everyone. I’ve been speaking about the decline and transformation of traditional retail for over 20 years. In the 1990’s, I even wrote a book about e-commerce that was translated into German and Russian, as well as being picked up and distributed by Visa USA to it merchants.

Retailers must scramble to keep up with fast paced change. Maybe that’s why Godiva Chocolates has had me to Europe twice this year for insight on what’s going on.

Here’s the description for my September keynote.

The Disruption and Reinvention of Retail: Aligning to the World of Speed  

It’s hard to discount the speed of change occurring in the world of retail and consumer products. Consider this: E-commerce could be 25% of the retail – grocery and convenience — experience by 2021. Shopper marketing,” which combines location intelligence, mobile technology and in-store display technology for a new form of in-store promotion, continues to move forward. Mobile payment involving Apple Pay and disappearance of the cash-register, providing opportunity and challenge with loyalty, infrastructure and disruption. Then there is Amazon Alexa, AI and shopping bots! Simply talk and products are added to your shopping cart, and delivered within an hour! Let’s not stop — there’s also the rapid installation of “click and collect” infrastructure (i.e. an online purchase, with same day pickup at a retail location). And last but not least, the arrival of active, intelligent packaging and intelligent (“Internet of Things”) products, collapsing product life-cycles, rapid product obsolescence and the implications on inventory and supply chain!

We are going to see more change in the world of retail in the next 5 year than we have seen in the last 100. Savvy brands, retailers, shopping mall and retail infrastructure companies are working to understand these trends, and what they need to do from an innovation perspective to turn them from challenge to opportunity.  Futurist Jim Carroll will help us to understand the tsunami of change sweeping retail.

When the GAP went looking for a trends and innovation expert to speak to a small, intimate group of senior executives, they chose Jim Carroll. He has been the keynote speaker for some of the largest retail conferences in the world, with audiences of up to 7,000 people in Las Vegas, including Consumer Goods Technology Business & Technology Leadership Conference • Subway • Multi-Unit Franchise Conference Las Vegas • Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit • Consumer Electronics Association CEO Summit • Retail Value Chain Federation • Yum! Brands (KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut) Global Leadership Conference • Burger King Global Franchise Meeting • VIBE (Very Important Beverage Executives) Summit • Manufacturing Jewelers Suppliers of America • National Home Furnishings Association • Do It Best Corporation • US Department of Defence Commissary Agency • Readers Digest Food & Entertainment Group Branding/Retail Summit • Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association • National Association of Truck Stop Operators • Convenience U annual conference • Point of Purchase Advertising International Association • Chain Drug Store Association of Canada • Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors • Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers

 

Here’s the thing. Disruption isn’t just Uber and AirBnB and others. It’s more. It’s fast science, robotics, 3d printing, exponential technology, new materials, big dreamers, the rise of the small and so much more!

Watch this video NOW. Disruption is real, it’s happening now,  is is much bigger than you think!

I spent the morning yesterday with the Board of Directors of a multi-billion dollar credit union, taking a good hard look at the trends sweeping the financial services space. They know that disruption is real, and that it is happening now.

And disruption is everywhere: every business, and every industry is  being redefined at blinding speed by technology, globalization, the rapid emergence of new competitors, new forms of collaborative global R&D, and countless other challenges.


The speed with which these changes occur are now being increasingly driven by he arrival of a younger, more entrepreneurial generation; a group that seems determined to change the world to reflect their ideas and concept of opportunity. They’ve grown up networked, wired, and are collaborative in ways that no previous generation seems to be.

And therein lies the challenge.

Most organizations are bound up in traditions, process, certain defined ways of doing things — rules — that have helped them succeed in the past. Over time, they have developed a corporate culture which might have worked at the slower paced world of the past — but now has them on the sick-bed, suffering from an organizational sclerosis that clogs up their ability to try to do anything new.

Those very things which worked for them in the past might be the anchors that could now hold them back as the future rushes at them with ever increasing speed.

They are being challenged in a fundamental way by those who think big, and by some really big, transformative trends.

How to cope with accelerating change?  Think big, start small and scale fast!

I’m doing many keynotes in which I outline the major trends and opportunities that come from “thinking big, starting small, and scaling fast,” by addressing some of the fundamental changes that are underway.

1. Entire industries are going “upside down”

One thing you need to know is this: entire industries are being flipped on their back by some pretty big trends.

