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Another article on a recent keynote I did on the future of manufacturing; in this case, from The Fabricator, the publication for the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association.

A chat with futurist Jim Carroll indicates that fabricators should be open to embracing technological possibilities or risk being left behind.

At one time you needed a room of skilled craftsmen just to make even a simple prototype. Tomorrow it might all be done by the design engineers themselves in hours instead of days because of advanced 3-D modeling software and virtual reality technology.

In helping out with some editorial preparation for The FABRICATOR’s sister magazine, Canadian Metalworking, I had the opportunity to chat with futurist Jim Carroll. (He gave the opening keynote address for the Canadian Manufacturing Technology Show on Sept. 25.) Conversations with such industry and societal observers are always interesting because they take the time to consider what may be possible in the years to come while others have their heads buried in the drudgery of everyday life. My talk with Carroll was no different, and the following three conversation highlights only promise to make those that are technology-averse even more nervous about the future.

Virtual workers come to the rescue. In speaking about the advanced skills needed in modern manufacturing and the dearth of young folks interested in pursuing these types of vocational careers, Carroll mentioned how virtual technologies may be able to fill that gap.

First, he discussed how he has attended vocational skills development programs, like SkillsUSA, all over the world. In fact, he made a point to reference a program in Brazil where at least 1,700 students competing in 75 categories gathered to demonstrate their advanced skills, which included welding. Second, he described how he saw people demonstrating virtual welding systems, where a dummy welding torch follows a path and advanced sensors and software replicate the welding environment even when there is no live arc. He theorized that it won’t be too long before a welder and his equipment in Brazil can be hooked up to the internet and linked to some sort of automated arm at a shop in the U.S. The overseas shop that once threatened to steal U.S. jobs because of low labor rates now has become a valuable source of hard-to-find labor.

To illustrate how this type of technology is not as far off as you might think, Carroll referenced an Audi prototype delivery truck that can be driven by someone back in the office. (There’s a reason the truck has no windows!) In fact, that truck might be in Germany and driven by someone in India.

Product development is reinvented. At one time you needed a room of skilled craftsmen just to make even a simple prototype. Tomorrow it might all be done by the design engineers themselves in hours instead of days because of advanced 3-D modeling software and virtual reality technology.

Carroll described how Amsted Rail, a company involved in manufacturing components for railcars, which is not something normally associated with cutting-edge manufacturing, is combining video game-playing engineers and virtual reality to redefine rapid prototyping. These engineers are thrown into “Xbox” rooms, as the company calls them, to discover the best ways to combine old-school components, such as axles and wheels, with new devices such as energy management systems in next-generation undercarriage assemblies for railcars. In this environment, major design mistakes are easily forgiven, and winning designs can be fast-tracked into production.

New developments in railcar components that help to save fuel and boost reliability keep the customers coming back to buy better products. Fabricators can appreciate how that might help them to secure their place as a valued supplier, which means long-term business relationships in many instances.

The material of tomorrow may be a lot different than it is today. The development of metal alloys is nothing new. Fabricators have been wrestling with armor plate and high-strength steels at the press brake for years. But fabricator swon’t necessarily be working with these new materials in the same way because parts won’t need to be bent or cut. They will be 3-D printed.

Already aerospace companies Boeing and Airbus are seeing 3-D printed parts that are 40 percent lighter than the traditional machined or fabricated assemblies that they are replacing, according to Carroll. Because these metal components are printed layer by layer, a designer can render complex designs that can’t be duplicated in any other way.

Carroll said that new performance capabilities are possible as material scientists create new metal materials. Imagine being able to have two layers of metals seamlessly joined together when it was previously very difficult to join those materials using traditional welding technologies.

Fabricators that may not want to jump into additive manufacturing at the moment shouldn’t fear, Carroll said. Like other manufacturing service providers, companies offering 3-D printing services will start to dot the landscape. They can specialize while fabricators focus on what they do best—at least until they decide to do 3-D printing.

