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So … there’s lots of talk about the future of jobs, careers, automation, the disappearance of jobs, and the emergence of new jobs. It seems to be one of the issues for 2016, and no doubt, will continue into the future.

I’ve been all over the topic for over 20 years, and am often engaged by small groups of senior executives at Fortune 500 companies to help interpret the trends.

One of my more fascinating events in 2016 was a small, high-level human resource/talent conference in Chicago organized by Whirlpool and Aon Hewitt. I had a lot of heavy hitters human resource executives in the room for my talk around future talent and HR issues. Senior VP’s of Human Resources for such companies as Owens Corning, Eli Lilly, Capital One, Proctor & Gamble, Goodyear Tire, Arcelor/Mittal, AT&T, Colgate Palmolive, Hewlett Packard, Intel, John Deere, Raytheon, Shell International, Sunoco, Boeing, Stryker, Target, Yum! Brands and more. Whew! A small, intimate group of people responsible for managing the talent and human capital requirements for companies worth, perhaps, several trillion dollars in market capital.

(This is typical of many of the low key senior leadership meetings that I do. For example, I had a session on the impact of business model disruption as technology comes to define the future of every industry. In the room, I had the Chief Information Officer’s for such companies as Johnson & Johnson, American Airlines, Siemens, Elsever, Owens Corning, Nationwide Mutual, Marriott International, MetLife, Cardinal Health, Chubb, Merck & Co, and Progressive Insurance!)

Many global organizations have had me in for a keynote at leadership meetings of their entire HR team, including Deloitte, Lockheed Martin, Johnson & Johnson (after they saw me in this session above), Honeywell, and others. I’ve also headlined many major human capital conferences over the years.

It’s these types of events that give me a front row seat to the high velocity change that is occurring as disruption comes to take hold of every industry and eery organization. And with that pace of change, I’m a big believer that the success of organizations in the future will come from human skills agility. I caught this years ago in one key comment: “In the high velocity economy, talent, not money, will be the new corporate battlefront. Your ability to deploy the right skills at the right time for the right purpose will define your future opportunity.”

What did my keynote at the Chicago event focus on? It’s best captured in a great graphic, done in real time, of my key themes. Click the image for a high-resolution image — its’ worth a visit!

 

Need more insight into human capital and skills issues? Visit the Human Capital section of my Web site for more!

Some people really don’t understand what a unique career a futurist like me has. Every once in a while, I pinch myself, and feel so lucky to have a remarkable opportunity to change the lives of so many people!

As so as 2016 draws to a close, it’s  a fun time to have a look back at some of the events I was invited to participate in as an opening or closing keynote speaker. It was a big year — I’ve been on stage now for close to 25 years, and adding it up, I figure I’ve spoken to well over 2 million people, with the 50,000 from this year putting me over that magic number.

Below you’ll find my ‘top-10’ list of some of my favourite memories from the year!

1. PGA Merchandise Show, Orlando

It’s not often you get invited in to open one of the most prestigious events in the world of golf, let along the world of sports. But there I found myself in January, opening this event. I was on stage after Lee Trevino and David Leadbetter, and then Bubba Watson was on stage after me! I spoke about the new opportunities that fast moving technology trends were bringing to the world’s largest working sport. It was a repeat engagement for the PGA – they previously had me in a few years to open their AGM.

2. New York Life, New York

This was my final event of the year, just two days ago, and it was just plain fun! It was an end of year “town hall”, and the organization wanted an upbeat, optimistic view of the future. (Not surprising, given that so much went on during 2016!) . It was sort of a launch event for my newest keynote theme, The Jetsons’ Have Arrived 50 Years Early : What Are YOU Going to Do About It? Based on the vibes in the room, this is going to be a SMASH HIT topic into 2017!

3. QAD Explore, Chicago

A massive manufacturing oriented conference for this major software company operating in this space. There are two views of manufacturing in the US – the political wish, and the reality of what is occurring on the ground. This audience of 4,000 was eager to discover how the industry is busy reinventing and transforming itself for the 21st century, through digitization, robotics, 3D printing, and more. Based on what I heard and saw, that trend is well underway.