Consider the world of health care. Essentially, today, it’s a system in which we fix people after they become sick. You come down with some type of medical condition; your doctor does a diagnosis, and a form of treatment is put in place. That’s overly simplifying things, but essentially that is how it works.

Yet that is going to change in a pretty fundamental way with genomic, or DNA based medicine. It takes us into a world in which we can more easily understand what health conditions are you susceptible or at risk for throughout your life. It moves us from a world in which we fix you after you are sick — to one in which we know what you are likely to become sick with, and come up with a course of action before things go wrong. That’s a pretty BIG and pretty fundamental change. I like to say that the system is going “upside down.”

So it is with the automotive and transport industry. One day, most people drove their own cars. One day in the future, cars will do much of the driving on their own. That’s a pretty change — sort of the reverse, or upside-down, from how it use to be.

Or think about education: at one time, most people went to the place where education is delivered. But with the massive explosion of connectivity and new education delivery methods involving technology, an increasing number of people are in a situation where education is delivered to them. That’s upside down too!

You can go through any industry and see similar signs. That’s a lot of opportunity for big change.

2. Moore’s law – everywhere!

Another big trend that is driving a lot of change comes about as technology takes over the rate of change in the industry.

Going forward, every single industry, from health care to agriculture to insurance and banking, will find out that change will start to come at the speed of Moore’s law — a speed of change that is MUCH faster than they are used too. (Remember, Moore’s law explains that roughly, the processing power of a computer chip doubles every 18 months while its cost cuts in half. It provides for the pretty extreme exponential growth curve we see with a lot of consumer and computer technology today.)

Back to health care. We know that genomic medicine is moving us from a world in which we fix people after they are sick – to one where we know what they will likely become sick with as a result of DNA testing. But now kick in the impact of Moore’s law, as Silicon Valley takes over the pace of development of the genomic sequencing machines. It took $3 billion to sequence the first genome, which by 2009 had dropped to $100,000. It’s said that by mid-summer, the cost had dropped to under $10,000, and by the end of the year, $1,000. In just a few years, you’ll be able to go to a local Source by Circuit City and buy a little $5 genomic sequencer – and one day, such a device will cost just a few pennies.

The collapsing cost and increasing sophistication of these machines portends a revolution in the world of health care. Similar trends are occurring elsewhere – in every single industry, we know one thing: that Moore’s law rules!

3. Loss of the control of the pace of innovation

What happens when Moore’s law appears in every industry? Accelerating change, and massive business model disruption as staid, slow moving organizations struggle to keep up with faster paced technology upstarts.

Consider the world of car insurance — we are witnessing a flood of GPS based driver monitoring technologies that measure your speed, acceleration and whether you are stopping at all the stop signs. Show good driving behaviour, and you’ll get a rebate on your insurance. It’s happening in banking, with the the imminent emergence of the digital wallet and the trend in which your cell phone becomes a credit card.

In both cases, large, stodgy, slow insurance companies and banks that move like molasses will have to struggle to fine tune their ability to innovate and keep up : they’re not used to working at the same fast pace as technology companies.

Not only that, while they work to get their innovation agenda on track, they’ll realize with horror that its really hard to compete with companies like Google, PayPal, Facebook, and Apple — all of whom compete at the speed of light.

It should make for lots of fun!

4.  “Follow the leader” business methodologies

We’re also witnessing the more rapid emergence of new ways of doing business, and it’s leading us to a time in which companies have to instantly be able to copy any move by their competition – or risk falling behind.

For example, think about what is going on in retail, with one major trend defining the future: the Apple checkout process. Given what they’ve done, it seems to be all of a sudden, cash registers seemed to become obsolete. And if you take a look around, you’ll notice a trend in which a lot of other retailers are scrambling to duplicate the process, trying to link themselves to the cool Apple cachet.

That’s the new reality in the world of business — pacesetters today can swiftly and suddenly change the pace and structure of an industry, and other competitors have to scramble to keep up.  Consider this scenario: Amazon announces a same day delivery in some major centres. Google and Walmart almost immediately jump on board. And in just a short time, retailers in every major city are going to have be able to play the same game!

Fast format change, instant business model implementation, rapid fire strategic moves. That’s the new reality for business, and it’s the innovators who will adapt.