“The fascinating thing is that the future is going to unfold whether we like it or not, and it’s better if we align ourselves to it as an opportunity instead of opposing it and wishing it will go away,” Carroll said.

The folks at New Equipment Digest interviewed me a few weeks back for an article on manufacturing,  ahead of a major keynote I had earlier this month.

 

You’ll have a 50-year old guy or lady in the factory, and you bring these tools to help streamline processes and they say, “Oh my God! This is terrible that can take my job away. I’m done; I’m toast.” And somebody in their 20’s is going to say, “cool.” It’s a much more agile workforce, much more willing to try new things.

It’s but one talk I do in this sector; on Monday, I’ll headline the International Asset Management Council on future manufacturing trends. They’re the folks from Fortune 1000 organizations who make the decisions on where to locate future factories, logistics locations and supply chain investments.

INDUSTRY TRENDS
Futurist Says “Fast & Furious” Changes Coming to Manufacturing

Forget your Magic 8-Ball or fancy-schmancy predictive analytics. Futurist Jim Carroll knows what lies ahead for manufacturing and technology, and we have the scoop for you here. Bet you didn’t see that coming.
John Hitch | Sep 21, 2017

Jim Carroll, a former accountant and current author/corporate speaker, is confident he knows what’s going to happen in the world of manufacturing. And the world renowned Canadian futurist doesn’t need a flux capacitor or any other sci-fi MacGuffin to make bold claims in front of millions about what technologies they need to adopt now, and what the world will look like for our children after we’re rocketed to our Martian retirement homes — where our corpses will no doubt be used as fertilizer for space yams. (You’re welcome, Elon.)

No, Carroll’s trick is to absorb as much knowledge about technology’s past and present, and combine that with critical thinking to make educate guesses on its future for NASA, GE, Lockheed Martin, and dozens of other global tech leaders. It’s not as salacious as predicting robots will take our jobs and spouses, but the accomplished author has a track record for getting things right. He’s the opening keynote speaker for the Canadian Manufacturing Technology Show in Toronto on Sep. 25, and he recently found some time for us.

NED: Why did you become a futurist and how does a person go about becoming one?
Jim Carroll: I’m actually a C.P.A. by background. You know from ’79 to ’89 I was with predecessor firms of KPMG and Ernst & Young. I was probably one of the first 1,000 guys in the world on the Internet and I wrote 34 book about the Internet in the ’90s that sold a million books. That got me out there talking about future trends and what comes next. So much of the future is about technology and connectivity and it just sort of morphed into this broader thing of overall trends and innovation.

NED: What can you say was the first future prediction that you had?
JC: Probably the Internet of Things. I can go back to articles I was writing in 1993-94, that this world in which every device that was a part of our daily life is becoming connected to the big global machine known as the Internet. I was absolutely bang-on on. A lot of that is still coming true.

NED: What you see happening with technology and what the world’s going to look like in 10 to 20 years?
JC: We’re in a situation in which companies that do not yet exist will build products not yet conceived using materials not yet invented with maybe manufacturing methodologies that don’t exist fulfilling a customer need we don’t even yet know. That’s the way I view the future.

When I get in front of my audiences, the picture I paint for them is that everything’s on the table, everything is coming out faster and we need to prepare for that. We can make these broad predictions of where we’re going, but one thing is for certain: it’s going to happen faster than we think.

One of my jokes on stage is, “We don’t know where we’re going but we’re making great time.”

NED: What technology would you say should people be right to be a little suspicious of?
JC: The hype du jour is that robots and artificial intelligence are going to take all our jobs and we’ll need a government that gives us a guaranteed income supplement. I wrote a blog post in which I dig out these articles from Popular Mechanics and Popular Science magazines from the 1930s and 1940s that predicted giant robot brains were going to take away our jobs, that machines were going to make us all unemployed. The 1950s and 1960s Reader’s Digest issues I read about had computers that were going to lead to a world in which we’d all be working two hours, day two days a week.

