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People overestimate the change that will occur on a two year basis, & underestimate the pace of change on a ten year basis. ... successful professional organizations will be those who can adapt to rapidly evolving trends.

Many professional service firms have brought Jim in as a keynote speaker to kick off their corporate or association event, including Ernst & Young • Brownstein Hyatt Farber Legal • Accenture • American Marketing Association • American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) • American Society for Quality • Aronson & Company • IGAF Worldwide • Greenburg Taurig • CGI • Collins Barrow • Deloitte • Ernst & Young • IREV (Swedish Accounting Association) • International Financial Executives Conference • International Lawyers Network • Barlow Research • Deloitte Consulting • KPMG • Price Waterhouse • Society of Management Accountants • Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants • Society of Management Accountants • Towers Perrin • US Committee on State Taxation


Office Products International Magazine contacted me for an article about the future of the workplace, for their 25 anniversary issue.

opi
Obviously this is an industry that has a keen interest in the issue — after all, if your target market is the office, and that office is changing, you need to know! Here’s what I wrote!


What’s the future of the office workplace? People love trying to figure out that question. Futurist Jim Carroll is one of them…

When trying to imagine the workplace of the future, a good start is to look back at the cartoon show The Jetsons, which was first aired in the US in 1962 and purported to show what the world would look like in 2062 – 100 years on.

Watch The Jetsons today and it would seem most of its predictions have actually come true: autonomous, self-driving cars (although their vehicles could fly); video calling apps such as Skype or FaceTime (George Jetson used to communicate with his boss at Spacely Sprockets like this). He also views his news and other information on a flat screen TV – let’s say, using a version of our internet. In addition, Rosie the robot maid scurries about doing all kinds of things for the people that are a part of her ‘life’.

jetsons

Taking note of science fiction, back-to-the-future scenarios, and even cartoons such as The Jetsons can provide glimpses into what the workplace might look like in the coming decades.

But let’s think in more practical terms, by aligning the office of the future to the careers and workforce that will be our reality.

In 1997, I coined the phrase ‘nomadic workers’ while writing Surviving the Information Age, and made the following predictions:

  • The number of full-time jobs will begin to dramatically shrink. Yet, we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg in the change of the relationship between employer and employee as the nomadic worker becomes the dominant form of corporate resource.
  • Companies will hire the best talent, regardless of where that person might be. A new form of career competitiveness will emerge with extreme rivalry for this group of nomadic workers – highly skilled individuals who call the shots.
  • Where people work from won’t matter – a trend that has implications for the future of both rural and urban economies.
  • Lifestyle choice will come to dominate career decisions. Nomadic workers have different attitudes towards life and work, and reject many of the currently accepted ‘norms’ of the corporate environment. Their attitudes will revolutionise the world of work.
  • Office walls won’t determine the shape of tomorrow’s company – the reach of its computerised knowledge network, and its ability to tap into the skills and capabilities of nomadic workers, wherever they might be, will define it.

I was pretty much bang on with those trends – certainly much of it has already become true. More people work from home than ever before (in my case, I’ve had a home office for 25 years; my kids grew up in a world in which their parents have always worked at home).

A global war for the best talent means that there is an entire economy of highly-skilled nomadic workers. And in my own case, I joke that I work really hard to not have to go and get a job – instead, I hire out my future-forecasting skills to organisations worldwide.

Those trends will continue to play out in the future. But what else will happen? In my view, there are three key trends that will define the future of the office and the workplace: the rapid emergence of new careers, the continued rapid evolution of technology, and the impact of the next generation.

1. Future vocations

First, consider what is happening with skills, jobs and careers. Last year, I was the opening keynote speaker for the global WorldSkills challenge in São Paolo, Brazil, and spoke about the fact that we are now witnessing the rapid emergence of all kinds of new careers.

I’m talking about vocations such as robotic pharmaceutical therapy monitors, water footprint analysts, vertical farming infrastructure managers, drone helicopter insurance crop risk managers, and – not forgetting – manure managers!