5. All interaction — all the time!

If there is one other major trend that is defining the world of retail and shopping, take a look at all the big television screens scattered all over the store! We’re entering the era of constant video bombardment in the retail space. How fast is the trend towards constant interaction evolving? Consider the comments by

Ron Boire, the new Chief Marketing Officer for Sears in the US (and former chief executive of Brookstone Inc.): “My focus will really be on creating more and better theatre in the stores.”

We are going to see a linking of this ‘in-store theatre’ with our mobile devices and our social networking relationships. Our Facebook app for a store brand (or the fact we’ve ‘liked’ the brand) will know we’re in the store, causing a a customized commercial to run, offering us a personalized product promotion with a  hefty discount. This type of scenario will be here faster than you think!

6. Products reinvented

Smart entrepreneurs have long realized something that few others have clued into : the future of products is all about enhancement through intelligence and connectivity. Nail those two aspects, and you suddenly sell an old product at significantly higher new prices.

Consider the NEST Learning Thermostat. It’s design is uber-cutting edge, and was in fact dreamed up by one of the key designers of the iPad. It looks cool, it’s smart, connected, and there’s an App for that! Then there is a Phillips Hue Smart LED Lightbulb, a $69 light bulb that is uber-smart, connected, and can be controlled from your mobile device. Both are sold at the Apple store!

Or take a look at the Whitings Wi-Fi Body Scale. Splash a bit of design onto the concept of a home weigh scale, build it with connectivity, link it to some cool online graphs and you’ve got a device that will take your daily weight, BMI and body-fat-mass tracking into a real motivational tool.  Where is it sold? Why, at the Apple store too!

Do you notice a trend here?

7. Careers reinvented

For those who that the post-2008 North American recovery from the recession was slow, here’s an open secret: there was a significant economic recovery underway for quite some time, as companies in every sector ranging from manufacturing to agriculture worked hard to reinvent themselves. It just didn’t involve a lot of new jobs, because the knowledge required to do a new job in today’s economy is pretty complex. We’ve moved quickly from the economy of menial, brute force jobs to new careers that require a lot of high level skill. The trend has been underway for a long, long time.

Consider the North American manufacturing sector, a true renaissance industry if there ever was one! Smart engineers at a wide variety of manufacturing organizations have transformed process to such a degree, and involved the use of such sophisticated robotic technology, that the economic recovery in this sector involves workers who have to master a lot of new knowledge. One client observed of their manufacturing staff: “The education level of our workforce has increased so much….The machinists in this industry do trigonometry in their heads.”

Similar skills transitions are underway in a wide variety of other industries….

8. The Rise of the Small over Incumbents

We are living in the era that involves the end of incumbency. Companies aren’t assured that they will own the marketplace and industry they operate within because of past success ; they’ll have to continually re-prove themselves through innovation.

Consider Square, the small little device that lets your iPhone become a credit card. What a fascinating little concept that has such big potential for disruption. And it’s a case where once again, small little upstarts are causing turmoil, disruption and competitive challenge in larger industries — and often times, the incumbents are too slow to react.

Anyone who has ever tried to get a Merchant Account from Visa, MasterCard or American Express in order to accept credit cards knows that it is likely trying to pull teeth from a pen – many folks just give up in exasperation. Square, on the other hand, will send you this little device for free (or you can pick one up at the Apple Store.) Link it to your bank account, and you’re in business.

So while credit card companies have been trying to figure out the complexities of the future of their industry, a small little company comes along and just does something magical! No complexities, no challenges, no problems.

* * * *
There are people who are making big bold bets, big bold decisions, who are going to change the world and who are going to do things differently.” That phrase was from my opening keynote for the Accenture International Utilities and Energy Conference in San Francisco some years back.

It’s a good sentiment, and is a good way to think about the idea of ‘thinking big.’

In the 1990’s, when e-commerce arrived on the scene, someone thought it would be a good idea to allow you to buy a coffin online.

The funeral industry fought back — after all, they had margins and business models to protect.

Of course, that failed. Today, you can buy a coffin online. (Which begs the question — if you buy it advance, what do you do with it? Stick it in the living room for now and use it as a coffee table?)

Then came Napster, and with it, outright music theft through sharing. Yet at the same time, folks experimented with business models involving the sale or licensing of music via digital music files. The music industry fought against that — they essentially fought a war against the idea of digital media.

How did their battle against the future turn out? Not well — eventually Apple came along with iTunes and a business model that worked. It took a while, but the music companies eventually figured out they had to adapt and align to the future, rather than fight it.

