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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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How many times does this happen – you have a great idea that you know will succeed – only to have it go to a committee, who proceed to destroy your idea?


As I dig into the culture and attitude of a client through interviews with the CEO and other team members, I’m always mystified to find  that some organizations just seem to do everything they can to shut down new ideas. Committees are one of the worst sources of failed innovation.

It happens a lot as a speaker and innovation expert. I will often be contacted by someone in an organization who is convinced that they need my insight in order to move ahead. We have a great discussion, form an outline of how I will help them, and then they try to move it forward. It goes to a committee, gets bogged down, and eventually, they end up booking a motivational speaker!

A few years back, on stage, I went through a list of what goes wrong when it comes to innovation. Innovation failures:

  • form a committee. An absolute sure fired way of shutting down ideas! The herd mentality takes over, and activity sclerosis soon sets in.
  • defer decisions. It’s easier to wait than to make any bold, aggressive moves. Uncertainty is a virtue; indecision is an asset.
  • hide failure. If anyone tries something new and doesn’t succeed, make sure that no one else sees it. You don’t want to set a message that it is important to take risks.
  • let innovators work in secret. You want to make sure that the concept of innovation remains some deep, mysterious process that not everyone can participate in. That will help to ensure that most of your team doesn’t pursue any type of fresh new thinking. They’ll just keep doing what they’ve always done.
  • banish fear. Make sure that everyone thinks that everything is going to be all right. You don’t have to deal with potential business market disruption, new competitors, significant industry transformation or the impact of globalization. Everything will look the same ten years from now, so just keep everyone focused on doing the same old thing!
  • accept the status quo. Things are running perfectly, you’ve got the perfect product mix, and all of your customers are thrilled with your brand and the levels of customer service. There’s no need to do anything new, since it’s all going to work out just fine!
  • be cautious. Don’t make any bold, aggressive moves. Just take things slowly, one step at a time. If you move too fast, things are likely to go wrong. Let complacency settle in like a warm blanket.
  • glorify process.  Make sure that everything is filled out in triplicate; ensure that process slows down any radical ideas.  It’s more important to do things perfectly than to make mistakes.
  • be narrow. Keep a very tiny view of the future. You can’t succeed with any big wins, because there aren’t going to be any dramatic surprises in the future. Think small. Act accordingly.
  • study things to death. Don’t let any uncertainty creep into your decision making process. Make sure that if you are to do anything, that you’ve spent sufficient time and effort to understand all the variables. Your goal is ensuring that any decision is free of risk, unlikely to fail, and will in retrospect be carefully and fully documented.

Wait! That’s 11 ways! And there are certainly more attitudes that help to destroy innovative thinking.

What do you think? What are the other attitudes and ways of thinking that manage to shut down organizational idea machines?

And do you want more insight like this? Check my Innovation Inspiration page!

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

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


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

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

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

jetsons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Future vocations

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

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

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

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

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

2. Connecting the workplace

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

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

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

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

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

3. The virtual workforce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?
Video: The Nomadic Workforce
September 30th, 2015

Another clip from my “World Class Innovators” video.


Back in 1997, I coined the phrase “nomadic workers” while writing my book, Surviving the Information Age, and made these predictions:

  • The number of full time jobs has begin to dramatically shrink – yet, we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg in the change of the relationship between employer and employee, as the nomadic worker becomes the dominant form of corporate resource.
  • Companies will hire the best talent, regardless of where that person might be. A new form of career competitiveness is emerging, with extreme competition for this group of nomadic workers – highly skilled individuals who call the shots.
  • Where people work from won’t matter – a trend that has implications for the future of both rural and urban economies.
  • Lifestyle choice will come to dominate career decisions. 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 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, wherever they might be.

I was pretty well bang-on with those trends!

In May, I was the opening keynote speaker for Manufacturing Innovation 2012, held in Orlando, California. In the room were a thousand or so folks from throughout the manufacturing sector throughout the US. This is one of MANY manufacturing conferences that I’ve opened — I’ve developed a reputation in the sector for what is really going on, without any political spin.

Here I am speaking about the next generation -today’s uber-connected generation –  and how their attitudes towards careers and new business models — are coming to reshape the world of business startups and manufacturing.

The South Africa based consultancy runs a monthly staff  newsletter on key trends and issues in the agricultural sector. They recently featured a piece that links to a video of mine, “Think Like a Farmer,” in which I make a good case that farmers are some of the most innovative people on the planet.

And they certainly are!