The key point here is that many of these new careers involve the processing of information which can be done from anywhere. An insurance risk manager that relies on drone technology doesn’t have to be on location, they can simply do their work from wherever they are.

The result of this is an even greater dispersion of highly skilled jobs around the world.

Organisations in the future will continue to hollow out, hiring skills and talent on an as-needed, short-term contract rather than permanent basis. Centralised offices will become smaller, with a core group focused on strategic goals that simply link to needed talent as and when required.

2. Connecting the workplace

The second trend is the Internet of Things (IoT) which will provide some of the most fascinating changes in the workplace and office of the future. What is it really all about? Simply put, every device that is a part of our daily lives is going to become connected and we will be aware of its status and its location.

I often joke on stage that this could get a bit out of hand: I might get on my weighing scales one day, and it will send an email to my fridge, blocking access for the day because I’m not living up to the terms of my wellness contract.

The IoT will lead to some of the The Jetsons-type forecasts of the past. It’s quite likely that self-driving cars will result in mobile offices on wheels – the car does the navigation, so we’ll have more time to get some work done on the way to the office.

Massive hyperconnectivity will keep employees aware of where fellow workers are, when office supplies are running low, or will link them to a specific location on a manufacturing assembly line that requires instant maintenance.

We will live and work in a world that is hyper-aware of the status of everything around us and that will lead to some fascinating workplace changes that I don’t think we can even yet comprehend.

3. The virtual workforce

It is perhaps the third trend that will have the most profound impact. Consider this fact: 10-15 years from now, most baby boomers will have retired or will be set to soon retire. This technology-adverse generation grew up with mainframes, COBOL and MS-DOS, and as a result, never really adapted to a workplace of videoconferencing, video whiteboards and other methods of collaboration.

Conversely, my sons, aged 21 and 23, grew up with the Xbox and PlayStation, Skype and text messages. This generation will soon take over the workforce, and most certainly take advantage of every opportunity to continue to virtualise the world of work. They will use Google Glass-type devices to embed live video into their everyday work routine. Virtual reality will become common enabling them to live and work in a world of massive augmented reality. They will be able to teleport their minds to far-flung locations where their virtual avatar will participate, interact and collaborate with others.

They are going to live in a world of technology acceleration unlike anything we have known, and rather than battling it as older generations have so often done, they will embrace it with open arms and open minds.

Does this all mean that the traditional office of today – a meeting place where individuals gather to share efforts on projects, ideas and opportunities – will disappear? I don’t think so. I believe that we are social creatures, and we crave opportunities for interaction. It will just be a very different form of interaction.

Brace yourself. The future will be here faster than you think.

Jim Carroll is one of the world’s leading futurists, trends and innovation experts, with a client list that includes NASA, The Walt Disney Company, Johnson & Johnson and the Swiss Innovation Forum. Follow him on Twitter @jimcarroll or visit www.jimcarroll.com

There was an interesting article in the New York Times on Feb 18: “Careers: ‘Board Doctors,’ to Supervise the Supervisors — More companies bring in experts to scrutinize effectiveness of directors, creating a growth business.” (read the article)

board_of_directors

Sadly, with all the current focus on “compliance,” I’ve come to believe that there is a critical lack of future planning on many other corporate boards around the world — Jim Carroll

The article opens with the observation: “Amid unprecedented pressure from investors, more boards are tapping outside experts so they can monitor management better and clean their own house. The legion of advisers — which some dub “board doctors” — scrutinize boards’ inner workings and prescribe cures for such ills as an entrenched chief executive, 800-page briefing books, or even a director who plays Sudoku during management presentations. The experts often enable board members to make tough choices they are too squeamish to do on their own.”

Essentially, the gist of the article boiled down to three key points:

  • boards are becoming less effective at making ‘hard decisions’
  • the result is a trend in which there is more outside (hired) scrutiny of the effectiveness of board performance
  • the scrutiny adds in assessment of the effectiveness of individual board members

In an amusing point, the article comments on one director who was known to regularly play Sudoku during board meetings.