History has a nasty tendency of repeating itself, and legacy companies keep making the same mistakes. So it is with GM and self-driving car technology today. It seems they would rather fight the future than be a full participant in it.

GM thinks that only established car companies should be able to innovate in the self-driving car space. Is GM the new RIAA, fighting the same battle that the music industry tried to fight against digital music files?

The company is busy battling back against the disruptors and upstarts, trying to suggest only established car companies should be able to innovate in the space:

With states seizing the initiative on shaping the future of self-driving cars, General Motors is trying to persuade lawmakers across the country to approve rules that would benefit the automaker while potentially keeping its competitors off the road. ” New York Times, February 23, 2017

In other words GM is doing the same thing that the funeral and music industries did in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

How do you think this will end up?

Two key points come from this:

  • GM deserves to fail with these efforts. You don’t innovate through legal action on innovation.  Where’s the CEO on this? What type of message does this send to the organization on its innovation efforts? Is it so far behind in the race that it believes the only way it can win is by sending in the lawyers?
  • the lesson for anyone else is this: disruption, the future and business model change happens. Deal with it through innovation and aligning yourself to the future, rather than trying to protect the status quo
    there should be a lesson for anyone

The funny thing about the future is this: it happens, whether you like it or not. It’s better for you to participate in it rather than fighting it.

#GMFAIL

My job as a futurist has me doing an increasing number of CEO level events for Fortune 500 companies around the world, helping at leadership meetings which are focused on the massive transformations and disruption occurring in every single industry.

Disruption is real, it’s big, and it’s happening faster than you think.

Here’s what you need to think about today, as the pace of change picks up:

1. Multiple trends merge. At no other time in the world of business have we seen so many trends come together all at once. Computers, exponentiating bandwidth, connectivity, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, robotics, neural networks, deep analytics, autonomous vehicles, self-learning systems. All of these trends and more are merging together,  leading to a massively new, connected, intelligent machine that will transform, change, challenge and disrupt every industry. As this happens….

2 Every company becomes a software company. From healthcare, home appliances to automotive, manufacturing to packaging, retail to sports & fitness, energy to agriculture: every industry is seeing massive change as it becomes enabled, challenged and transformed by technology and connectivity. From precision agriculture to self-driving cars, smart clothing to connected microwaves, remote medical monitoring devices to active packaging  — every company in every industry is becoming a computer company, with software and technology at its heart and soul. What this means is that …..

3. Velocity accelerates and speed defines success. Moore’s law — the rule that defines that the processing power of a computer chip constantly increases while the cost collapses at an exponential rate — is coming to drive the speed of innovation in every single industry. Companies are having to innovate and transform at a pace never seen before. Some can do it, and others can’t, which leads to the new rule in the economy that….

4. Small beats big. Agility and speed are the new metrics for success. Big organizations are often encumbered by legacy, and are suffering from the disease of  organizational sclerosis. New, aggressive upstarts can move faster, with the result that they can make decisions that provide for big disruption and challenge. In their world….

5. Edge thinking dominates. These small upstarts don’t follow long-established ‘rules’ for changing the future. To move faster, they source ideas and inspiration through crowd-thinking, raise their funds through crowd-funding, and prototype products through 3D printing and other fast-to-market methodologies. Global R&D has moved from massive labs to globally dispersed idea factories. The result of this trend is that ….

6. Ideas accelerate. In every field, the pace of innovation and discovery is speeding up to an unprecedented level. What use to seem like science fiction just a few years ago is todays’ reality. In such an environment …

7. Big, bold thinking predominates. We are seeing the emergence of an entire world of big dreamers and doers, individuals who dare to challenge the orthodox, and abandon routines. The concept of the ‘moonshot’ is no longer restricted to those with deep pockets — but is oxygen for those with big ideas. To get their fast, they realize that….

8. Skills access is the new gold. Did you notice Ford paid $1 billion to get access to some experts in self-driving car technology? Enough said. Those who can access the skills in trend #1 above win. We’re in a global war for niche talent, and that pretty much defines a critical strategy for the future. If it is all about skills, then success involves a strategy in which ….

9. Experience is oxygen. There’s no time to learn, to study, to plan. It’s time to figure out what you don’t know, and do the things that are necessary to begin to know about it. Experiential capital is the new capital for the 21st century. To get there, you need to know that….