We’re going to have all the leisure time in the 21st century. Well, how’d that work out? There’s a lot of hype and hysteria about robotics and AI right now. No doubt, there’s a real trend, but people are carried away in the hype and hysteria. What they’re not talking about at the same time is that while all these jobs disappear, there’s the emergence of all kinds of new job new careers, new capabilities.

I mean, we used to make horseshoes, now we make tires, and what are we going to make next? The old skills are dead gone. Those jobs aren’t coming back. There’s new jobs, new skills, more advanced skills. And everybody in manufacturing knows that.

NED: Do you ever think about how the next couple generations, raised in age of smartphones and unlimited information age, will deal with all these changes?
JC: I view the world through my kids, who are 22 and 24. They’ve never known a world without the Internet or mobile devices. A one-year-old can walk up to the TV and touch the screen and wonder why it doesn’t respond like an iPad does.

During my speaking engagements, I ask the question, “How many of you, took computer courses that involved COBOL, BASIC, or FORTRAN?” A whole bunch of hands go up. We were freaked out by technology, because we saw the ugly side, while this generation has not. And so I think the defining difference is that they are far more willing to ingest and innovate with and work with new technologies and new ways of doing things. They’re not burdened by the past in the same way that baby boomers are.

They don’t have a hang up that baby boomers have with technology. Behold the The future of manufacturing innovation! Bob Dylan did warn that “the times, they are a changin’.”

NED: How do you think that’s going to translate to the so-called future?
JC: Think about manufacturing and robotics. You’ll have a 50-year old guy or lady in the factory, and you bring these tools to help streamline processes and they say, “Oh my God! This is terrible that can take my job away. I’m done; I’m toast.”

And somebody in their 20’s is going to say, “cool.” It’s a much more agile workforce, much more willing to try new things.

NED: What is one of these new technologies people should adopt now?
JC: The whole trend towards rapid prototyping. I can design something in CAD/ CAM, I can send it to a 3D printing contract manufacturer, get a prototype back to see if that works. If it doesn’t work, redo the blueprints, send it back. Boom, boom. All of a sudden I’ve got this iterative product design methodology. The old methodology was we had to figure out how to design something, commit to a production run, bring it to market.

NED: Is this something that’s going to exponentially improve the future innovations, because we have so many more people that are able to take engineering chances and it’s not costing them as much in terms of time or resources?
JC: The coolest thing I saw in the last 24 hours was Elon Musk putting out this video done to very cool music from all the rocket failures. His tweet essentially said, “This is what it takes to get to a workable product.” They celebrate failure. You look at that and go, “Wow, what a mindset!”

Obviously, for safety, security, supply reasons, quality control, etc., we can’t do that through regular manufacturing, but we can do that with rapid prototyping and 3D printing, iterative design and testing base design and all those types of things.

NED: So what other technology will play a big part in the factories of the future?
JC: I speak a lot with companies about the future of manufacturing and we talk about the Internet of Things. There’s a lot of experimentation and a lot of belief that this is going to take us to a very new and real and different world of digitization of the factory. Where we are right now is real time spotting of production defects with a lot of IoT-based technology through the supply chain in the manufacturing process. But there’s still a lot more yet to come.

There’s the business model change that is coming fast and furious with this very thing called 3discovered.com. And it’s sort of like an Uber for 3D printing. You send me your CAD files and I’ll line you up with a 3D printing manufacturer which can do it.

I think cobots are coming out very quickly. We’re getting away from two-plane robotic capability to six or eight or 10-plane capability and more spatial awareness, because spatial technology is going along at a fast and furious pace. The return of Google Glass with the manufacturing focus. And I was with a welding group doing virtual welding. I think we’re going to witness all kinds of fascinating capabilities there very quickly.

NED: What about securing all this technology? Could that be a real issue, or is that more fear mongering?
JC: No. It’s real. I’ll say two things: Equifax and South Park. Part of the Equifax problem happened because an employee portal as I understand it in Argentina was protected with the default user ID password combination of “admin” and “admin.” Companies don’t put enough senior level prospective on security. That’s number one.

