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I was interviewed the other day by the National Association of Colleges and Employers; this group is heavily involved in supporting career opportunities for college graduates. The focus of the interview was on generational diferences, and what happens in the workforce in the future.

Read the PDF! “Don’t mess with my powder, dude.” Such was the rather flippant response by an engineering graduate to a job offer from a leading architectural/engineering company. The CEO of the organization was explaining this story to me while we discussed the global trends that I should address during my upcoming presentation to staff of the organization. “What’s with these kids?” he asked.

Certainly there has been a lot of focus on how different the Millennial generation when it comes to the future of careers; I’ve been speaking about this issue for more than 20 years!

The article is below…… but read my article, ‘Don’t Mess with my Powder, Dude” for more insight on the work/life thoughts of the next generation. 

Also have a look at this video from an education conference, in which I speak about how video is the knowledge ingestion tool for the next generation.

Video: The Acceleration of Knowledge


Technology the Catalyst for Generational Differences
Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals
January 11, 2017

When we talk about generational differences, we no longer can just identify differences between generations, but we can identify differences within generations as well, according to Jim Carroll.

Carroll, a futurist and trends expert, says technology is the catalyst for the rapidity with which generations now evolve.

“It’s not politics or sociology, because they don’t move fast enough,” Carroll says. “The speed with which technology has come into their lives has made the differences within Generation Z that are amplified when compared to the Millennials.”

For example, Carroll says that there are definitely differences between a 30-year-old Millennial and a 25-year-old Millennial.

“There was a lot of technology coming at them as they grew up, but it wasn’t a huge amount,” he says. “But if you take an 18-year-old and a 23-year-old today—both members of Generation Z—it’s almost like they grew up in entirely different periods of time because they would have been exposed to different sets of technology.”

This carries over into the workplace. Carroll says Generation Z shares common traits with Millennials.

“They have very short attention spans,” he says. “They need multiple different things to do. These are all traits that were common with Millennials, but they are much more pronounced with the generation entering the work force.”

He says that a realization many organizations have not come to grips with yet is that this is the video generation.

“These young employees consume video like it’s oxygen,” Carroll says. “When it comes to training or any type of education or professional development, the use of video is paramount. These employees have never known a world without YouTube, so if you’re doing anything to engage them, it has to be video based. They are not going to sit and read policy and procedure manuals. Nor are they going to spend their time dealing with complex reports.”

They also have little time for what they consider unnecessary or unwieldy tasks or formats.

“They don’t subscribe to the idea of performance reviews or long, laborious processes in stages to move up the ladder,” Carroll says. “They don’t have a lot of patience for complexity and rules and structure. They get frustrated with antiquated practices. It has been a command and control workplace. Instead, they want to get in and get their work done without a lot of talking about it.”

Carroll explains that, with members of Generation Z, organizations also have a powerful source of collaborative powers that they need to harness.

“By growing up with mobile devices and social networks, the skills they bring into the workplace for collaborative capabilities is profound compared to what we saw with Millennials just 10 years prior,” he says. “Employers have to support that and take advantage of these collaborative capabilities.”

While technology allows employees of all generations to work remotely, Carroll believes Generation Z still will value connecting in person.

“The common prediction is that the new generation of employees is going to unplug, work remotely, and not congregate in offices,” Carroll notes. “I might be proven dead wrong on this, but I think that’s going to flip around so we’ll see a trend back to the workplace and increased human interaction.

“The employees entering the work force have untapped tools and skills for the workplace. We have to give them more credit than we do. They have surprised us in the past and I’m certain that they will continue to surprise us in the future.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

It was fun!

 

 

In the next two weeks, I’ll have two unique keynotes to close off the year: a keynote for the United Soybean Board on the future of agriculture in St. Louis, and then an event in New York City for the senior leadership team of one of the world’s largest life insurance companies.

Then, it’s time for a holiday break — I’ll be busy with one son running the backyard snowmaking machine, and I’ll be working with the other to flood the newly constructed ice rink at the chalet.