4. Philadelphia Manufacturing Summit

Another manufacturing themed event; this one with 500 manufacturing execs from throughout the region. There was a palpable buzz in the room — it was another event that affirmed to me that there is just so much innovation occurring in the industry, it can be staggering.

5. Amsted Rail, St. Louis

This wasn’t a big event, but it really hit me at an emotional level. This was an internal leadership meeting; this organization is a manufacturer in the rail industry. My wife and I had the opportunity for a factory tour before my keynote; with that, and the additional planning calls well in advance of the event, I encountered an organization that seems to be enthused with the idea of reinvention through innovation in the heartland. Eveyrone from the leadership on down seemed to have one overriding belief — if we think we can do it, we can. If there is hope for manufacturing in the US, it’s to be found in this remarkable organization!

6. Volvo/ Mac Trucks, Greensboro, NC

A repeat engagement for this organization — in this case, an internal leadership meeting, whereas the first one was for dealers. Self-driving vehicles, autonomous technologies, intelligent highway infrastructure, prognostic diagnostics — the talk covered the gamut of trends occurring in the automotive space. I’m doing many events around the self-driving car theme and the revolution occurring in transportation, with several gigs already confirmed well into 2017.

7. American Concrete Institute, Philadelphia

I drove my family crazy with the lead-up to this keynote. It would take a lot of hard work. My keynote would require a solid foundation, and my message would take some time to settle. (They told me to stop it with the concrete jokes soon enough.) This was the first time this organization had a keynote speaker to open their conference, and it was obvious that there was some concern about bringing in an outsider to launch the event! That changed fast — feedback had me hitting a huge home run, with subsequent coverage in American Concrete Magazine and elsewhere. In this shot, I’m talking about how quickly the concept of 3D printing with concrete is becoming a reality.

8. Manufacturing in America Summt, Detroit

Wow, manufacturing was hot this year! This one was in the midst of the automotive sector in the US, and I brought my message of acceleration, velocity and Moore’s Law, combined with the self-driving juggernaut of change, to the heart of the industry.

9. Phillips Medical Devices, Pittsburgh

Bio-connected medical devices, the virtualization of healthcare, big data and analytics — two events for this group focused on the massive, transformative opportunities occurring in the industry. I didn’t have a photo from this one, other than this wonderful picture of my wife and I at the innovation awards dinner I hosted for the client the night before my main talk. I am truly blessed that she accompanies me on all of my travels! Road life can be a lonely life, and instead, this has turned it all into a marvellous adventure!

10. PowderMet 2016, Boston

Accelerating science, the rapid emergence of new advanced materials, the reinvention of business models, new chemical compounds. A science heavy keynote for a science heavy audience! One of several events in Boston through the year.

 

There were so many other events through the year that were equally great to participate in, and I’ll continue with another blog post.

2 million people. Lives changed. Opportunities to help to shape the world. I have a fascinating job!

An operation like this doesn’t happen by chance. There’s a loving family in the background — my wife, business and office partner of 25 years, Christa, who accompanies me on all my trips! My two sons, Willie and Thomas, 23 and 21, who’ve grown up with a dad who has the strangest job they’ve ever known. All of whom have continued to show me unconditional love and support through the years — and particularly this year. Ahh, the rigours of the road!

Stay tuned for 2017!

I’m cleaning up from some of the research that went into my recent talk for the United Soybean Board last week.