The second thing is you know we’re still in the area that we’re not really thinking through where it takes us. In the South Park season premier that aired the other night, the characters were doing Amazon Echo commands throughout the show and they were ordering products. People were discovering products were being added to their Amazon checkout boxes. They were setting alarms for people at really weird hours in the morning, they were turning up their Nest thermostat to 110°. To me is the most hilarious story ever. No one ever thought about this and here it takes a cartoon to come along and show us this glaring massive security weakness. The issues are huge and I think we’ve really only begun to scratch the surface of what’s going to happen.

NED: If there’s one thing people should know about the future, what is it?
JC: I really try to leave people with this message: Some people see a trend and see a threat. Innovators see the same trend and see an opportunity. There’s a huge opportunity for North American manufacturing to reinvent itself to compete in the world economy. We’re not going to do it by building crazy walls and wishing that the job of the 1950s will come back. It’s all about robotics, 3D printing, and mass customization.

Companies that don’t yet exist, will build products that are not yet conceived, based on ideas not yet invented, with manufacturing methodologies that have not yet been conceived. Are you ready for the new world of disruption?

That’s the reality of manufacturing today, and that will be the focus on my keynote next week when I open the Canadian Manufacturing Technology show in Toronto, Canada.

The reality of our future is found in the quote above, and in this video clip here:

The folks at Canadian MetalWorking/Canadian Fabricating and Welding, reached out to me for an advance look at some of the topics and issues I’ll cover in my talk.

 

Seek Out Opportunities for Innovation
Canadian MetalWorking, September 2017

When reinventing manufacturing, the reality is that manufacturers need to focus on new business models with agility and flexibility while quickly raising up production. If the manufacturing sector in a particular nation wants to be the leader in the industry, it must start to think like a tinkerer economy by accelerating change.

This is the view of futurist Jim Carroll, who espouses the concept that prototyping and concept development will continue to mature in the near future, all while becoming more and more important to the manufacturing sector.

He says by building flexibility into the process, manufacturing companies can bring new technologies and new generations to the market faster than ever before and seeing their profits skyrocket.

Canadian Metalworking caught up with Carroll before his opening keynote speech at CMTS 2017. Here’s what he had to say.

CM: For a small and mid-sized Canadian manufacturing companies, where should they be in terms of technology adoption during this period of Industry 4.0?

Carroll: No. 1 they need to appreciate what is happening out there and be willing to accept that things are changing at a relatively significant speed. Some high-level trends such as robotics, digital factory, and 3-D printing may not be applicable for small industries, but this does not mean that they should not be aware that these trends can affect the future of their industry. Understand what is happening out there and start small.

There are a lot of opportunities out there, for instance, if you take 3-D printing, there are a lot of contract 3-D printing facilities. Last week I was talking about a company that is positioning themselves like the Uber for 3-D printing. If you can conceive a product using your CAM software and ship them the files, they will find a 3-D printer with the [needed] capability and match you up with them so that you can do your prototype. Where 3-D printing is accelerating fairly quickly is in rapid prototyping design.

You might be a 100 person or smaller company, but you can certainly experiment with this technology to figure out what is going on, rather than thinking 3-D printing is something farfetched from science fiction, because it is not. The best thing is to think big, start small, and scale fast.

CM: Some companies are dragging their feet and are not integrating advanced technology into their operations. What sort of warning would you offer up to these manufacturing companies?

Carroll: No matter who you are or what you do, fascinating things are emerging out there regarding these significant trends. So, spend time figuring out what you can utilize today and tomorrow to turn it into an opportunity.

Will the world of manufacturing be fundamentally different in the next five or 10 years? Of course, yes, pushed by the whole issue with jobs skills.

There is no shortage of employment in manufacturing. It’s just that some people don’t have the right skills. For instance, robotics company Genesis Systems, one of the largest robotics manufacturing businesses in Iowa, said to me that it is almost like the typical robotics machine operator in a factory today has to be able to do trigonometry in their heads because it has become so sophisticated.