The article is a good read, and a great outline of some of the problems facing the world of corporate governance today. But from my perspective, it missed a key point that I’ve been raising in many of my sessions with Boards through the years — most boards are not structured to deal with issues of future strategic direction.

If you understand how boards work, there are two key issues:

  • it’s a very insular club ; still, globally, very much an ‘old boys network’ (although gender diversity is a key issue that many national Director associations are working hard to solve)
  • the board ‘skills matrix’ — that is, the type of people that boards seek to recruit — generally consists of finance/accounting; legal; executive compensation; IT; human resources; and specific industry experience. Few seem to have expanded their matrix to include “future strategic insight.”

A few years ago, I thought it might be interesting to apply my skill of anticipating and outlining future trends by actively seeking involvement in a few boards. I took a director education course at the University of Rotman. It was a fascinating world to immerse myself in. Sadly, since then, I’ve had few opportunities (probably, to be honest, because I don’t network with the board world as most other folks do.)

What’s the looming crisis? I outlined this back in a post in 2007, “The Future of Governance.” Essentially, there are numerous boards who do not take on the responsibility of actively and regularly assessing trends for future threats and opportunities, and include this assessment in their evaluation of the effectivness of the CEO (which is one of their key responsibilities.)

I’ll repost the 2007 post in fulll below; it still makes what I believe is a useful and powerful read.

I’m not sure much has changed since I wrote it; consider, for example, the recent security/hacking issues with Sony. Should they not have had a high level Board member who would be asking tough questions as to what structure the CEO had in place to deal with an obvious looming security infrastructure challenge. You can lay the Sony debacle at the door of the CEO. You can also lay blame directly against the Board of Directors.

Have a look at the article, and then consider if the Board you participate on has a significant ‘future oriented challenge.’

—–

I was in Colorado Springs yesterday, as the opening keynote of the Leadership Institute for Directors for FCCServices — they’re the business services arm of the US federal Farm Credit System.

In attendance were members of the Boards of Directors for a wide variety of state and community farm credit co-ops; these folks are the backbone of the US farm lending infrastructure. The Directors are local farmers, community leaders and business executives, and hence, need to be aware of the trends impacting the local and global agricultural industries, so that they can plan accordingly, assess risk, and make sound business decisions with respect to their co-ops.

My keynote took a look at “what comes next in the agricultural sector” – it’s one of many talks I do within the industry. And agriculture is certainly subject to high velocity change: there’s rapid evolution in science (bio-crops); new markets (bio-fuel) ; rapidly changing skills; new direct to consumer market opportunities; globalization (current food production must double in the next 30 years to keep up with global population growth.) All of which could spell opportunity if approached correctly — or turmoil and challenge if ignored.

The intent of the talk — and the overall theme of the leadership conference — was to ensure that these folks have the insight to direct their organizations into the future. That’s an important and critical role for Boards; and FCC Services is an example of an organization that has made sure that the “future” is closely linked to the issue of “governance.”

I think there are too many organizations that don’t do this. Sadly, with all the current focus on “compliance,” I’ve come to believe that there is a critical lack of future planning on many other corporate boards around the world. The result is that potential risks are often ignored; then things go wrong; then the company gets sued for significant sums of money. Is this Board negligence? That’s an interesting question, isn’t it!

Here’s an example: years ago, I wrote an article indicating that one of the critical CEO/Board level issues that must be addressed had to do with network security; certainly, everyone knows that organizations should properly secure their information assets. Yet in the article, I suggested that I believe that many Boards aren’t dealing with the issue, and that it was an area ripe for future exposure, noting that: “If I were a tort lawyer, I’d be licking my lips in anticipation of the opportunities to come in the next few years.”