Did you know that the average dairy cow produced about 5,000 pounds of milk in a lifetime in 1942; it’s now 21,000 pounds — because of the
impact of genomics (best gene straits for production) and the ability to look at production data in a  very deep way. That’s some pretty fascinating stuff.

I have often described that there are two types of farmers. There’s what we might call the stuck-skeptics, who have attitudes such as:

  • they not optimistic about the future
  • they tend to seek the “same old advice” from the “same old sources”
  • they have a very low tolerance for risk
  • they are not convinced they can continue to make a comfortable living in the agricultural sector
  • they feel skeptical of the potential of the future, and slammed about the head by an industry that is inherently volatile

Contrast they with the “future positive” farmer. They’re:

  • optimistic
  • business minded
  • innovation oriented
  • very collaborative for advice
  • a mix of ages – young, aggressive, and mature with focus
  • often focused on planning, profit, growth!
  • willing to approach everything in a new way with new ideas

And I often joke on stage that they are simply waiting for their group to sell their land, because they know there is simply so much upside in the world of agriculture.

Here’s something to think about, regardless of what industry and career you find yourself in — which type of farmer are you? Future positive or a stuck-skeptic?

Maybe you too should think like a farmer!

The Innovation Killers
November 30th, 2011

Here’s a clip that I had out on Youtube, but realized that I had never worked it into the blog. It’s a quick clip on the “innovation killers” — the attitudes and actions that some people posses that manage to stifle innovation within an organization.

10 Enemies of Innovation!
November 22nd, 2011

I had a conference call with a client yesterday with respect to an upcoming leadership meeting; I’ll be helping the organization think about some of the barriers they have towards innovation, and what they need to do to overcome these challenges.

As we were talking, I scribbled down a short list of some of the issues that I was identifying with them.

  •  tradition. Some organizations are too caught up with the past, which causes them to lose sight of opportunities for the future.
  • culture. Often corporate culture can stifling, if not deadening. Some build up an organizational sclerosis which eventually clogs up their ability to try to do anything new.
  • organizational memory. It causes people to focus on the past instead of the future.
  • bureaucrats. Their job is simply to shut down ideas, get people to fill out forms, and reduce the everyday work experience to a series of mind-numbing tasks.
  • stock markets. They cause too many senior executives to spend their time thinking about short term hits that can keep the stock price up, rather than working on the big bets that can provide for transformative opportunities. No wonder so many organizations are going private!
  • job descriptions. They reduce the role of people to a narrowly defined set of activities and small goals. I’ve encountered few organizations where innovation success is actually enshrined into the job description, let alone the HR reward system.
  • mission statements. They can be a great thing to give everyone an overall sense of purpose. On the other hand, most organizations don’t update and refresh them, which means that in many cases, the mission statement has nothing to do with what the organization actually needs to be doing.
  • strategic planning. Some organizations get so caught up in the process of strategic planning that they never get beyond the planing statge. Where do you think the phrases “analysis paralysis” comes from — organizations who are busy analyzing things as part of their planning process!
  • lone wolves. They’re often folks who can lead innovation, since they can have the brilliant ideas that are the spark for greatness. On the other hand, they can become so blinded by their belief that they refuse to accept the ideas and insight of anyone else, forgetting that collaboration is often at the root of all great innovations
  • history and legacy. What made you successful in the past won’t work for you in the future.

That’s a short list of some of the enemies of innovation – there are lots more!

A lack of courage in I/T?
February 5th, 2003

I spoke at the first of a series of 10 Microsoft events yesterday; a workshop and customer session focussing on the opportunities of business intelligence/corporate portals. One of my points when talking with people is suggesting that when it comes to the world of I/T, a lot of people have lost their motivation to try something new. A wide variety of very sophisticated technology has emerged in the last few years, but few folks seem to be willing to stick their necks out to implement it. It’s a point that I alluded to in my brochure topic on “innovation.” Read the quote below.

“A lot of people stuck their neck out in the 1990’s and tried out new ways of doing business, new technologies, and innovative methods of dealing with markets and customers. Yet many of those efforts have collapsed in spectacular fashion due to the dot.com/technology meltdown. A dangerous new sense of complacency has set in. Innovators must now hang their head in shame, and the nervous nellies who dared not innovate reign supreme! Organizations must bring back the courage to innovate – otherwise, current attitudes will settle in like a wet sponge, smothering any chance for new innovation. Innovators need to be put back on a pedestal – and should be encouraged to help analyze what actually went right during the crazy 90’s!

[ adobe.gif Jim’s “innovation” brochure ]

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