** Read more about our awesome backyard snowmaking system below!

But after that, the future fires up in fast fashion as January kicks in! Here’s whats’ coming already in the early part of 2017:

  • I will speaking to the a leadership meeting for the new organization, Arconic. This is a public spin-off of the global aluminum giant, Alcoa, that will be focused on major opportunities in the transportation, construction and other sectors.
  • two days later, I’ll. focus on the future of construction industry for a leadership meeting of the Alberici Group, a major organization in the industrial and commercial construction sector. I’ll take a deep look at future trends and opportunities in the industries that affect them as a means for spotting opportunities for innovation
  • two events in New Orleans follow in fast fashion. The first is for the American Financial Services Association — I’ll be taking a good look at the future of the automotive industry. Everything from the reality of self-driving cars, the emergence of smart highway infrastructure, the sharing economy and more, and how this might impact the future of automotive lending
  • the second N.O. event is for United Suppliers, an agricultural cooperative, where I’ll take a look at the fast paced trends in this industry
  • that’s followed up by an private innovation awards event for a hi-tech company, based around my theme, “What Do World Class Innovators Do that Others Don’t Do?” — and why its important to celebrate innovation success!
  • hot on the heels of that event, I’ll keynote a global event for Bayer  in San Antonio, spinning back into agriculture world with a real – hey, agriculture is a hot topic!
  • then, its off to Palm Springs, where I will host a half day session with a major company in the automative retail/repair space, with the Board of Directors and senior leadership team, again, all around the theme of the future of the automative industry and disruptive innovation

** Backyard snowmaking? Why not! At our chalet, we’ve always had a little ‘luge run’, and one of my sons always wanted to make snow, so he built his own. As I wrote on Facebook: “As temperatures in the north east begin to plummet, it’s time to turn to thoughts of snow. For that, you need to accelerate your innovation with a backyard snowmaking system. Here’s ours. It can pump out a 10×20, 2″ base of snow in 2-4 hours. It utilizes a pressure washer, air compressor, and a very sophisticated system of valves and nozzles to atomize the water to the right consistency. It also requires optimal snowmaking conditions, and so for that, we have a Raspberry Pi with a SenseHat running Linux that monitors dew point, humidity and temperature in real time, so that the proper Wet Bulb temperature snowmaking is calculated and known.”

It’s a funny job, being a futurist.

Essentially, your job is to take people out of their comfort zone, by removing them from today, and taking them into tomorrow.

Tomorrow, of course, involves challenge and change; opportunity and threat; hope and fear. Some people are ready for it; many others are not.

With 25 years and more of helping people comprehend change and what comes next, I’ve come to learn a few things, best captured by an observation I often make on stage: “some people see a trend and see a threat. Innovators see the same trend, and see an opportunity!”

threatoropportunity

Think about that phrase, and then think about three situations that just unfolded in the last several days:

  • a large global financial services organization had been looking at me to come in and focus on what they needed to do to align themselves to faster consumer, technology, business model and other disruptive change — all the things I do. I had great interactions with one of the organizers who wanted to bring me in. What happened? The decision for a keynote went to a committee, who decided to do what they’ve always done: they chose an industry expert! As my contact admitted to me, “we should look outside the box and opt for something new, novel, insightful, controversial, not by default vote for the known names, where we will hear the stuff we already know, wrapped in different package.“. But they went with what was comfortable. After the decision, he noted that “it just shows how transformation consultants are not insightful in how to continuously improve and transform themselves, once they get into the comfort zone…”
  • an association that will be heavily impacted by the emergence of smart highways, autonomous, self-driving cars, and the acceleration of the automotive industry, had been looking at me for a keynote on what they needed to do to align to this rate of change. What did they decide? They booked a motivational speaker to come in and ‘energize their group!’ (their words). Can an industry simply motivate themselves out of disruptive change? Probably not…..
  • and in the most fascinating situation, a major agricultural organization that runs a series of events for farmers shortlisted me (for the 10th year in a row). And for the 10th year, I’ve learned, they’ve gone out and selected the same national news anchor they’ve selected for the last 10 years! Who I suppose will deliver the same message, interpreting current events, and basically repeating to them what he says on the national news each and every night. Simple fact? Agriculture in 10 years will look nothing like it does today: and so how can re-interpreting current affairs help them to deal with this fact?

It’s kind of funny, if you think about it.

But it’s also a pretty poor reflection on the ability of people to confront and deal with change.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not terribly bothered by this, other than by writing this post. The fact of the matter is that nature of my business is that I do some 50 keynotes or leadership meetings each year. The number really doesn’t vary; I’ve got a limited number of dates that I make myself available for, and a limited set of time to do the intense industry research for each talk that I am known for. I’ve encountered many situations like this over the past, and regardless of what these folks are doing, I’ll end up being booked by someone else for the dates that were on the table.

I just find it remarkable that so many people live in fear of the future, and yet really aren’t prepared to do anything about it.

My job IS to make people feel uncomfortable with the future, warts and all – and yet also inspire and challenge them to discover the opportunity that comes from the reality of change. This was perhaps best captured in the brochure copy when I did a keynote for 500 mayors and civic officials in Salt Lake City for the Utah League of Cities and Towns a few years ago:

confused-utah

What a great description!