Boards and CEO’s should ensure — as they are required to do with financial controls — that the information assets of the organization are properly locked down. They must understand obvious future trends, and ensure that management has planned accordingly. I strongly believe this to be the next wave in Board responsibility.

Do many Boards of Directors ensure that the organization is properly preparing for the rapidity of trends? Not many. Witness the shenanigans with the TJX Group, which had its corporate network hacked and millions of credit card numbers stolen. (The company runs HomeGoods, Marshalls, A.J. Wright, Bob’s Stores and The Maxx stores; in Canada the chain consists of Winners and HomeSense.) Now comes news that a group of banks want to sue the company with respect to the issue.

I can only imagine the questions that the Board of TJX is now asking!

Currently, much of the focus of board governance has to do with “compliance” — how well are boards, and the companies they are responsible for, dealing with the new realities of the post-Enron era.

I believe that within the next decade, we will see Board responsibility quickly evolve into a new and much more complex era than simply making sure that “i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed.’ All we need are a few savvy lawyers to launch a few negligence suits against a few public companies, alleging that a Board failed to develop a plan for and respond to obvious future trends.

It’s a trend worth watching.

Cayman

“Of particular interest to your editor were the words—and the AK-47 speed at which they were uttered—of Jim Carroll”

At this time back in 2007, I was the opening keynote speaker for the Cayman Business Forum.

I had about 700 people in the room; international financiers, wealth managers, bankers. At the timel, Cayman was one of the world’s leading offshore banking centers.

I write about this now, because I return there tomorrow with my family, for a personal vacation. No keynotes! But having visited Cayman, I always vowed to go back, and am thrilled to be doing so.

When I was preparing for my keynote, I had the delightful opportunity of speaking for about 1/2 hr the prior evening with the Governor of the Cayman, H.E. Stuart Jack, at his home, where he hosted a small party with the local elite.

Part of my discussion with the Governor revolved around my belief that with forthcoming growth in Asia, and other major trends involving high-end skills, Cayman was certainly in the position of losing its lustre and standing in the global money race.

My keynote was open, honest, aggressive, and blunt.

Later press coverage showed that I certainly caught some attention — and that my message resonated with the Governor.

To set the scene, the best and the brightest from both Cayman’s private and public sectors had gathered at the Ritz-Carlton to hear presenter after presenter look into their crystal balls to predict the future of the Cayman Islands. Each year Fidelity Bank sponsors this event, bringing in distinguished speakers from overseas.

Of particular interest to your editor were the words—and the AK-47 speed at which they were uttered—of Jim Carroll, a chartered accountant from Canada who now bills himself as a “futurist.” Carroll makes a tidy sum sharing his knowledge and insights with large corporations and audiences throughout the world.

Carroll believes—and certainly convinced many in the room — that the global velocity of change is affecting every area of our lives. He cautioned that if we don’t adapt to this super-synapsed new world, well, we all recall what happened to Tyrannosaurus Rex.

To illustrate the concept of velocity, Carroll projected on a large screen an image of a charging
cheetah in full pursuit of one thing or another—our guess is a gazelle (lunch) — but it makes no difference to our tale . . .

By chance, after Carroll finished his dissertation, it was time for a coffee break, and we approached our good Governor, H.E. Stuart Jack, with a smile on our face and a question on our lips: Do you see any irony between the cheetah on the screen and the fact that the national symbol of the Cayman Islands is a turtle?

Today, Singapore, Dubai and London have transitioned to take over the role as global economic powerhouses in terms of wealth, money and banking. And the Cayman still finds itself playing a powerful role as the world’s sixth largest international banking center — but lagging behind the growth rates of other financial centersas most global wealth concentrates in Asia and the Mid-East.

What’s the moral of the story? I’m not sure — but sometimes, I hope that in some small way, my thoughts on stage, and the opportunity to speak at such an event, can help to shape future outcomes! Maybe turtles can transform into cheetah’s!