Brute force, manual routine skills are from the older days. All jobs now require higher level skills. If you are a manufacturer, you have to appreciate what is going on and what it is going to mean regarding the skills you have and the skills you are going to need.

CM: How does the changing pace of technology in a manufacturing environment change the way that these companies maintain and improve their employees’ skills levels?

Carroll: It is generational. There are a lot of baby boomers out there that struggle with technology. Growing up with a punch card, we grew up with a unique relationship with technology. My kids that are 28 and 24 are different, having never seen the world without the Internet. These new generations that are coming to the work force think differently and act differently.

Skills Canada and Skills USA have the initiative to help young people find a career path in skilled trades. Last year I opened their global competition in Saõ Paolo, and they have [hundreds of] kids competing in 75 categories in 400,000 sq. m of space. Advanced welding was among one of the competitions. They have folks who demonstrate virtual welding, how with technology in one room and can theoretically weld from a facility 1,000 miles away. So, get involved with Skills USA or Skills Canada. In the end, it all goes back to understanding what is going on out there and appreciating the acceleration of technology to make a conscious decision to get on board.

CM: Can you provide an example of an organization that is embracing Industry 4.0 and is a good example of manufacturing’s future in North America?

Carroll: I saw this when I was at Amsted Rail in St. Louis, which offers engineered system solutions that combine castings, bearings, wheels, axles, and energy management devices. They always think about what they can do in terms upgrading their technology.

Amsted Rail is frequently bringing new employees from younger generations and set up what they call an “Xboxer,” which means that they let these mid-20s engineers play with all this new technology and figure out how to bring in this new technology into the operation.

CM: Do you feel optimistic about this state of manufacturing in North America given the examples you provided with this mid-sized companies looking at their business at a different way?

Carroll: Things like collaborative robotics, digital factory, and additive are going provide a significant transformation of what manufacturing is. The rest of the world is going to go there, and you are not going to slow down the acceleration of science and the technology. There is a choice, either you get on board, or you don’t.

CM: What technologies do you think manufacturers should be keeping a close eye on?

Carroll: Two things. 3-D printing and accelerated material science will have the most impact in manufacturing for at least the next five years.

3-D printing is moving forward at a furious pace. For instance, there is one coming along called CLIP [continuous liquid interface production], which is almost out of the Transformers movie. Seeing that type of acceleration, what took something like 14 hours before now takes about 6.5 minutes with CLIP technology. Additive is real. It has a huge role now in rapid prototyping and iterative design.

Look at aerospace. Airbus and Boeing have figured out that they can 3-D print and develop parts of planes with a structure that are 40 per cent lighter. From that perspective, companies are starting to see what they can achieve with these fascinating new materials driven by science.

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Anyone who tracks me know that I am passionate (if not slightly pathetic) golfer, and I’ve wrapped it into my business. I often golf before a keynote, and have actually been an opening keynote speaker for two major events for the PGA of America.

To that end, I need to tell you a great story! That of an 11 year old Canadian girl, Vanessa Borovilos, who just won her 2nd back to back tournament at the World Kids Golf Tournament in Pinehurst, N.C.

Only 11 years, and already 2 World championships in her win column. Meet Vanessa Borovilos!

Here’s why I think you need to know Vanessa’s story — because it is a story of how those who are passionate about the sport are doing everything they can to reach out to the next generation.

Some months back, I wrote a blog post on the 8 Best Things to Happen to Golf in 2017 — trends, innovations and technology that are growing the game. The post spoke about a PGA pro at my local club, Doug Laurie, and Michelle Holmes, a PGA Pro in the US. Both are relentlessly focused on coaching young kids and bringing them into the game.

With that in mind, I just had to give a shoutout to one of Doug’s student, Vanessa Borovilos, an 11 year old girl and Canadian — who just won her 2nd back to back world tournament, at the 2017 World Kids Golf Championship in Pinehurst, North Carolina! Look at this!

Here’s the scorecard from her win in 2016.

Vanessa is 11.

