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What goes on in the life of a futurist? Lots of stages and lots of fascinating events, with talks focused on linking future trends to opportunities for innovation! Here’s a wrap-up of some of the events from April to June of this year.

Gore Mutual, Toronto

This was certainly a highlight – I shared the stage with Astronaut Chris Hadfield (best known for his rendition of David Bowie’s Space Odyssey from the International Space Station, with 36 million+ Youtube views) and Environmentalist David Suzuki.

The event was arranged for insurance brokers and distributors, encouraging them to align themselves to the future trends that are reshaping their industry. My role was to speak to issues of disruption and change in the insurance industry, a topic I’ve covered for many major insurance conferences and companies worldwide.

I used a brand new slide deck at this event — it’s two weeks old! — and I must say: it rocks. The material flows at a fascinating pace, the audience reaction was tremendous, and it does a great job of conveying our world of fast change. I’m adopting this deck for all keynotes going forward — and I will have some video from this presentation soon.

Genentech, San Francisco

This event was for 550 executives from this pharma-tech company — it’s owned by French pharmaceutical giant Roche. It’s also one of the global leaders in the business of pharmacogenetics : that is, the development of highly targeted drug therapies based on particular genetic profiles.

My keynote took a look at the future of healthcare and the big transformative opportunities that exist in a world of accelerated science. The topic strikes close to home for me : I’ve had my own genetic profile done (the news is all good!)

Godiva Chocolates, Ghent, Belgium

This was a repeat engagement — the company, along with its parent Ulker from Turkey, had me headline a global leadership meeting in London, UK in January. The Godiva team found the message to be powerful, and so they invited me back for a deeper dive into global retail trends. My keynote took a look at consumer behaviour, fast new retail store technology, the impact of Amazon, the role of the mobile device in collapsing attention spans, the new product influencers and so much more….

In this case, the small meeting room (with 50 executives from 18 countries, including China, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Germany and more…) didn’t offer a great photo, but the view outside of my hotel room sure did! I love doing events in Europe! Invite me in!

The world of retail is changing at a furious pace – witness the recent purchase of Whole Foods by Amazon — and I’m doing quite a few talks on trends in this area, including for a major retail conference in Las Vegas this fall.

4C Summit, Tucson, Arizona

I love it when I get repeat gigs! Back in 2010, I was invited into this annual event, to speak to 250 cattle ranchers on future trends with ranching, food, consumer behaviour and more. I had several billions of dollars worth of cattle in the room and reported on it at length in a few blog posts.

They invited me back again this year for a keynote that took a look at the new world of consumer influence, issue messaging and more. In the era of fake news and rapid myth-information, cattle ranchers need to do a better job in telling their story to the world, and that was the entire focus of the event this year.

In my opening keynote, I put these trends into perspective. And, to be honest, I was blunt with them that if they recognize that some misinformation exists, they should their emotions to drive their passion for purpose.

Hence, a rather undiplomatic slide. But it did get a lot of retweets!

Drive 17, CUDirect, Las Vegas

This event took a look at the future of automotive lending with a particular emphasis on the credit union sector, which is the line of business that CUDirect is focused on.

I had a bit of fun at the sound check the day before, with Vegas being Vegas after all – you’re always guaranteed a great stage! Here’s an infinite me!

Of course, the next morning I was on duty, outlining the many ways in which the era of self-driving cars, intelligent highways, the sharing economy and many more trends would come to challenge the very idea of automative lending in the future. The auto industry is accelerating fast — and I’m doing numerous talks for industries and companies affected by this trend.

Nasscom C-Summit, New York

Now this was cool! I was invited in by Nasscom, which represents the global software and business process outsourcing industry for India. Essentially the national trade association for one of the largest software and services industries in the world.

My closing keynote, “Think Big, Start Small, Scale Fast: Innovating in the Era of Disruption”, provided context on how quickly our world is changing. This was the debut of my new slide deck (mentioned above), and walking on stage, I realized it more than rocked!

This was a great audience: I had global CIO’s from Johnson and Johnson, Schneider Electric, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, PepsiCo, Pfizer, Phillips Health, NBC Universal, Estee Lauder, GE and Anheuser Busch Inbev, and over 200 more.

As an aside, these folks know that, despite a world of fantasy in Washington, access to global skills is a key factor for future success.