Here’s a fun little video clip from a keynote this February, when I opened the annual conference for the Association of Test Publishers. These are the folks who manage the LSAT, GMAT’s and other professional skill tests.

We are in a time that has us witnessing the rapid emergence of all kinds of new careers. I’ve been talking about careers such as “robotic pharmaceutical therapy monitors,” “water footprint analysts,” “vertical farming infrastructure managers,” “drone helicopter insurance crop risk managers”, and, of course, manure managers! You’ll find a link for the latter at the bottom of this post.

People don’t realize how quickly every industry is changing; how quickly new careers are evolving; how rapidly business models are changing. This keynote challenged the audience to think about they would have to do in the future to provide testing and certification for rapidly emerging new professions and skills.

Contingecies2014

“Actuaries can expect that all of these technologies will continue to become more interconnected, said Carroll.” Read the article by clicking the image.

The American Academy of Actuaries has just released their July / August edition of Contingencies Magazine, with an article about the impact of technology on actuarial practice.

It’s a great article: with quotes such as this, you know its presenting some challenging ideas as to how insurance industry, and the actuarial profession that assesses risk, is in for wild ride:

From intelligent interfaces like Google’s Explorer glass to ingestible microsensors, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence, burgeoning technological advances stand poised to disrupt traditional practices within the actuarial profession and the insurance industry.”

I’m quoted liberally throughout the article.You can click the image to access the PDF.

From the intro to the article:

REMEMBER THE SLIDE RULE? For actuaries of a certain generation, slide rules were an invaluable accessory. Invaluable, that is, until the invention of the personal calculator. In the same way, many experts believe that Excel spreadsheets, the current workhorse of most actuarial departments, will soon be replaced by calculating in the cloud. Disruptive technology—the term of art for any technological advance that unexpectedly displaces an established process—is now expanding so quickly that one disrupter often is almost immediately superseded by another. (Consider the rapidity with which we’ve moved from using GPS devices in our cars to letting mobile apps on our smartphones do the job. By the end of the decade, it’s likely that automatic cars will not only navigate but also do the driving.)

Innovations that qualify as disruptive technology are actual ly both disruptive and connective, said futurist Jim Carroll. Not only is the way that people and devices are getting connected “unprecedented,” Carroll said, so is the manner in which all the interconnected data are being analyzed and used.

This goes to one of the main points that I raise with clients: control of innovation in every single industry is shifting to technology companies, and the pace of innovation is accelerating to that of Silicon Valley as a result.  Every industry is coming to be ruled by the reality of Moore’s Law! This is providing for a lot of fascinating change and disruption!

I also offer some comments on might happen with life insurance policies as we go forward

Using more personalized information will lead to what Carroll calls “performance-oriented insurance,” which he defined as coverage in which the risk will be accurately understood. “And if your measurable activities reduce or eliminate any risk, you will be rewarded through a rebate or reduction in insurance cost,” Carroll explained—something that is already happening with one of Progressive’s auto-insurance products.

There will be an emergence of insurance companies forthose who are willing to give up their privacy, while other insurers might write coverage for those who want to maintain their privacy,” Carroll said. “It is going to change business models.” The connectivity goes further when real-time vitals are sent not just to the doctor but also to an insurance com- pany that’s considering pricing, Carroll said.

It’s a good read, and worth your time. Read the article here.

This kid is soon be the next lawyer in your legal practice – or the lawyer you hire to support your legal issues. Are you ready to deal with him? He’s wired, uber-connected, collaborative, fast, and is unlike any lawyer you have ever known!

I’ve been remiss in blogging – 20+ keynotes since January, so I’ve been on the road. I’ve got lots to report on what I’ve been focused on in a huge range of different industries.

Back at the start of this travel odyssey, I found myself in Palm Springs, California, as the opening speaker for the 2012 California Community Associations Institute annual conference. In the room were several hundred lawyers and legal professionals supporting condominium and other community developments.