10. Action is the best reaction. If you don’t disrupt, you will be disrupted. It’s your ability to quickly act, react and do that will allow for future success. There’s not a lot of time for debate, studying; inertia is abhorred. Simply DO. That should be you.

Remember that song by the Who? “I hope I die before I get old!”

You better change before you can’t.

You might be obsolete before you know it.

Quit talking about disruption.

Do something about 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!

 

I have been providing my insight, and have been speaking to organizations about the future, for more than 25 years.

Over the years, I have come to realize that while the majority of my audience appreciates a whirlwind ride into the future, there are others who just wish the future would go away.

I used to worry and obsess over this challenge, often leaving a stage wondering why I wasn’t able to get through to everyone. Then years ago, I realized that no matter what I do, there will always be a core group who prefer the status quo. They fall prey to the sentiment of Ogden Nash: “progress is great, but its gone on way too long.”

This issue and challenge has become more pronounced and visible in the last year. And a recent event demonstrates to me that leaders today must work harder to deal with, manage and confront the internal conflict that exists over how to deal with the fast future.

Since I’m on a Jetsons’ theme this year with many of keynotes (Keynote: The Jetsons Have Arrived 50 Years Early: What are YOU Going to Do About it?) , I thought that the image below beset captures the nature of challenge!

Leaders today must steer their organization into a fast paced future — through the shoals of disruption, the emergence of new competitors, technology, automation and other challenges — while understanding that there is a core group that will do little to embrace that change. It’s the Flintstones and the Jetsons, in one workplace!

I’m having quite a bit of fun watching the movie in which the Jetsons meet the Flintstones. Consider what is happening with the acceleration of the automotive industry: self-driving cars, intelligent highways, prognostic self-diagnosing vehicles. The industry will be barely recognizable in 10 years! Cars tomorrow will be barely recognizable compared to what we drive today.

And yet, there remain folks who just refuse to participate in the inevitability of the future, and that can be a significant leadership, strategic challenge.

The issue became crystal clear to me with a recent keynote. Anyone familiar with my keynotes knows that I do a variety of text message polls while on stage, whether in front of a few thousand in Vegas or with a small executive group of 15 or 20. It’s a fun, interactive way to get insight from those I am working with.

I started out with my opening poll, after I spoke briefly about the fast trends that envelop our world. The response is typical : most people today feel that the world is moving way too fast for them! Fair enough — the pace of change is overwhelming.

My next question, before I dove into the issues of business model disruption and innovation? A question asking them if they thought their industry would see much change.

Not at all, indicated 40%! In 10 years, things would be the same as they would today. To be honest, this left me kind of stunned. It’s not the typical response.

 

In my wrap up, I asked the audience what barriers might exist in the way of dealing with change? And the answers here were untypical of the many hundreds of such polls I’ve done, with a majority indicating a belief that it isn’t necessary to do anything!

What are we left with? An organization that feels overwhelmed by change; in which almost half this change won’t impact them, and that they didn’t really need to do anhyting to deal with it.

In other words, the future can be safely ignored.

I started using the Jetsons-Meets-the-Flintstones cartoon as a joke; a bit of ill-conceived humour on some recent political events. But it’s not a joke, and this is a real and substantive leadership issue.

As a CEO or senior executive, how are you going to align a fast paced future — one full of challenge and opportunity — to an organization where a significant number of people don’t think that the future will impact them?

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For over 20 years, I’ve been working with numerous speakers bureaus around the world. These are the folks who have booked me into numerous associations, Fortune 500 or others events. I have relationships with most of the majors – the same folks who book Presidents, Prime Ministers, sports figures and celebrities into countless events worldwide.

And I’m always happy to say that I a very close and tight working relationship with all of them. They are often the experts in helping organizations to discover the right speaker with the right content for the right purpose – experts in their field.

One of these bureaus is GDA Speakers, a group in Dallas who have been around the industry for over 20 years. Gail Davis established the organization almost by accident. (It’s a really compelling story which you can read here). They’ve booked me into numerous events — and given my inclination for golf, the fact that they booked me into the PGA of America and into an event at St. Andrews, Scotland, they are pretty dear to my heart!

GDA recently launched a series of podcasts with many of the people they represent, and I was thrilled to be part of their launch week. They are covering a regular stream of topics and issues, and there is some pretty compelling stuff. It’s available online at their site, gdapodcast.com (and Twitter, @gdapodcast). Visit and have a look at some of the interviews so far, and they are only into week 2!