Highmark Health, Pittsburgh

This is one of the leading players in the healthcare insurance and group benefits market in Ohio, and they invited me in for a talk on the future of healthcare. In attendance were senior executives, HR and benefits managers for major employers throughout the region.

While political volatile rages, the science and technology of healthcare isn’t slow down, and I put some context on the transformative trends that can redefine our approach to some of the more complex issues of our time. Highmark is part of the Blue Cross group, and I’ve keynoted at least 15 other Blue Cross events over the last 15 years.

I didn’t have a picture of the stage, but did get this great photo during my morning walk in the City of Bridges. That’s their HQ in the background!

Western Manufacturing Technology Show, Edmonton, Alberta

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers has had me keynote some major events in the past — 2,000 manufacturing executives in Las Vegas at the IMX show , and 1,500 more at the BigM conference in Detroit. Each of these also involved a small, intimate dinner presentation for CEO’s and others the evening before.

Based on that track record, SME has booked me to headline 3 major Canadian manufacturing events; this was the first in the series. Like every other industry, manufacturing is being reimagined and reinvented at a furious pace.

My keynote took a look at fast trends involving 3D printing, the factory of the future (“Industry 4.0”), rapid digitization, the role of the Internet of Things in the factory, rapid prototyping and so much more. In the fall, I will headline the biggest Canadian manufacturing event in Toronto.

Exelon

My talks don’t just involve events on massive stages in Las Vegas : I also do an ever increasing number of small, hands on working sessions with small groups of executives.

In that context, I was approach by this major energy company to come in and spend a morning with their nuclear division, with a particular focus on the “future of energy.”

Given the audience background, I literally had a room with a whole bunch of nuclear engineers! A good example of the unique type of topics that I take on through my process of detailed customization.

Habitat For Humanity Annual Conference, Kelowna, British Columbia

Sometimes, you get a keynote that goes beyond the issues of disruption, business model change and other issues. In this case, the role for passion, purpose and caring in society.

My keynote for the annual conference of the Canadian component of this global initiative took a look at future trends impacting philanthropy and charitable organizations; the changing nature of the home and shelter; smart cities and more.

I launched a phrase in the room – given the current ugly political environment in the US, my belief that it is time that people “double down on dignity.” There seem to be so many in society who are driven by an agenda of hate, fear, distrust of immigrants and the poor, and in that context, its important that we examine our social and human values. And hence, double down on our philanthropic efforts.

The phrase and the context in which it was said certainly caught some attention!

Allegacy Credit Union, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

The CEO saw me speak last year at an event in Chicago on the trends impacting and disrupting the financial services sector, and so she decided to invite me in for a working session with their regular Board of Directors meeting.

It sort of expanded from there, and I ended up speaking to a room of about 50, consisting of the Board, key leadership executives and a few community leaders.

I don’t have a stage shot, since it was held in the main meeting room at the Wake Forest University football stadium — but did get this shot before I began.

It’s been a busy time for me with talks in the credit union industry — just two days ago, I spent 3 hours with the Board of a major Canadian credit union on similar issues of disruption.

Ontario Municipal Systems Association, Windsor, Ontario

This event had several hundred CIO’s and IT executives for cities and towns from across the province. My keynote examined the future of smart cities, intelligent infrastructure, the role of the Internet of Things in a municipal setting and more.

The keynote certainly caught some attention, with an article appearing in a national trade publication – municipalities should not be left behind in an era of acceleration!

There is a very important theme here: an increasing number of economic development decisions are being made based upon the ‘smart infrastructure’ of a region. This will be a focus of a keynote I do in the fall for the Nevada Economic Development Association.

Sir Adam Beck Public School, Toronto

Last but not least, this quarter featured the conclusion of my time capsule project with a Grade 5 class. I blogged about the project earlier — essentially, I golf with a Grade 5 teacher, Ian Bates, and suggested to him one day that his class should do a project!

So they did! They did all the work — and we sealed the capsule on June 13, only to be opened on the same day in 2045!

Why 2045? I’m not quite sure how this came about — but I do know that I’ll be 86 years old when it is opened, so I’ve got to stay focused on my future!

There were several other keynotes in this quarter, and I’ll blog about those too. I’m winding down for the summer, with only 4 events scheduled (by choice!). And this fall is already busy, including an event in Tokyo where I headline Nikon’s 100th anniversary celebration.

Stay tuned!

 

I recently spoke at the Cattle Feeders Business Summit in Denver. Turns out the folks at Beef Magazine were in the audience, and here’s their report on my keynote!