My focus? The key trends that would impact their role, both as lawyers and as individuals involved with complex real estate, construction and building design issues. So I did my homework, and put together what I thought was a great keynote. Certainly the instant Twitter feedback emphasized that I likely hit a home run.

I addressed numerous issues — including what will happen to the legal profession when the next generation of kids — who have grown up never knowing a world without an iPhone — enter the legal profession. Everything changes….

And here’s the fun part of my job — its’ always fascinating to find, after the keynote, the impact that I might have made on some people in the room. Which leads me to a post I found at the blog for Goodman, Shapiro and Lombardi LLC, a firm specializing in this industry, but based in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

After a brief intro, the post, headlined “Embracing Technology: Insights from the CAI’s Law Seminar,” gets right to the point:

I was somewhat skeptical about what I’d glean from the keynote speaker, Jim Carroll, a corporate consultant who describes himself as a “futurist.”

 I’m often greeted by such a reaction. But that’s my job — I spend a huge amount of time thinking about future trends, undertaking research in dozens of industries, meet hundreds of executives at the events that I speak at and prepare for — and synthesize all of this into a concise 45 minute to 1 hour overview of what the folks in the room should be thinking about. In this case, my keynote focused on two big issues: the future of the legal profession, and the key trends that would impact the construction/condominium industry and communities going forward into the future.

After that introduction, the blog post goes on:

“Turns out he is recognized worldwide as a “thought leader” on global trends and has helped many companies, including NASA and the PGA, transform their businesses through creativity and innovation.”

This is true — you can read about my keynote for NASA in this post, and a simple search for PGA on my Web site reveals all kinds of posts on my keynote for the “largest working sports organization in the world.” You don’t get to to do my type of job if you aren’t on your “A-Game” all the time!

So what did he think? This makes for a good read:

Part of my keynote in Palm Springs focused on my “10 Big Trends for the Legal Profession” – read the PDF by clicking on the image.

Among the intriguing facts he imparted was a study citing that 65% of today’s preschoolers will work in jobs and careers that do not even exist yet.  He piqued our interest with other obvious-yet-provocative statements… our kids have never known TV without a remote and have never heard the phrase, “Please get up and change the channel.

It bears emphasizing that he was talking to a roomful of lawyers – people who, by definition, practice in a conservative profession averse to change or novelty. Indeed, much of the law is based on precedent and the notion that if it hasn’t been done before, it probably can’t be done now.

Yet our challenge, at this particular moment in history, is to get ahead of the curve, to dare to be groundbreaking.  This may seem threatening, but it’s a message that should resonate within our industry as we think about what this means in concrete terms. On the horizon, I see more green buildings; eco-design; solar panels; and electric cars, among other innovations.  There will certainly be legal implications for all this, and we need to be ready.  In short, we need to think creatively and to embrace change.

And there’s my home run from the keynote – right there: “In short, we need to think creatively and to embrace change” and “Dare to be groundbreaking.” My job is to get people thinking about the future, and challenging them to think and act differently to deal with an ever faster rate of complex change.

It’s always a thrill to look back to see that I’ve pulled it off!

Read more in another post I wrote: “What Goes Into Building a Great Keynote?”  

 

My blog back engine pointed out to me this morning that a few articles that I posted to the blog some years back had disappeared. So with that in mind, I’ll repost a few of them in the next few days.

Read Jim's other post - "What do you do after the world get's flat? Put a ripple in it!' Click on the image!

This one is from my June / July 2008 CAMagazine column. It’s still and even more relevant today. Have a good read!

Advice for a flat world

by Jim Carroll, CAMagazine, July 2008

A few years back, I posted an entry to my weblog titled, “What do you do after the world gets flat? Put a ripple in it!”My post came in response to the buzz surrounding the bestselling book The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman.

Executives everywhere were scrambling to understand the impact of a massive global economy; the impact of offshoring and outsourcing; and how business models would be forever changed with increased global competition.