She doesn’t have an agent, a representative, or a media rep. But she’s a world champion – twice! — and someone needs to tell her story, and that of her coach, Doug.

The excitement in the photo is palpable.

And maybe, just maybe, sharing Vanessa’s story will help to inspire other kids, and other coaches, and other parents, to get their kids involved in what is truly one of the greatest sports in the world!

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Back in 2006, I keynoted the Society of Cable Telecom Engineers at their annual conference in Tampa. At the time, YouTube was only just beginning to have an impact, and social networking was still in a nascent stage. It was January — Twitter wasn’t even around!

My job was to alert them that forthcoming trends would mean that they would be  faced with the need to accelerate the bandwidth on their networks. I spoke to the trends I predicted in my book of 1999, Light Bulbs to Yottabits, which took a look at the forthcoming world of online video.


My job, as opening keynote, was to get them in the right, innovative frame of mind to deal with an upcoming tsunami of change.

I ended up writing an article for Broadband Magazine, on my keynote theme, Are We Thinking “Fast” Enough? I recently dug the article out the other day with respect to another upcoming talk within the industry.

It still makes for good reading today, starting with the observation that “in this era in which new developments and technology are coming to the market faster than ever before, everyone must become an innovator, whether it be with new business models, skills partnerships or customer solutions.”

Some of the key points I raised are even more critical today:

  • Innovation has moved from the corporate to the collective, a trend that is causing absolutely furious rates of discovery.
  • This rate of scientific advance is such that a world of yottabits and zetabits is going to arrive faster than you might think,
  • Things are happening so fast that some industries are beginning
    to witness the end of the concept of the product life-cycle
  • Rapid innovation and technology development means that new competitors can now come into a marketplace and cause fundamental, significant and long lasting change at the drop of a hat
  • Rapidly evolving technology is resulting in an increasing shortage of critical skills

Run through that list, and ask yourself if that is your industry situation today.

Read the full article below.

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Credit Union Magazine just ran a great article on my keynote yesterday in Las Vegas for Drive 17, the annual conference from CU Direct on trends in the automotive lending space for credit unions.

Self-driving cars, drone technology, Apple Watch, and even FaceTime.

It’s technology we see depicted in “The Jetsons,” a cartoon from 1962 that depicted the life of a futuristic family. But we’re already seeing much of the technology today, more than 40 years before the cartoon takes place in 2062.

It’s staggering to think how quickly the world around us is changing,” says innovator and futurist Jim Carroll, who addressed CU Direct’s Drive 17 Conference Wednesday in Las Vegas.

The technology in The Jetsons is just another reminder that credit unions need to innovate and not only develop new products, but also transform to keep up with the speed of change, Carroll says.

Given the fast pace of change, more than 80% of conference attendees believe their current business model will not stay the same in the next 10 years due to the significant disruption.

We need to deal with the innovation killers which hold us back from pursuing the opportunities of the future. The future is coming at us with a greater intensity and great speed,” Carroll says. “We need to think big, start small, and scale fast.

Carroll offers credit unions five strategies for successful innovation:

1. Think big

Innovators need to make big, bold decisions to be transformative. This is the only way credit unions will be able to counter the impacts that disrupters, such as fintech companies, have, Carroll says.

Think of Tesla, Carroll says, which has transformed the auto industry by manufacturing vehicles on demand and have placed their dealerships in retail shopping areas rather than in stand-alone structures. Some 400,000 people have signed up for these vehicles, he adds.

2. Presume that everything will speed up

Credit unions are not the only industry struggling with the speed of technology.

Technology is rapidly changing in vehicles, says Carroll, who believes Siri or Alexa buttons, augmented reality screens, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, and payment technology embedded in the dashboard may be features in vehicles by 2020.

For credit unions, think about how biometric scans can be used at ATMs.

3. Align to Moore’s Law of innovation

This law says the processing power of a computer chip doubles every 18 months. Technology is constantly changing and is becoming embedded in more items, such as garage doors, ceiling fans, and even grills, Carroll says.

Hyperconnectivity is becoming the rule.