—–

Will You Be Ranching Like The Jetsons In 10 Years? – Beef Magazine (link to article)

What will the beef industry look like in 10 years?” A simple question, that. But, in the same breath, one of profound depth and profound significance.

That’s the question Jim Carroll asked cattle feeders attending the recent Cattle Feeders Business Summit, sponsored by Merck Animal Health. The Toronto-based futurist then gave them a glimpse into a future that will, in some ways, be completely different from our current experience.

cow-qr-code_2249192k

““Imagine a future in which we’ve got remote herd management monitoring technology in which we have instant insight into the health of our herd, the health of particular animals, that goes way beyond simple GPS tracking,” he says.”

Remember George Jetson? The popular cartoon from the ‘60s was, in many ways, prophetic, Carroll told cattle feeders. So was Star Trek. In one episode of “The Jetsons,” George uses a flat-screen device to FacedTime with his family and his boss. In “Star Trek,” medical conditions were instantly analyzed with a hand-held tricorder.

Welcome to your future. FaceTime is already a reality. So is a device much like Bones’ medical tricorder. And the technology behind both will forever change how you manage your cattle, Carroll says.

Consider these facts:

An Australian study determined, given the rate of technological change we’re presently enduring, that the majority of kids entering grade school now will work at jobs that do not yet exist. Another study determined that half of what college students learn in the first year of school will either be obsolete or revised by the time they graduate. 60% of Apple’s revenue comes from products that didn’t exist four years ago.

One of those newly emerging careers that will have profound influence on how you manage cattle, Carroll says, are location intelligence professionals. That’s an emerging technology that is exploding in its capability.

We’ve got a GPS in our pocket with our smartphone,” he says. But that’s just the beginning.

Imagine a future in which we’ve got remote herd management monitoring technology in which we have instant insight into the health of our herd, the health of particular animals, that goes way beyond simple GPS tracking,” he says.

While you’re trying to bend your mind around the implications of that thought, consider this: “In 2017, if not sooner, we could be in a situation where minimally invasive surgery for large animals is common,” he predicts. “Remote monitoring of the effectiveness of animal pharmaceutical treatment (will be common) because the pharmaceuticals we give our animals are connected to the Internet.”

Science fiction? Not at all. “This is real stuff. Virtual understanding of every single aspect of your herd is coming sooner than you think,” Carroll told cattle feeders.

How will this change the cattle business? Carroll says we will quickly transition from a management approach where we deal with issues in the herd after they are diagnosed to an industry where we understand, with a high degree of accuracy, what conditions they will be susceptible to.

Not all of us, particularly those who can remember watching “The Jetsons” and “Star Trek” when they weren’t reruns, are comfortable with technology, and particularly aren’t comfortable with how quickly it is changing our world. My wife just bought a new car, and thank goodness it still has a steering wheel, because just about everything else on the dashboard is beyond my ability to operate.

We’re going to have to get over that. Carroll says one of his ag clients framed it perfectly. They have customers they call the apathetic minority—they tend to seek the same advice from the same places; they have a low tolerance for risk; they’re skeptical about the future.

Then they have clients who are future positive. These are farmers and ranchers who are optimistic; they’re business-minded; they’re innovation-oriented; they’re collaborative for advice; they seek input from other generations; they thrive on ideas that come from technology; they’re focused on profit and growth; they’re willing to approach everything in new ways.

That, Carroll says, is your future and that’s who you need to be.

So what do you think your ranch or feedyard will look like in 10 years? Will you still saddle a horse, heat up the branding irons, rope calves, turn the bulls out and do the many other things that have traditionally have defined both you and your livelihood? Or will you, as Carroll predicts, manage your ranch or feedyard completely differently?

Honey, let’s go get some ice cream. We’ll take the new car. Now, show me again how you start this darn thing.

Future of ag is focused on growth
By Zoe Martin Iowa Farmer Today | Posted: Thursday, December 27, 2012 

Jim Carroll knows a lot about camping, urban renewal, golf and agriculture. Above all, the author, speaker and consultant knows change.

IowaFarmerToday

“It’s hard to explain what I do,” said Carroll, a “futurist.” “I walk into virtually every kind of organization and talk to them about trends — recently KOA Campgrounds on the future of camping and travel.”

