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One of my key responsibilities as a futurist is to help my clients — some of the largest associations and companies in the world — align themselves to the fast paced trends of today. One key question that always comes up? “When do we get involved with any key trend?”

I walk them through that issue from a variety of perspectives and with observations I’ve seen from spending time with countless Fortune 1000 organizations. However, I stress that when it comes to the issue of timing, it is critical that they get involved in some way with any new trend or technology.

Some don’t. History has taught as that some when it comes to key trends, some organizations don’t bother showing up at all or don’t show up at the right time — and end up missing a lot of opportunities. Hence, the quote in the picture!

How do you determine when to invest? The best guidance comes from something called the “Gartner Hypecycle.” Years ago, the global research company suggested that any new technology goes along a curve – it appears, hits the time of excessive hype and expectations. That is followed by the inevitable collapse of enthusiasm as people realize that it takes a lot of time and effort to implement the technology and determine the opportunity that comes from it. But inevitably, both the expectations and technology itself matures, and it becomes a key component for innovation and so much more.

You can take any technology and place it on the curve.

Consider e-commerce: it appeared, and people got carried away with the potential during the dot.com era of the late 1990’s. However, that involved a period of rather excessive and ridiculous hype, and so we had the inevitable dot.com collapse. Plateau of productivity? Amazon is steamrolling retail in North America, and Alibaba dominates retail trends in China. Everywhere, stores are closing and online shopping is accelerating. Amazon buys Whole Foods. Do you get the point?

Now consider the explosion of new technologies around us today: 3D printing, the Internet of Things (#iot), virtual reality, artificial intelligence, self-driving cars. A key component to your strategy is figuring out where they are on the curve, and hence, what you should be doing with them in terms of an innovation strategy. There are some useful observations to be found online, such as this one which takes the hype-cycle and places a variety of technologies at their current point on the curve.

But here’s the thing: if a key technology shows an opportunity, don’t ignore it if it is still early days. Otherwise, there is a good chance that you won’t be ready when it becomes real – when it hits the plateau of productivity. 

This is where my “think big, start small, scale fast” mantra comes into play. Even if it is early days, you should make sure that you are working with, experimenting with, and gaining expertise in any new technology. Fail early and fail fast! That way, you will be better positioned when it hits the “plateau of productivity.”

One thing I’ve learned? Some organizations don’t take this step. They don’t show up to the starting line. They are too dismissive of new ideas and new technologies The result is that they don’t even appear in the race, and miss out on building up the early expertise and experience with a key technology.

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!

 

 

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!

 

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?

An article from Meetings.Net on a recent keynote I did in Orlando….

Carroll digitalnow_0

The key to engagement? Not only to change up the seating and format, but to hire speakers who are not afraid to shake up the event, and who know enough about the meeting content to answer a variety of questions in meaningful ways.

DigitalNow’s creative Collaboration Sessions engaged the keynoter speakers with the audience in ways that felt fresh and unscripted.

Some 250 association executives and technology experts who gathered at the Hyatt Regency Orlando last week for digitalNow experienced a creative approach to the traditional keynote. Each morning’s general session, which featured a thought leader on a big idea, was followed by a “Collaboration Session.”

Fusion Productions, the Rochester, N.Y.–based company that organizes the forum, and which specializes in new communications technologies aimed at educating and motivating, crafted the staging and format for these creative Collaboration Sessions. They were an interesting blend of a panel, which asked follow-up questions, interspersed with questions from the audience, all facilitated by a skilled moderator.

The staging made for interesting engagement. For example, for the opening morning Collaboration Session, keynoter Jim Carroll, futurist and innovation expert, sat on stage in a director’s chair, with the moderator standing just off to his side. The room was set in crescent rounds. The three panelists, all association CEOs, and thought leaders in their own right, sat in director’s chairs positioned approximately in the middle of the room, spread out in a semi-circle. They posed a variety of smart questions to Carroll, which were seemingly unrehearsed and which he candidly answered (as candidly as one who foresees future trends can answer). The audience piped in on occasion to ask questions, or sent questions via text messaging to the moderator, who skillfully interspersed meaningful comments and questions throughout.

The key to engagement? Not only to change up the seating and format, but to hire speakers who are not afraid to shake up the event, and who know enough about the meeting content to answer a variety of questions in meaningful ways.