To me, the answer was obvious — innovative organizations should avoid the product commoditization that comes with the flat world. CEOs have two choices: move forward into a world where you are competing on price, or innovate, change and adapt so you are playing in a different, higher-value market.

Of course, not only products have to innovate in a flat world, so do professional skills. There’s no doubt we will continue to see a number of organizations outsource their financial, legal and other backroom functions. Just witness the growth in business process outsourcing or recruitment process outsourcing. Accountants, human resource professionals, legal experts — almost anyone with a professional skill is impacted, unless they move into a higher-tier marketplace.

Given this reality, it might be a good time to assess your career, skills and future options and determine if you want to continue going forward in a commodity market or if you want to up the value of your brand. The obvious answer is to take the latter route. We’re seeing this trend within the profession to a massive degree today: those who develop unique knowledge niches and concentrate on the delivery of very specialized services find themselves in great demand, while those with commodity skills are likely worried about the potential impact of a recession upon their career prospects.

If you focus on career specialization, the flat world is not a threat but an opportunity. It’s become a cliché, but in the much-hyped knowledge economy, those who have special capabilities often truly do have a global marketplace. Today, it is easier than ever to market your skills to that worldwide audience.

With that perspective in mind, I have three pieces of advice. First, it pays to have a blog. I’ve been posting to mine for more than 6 years and discovered that by regularly placing relevant, useful observations online, my position in Google for various topics and phrases has consistently increased. I seem to be in a sellers’ market: I just turned down a request to go to Shanghai to speak on the topic of global trends after a global CFO found my flat-world article online.

Second, invest in online search engine advertising. I’m a big fan of Google AdWords, despite the fact that the media seems to have soured on Google lately. Third, relentlessly track how people are finding your unique skills. I regularly use Google Analytics to examine how other people manage to find me online. By drilling down and seeing what people are searching for, I can adapt and change my areas of focus and expertise.

The same experience could hold true for anyone with unique professional skills. If your focus has been the de- sign and implementation of sophisticated ERP systems, why not reach out to a global audience? If you have mastered certain forensic investigation skills, realize that your market isn’t restricted to a small, local geographic world. In the flat world, the opportunities are wide open.

globalmarkets.jpgI’m hitting the ground running this week, with an opening keynote presentation for a global legal firm, who are holding their annual shareholders / partners conference in Las Vegas.

I’ve got about 800 commercial lawyers in the room; many of whom are experts in very specific niches involving real estate, financial deals, intellectual property, commercial legal issues and other areas of commercial law. All of which are segments of the economy that are being impacted by high velocity change.

My talk is focused on one key trend: in order to keep at the edge of the curve, the firm will have to position itself where its clients are going. And increasingly, those clients are getting onto the globalization bandwagon — they’re focusing on the emergence of new markets, new opportunities and new economies.
And it isn’t just BRIC (Brazil, India and China) that they the are looking at, from the key trends within my keynote:

  • Goldman Sachs has identified that the next growth sector will come from the “Next 11” economies — those that are going to see a rapid transition and growth. These are Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, South Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Turkey, and Vietnam
  • Almost a billion new consumers will enter the global marketplace in the next decade …. with an income level that allows spending on discretionary goods – McKinsey
  • By 2013, consumer spending power in emerging economies could match the spending power of Western Europe – McKinsey
  • The ranks of the middle class will swell by 1.8 billion to become 52% of total population, up from 30% today – McKinsey

The law firm, which has a heavy presence in the US and Europe, will increasingly find that their clients are moving into these hot new growth markets. I’ll use as an example Molex, a US manufacturer of “electrical connectors,” who has seen results from their own globalization strategy:

  • 80% of sales are now from abroad
  • they just had record sales of $3.59 billion
  • 6-7% of sales is committed to R&D
  • 30% of current sales comes from new products developed in last 3 years
  • sales are up 8.5% year over year
  • 59% of it sales are in Asia, and 2/3 of its 59 manufacturing facilities are abroad

In other words, if your clients are aggressively globalizing, as a legal firm you need to do so as well — and do it fast.

upcomingevents.jpgMy June is shaping up to be a tremendously busy month. Based on the bookings that are in, it’s clear that innovation continues to be at the top of the CEO agenda, despite some economic challenges.

