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As we wind down 2011, it’s a good time to reflect on some of the events I highlighted this year. It proved to be quite the year year, with many fascinating events where I opened or closed a large scale conference or corporate meeting with a keynote address.

One of Jim's key themes is the opportunities of the future - at one in Las Vegas, one fellow was so inspired by the message that he asked Jim when he might consider running for President of the United States. Click to watch!

As we approach the end of the year, everyone turns their attention to 2012 — and begins to wonder “what comes next?” All of my clients are focused on that theme when they engage me for a keynote or corporate workshop — and so a sense of what they were thinking about in 2011 gives you a good sense of what’s going to be important in 2012!

Some of the highlights from this year includes these events:

  • CSC Executive Exchange 2011, St. Andrews, Scotland. A small, intimate, invitation only event where I shared keynote duties with Jimmy Wales, the Founder of WikiPedia. I had CEO’s, CIO’s and CFO’s of some pretty major global organizations. Key theme: “The Next Wave of Digital Game-Changers” – I took a look at how every industry is soon to be caught up in Silicon Valley velocity, as technological comes to change every industry at lightening speed.
  • McKesson IdeaShare 2011, San Francisco, California. Changing roles, changing opportunities. I open this annual event with a message for 4,500 pharmacist / owners that with significant challenges and change in the world of healthcare and retail, the time is ripe for them to innovate with their role and their methods because their has never provided a bigger time for opportunity. The big theme: “Healthcare 2020: The Transformative Trends That Will REALLY Define Our Future.” This proved to be a huge topic for this year, and continues into 2012, as people come to seek insight on what will really happen in the world of healthcare beyond the current political rhetoric.
  • Multi-Unit Franchising Conference 2011, Las Vegas. I share the stage with Sean Tuohy, subject of the Blind Side, who owns quite a few franchise operations on his own. The focus in my keynote is on the fast changes occurring in the world of retail with consumers, technology, advertising and branding, social networking – you name it all!
  • US Air Force Research Laboratory, Dayton, Ohio: This group, which controls the entire research budget for the Air Force, brings me in to open a conference in which they examine new opportunities and methodologies for innovative thinking. Fascinating audience, and indicative of the fact that every organization realizes that the world is changing so fast that a lot of traditional assumptions about innovation and R&D are changing at lightening speed!
  • Consumer Goods Technology Magazine 2011 , Orlando, Florida. The pre-eminent conference for packaged goods, food and consumer products companies, with a huge number of Fortune 500 executives. My theme focuses on ‘what world class innovators do that others don’t do‘, particularly to keep up with changing consumers, mobile technologies, social networks and a variety of other trends. It leads to a blog post by one fellow, “Some mind blowing stats from Jim Carroll ….” Big themes: “Mobile, Social, Location!
  • Maple Leaf Foods, Toronto, Canada. A blog post, “Food industry trends 2011; Report from a keynote” was based on this talk. This blog post is now one of the first search results for anyone searching for anything having to do with food trends — and is now easily the most trafficked Web page on my site. After health care, food trends is probably the second busiest topic area for the year.
  • T. Rowe Price 2011 Investment Symposium. 600 investment managers, senior executives and CEO’s. The other keynotes are Colin Powell and Charlie Cook. My job is to close this two day event with an inspirational, motivational message based on the theme “When Do We Get to Normal? Why Thinking BIG Will Help You Seize The Opportunities of the 21st Century.”
  • World Pharma Innovation Congress, London, UK. I’m honored to open this renowned global conference on innovation within their crucial sector – most of the global heavy hitters from the world of pharma and bio-science are in the room. Opportunities for growth and innovation are coming from hyper-science, opportunities for externally sourced innovation insight, and the big global ‘idea machine’ that is revolutionizing opportunities for innovative thinking.
  • Interactive Manufacturing Exchange, Las Vegas, Nevada. A massive highlight from September — with a dinner keynote for 600 major manufacturing executives, and a morning keynote for 1,000 more. My keynote focus is that there is plenty of room for growth in the North American manufacturing sector, given the tremendous advances that have occurred with methodology and technology. My message must have resonated — after my talk, one fellow got up during the Q&A and asked if I would consider running for President of the US!
  • DSSI Forum, San Antonio, Texas. One of the largest seniors care conferences in the US. I spoke at length and with passion about the big opportunities for innovative thinking in the sector, particularly in light of the big challenges that society faces. This was a very personal event; those who know me well know that we have learned quite a bit about the challenges society faces with Alzheimer’s as a close family member has suffered from the disease.
  • Lockheed Martin, Washington, DC. I’m asked to speak at their 2011 global HR conference. The organization is aligning itself to deal with fast paced change in ever sector of its operations: my theme is what companies are doing o achieve “skills agility”, and why the issue of “deploying the right skills at the right time for the right purpose” is an increasingly important model for the future.
  • Pearson 2011. The future of education. A talk that linked key future trends to the need for massive, transformation thinking in the world of knowledge delivery. Noted one attendee: “Jim Carroll gave a particularly poignant keynote address about the need for true, innovative thinking.  (Think of a 5 year mission on steroids…)”
  • Bombardier Global Operators Conference. The future of corporate and leisure travel. Manufacturing innovation. Consumer change, and the impact of mobility. A wide ranging talk that challenges global airline operators to think about innovation in every aspect of their operations.
  • Fairmont / Raffles Hotels International. A corporate event, focused on the future of the global meetings and events industry. Key theme: organizations will increasingly require short, sharp shocks of knowledge delivery — corporate meetings and events are a big part of this trend, and are a key part of the short term strategic planning cycles that organizations are focused upon.
  • Texas CattleFeeders Association, Amarillo, Texas. The 2nd of two major talks for the cattle/beef industry in the US. Earlier in the year, I opened a private event that had in the room the top 100 cattle ranchers from across the country – representing a  multi-billion dollar investment. My keynotes focus on the significant opportunities for growth in the agricultural industry.
  • International Foundation 57th annual Employee Benefits Congress, New Orleans, LA. A morning keynote for 4,500 people at 730AM in New Orleans — and they all show up, confirming that description that “what I do for a living is go out and talk to large groups of hungover people.” It’s a rousing talk on the theme of Healthcare 2020: Today’s Trends, Tomorrow’s Opportunities
  • Linde Health Group, Munich, Germany. Global opportunities in the world of healthcare – how do we link future trends to opportunities for growth.