Carroll, who in a later interview said he prides himself on being the “content guy who loves to get into the meat of the issue,” when hired by an association or company to keynote. “There’s always an overriding theme or challenge when I talk to the association CEO,” he says. “I get frustrated when an association confronted with big challenges hires ‘Shark Tank’ people as their keynoters. They’re choosing that over content?”

Because he’s hired by so many associations, and writes columns for association magazines, Carroll understands the association business. “Many associations’ annual events are on autopilot. Same old title, same old speakers, they talk about the same old stuff,” Carroll continues. “I see a need in the association world for short-term strategic meetings.” He also sees the need for video learning, particularly among younger people.

Bottom-line, says this futurist, face-to-face meetings will always be part of our future, because “at the end of the day, it’s about getting together for a wine or a beer” to discuss the day’s events and the business at hand. “You can’t do that virtually.”

In a few weeks, I’ll keynote the Digital Now conference — it’s a get together of executives from major associations across the US.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time speaking to, and writing about, the association sector — check out the Association Trends section of my blog for more.

Deirdre Reed writes numerous articles for the association sector, and had this nice writeup on some of the issues I’ll cover in Orlando!

turtles-puttering-along-together

“The digitalNow conference is a great opportunity to get away for a few days to rethink everything in the company of curious association execs who don’t accept mere relevance.”

4 Truths About the Future of Associations
by Deirdre Reid

“Innovation” is such a buzzword now that I wouldn’t blame association execs for tuning out when they hear it. But I like Jim Carroll’s slant on it: “Innovation is all about adapting to the future.” Now, that’s something we can work with.

Jim Carroll is the opening keynote at the digitalNow conference which will take place in less than a month (April 21-23) in Orlando. The conference website says Carroll will talk about:

  • technologies and innovations that will affect association business models
  • strategies for reacting to these innovations with greater speed
  • challenges associations will face ahead

Innovating is not about surviving, says Carroll, it’s about thriving. Surviving, like relevance, is a low bar. Associations must aim higher—aim to thrive and become indispensable to their community.

Carroll lays down ten truths about the future. Let’s take a look at four of them and think about how your association is handling these truths.

The future is incredibly fast.

How can you, your staff and your board keep up? Can you adjust your business processes quickly? How long does it take to discover a need, develop a solution, and roll it out to your community?

Guillermo Ortiz de Zarate’s session at digitalNow, The Lean Startup Changes Everything, is bound to give us some ideas on how to experiment with and speed up program development. Get a sneak preview of his thinking in the white paper he co-authored with Elizabeth Engel: Innovate the Lean Way: Applying Lean Startup Methodology in the Association Environment.

The future involves a huge adaptability gap.

This one blew me away because it’s so true:

Earlier generations – boomers – have participated in countless change management workshops, reflecting the reality that many of them have long struggled with change. Gen-Connect – today’s 15 and under – will never think of <the> change management issue. They just change.”

Change management experts say it isn’t the actual change we resist, it’s the psychological transition we have to make to accommodate change, that’s the tough part. Adapting to change is a skill set, one you can teach your staff and your members. Today, knowing how to develop new skills is the most important skill of all.

The future is being defined by renegades.

Nearly two years ago, I wrote two articles for Avectra (now Abila) about for-profit online communities: The New Competition: For-Profit Communities with Deep Pockets, part 1 and part 2. Since then these “renegades” have become even more popular and profitable. They saw an opportunity to deliver value to markets long served by associations, and they went for it.

“Increasingly, the future of many an industry is being defined by industry expatriates. When a real innovator can’t innovate within a company, they step outside, form a startup, and spark massive industry change on their own. Before you know, they’ve reinvented you.”

Keep an eye on innovators and hold them close. What if associations had been part of these ventures? What if associations were agile enough to play the game at that level?

The future involves partnership.

How can you help your members—both professional and vendor members—become more successful? Associations have always declared themselves member-centric, but too often their perspective is inside-out rather than outside-in, as Anna Caraveli points out in her excellent book, The Demand Perspective. The value proposition has always been based on what the association says is valuable, not what members believe is valuable. Crazy, right?

Partnering means regularly listening to members (and non-members) and involving them in the early stages of discussions about value delivery—behaving like a real partner in their success. Don’t assume you know what members need, instead be guided by member behavior (data) and conversations for your direction.

To do this, you’ll have to schedule more member interaction than you’re used to, and not just interaction with the usual suspects, but interaction with “regular” members and non-members too. But think about all you’ll learn—they call this business intelligence for a reason.