Jim Carroll’s job is to make people feel uncomfortable …. maybe even a bit confused. Just when you think you’ve got things figured out, Jim probably sees it differently. He has a knack for predicting trends and change, and helping business and government leaders see where things are going, and how they can not only adapt to change, but lead it.”

When I first saw the description in the brochure, it took me by surprise. In most cases, the client runs brochure copy past me before it goes to print, but in this case, for various logistics reasons, I didn’t see it in advance. Yet when I first read it, I thought to myself, “hmmm, does that sound right?” I thought perhaps it might put a bit of a negative spin on what I do.

Yet the more I thought about it, I realized it was a great outline of what I do!

That’s because when it comes to the future, far too many people can be complacent about the trends that are going to impact them, and avoid the type of creative ideas that they need to pursue in order to keep up with the pace of change.

If you are too comfortable right now with the future, then you probably aren’t thinking hard enough about the trends that are going to impact you. You need to be scared; nervous; prepared to accept that things are going to change, and ready for action. That’s why you should always remember the comments of Andy Grove of Intel: “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.”

So maybe being a little uncomfortable, dazed and confused is a good state of mind to be in!

 

Working with Sponsors!
November 28th, 2016

For every major association event there are sponsors. These are the folks These are the folks who help to make annual events and meetings work; they step up to the plate to help bring great conference to the stage. Here’s a video clip in which I’m featured for a recent event…

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

afsa

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

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

It should be fun!

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

One of my favorite innovation phrases that I always use on stage or in a CEO off-site is “think big, start small, scale fast!”

thinksmall

So I woke up this morning and came into the home office, and was thinking about the “start small’ part of that phrase. And quickly jotted down a list of small ideas.

Here goes!

  •  do small projects: too many innovation efforts get bogged down, bloated, and blow up due to big scope and size!
  • celebrate small wins : not every innovation effort needs to be a home run
  • learn from small failures: I love the phrase fail early, fail often, fail fast; you can do that better if your project is small
  • scatter your team for small exploration: there is so much going on in so many industries that is so tiny but has huge implications, you’ve simply got to let your people explore!
  • reframe the idea of small: put into perspective how small changes can have a big impact
  • look for small winners: for example, there are tremendous innovations in manufacturing concepts with small manufacturers — learn from them!
  • give a small bit: in an era of open collaboration and global insight, giving back some R&D can be a good thing
  • seek small heroes: in the global economy, there is probably a small 1 or 2 person company who is doing exactly the cool, innovate thing you need. Find them!
  • establish small decision groups: destroy committees; if there has to be one to make a decision, limit it to 1 or 2 or 3 people.
  • focus on the power of small: one person can change a company, an industry, a country, a world!

Of course, my ideas aren’t original. The original concept of small perhaps came from the greatest advertising campaign of all time — for the VW Beetle, Think Small.

It’s a powerful concept.

In my case, the entirety of my career as a global keynote speaker, futurist, trends and innovation expert is that it’s me, and my wife, and a small home office that is plugged into a great big world. From here, I serve up insight and guidance to a vast range of global organizations, associations, CEO’s and leadership teams.

Thinking big, starting small, scaling fast.

Perhaps the real secret to succeeding in a world where the future belongs to those who are fast!

 

Creating a Great Keynote!
November 15th, 2016

During a call yesterday, a client was asking whether I could customize my talk for their group.

Are you kidding?

Here’s a good case study of the typical process that I goes through.

This particular organization was in the retail space; through conversations with several member of global management, we built a list of the key issues that I would focus in on my talk: these being the key issues that the leadership believed that the rest of the team need to be thinking hard about.

  • faster emergence of new store infrastructure : i.e. contact-less payment technology is a fact with iPhone’s, and other smart-phones. What happens when this occurs on customer interactions ; how quickly can a retail / restaurant organization scale to deal with it (i.e. rapid technological innovation is continuing unabated despite the economic downturn, and things like this will have a big impact on how business is done!)
  • faster challenges in terms of freshness of brand image: today, with the impact of the Net and social networks, a brand isn’t what you say it it — it’s what “they” say it is
  • new influencers: consumers are influenced in terms of choice in ways that go beyond traditional advertising. For example, consider the Celebrity Baby Blog (yes, there is such a thing), and how it has come to influence fashion trends for infant wear
  • new forms of brand interaction: the concept of the “location intelligence professional” — corporations are deploying strategies that integrate location into the virtual web, interacting with above mentioned cell phones that provide for in-store product uplift
  • rapid emergence of store architecture issues: intelligent infrastructures – McDonald’s has a $100 million energy saving plan that is based on IP based management of in store energy We’re also seeing the rapid emergence of green / eco design principles that provide more opportunities for savings
  • faster evolution of consumer taste preference : new food trends go from upscale restaurant to broad deployment in as little as 18 months now, compared to 5 years ago; consumer choice changes faster, requiring faster innovation!
  • faster idea cycles. New concepts, ideas, business strategies, advertising concepts happen faster because of greater global collaboration ; brands have to keep up with the idea cycle