You can listen to my podcast here, and read the full transcript on that page.

What’s really cool about this project is that its a combined initiative of Gail and her son Kyle. He’s worked in the tech space, including a stint at Square in San Francisco, but is now working with his mom to bring great content to the world in new and innovative ways.

I don’t know about you, but I always think its cool when a mom and son are working together, particularly on digital projects!

Here are two extracts. Listen to the podcast, subscribe to the series via iTunes, and open up your mind to opportunities!

  Well, the easiest example is probably what could potentially, and what is already happening with energy. The idea is that you’ve got some backyard energy. You’re generating solar, wind, whatever type of energy. I’ve got my energy, solar, wind, and just as we’ve shared music in the early days of Napster, we’re going to share energy. We’ll create our own little… We’ll call it a microgrid, little community energy grid in which we’re sharing the energy we generate. Well, we tap into that and we link into that backyard weather sensors, local weather sensors, and we’re feeding in weather information from other sources, which helps us to understand when we can best generate solar, or wind, or other energy. Not only do we have these individual intelligent devices in our homes, but they’re starting to network to each other. They’re starting to talk to each other, so they become their own little intelligent system that can better predict when should we be generating energy and take ourselves off the main grid so that we’re becoming most efficient in terms of what we do.

    The second example, vehicle to vehicle communications. Everybody’s talking about self-driving cars. Obviously there’s a lot happening there, but there’s a lot of other stuff that is underway as well. The concept is, my car is going down the highway and it’s not only self-driving, but it’s got the capability to talk to intelligent sensors that are embedded in the roadway, so the intelligent highway infrastructure begins to emerge. Not only that, my car can talk to your car, can talk to other cars with telemetry, radar, and other technologies so that we’re all acting sort of together as one. We’re not just becoming single vehicles going down the highway, but we’re vehicles that are traveling together. We’re aware of where every other vehicle is. We’re aware of conditions on the road, not only within the next 100 feet, but within the next two miles. That’s a very good example of an intelligent connected system, and that’s the obvious next step of what’s going to happen with the internet of things. There’s just tremendous technological advances like this that are underway.

17 Trends for 2017
December 19th, 2016

What are the trends I’m watching as we head into 2017?

In 2017, low-tech innovation will gain increasing attention as the marvel of ‘smart things’ begins to wear off, and people realize that many smart things are really ‘dumb things.

Far too many; indeed, the list is almost too long to consider. I’ve got keynotes, leadership or Board meetings in almost every sector in the coming months: transportation, construction, healthcare, retail, automotive, advanced materials and manufacturing, agriculture, insurance … the list goes on and on.

And that’s just with the confirmed bookings for the early part of the year!

This means that at any one time, I’ve got big stacks of research material on my desk as I delve into key trends and issues impacting my clients. I’m often engaged by CEO’s or association leaders to come into their organizations with concise, detailed research on the key issues that will come to impact them in the coming year. I don’t just show up and do a canned keynote: I provide some pretty detailed insight.

Given that, it’s always difficult to prepare a comprehensive trends overview – there is just so much going on! But to give you a sense of what is happening here’s a fun little list of “17 trends for 2017!”

Some of the things I am watching include the following:

1. 4D Printing:  3D printing is already so yesterday. In fact, while it’s getting a lot of attention, it’s actually 30 years old. And yes, it’s got a long way to go in terms of its real adoption and impact; it’s barely scratched the surface in the world of manufacturing.  But the newest buzz is around 4D printing, or what we might call ‘customizable’ smart materials.‘ It’s the printing of an item that can change shape depending on particular conditions: a good example is a pipe that might change its size depending on the volume of water or other liquid flowing through it. It’s pretty new, involves a lot of advanced science, and has caught the imagination and attention of innovators worldwide. It’s a real game changer.

2. Amazonification of Industries: Amazon has everyone in its crosshairs as it moves beyond the sale of hard products. This include the home repair/renovation business, to optometrists or heading specialists, to automotive repair. Amazon isn’t just about selling goods — increasingly, it’s about selling the services that go with those goods. And if your industry is targeted by Amazon, you’re faced with the stark choice of a race to the bottom, forced to compete on price — or figuring out some other business model. I’m being retained by an increasing number of CEO’s or other senior executives in a wide variety of industries to come in for a talk on innovation strategies to deal with the realty of what to do when Amazon chooses to compete with you. Amazonification is real, and will pick up speed throughout 2017.