Here are some of the fascinating statistics I dug out about the productivity gains that have been achieved in US agriculture:

  • corn yields have gone from 39 bushels to 153 per acre in the last 50 years
  • farmers produce 44% more milk with 65% fewer cows than 1944
  • soil erosion is down 32% from 19282
  • today an acre of land supports one human life – that will decrease to 1/3 acre within 35 years
  • output of eggs and poultry have increased 411% from 1948 to 1994
  • this year, the US posted the longest stretch of falling food prices in 50 years, due to advances in agriculture
  • when planning each year, farmers must select from thousands of potential seed varietals, each tailored to particular geographic, soil and other characteristics
  • Farmers Business Network, Farmers Edge and other initiatives essentially crowd source information from thousands of farmer s as to the perforce of particular seeds and pesticides
  • farm jobs were 90% of all US jobs in 1790 but are less than 2% today
  • advances in science will let us grow crops that use less sunlight, in saltier areas and more arid lands
  • the average American meal travels 1,500 miles to the table – which is why there is so much interest in the field of vertical farming
  • 70% of the final cost of food comes from transportation storage and handling!
  • one acre of a vertical farm can grow 10 to 20 times that of a traditional farm acre

It’s all about less input, more output.

Farmers and agriculture are masters of optimization. I love working with agriculture keynote groups; they thrive on innovation. In the past, I’ve spoken to a wide range of groups, including • CHS • Farm Media Journal • FMC Agriculture • Texas Cattle Feeders Association • Colorado Cattle Ranchers Association • FCC Services US (Farm Credit Cooperative) • MicroBeef Technologies • Mid-America Crop Protection Association • FarmTech • AgProgress Conference • Agricorp • CropLife Canada • US Department of Agriculture • American Agriwoman Society • Syngenta • American Landscape and Nursery Association • Monsanto • and more….

The rest of the business world would do well to learn from farmers and the world of agriculture. Rock stars of innovation!

 

 

As the wild year of 2016 draws to a close, and 2017 arrives, what can you expect in the coming year?  Rather than a list of predictions for 2017, let’s simply focus on some of the words and phrases that will become a bigger part of your life next year and years beyond.

The big phase for 2017? “Destructive, impulsive unpredictability.” Get used to it: and align your strategies, capabilities, skill sets and business plans to deal with this reality as it comes about. It will happen a lot — and a new kind of volatility will be the new normal. I think the early stock-market driven euphoria will prove to be just that…..

Beyond that, what can you expect? Accelerated change! If you do anything in 2017, expand your mind and learn about the things that you don’t know. After all, “you don’t know what you don’t know, until you try and do something you’ve never done before. Then you know!

Here are some of the phrases that indicate what I’m watching carefully in 2017, and advising my global blue chip clients on. Watch this space in 2017, since I’ll be certain to be speaking, writing and blogging about them.

  • smart buildings
  • robotic hype cycles
  • scientific exponentiation
  • virtualized hospitals
  • intelligent infrastructure
  • vertical farming
  • connected energy
  • prognostic diagnostic maintenance
  • extended experience partnerships
  • predictive loss mangement
  • shared mobility
  • generational velocity
  • yottabit pipelines
  • small prototyping
  • magnified cynicism
  • diversity of ideas
  • sketch to scale
  • hypecycle divergence
  • crowd-thinking
  • accelerated disruption
  • digital garage innovation
  • mind-into-matter manufacturing
  • upside down idea generation
  • innovation inertia
  • experiential capital
  • iterative innovation
  • avoidance failures
  • predictive storytelling
  • bionic construction methodologies
  • 4d printing
  • end of runway manufacturing

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!

 

I do a *lot* of talks for agricultural organizations, both associations as well as agricultural companies (most of the global leaders in this space have had me in for senior management meetings or customer events, seeking my insight on the trends in the industry.)

Yesterday, I was a keynote speaker for the United Soybean Board, speaking to several hundred farmers about opportunities for innovation in their industry.

Prior to my keynote, I spent two hours with the newly elected Board of Directors of the organization, in an intimate discussion about the opportunities for innovation in the industry.

I had six simple slides that led to a very animated, lively and in-depth discussion.

Essentially, agriculture is about science, and science is exponentiating. This slide is from research I undertook years ago….

The result is that knowledge itself is exponentiating: I observed that we are in a situation in which 1/2 of what we learn in the first years of an agricultural degree is obsolete or revised by the time of graduation 4 years later.