There were quite a few other keynotes for associations, government and corporations. In addition to these high profile engagements, which featured audiences of up to 6,000, I also hosted a number of small CEO level events. In one case in Washington, I spent the morning with a small group of 15 CEO’s/CIO’s/CFO’s in a boardroom style setting, where we explored the opportunities for growth that coming from linking future trends to innovative thinking.

Advance bookings for 2012 are exceedingly strong — so far, I know I’ll be in Palm Springs, Tampa, Orlando, Phoenix, Aspen, New Orleans (x2), San Antonio and many other locations.

Think growth. Think opportunity. Think trends. Think positive!

One day I'm with senior officers of the US Air Force speaking about innovation. The next day, I'm speaking at a cosmetics/beauty industry conference! What do these two groups have in common?

Here’s an adaptation of my May CAMagazine article, which was titled “From Bombs to Beauty” in the print edition.

——-

March was an interesting month for me. One day I was in Dayton, Ohio, opening the annual leadership meeting for the US Air Force Research Laboratory.

In the room were senior military officers, scientists and researchers who control virtually all the research spending for the entire air force.

The next day I was in West Palm Beach, Fla., as the closing speaker for the Personal Care Products Council, with senior executives from the cosmetics, toiletries and other personal-care products industry.

Talk about going from one extreme to another. But it certainly provides insight into one of the key trends sweeping the corporate and scientific world today. There’s a belief that if we think broader — observe what is occurring in other industries, for example — we might see more opportunities to change what we do and how we do it, rather than continue to think in narrow terms.

So what’s my role? As someone who sees the world in extremely broad terms rather than through a narrow industry lens, I can provide many organizations with different points on view. This is a critical and important skill  – I often find myself immersed in a wide variety of complex circumstances in a vast range of industries, and have learned to quickly develop the capability to observe key issues within those industries, assess different strategies and come up with solutions to complex problems.

So it is with the corporate and government world today. People find themselves in a place where change is occurring at a blinding pace. New ideas, business models, industries and products are launched faster than ever. And it’s by learning how to observe and understand change from a variety of perspectives that organizations can get ahead.

Consider the world of defence spending, where there is a great deal of budgetary pressure to continue to move forward but to do so with new spending restraints. Organizations ask themselves questions such as, what can we learn from other organizations outside the defence industry that have scientists and engineers? How are they generating innovation ideas? How are they responding to similar pressures? Sometimes the concept of customer-oriented innovation plays a role. Maybe, goes the thinking, we’ll find one customer using a product in a unique way that no one else is thinking about, and we could take that idea to the rest of our customer base.

Then there is the issue of innovation within the consumer products sector — such as cosmetics and beauty products. Today, customers are more vocal with opinions; fashion tends to evolve faster; new ideas go from the runway to the shelf much faster. In this case, we’ve got an industry looking around to see where the next marketing, branding, product or customer-support ideas might come from. And they’re influenced by other industries — there’s a marriage of technology, healthcare and beauty for example. Imagine a new piece of jewellery in the not-too-distant future that doubles as a medical monitoring device.

In both cases, we’ve got groups of people who, five years earlier, might have based their progress on how things looked inside their organization or industry. Today, they’ve realized they’ve got to look wider; not narrowly, but from a very broad perspective. That’s why concepts such as customer innovation, open innovation and other new models for idea generation are becoming so important.

And that’s why, in the space of just two days, I can find myself delivering two keynotes on very much the same innovation theme to two very, very different groups.

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