Don’t ignore those other members—you know, the vendors, consultants, affiliates, associates or whatever you call them. Here’s what you should call them—partners. How can they help you become more successful and, in turn, how can you help them become more successful? What can you learn from each other? What access and resources can you provide each other?

Associations and their boards need to get over themselves and treat vendor members as partners in their success. You can help each other succeed if you get together and figure out how to deliver value to members in ways that help both of you.

The future requires rethinking value.

That one’s from me. Many associations are still struggling financially and would benefit from rethinking the whole non-dues revenue issue. Heck, rethink the whole value issue. If you’re struggling, it’s a sign you aren’t delivering value to your community. If you were, they would be joining, renewing, registering, sponsoring and buying.

The digitalNow conference is a great opportunity to get away for a few days to rethink everything in the company of curious association execs who don’t accept mere relevance. The speakers from outside and inside our industry poke at our assumptions and introduce us to new ideas. I can’t wait.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Rennett Stowe)][

For years, I’ve spoken throughout my client base as a keynote speaker as to how the essence of global research and development is changing.This includes keynote presentations to some of the world’s leading educational associations and corporations; industry and professional conference associations; and even two events for NASA, with a number of astronauts, astrophysicists and other deep thinkers in the room!

WCGatineau

Watch a true piece of art – this time-lapse video by my 22 year old son, using a ‘time-lapse slider’ running on a Raspberry Pi, that he built by drawing upon ‘the global colloborative mind.’

My emphasis has always been that the Internet has led us to a new world of ‘crowd-thinking’ in which anyone can look at any idea, and figure out how to pursue the idea, and develop a new skill, capability, form of insight or simply a new “thing.” The foundation for crowdthinking includes crowdfunding initiatives; vast knowledge and information archives; the sharing economy, global collaborative communities and other fascinating developments. It’s a trend that is shaking up R&D efforts worldwide, because it accelerates knowledge. Ultimately, crowd-thinking is leading to some very significant change in every industry. More on that later….

No trend is complete without it ‘hitting home’ in a personal way. That’s why you need to watch this this fabulous time-lapse video, which my 22 year old son Willie Carroll painstakingly filmed, edited and pulled together over a period of over a month. Watch it here, or view his blog post about the project WcFotography.

It’s a ‘time-lapse’ video — in which Willie’s 35mm camera takes a picture using a time-lapse slider ‘machine’ that he built. The slider makes the camera moves a fraction of an inch, then waits, and then takes another picture. Repeat, several times over an hour. Stitch together multiple photos into video clips; link those together, layer on some fabulous music, and you’ve got a true piece of art. Willie built the hardware and figured out the software, by tapping into the global creative mind. You can get a basic sense of how it works below. When he first got it working — which, even though I was away at a keynote — was a truly inspiring and fabulous moment!


As an avid part-time professional photographer (see WcFotography.com) involved in corporate, wedding and other photographic shoots, Willie is always eager to push his skills to the limit.

Willie spotted the idea for a time-lapse slider when it was floated as  a KickStarter project — but at $1,000, it was a bit out of his range. He decided that he could build one on his own; he researched the project and found both the hardware and software solutions online. Through a sometimes excruciating process through the summer, he saw the project through to success. The slider was built using a Raspberry Pi computer; rails, a motor and timing belt that he sourced through eBay; and software that was developed by a fellow named David Hunt in Ireland, who ultimately provided Willie with the inspiration for his project.

Once it was finished, Willie took the rig back to university, and on weekends and during time off, visited his beloved Gatineau Park to capture a wide variety of fabulous photographic-video sequences.

As a dad, I couldn’t be prouder.

I’d encourage you to share the video — it’s posted above on Vimeo. I’d also encourage you to check out his  photography Web site. If you’re based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, you might consider engaging him for your next photography project!

Learn more over at http://www.wcfotography.com.

Video: Meet Jim Carroll!
October 16th, 2015

Essentially, Jim assists in organizations in dealing with the future, trends and innovation through three distinct types of events:

  • as the opening or closing keynote speaker for the annual meetings/conferences of national or international associations
  • keynotes or workshops for private corporate leadership events, ranging from small groups of 15 to several hundred executives, often sponsored by the CEO, for a vast range of global Fortune 1000 companies
  • keynotes or panel discussions on customer oriented meetings or promotional events

Did you know that the typical truck today contains more technology than your typical small plane? They shouldn’t be called truckers anymore — they’re “pilots!” That’s but one of the tidbits I’ll explore in my keynote next week for the Natioanl Association of Truck Stock Operators in National, when I open their annual conference!