These rapid changes drive rapid innovation and the invention of new ideas, concepts, seed varietals. Apple’s situation is that the original Apple iPod could be developed because of the discovery of a single new chemical substance. If there are to be 5 billion, the scope of opportunity in the age of exponentiation is unprecedented! The result for Apple is that 60% of its revenue comes from products that didn’t exist 4 year ago. That’s increasingly becoming the reality for ag-science companies, and is a trend that will filter down into agriculture itself.

 

In this content, organizations are busy reinventing their business though big, bold ideas, such as we’ve seen with Tesla and Elon Muck. Soybean needs to continue to pursue big, bold ideas — better protein, more alternative material use (did you know that soybean is used as a material in seat cushions for cars?), bio-diesel and more. Why not solar cells grown from plants? They are researching that idea at M.I.T. – in an era of exponential science, no idea is too small!

While these trend unfold, precision agriculture and advanced analytics continues to mature — Google Flu Trends set the pace for the idea of real time analytical healthcare dashboards, and the same dashboard capability are coming to every farm!

Who will adopt such bold ideas? From Syngenta, there are two types of farmers. The ones on the right are becoming the majority….

 

The key challenge is knowing when to jump on accelerating and exponentiating trends driven by science. The Gartner hype-cycle provides us guidance: every new technology and new form of science goes through the curve.

Innovators determine the right inflection and jumping-on points. The key is to establish an innovation strategy, driven at the board level, to ensure that you are at the right place on the curve — but also not far behind on the curve.

Was it an effective session? It must have been — at the end, the CEO asked me if I would consider becoming a soybean farmer, since my insight, enthusiasm and focus on innovation would provide an inspirational example to other soybean farmers!

It was fun!

 

 

Kevin Kelly, the founding editor of Wired, coined a very popular phrase : “The future happens very slowly and then all at once.”

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2017 is going to be defined by a debate that involves the acceleration of trends which take us further into the world of the Jetson’s, at the same time that some people seem to want the world to go back in time.

I’ve seen the concept used quite a bit as of late as people come to comprehend that things are changing faster than they thought they would. In my parlance, I’ve been phrasing this idea as such: “the future is happening faster than we think.’

Yet as we head into 2017, I’m seeing the typical breathless end-of-year observations as people pull together their lists of things that will happen soon. One would think that one day in 2017, we are going to suddenly wake up into a world that we will barely recognize. Yes, the future happens slowly, and then all at once, but ‘at once’ usually means a span of time of several years, not a matter of months.

What will happen? One things seems certain!

impulsiveunpredictability

Many of these predictions are bang-on: but it’s their timing is off!. With that thought in mind, I thought it would be useful to mention some of these trends of things that won’t happen in 2017:

  • the streets won’t be flooded with self-driving cars in 2017. We’ll certainly see continued momentum in this space, with Tesla leading the pack and with every car manufacturer ramping up their efforts, R&D and deployment. There is a very real acceleration of the technology and capabilities in this space. Yet I think that it is going to take several years for the technology, business models and infrastructure to reach the tipping point. Missing in a lot of these conversations are the equally important developments and trends occurring with smart highway technology.
  • jobs won’t suddenly return to the US in 2017. It’s a nice concept and certainly will be the theme for what I expect to be a destructive political thriller for the year, but bottom line: the jobs aren’t coming back. Manufacturing is all about robotics, productivity gains through technology, new skills and business models, and more. It would be nice for some folks to take time back to the 50’s, but its not going to happen.  
  • Silicon Valley won’t be suddenly afflicted with empathy in 2017. This is a recent meme that has emerged in the wake of the US election. I doubt it will happen. Silicon Valley has always been about accelerating change, making money, and having lots of fun in doing so. I don’t really see that changing any time soon.
  • there won’t be virtual reality everywhere in 2017. 2016 certainly was a year that saw the maturity of the hardware and software around VR, and this will, going forward, be one of the most significant trends to impact industries, companies and skills. Just last night, I was reading a fascinating article about the opportunity to do a virtual flyeover related to the inspection of an electrical transmission system. This is real stuff, and a big opportunity. I do think that 2017 will see the technology become mainstream and recognized for what it is – it will be a year like that in which business and industry discovered the real potential of GPS. After this period of discovery, watch out! We can expect rapid acceleration with this trend.
  • AI and robots aren’t going to make a lot of jobs disappear in 2017. People are freaking out about this one everywhere! This idea is perhaps one of the defining trends observations of 2016: that sweeping technological change – parituclarly AI and robotics — is going to render countless jobs, professions and skills obsolete. It’s certainly going to become real, and this is a pretty significant and profound trend. But like these other trends, it  isn’t something that is going to happen with split-second instantaneity. Also, missing in this conversation is the reality at the same time that existing jobs and careers disappear, we are seeing the emergence of all kinds of new jobs and careers.