3. The Impact of Generational Time Shifting. Baby boomers are living longer and retiring later. Millennials are marrying later, having kids later, and buying houses later. The next generation moves out of their parents homes later.  Take a look around, and whatever the case may be, people are doing things later in life than they used to! The implications throughout the economy and on every single industry are pretty profound: this time-shift challenges business assumptions, brand messaging, and in some cases, the very nature of the product or service being sold. If you don’t understand the impact on your business, you better take some time to do so.

4. The expectation gap: This is a huge issue for 2017, obviously, but people aren’t really thinking about what to do with it. Quite simply, people have developed expectations that won’t be met. The gap has always been there, but it is evident that it is growing! For examples, consider the perception that people have with respect to the payout that their pension plans will provide them in their retirement years, and the likely payout that they will actually receive. People expect a cleaner environment, and  yet seem to continue to insist on driving large, gas guzzling SUV’s and high performance cars. People want smaller “big government” but don’t want to see any of their sacred government spending programs to be touched. They want top-notch healthcare, but don’t want to have to pay for it. They expect to be able to ‘live large,’ but don’t think that they will be impacted by the resultant lifestyle dieseases of diabetes, hypertension and more. The expectation gap will become more profound throughout 2017 as the political juggernaut of 2016 continues to play out in the US, the UK and elsewhere.

5. Ransomware of things. If you thought Internet-of-Things denial of service attacks were bad, wait until you start seeing the impact of this trend. We’ll see the emergence of fascinating new hack attacks in which someone will be able to take control of an entire range of Internet connected devices from one manufacturer — home thermostats, house alarms or other smart devices – and prevent them from operating until some type of ransomware fee is paid. Oh, the lawyers are going to make a lot of negligence-money from this trend!

6. Prognostic diagnostics takes centre stage: While autonomous and self-driving vehicles are all the rage, an equally important transformation is underway. That’s the fact that hyper connectivity (aka the Internet of Things) brings companies the ability to diagnose things from afar. It means that transportation, utility, appliance, and other companies can understand and determine when particular products are going to break down or require maintenance. That changes business models, since they are no longer restricted to selling just a physical ‘thing’, but a service. Guaranteed uptime becomes a major selling feature; skills retraining is necessary; marketing/branding messages undergo change.

7. Gadgets get dumb: In 2017, low-tech innovation will gain increasing attention as the marvel of ‘smart things’ begins to wear off. People are beginning to realize that many smart things are really ‘dumb things’ because of bad design. They’ll  begin to rebel or lose interest in many aspects of the Internet of Things, and all the complexities that comes from making devices connect, work, sync and generally, behave. In addition, the trend will be driven by a desire to come up with simple solutions to the complex problems of the third world, where simplicity, low cost, and un-connectedness are the driving factors for design. This means that we can expect innovations with water, small scale energy production, and other areas, which will flow back into the Western world. Combine both of these issues, and maybe the era of hi-tech gadgetry will begin to slow or be supplanted by simple, dumb things.

8. Micro-personalization. We’ll witness the acceleration of the trend to the world of ‘you.’ One size solutions that don’t ‘fit-all’, but fit you. Think, for example, about advances in genomic medicine that allow for engineering of medical treatments for particular genetic profiles – a trend that is closer to reality as a result of the ongoing reduction in cost of genomic sequencing. Retail stores will speed up their adoption of location and in-store technology that will deliver a highly personalized shopping experience.  Personal concierge service will become all the rage as the elite-service concepts of the airline industry become mainstream in health care and other industries. In 2017, smart companies will realize ‘it’s all about you, and discover significant business opportunity in doing so.

9. “Exercise is medicine” is the new medicine: in which physical therapy becomes a formalized part of medical treatment programs. This will include prescriptions written by doctors that provide for treatment by fitness professionals. The goal of EIM is to slow, stop or reverse the progression of chronic diseases: and as those diseases and the resultant cost accelerates, innovative programs around EiM will pick up speed.