In most of my upcoming keynotes, I’ll be spending time putting into perspective how executives should be thinking about future trends within their industry, and will take a look at the innovative strategies they might pursue.

Each of these talks is pretty tightly focused; I’ll be zipping from the insurance industry to optometry; from the future of global wealth management to high-velocity innovation in the banking sector; from opportunities in dealing with the new consumer 2.0 mindset, to how massive skills specialization will affect the world economy in the future. There’s been a tremendous amount of research underway as I prepare for each session; most of these talks get pretty darned specific in terms of industry issues.

Some of the unique topics that are unfolding include:

  • the new risk” : a keynote for the US Association of Actuaries that will take a look at how the insurance industry will the rapid emergence of new risk, and the impact of the “new analytics” on the global economy.
  • the new market” : how can a leading manufacturer transition to a market where it is not competing on price, but on brand, quality, image and value : in other words, “what do they do after the world is flat?”
  • the new customer” — how do we sell to the new 2.0 consumer, in this era of the wired-up-no-attention-span Gen-Connect demographic? The average consumer scans 12 feet of shelf space per second. What innovations do we need to think about when it comes to selling today?
  • the new investor“: Dubai and Singapore have “money-velocity.” Where is the investment world going, and how does a wealth management firm innovate to stay at the leading edge?
  • the new workforce” : how does a major global professional services firm transition into a new world of micro-skills and knowledge niches?
  • the new agent” : what comes next for the insurance industry? This one is a a keynote and a workshop for about 200 senior executives from the insurance industry, on behalf of LOMA, a major global insurance group.
  • the new collaborative team“: how can a leading bank outpace, outlast and outperform the competition?

I’ll be posting observations from the road, as there are powerful innovation lessons to be learned and shared from each situation.

gen-connect.jpgTake a look at this kid.

He’s your next employee. How are you going to recruit, retain, manage, interest and amuse this fellow? What’s your workforce going to look like in 2012, 2020, or beyond?

There’s quite a bit of focus on trends relating to the future of the organization — and organizations are seeing innovative strategies to cope with the world of high velocity change that we find ourselves in.

Last week I was the opening keynote speaker, and a panelist later in the day, for an offsite of one of the world’s largest professional services firms. Tomorrow, I keynote a get-together of key clients of a multi-billion insurance/financial services company. A few months ago, I ran a Board of Directors/CEO level meeting on the issue for a major industrial company.

If you don’t have this issue figured out yet, you’d better start thinking about it in a hurry.

There are certain things we know for a fact that relate to the future of the organization.

  • there is a huge amount of expertise walking out of the economy. In 2010, 3 people will leave the economy for every person that enters it; by 2012, 4. By 2016, 6 people will leave for every new worker that joins. Those are staggering realities.
  • the current generation entering the workforce is completely rejecting the concept of a traditional career. More than 50% of young people in a US survey indicated they believe self-employment to be more secure than a full time job. They don’t want to work for big organizations. They’ll be nomadic, contingent workers, entrepreneurial and global.
  • skills are fragmenting and specializing at a furious pace. Knowledge half-lives in most industries are compressing to a matter of just a few years. Knowledge extinction is real, and massive skills fragmentation is occurring at an extreme velocity. The result is that most organizations will find future failure will come from an inability to get specialized skills. A strategy that is focused on global access to extremely specialized skills will be a transformative factor for winning.

The whole issue is massive, and is one of the areas in which innovative thinking is needed now. It’s a CEO / Board level issue. It’s transformative. It’s urgent.

  • What’s Happening with Our Workforce: Achieving Competitive Advantage Through Skills
  • Critical Trends: 10 Unique Characteristics of 21st Century Skills