Next, my keynote would touch on how the client could be more innovative in dealing with fast paced trends? Some potential methods include:

  • the concept of upside / down innovation – customer oriented innovation
  • generational collaboration – how to unleash the creativity of Gen-Connect
  • concept of business agility: how do we structure ourselves to act faster
  • theme of experiential capital : how can we take on more risk oriented projects simply to build our expertise in new areas such as social networking
  • fast, global, scalable project oriented teams : how do we learn to collaborate better internally
  • innovation “factories”: how can we scale successful internal projects faster to achieve greater benefits
  • partnership oriented innovation: how do collaborate on innovation with our suppliers and others in the supply chain?

Some of the conclusions that came from the global discussions in the lead up to the event? These were responses draw from the audience through the use of online text message polling:

  • we need to learn how to innovate more locally but globally scale
  • a better “innovation factory” to rollout is critical
  • can’t compromise speed to market with structure/bureaucracy
  • spread R&D out
  • collaborate to a greater degree on an international basis
  • innovation should be part of reward and structure
  • more brand clarity, particularly given muddiness of impact of social networking
  • need a more forceful commitment ($, structure, rewards, goals) to innovation

From this, I built my keynote so that it had a structure of “what are the issues,” “what do we need to about them in terms of potential responses”, and “what are some of the organizational changes we need to make to deal with them.”

It turned out to be a great talk!

The Canadian Society of Association Executives had me write a series of articles with some of the unique challenges presented to associations in the context of fast-trends.

Here’s the 2nd one.

The nomadic worker carries different attitudes towards life and work, and rejects many of the currently accepted “norms” of the corporate environment. Their attitudes will revolutionize the world of work.

The nomadic worker carries different attitudes towards life and work, and rejects many of the currently accepted “norms” of the corporate environment. Their attitudes will revolutionize the world of work.

They provide good food for thought! More to come over the next week!

Nomadic Workers

The workforce is transformed as “nomadic workers” dominate the economy.

The number of full time jobs will continue to dramatically shrink – yet, we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg in the change of the relationship between employer and employee.  Companies will hire the best talent, regardless of where that person might be. A

new form of career competitiveness is emerging, with extreme competition for this group of nomadic workers – highly skilled individuals who call the shots.

All this in the context of a global economy in which 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.

The nomadic worker carries different attitudes towards life and work, and rejects many of the currently accepted “norms” of the corporate environment. Their attitudes will revolutionize the world of work.

The end result? The shape of tomorrow’s company won’t be defined by the walls in its offices – it will be defined by the reach of its computerized knowledge network, and its ability to tap into the skills and capabilities of the nomadic worker, at the right time, in the right place, for the right purpose.

Questions for Association Leaders

  • What are you doing to attract the new, independent contract worker into our association, and how do you remain relevant to their needs?
  • As your profession fragments into many different sub-specialties, how do you retain your relevance?

The Canadian Society of Association Executives had me write a series of articles with some of the unique challenges presented to associations in the context of fast-trends. Over the new week, I’ll play out these articles in a series of blog posts. They provide good food for though!

Your future members will work in industries, businesses and organizations that evolve faster in terms of their focus, products, services and mandates - what are you doing to challenge your mandate to deal with that?

Your future members will work in industries, businesses and organizations that evolve faster in terms of their focus, products, services and mandates – what are you doing to challenge your mandate to deal with that?

Over 20 years, I’ve keynoted numerous association and meeting professional events. Check the Association section (under Trends) of my Web site for more!

Crowd Thinking

Crowd thinking has replaced most forms of peer research. Most long established medical and science journals have transitioned – big time – accepting a new form of instant crowd thinking as
the best way to evaluate the new world hyper-science. In an instant, a researcher can summon acrowd of vetted, quality specialists who have niche knowledge in a rapidly changing field.

The result? A further acceleration of knowledge and in the pace of the discovery of new ideas and concepts. The impact? Massive velocity in the development of new technologies,pharmaceuticals, medical devices and forms of treatment, agricultural concepts an methodologies — every industry and profession has seen a profound shift bigger than the once amazing macro-knowledge burst of the Manhattan project.

Questions for Association Leaders:

  • Are you capable of migrating the professional education component of our role, so that rapid advances with crowd thinking become part of the curriculum/training?
  •  How quickly will the acceleration of knowledge that comes from crowd thinking challenge our professional skill set?