10. Collaborative careers take over. With ongoing specialization of knowledge, organizations will find that they will have to spend more time simply coordinating access to knowledge. The trend is already playing out in health care: one study found that physicians believe they will send more time on leading teams and coordinating care, than on the delivery of care directly by themselves! This trend will pick up speed for many reasons, not the least of which is digitization, as tech comes to accelerate the complexity of many industries.

11. Green China: in 2017, the environment will be under siege: the new political reality will likely result in a pushback against anything environmental in the US. A new of uncertainty  will drive away investment. The result? Many of the next wave innovations with wind, solar, tidal and other alternative forms of energy will come from a most unsurprising source: China!

12. UI Supremacy. As dumb-devices take centre stage, innovators will work to reverse the trend through better design. User interface design will be HOT, and one of the most in-demand skills going forward! Think about it: in many industries, the first efforts into the world of smart things resulted in some pretty stupid devices! Have you ever tried to use a smart-TV? Infuriating, isn’t it – since there is nothing smart about their ease-of-use at all. Consider this too: most car companies have failed in developing simple, easy to use dashboard systems, but Tesla has not. Result? The iPad design concept will increasingly dominate automotive and other forms of product design. NEST-style thermostat thinking will come to drive the design of residential, commercial and industrial appliances. In store kiosks, self-checkouts and other systems will be rebuilt from the ground up by innovative companies that recognize that good UI is the new winning formula for success. Easy, clean interfaces are in; clunky retrofits are out. Related trend? Upgradability defines future success!

13. The Yottabit era. It’s said that a self-driving car is capturing and processing 7 terabytes of data per hour !That’s a huge amount of information, and is indicative of the fact that the big shift in transportation is that cars are essentially just becoming computers on wheels. The typical truck today contains more technology than a Cessna airplane, and generates massive amounts of logistics, maintenance and other data. It’s not just self-driving cars or connected trucks — as every device becomes a computer device, volumes of data grow at a furious pace. We’re entering yottabit territory, a phrase that I wrote about way back in 1999. (Check out who owns yottabits.com). The exponentiation of data generation doesn’t just mean big data : companies will be dealing with massive data sets, and have to figure out what to do with it. Data-farming will be the new form of analytical insight!

14IoIT takes over from IOT – Connected intelligence is the new AI, as the Intelligent-Internet-of-Things takes over from boring old Internet-of-Things devices. Quite simply, smart devices become smarter by talking to other smart devices. As they do so, insight gained from connectivity comes to redefine the future of the product. Consider this simple idea: a Cadillac CTS sports sedan can share information with other vehicles about  weather, speed, accidents, as well as their own status (breaking, accelerating, etc). That changes the very nature of what the vehicle is, and provides big opportunities for innovation. In the auto-sector, we can expect a lot of advances in this field, known as V2V (or Vehicle to Vehicle communication) . That’s but one industry — what happens when thermostats in a region can talk to other thermostats and online weather sensors, and come to figure out what they should be doing in terms of heating or cooling activities? Or when health care monitoring technologies can determine the emergence of a flu outbreak, and network with other devices to build a predictive analytical healthcare dashboard?

15. Chief Robotics Officers / Chief Automation Officers . According to IDC, 30% of tech and companies in the automation space will fill such a position in the coming year. Automation is all the rage, with many dire predictions on the impact on jobs and careers. But there is more to it than that, with the result that as robotics and automation continues to be deployed after in manufacturing, travel, transportation, retail and elsewhere, companies will come to discover that they will need a senior executive position to strategize, manage and deploy such technologies.

16. Same Day Infrastructure Hubs: As ‘same day’ becomes a regular part of our daily lives, more companies will invest in the infrastructure required to support it. It won’t involve just the same day shipping of goods. For example, the trend for same food delivery is leading to the emergence of commercial kitchens being created in low-rent, low-cost facilities, strictly for the purpose of home delivery. Expect big developments  in the world of commercial real estate and related industries as we see the mergence of these supportive hubs in retail, food, grocery, fashion and elsewhere.

17. Complexity partnerships drive innovation. AS things become more complex, companies realize they can’t do it all on their own. More JV’s, skills partnerships, and other forms of talent access become critical. Consider a GE study: 85% of senior executives are concerned about the velocity introduced by digitization and are open to idea collaboration; 75% indicated they are open to share the revenue stream of an innovation collaboration; and 85% indicated such initiatives were growing over the last year. Partnership is the new bedrock for innovation!

A fun little list. There’s lots more! Here’s looking forward to 2017!

 

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 

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