Credit unions need to be aware of the expectations members have for personalization, their use of technology, and a desire for real-time support or interaction when needed.

You need to be prepared to innovate quickly,” he says.

4. Align changing business models and consumer behavior

Mobile devices have a huge influence on people’s purchasing and financing decisions. Research shows the average consumer scans 12 feet of shelf space in a second, and 80% would leave a store if they must wait more than five minutes to pay.

Determine ways to grab your members’ attention and provide solutions faster, in addition to providing a way for members to interact online, Carroll says.

5. Realign to the impact of generations

Recognize how younger generations live their lives. Don’t cling to a routine or process just because that’s the way your credit union has always operated.

Millennials, for example, have been weaned on technology, speed, and innovation, and are open to transformations and changes that take this into account, Carroll says.

 

I work with many of the world’s leading bureaus, one of who is the Washington Speakers Bureau. They represent such people as Condoleeza Rice, George W. Bush, Tony Blair, John Kerry, Magic Johnson, Terry Bradshaw — global political, sports and other leaders. They’ve just run a blog post that I wrote on trends in the speaking industry. (Many of the worlds leading bureaus book me ; not only Washington Speakers, but also National Speakers Bureau / Global Speakers; Gail Davis & Associates; Leading Authorities; the Harry Walker Agency; Keppler Speakers ; Executive Speakers and many more!)


You can’t open a newspaper without seeing an article on the impact of ‘disruption.’  We now live in a period of unprecedented change in which your business model and the assumptions by which you operate are set to be forever disrupted.

In my own case, I spend a tremendous amount of time with different organizations in a vast range of different industries and professions, helping executives to understand and respond to the disruptive forces around them. And in the last several years, I’ve noticed some pretty significant changes in the speaking industry as organizations struggle with disruption.

If you are someone on your team responsible for organizing corporate or association meetings, you need to think about and react to the trends and forces at work. Quite simply, change is occurring several ways: with the speed with which speakers and topic experts are being booked, the topic areas that insight is being sought for, and the short time frames that everyone is working within.

As a speaker who focuses on how to link trends and innovation, my tag-line has become ‘the future belongs to those who are fast.”

The world is speeding up – and organizations need to respond faster

Consider the changes that everyone is impacted by today. Business model disruption. The rapid emergence of new competitors. The challenging impact of social media. Products that are almost out of date by the time they are brought to market. The digitization of everything and the impact of the Internet of Things.  All of these trends — and more — require that organizations pick up the pace when it comes to their strategies, actions and innovation efforts.

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Post 9-11, all kinds of people predicted that we would see the end of corporate meetings, annual conferences and incentive trips. Instead, given the fear and concern with travel, and the rapid evolution of new technologies, most meetings would go virtual. Webcasts. and things like that were all the rage!

Back then, I called out this idiocy for what it was, and wrote an article for a leading meetings industry publication, Successful Meetings, entitled Get Real.

A key comment? “An event is as much about team building and networking as it is content.” At the end of the day, its about a group of people getting together, getting inspired, sharing ideas, and moving the future forward.

Read the article here

My insight on the future of packaging is featured in the May/June issue of Frame magazine, ostensibly the the leading global publications focused on all things ‘design.’

The article offers up all the thoughts I have on the future of packaging in the world of retail – hyperconnected, aware, interactive, and a world in which the package is the brand. I’ve been speaking and writing about the future of packaging for almost 20 years — take a look at some of the posts in this link here.

I’m working on getting the text and will link to it, but for now, here’s the article in image form. Click to make it bigger!

Here’s the text:

Shopping is becoming a matter of seconds
Frame Magazine, May/June 2017

‘I did all of my Christmas shopping on Amazon this year and didn’t visit a single store,’ says American futurist Jim Carroll, an expert in spotting trends and innovative advances. ‘It’s hard to discount the speed of change occurring in the world of retail and consumer products. It is in a state of upheaval.’