End of year lists are useful, as they help to spur creative thinking in people, and help them to align their actions to obvious future trends. The challenge is that sometimes, exuberance for the trend gets in the way of the practicality of the timing.

Having said that, I expect 2017 to be a banner year in terms of the speed of change of several major trends. I think we will see very fast acceleration with a variety of significant technologies and ideas – in my case, I’m carefully watching the cost collapse with 3D printing, computational analytics, energy sharing and storage, genomic interpretation and data sets, advanced material development, design methodologies and the impact of crowd-thinking, machine learning, the acceleration of science and chemistry, and the rapid emergence of smart highway infrastructure.

Today, the Wall Street Journal ran an article,”Why Saudi Arabia’s Oil Giant Aims to Be Big in Chemicals, Too“, with the subhead: “Aramco’s plans to vastly expand its petrochemical operations are part of the kingdom’s effort to remake its economy as oil’s future clouds.” 

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“Aramco’s strategic goal is to create a global network of refining and petrochemical plants that let Saudi Arabia turn its biggest asset into hundreds of higher-value products crucial to modern life, from chewing gum to auto parts”

Why would one of the world’s largest oil companies shift to a new focus on the chemical industry as their key opportunity? One reason is that the math, and hence the scope of the opportunity, is so overwhelming. (The other being that in a world awash in oil, energy is no longer a growth industry. So after the world gets flat, you put a ripple in it!)

Here’s why: years ago, I dug out a fascinating observation having to do with the world of chemistry. I’ve used this in keynotes for BASF, the American Chemical Society, and many others. Consider the simple math at hand that spells opportunity with a capital ‘O’.

  • “…The number of known chemical substances has been growing exponentially since 1800, from some hundreds then to about 19 million today….”
  • “…. the number constantly doubles every 13 years….”
  • by 2025: 80 million chemical substances
  • by 2050: 300 million
  • and by 2100: 5 billion……

19 billion known chemical substances to 5 billion? That’s a pretty exponential change….

Why is this important? I always point out on stage, when using these stats, that the discovery of a single new chemical substance led to the opportunity for Apple to miniaturize the hard drive — that led to the first iPod.

Which was the birth of a multi-billion market.

For every new chemical substance, similar massive new opportunities exist.

That’s what it means to live in an exponential world! And that is what it means to focus on future opportunities through innovation. Which is precisely what Said Aramco is focused on….

 

 

I was interviewed recently by Independent Banker magazine for my thoughts on trends impacting the world of banking. I do a lot of keynotes in this area — with clients such as VISA, the National Australia Bank, the Texas Credit Union League, American Express, CapitolOne, the American Community Bankers Association, Wells Fargo and many, many more.

bankingwithoutboundaries_770-1

To Carroll, anyone is capable of innovating an aspect of the community banking industry. However, he believes to do so, three essential questions must be asked. What can I do to run the business better? Grow the business? And most important, transform the business?