2014Trucks

Autonomous road trains! That’s but one of the fast paced trends to drive forward the global trucking industry — topics I’ll cover in Nashville at the end of January.

World-Leading Futurist To Give Keynote Address At The NATSO Show
Thursday, November 14, 2013

Preparing for the future means focusing on innovation. This year at The NATSO Show,Jan. 26-29, 2014, Nashville, Tenn., world-leading futurist Jim Carroll will provide insight and inspiration to help NATSO members improve their business operations today while making innovative business decisions geared to the future.

In the keynote address, sponsored by Chevron Lubricants, Carroll will share ideas that will show operators how to link future trends to today’s creative decision making. He will also help attendees learn how to deal with the challenges of the economic correction through a focus on innovation.

“The rate of change today—whether with business models, product lifecycles, skills and knowledge, marketing methodologies or customer support concepts—is speeding up. We live in a world where being faster is better than being fast. That’s why innovation is the most important word that you need to be thinking about,” Carroll said.

Right now, truckstop and travel plaza operators are witnessing rapid technological advances with fuel economy impacting truck fleets and passenger vehicles and seeing shifts in business models that are affecting logistics and the routes heavy trucks travel. We’re also seeing customers that are demanding new ways of interacting with retailers and purchasing their products. These changes make staying ahead of the curve more important than ever. To capitalize on both current and future opportunities, operators need to be in a frame of mind in which innovation is at the forefront and Carroll will help get them there.

As an author, columnist, media commentator and consultant, Carroll has a 20-year track record in providing direct, independent guidance to a diverse global client base. He has spoken to hundreds of groups, including NASA, Disney, the PGA of America and Johnson & Johnson.

Carroll has researched key innovation success factors for dozens of associations, professions, companies and individuals. His books include The Future Belongs To Those Who Are Fast and Ready, Set, Done: How to Innovate When Faster is the New Fast.

– See more at: http://www.natso.com/press/press/view/52#sthash.7n59qchN.dpuf

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by the Membership Management Report about some of the trends and issues that association executives should be thinking about. This came about after their online search discovered the Associations category of my blog. I’ve written a tremendous number of articles about the trends and issues that associations should be addressing as the professions, industries or people they represent under very fast paced changes in terms of skills, knowledge requirements and change. Here’s the article….

MemberManagementReport2013

How Associations Can Keep Up with Change, Change … And More Change By Dawn Wolfe While even the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus knew the only thing that is ever constant is change, the fact is, in today’s world, the changes are coming faster and more radically than ever before. What can membership associations do to stay alive and thrive in the midst of these challenges? “If I’m in a career that’s being impacted by huge rates of change, whether through technology or learning how to work with the new generation, I want to know how my association can help me deal with that,” says futurist, author and consultant Jim Carroll. According to Carroll, there are three main things associations need to think about to help their memberships professionally — and thus, stay alive:

  1. “Associations frequently do annual meetings and focus major efforts on them, but what about helping members cope with the changes that occur between meetings? To borrow from the Pink Floyd song, we need ‘short, sharp, shock(s)’ of knowledge,” Carroll advises. He adds it’s a good idea to create smaller, issue- focused events throughout the year. “We still need to do the annual events — for a lot of associations, that’s their bread and butter — but you also have to fill a smaller, more strategic role.”
  2. “The second thing,” Carroll continues, “is the speed at which the knowledge in different industries is changing. If you’re in health care — or think of banking: people’s cell phones are becoming their credit cards. I should be able to look to my professional association or chamber of commerce to help me deal with this new technology. Increasingly, your job should be supporting the generation of knowledge.”
  3. Finally, Carroll says associations should be actively looking at their relevance. “I’ve spoken to conference attendees and asked if their profession will even exist 10 years from now. This is really important — are you evolving to meet what’s coming?”

To stay relevant, Carroll advises his clients to, “Challenge yourself to do something different. I go to a lot of association events, and they’re just doing the usual. Are you really thinking through the strategic purpose of your events?” It’s also necessary for associations to rethink everything from the length and frequency of blog posts to how to structure their newsletters. “Everyone is blogging, so associations are blogging. They generally are blogging weekly, but changes are coming on a daily basis. Everything is happening faster, so you have to do things faster,” he says. In addition, Carroll cites the example of his 20-year-old son who “gets his news from Twitter. If you’re thinking the next generation is going to have the attention span to read a 500 to 1,000 word New York Times piece, or even your two-page association newsletter, that just isn’t going to happen.”

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