Some of the trends? He mentions ‘shopper or proximity marketing’, which combines location intelligence, constant mobile connection and in-store display to create a new form of instantaneously personalized in-store promotion. Mobile payment involving Apple Pay is ticking upwards, and – also pioneered by the likes of Apple – the cash register is disappearing, replaced by portable wireless credit-card devices.

>Big brands like Google, Amazon and the John Lewis department stores continue their move to same-day shipping. Even the automobile is being turned into an online shopping and credit-card platform. Tech like Amazon Alexa, AI and shopping bots require no more than a spoken word to add a product to our shopping cart for delivery within an hour, while a ‘click and collect’ infrastructure allows for same-day pick-up, at a bricks-and-mortar location, of an online purchase.

It’s clear that active intelligent packaging and Internet of Things products, which have been disrupting product life cycles, are accelerating product obsolescence and affecting both inventory and supply chain. ‘This means,’ says Carroll, ‘that faster “store fashion” with rapid evolution of in-store promotion, layout and interaction will become critically important.’

Although the average consumer can scan 3.6 m of shelf space per second, consumers wander around stores today glued to the screens of mobile devices, paying only incidental attention to merchandise, store layout, branding or promotional messages. No wonder TV screens and video projections are filling stores. ‘Mobile interactions in the retail space are the new normal for purchasing influence,’ Carroll says. ‘Retailers have got only micro-seconds to grab the attention of the low-attention-span shopper, which means that we will have to constantly innovate and adapt our retail space. The very nature of in-store interaction, flow and layout is changing very fast.’

How designers will respond to these rapid changes imaginatively is still a blank page for designers to fill. ‘We are going to see more change in the world of retail in the next five years than we have seen in the last 100. That doesn’t mean traditional design parameters and methodologies will disappear. It’s just that we now have opportunities to integrate unique technology interaction into retail design in a wide variety of ways,’ Carroll says. ‘I think there’sopportunity coming for innovation in the design of retail space, not less.’

One recent client engaged me for a talk for their global team, with the keynote title “Achieving Agility: Aligning Ourselves for an Era of Accelerating Change”. That’s a good example of how I outline the attributes for success in a world of high velocity change. With that, I focus on how organizations and leaders must incorporate four key capabilities: agility, insight, innovation and execution.


Corporate agility concept is perhaps the most critical: organizations must presume that the rate of change today is so fast that product lifecycles are collapsing, business models are relentlessly shifting, and customers are unforgiving and fleeting. To name just a few key trends!

Agility implies that we must innovate and adapt based on rapidly changing circumstances, on a continuous basis.

How do we do that? By adopting several key guiding principles that form the basis for all corporate strategy and activities going forward:

  • plan for short term longevity: No one can presume that markets, products, customers and assumptions will remain static: everything is changing instantly. Business strategies and activities must increasingly become short term oriented while fulfilling a long term mission.
  • presume lack of rigidity: Many organizations undertake plans based on key assumptions. Agile organizations do so by presuming that those key assumptions are going to change regularly over time, and so build into their plans a degree of ongoing flexibility.
  • design for flexibility : In a world of constant change, products or services must be designed in such a way that they can be quickly redesigned without massive cost and effort. Think like Google: every product and service should be a beta, with the inherent foundation being one of flexibility for future change.
  • build with extensibility: Apple understood the potential for rapid change by building into the iPod architecture the fundamental capability for other companies to develop add-on products. Think the same way : tap into the world. Let the customer, supplier, partners and others innovate on your behalf!
  • harness external creativity: In a world in which knowledge is evolving at a furious pace, no one organization can do everything. Recogize your limits, and tap into the skills, insight and capabilities of those who can do things better.
  • plan for supportability: Customers today measure you by a bar that is raised extremely high — they expect you to deliver the same degree of high-quality that they get from the best companies on the planet. They expect instant support, rapid service, and constant innovation. If you don’t provide this, they’ll simply move on to an alternative.
  • revisit with regularity: Banish complacency. Focus on change. Continually revisit your plans, assumptions, models and strategies, because the world next week is going to be different than that of today.

To me, that’s what agility is all about!

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