The full article is available at their Web site: 

 


Instill an innovative mindset to push your bank into the future
By Sam Schaust

Innovation is not a word solely owned by today’s tech giants in Silicon Valley. Or so thinks Jim Carroll, a futurist from Toronto who has given dozens of keynote speeches on the power of innovation to companies such as Walt Disney, Wells Fargo and NASA.

A lot of eyes gloss over the word ‘innovation,’ and people think the word only applies to someone like Steve Jobs who designed cool stuff that changed the world,” Carroll says. “They might think, ‘I’m a banker. What can I do?’”

To Carroll, anyone is capable of innovating an aspect of the community banking industry. However, he believes to do so, three essential questions must be asked , the first of which is: What can be done to run the business better?

There are plenty of opportunities to implement more information technology to reduce costs, streamline processes and become more efficient,” he says.

Which begs the second question: What can be done to grow the business?

Concepts regarding “how to use mobile to capture the millennial generation” and “how to utilize leading-edge transaction technology or new products to attract untapped customers,” Carroll notes, are typical subsections of this question. “Essentially, it all comes down to how you think differently to attract new sources of revenue,” he says.

Finally comes the question: What can be done to transform the business? “Transformation of the business is all about preparing for the fact that, for example, with credit-card payments, now Apple and PayPal are competitors,” Carroll says. “With an increasing number of organizations getting into the banking space, you may need to change the essence of what you do and how you do it to keep up with reality.”

Staying current with today’s banking industry—along with innovating for the future—could require an internal shake-up. As Carroll suggests, “By hiring somebody who thinks just like you, you aren’t going to get any creative, innovative ideas. Instead, if you hire somebody you don’t like or who is dramatically different from you, then you’ll get those different opinions.

Groundbreaking ideas often can come from outside of your field of business, Carroll believes, adding that adopting “an outsider mentality” could prove to be a valuable asset.

“With an increasing number of organizations getting into the banking space, you may need to change the essence of what you do and how you do it to keep up with reality.”
—Jim Carroll, Futurist

Thinking opportunistically

To bring about a new revenue opportunity, Carroll sees an advantage in embracing methods that break from the traditional structure. “Part of what I talk about is speed of opportunity,” he says. “What’s happening out there is new opportunities are emerging faster and you’ve got to have a culture and capability to grab onto that very quickly.”

Growing through experience

Carroll believes that an innovative attitude at a community bank needs to be set from the top. “It’s got to start at the board,” he says. “Although, that’s the toughest thing and it simply doesn’t come overnight.”

By adopting a forward-thinking mindset, mistakes are sure to be made, Carroll adds. “Be an organization that doesn’t just celebrate wins, but failures, too,” he says. “In today’s world, organizations will get ahead through the depth of their financial capital. That’s important, but there’s also our experiential capital—the experience we gain from trying something new.

By hiring somebody who thinks just like you, you aren’t going to get any creative, innovative ideas.” — Jim Carroll, Futurist

Innovation typically comes from a general interest for what’s occurring beyond one’s industry, Carroll notes. By simply embracing the what’s new or unusual, “we build up our experience,” he says. “And the more experiential capital we have, the better positioned we are to make big, bold leaps in the future.

 

This January, I’ll keynote the American Financial Services Association 21st annual Vehicle Finance Conference & Expo in New Orleans.

afsa

The event draws some heavy hitters who will share their insight into what comes next, including the CIO for Toyota Financial Services, the President & CEO of TD Auto Finance U.S., the Executive Vice President for Ford Motor Credit Company, among others.

I’ll take a deep look at what is happening with the automotive world in the future — the reality and evolution of self-driving, autonomous vehicle technology, intelligent and smart highway infrastructure, the evolution to prognostic, self-diagnosing vehicles, the sharing economy and new business models, the acceleration of connectivity and innovation in the automotive sector, and the implications of all this on the future of automotive lending!

It should be fun!

This is one of many keynotes I’ve done in and around this sector. It involves a lot of deep research on the latest trends and initiatives, as well as comprehensive discussions with the client and industry insiders.