Carroll has spoken at national meetings for mayors, PGA of America and the Walt Disney Co. He has also spoken at meetings for Syngenta, the USDA, Farm Credit Cooperative and the Texas Cattle Feeders Association predicting future trends in agriculture. Fittingly, No. 1 is growth.

“Ag is a huge growth industry,” Carroll said. “I always start with the basic premise production has to double. That’s the long-term reality.”

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, farmers will need to produce 70 percent more food for an additional 2.3 billion people by 2050. Carroll said this calls for “a continuing ramp-up in efficiency.”

The quest for efficiency leads Carroll to his next main trend in ag, something he calls “hyper-science.”

“Certainly, acceleration of science, with pesticides, plant genomics, precision ag,” Carroll said. “There’s certain key trends that are common to all industries: Science is evolving faster. The next generation of kids who’ve grown up with computers think and act faster.”

Carroll’s work is based on intensive research of the industry he’s targeting along with these universal trends.

His third focus when speaking to ag audiences is on generational transformation.

“The third big thing is younger kids taking over family farms,” Carroll said. “Give me a 25-year-old farmer with a Mac in his combine and iPhone connected to his hip — he’s willing to try what ever tech John Deere will put out there.”

Carroll also points out more specific changes in agriculture in the last 10 years that will affect the industry during the next 10.

There is the “energy opportunity.” There will be an expected $1.2 billion in new income for farmers and rural landowners involved with new energy sources required under Department of Energy mandates, Carroll said.

Convenience and health will take center stage, Carroll predicted in 2005, and that has proven true as consumer tastes and expectations change. These expectations are also driving innovations in packaging and labeling for more traceability.

Carroll is optimistic about the future of agriculture—it’s one of the prerequisites of a job as a futurist.

“It’s all upside,” he said, though some farmers will complain about current volatility or the rate of change in the industry.

“There’s a quote I often use on stage, ‘Some people see future trends and see a threat, innovative people see that and see opportunity,’” Carroll said. “There will be people who prefer to see world slow down.”

In agriculture, that’s not an option, and Carroll pushes this in his speaking engagements

“Innovation defines success,” he has said, and “adopting new methodologies, products, partnerships and ideas” will help farmers thrive.

 

I do a tremendous number of keynotes in the agricultural sector — from groups such as the Texas Cattlemen’s Association to the Mid-America Crop Protection Association to the US Farm Credit Co-op. As I note on my agriculture trends page, I “spent so much time customizing the presentation for one agricultural conference that at the conclusion, one fellow came up and asked him how long I had been a farmer!

With that in mind, I just got off the phone from a planning conversation for an upcoming agricultural keynote.

I was speaking about generational turnover on the farm, the rapid emergence of new agricultural methodologies, and the impact of a significant acceleration in the science of agriculture.

Which brought me to mention an article I wrote way back in 2004, “I found the future of manure!” for Profit Magazine. Though a bit dated, it still helps to put in perspective some very critical and important trends — no matter what line of business you happen to be in.

What led to the article was that during my research, I discovered that a new career had emerged in this sector – professional manure managers. Heck, they even have their own magazine, Manure Managerhttp://www.manuremanager.com/

Can you apply the rules of “I found the future in manure” to your particular industry? Probably!

Believe it or not, manure can teach us a great deal about the future of business.” I wrote that back in 2004, and I still think it holds truth today!

Here’s the article!


I saw the future in manure!
Believe it or not, manure can teach us a great deal about the future of business
Profit Magazine
December 2004 

This past summer, I was invited to speak at a western agricultural company’s annual golf day. In attendance were several hundred farmers, their families and various folks from the local area, in a small town about 100 miles from the nearest city. It was about as rural as you could get.

I was asked to address “what comes next” in the world of agriculture, so I looked into the unique challenges facing agriculture today, as well as the trends that will impact the industry over the next five to twenty years.

While doing my research, I came across the phrase “manure management.” That was a new one! And the deeper I dug — so to speak — the more I came to realize that, believe it or not, we can learn a great deal about the future by looking at what is going on with manure. These are the lessons I learned from manure:

1. Accept that times are changing: We live in a time when change is taking place faster than ever, and is speeding up. The mere fact that there’s a profession of people known as “manure managers” shows we’re entering a world that will be far more complex. Recognizing that fact is step one to succeeding in the future.

2. Science is making waves : Manure managers exist because there’s a lot of innovation and R&D occurring with manure. For example, one of the biggest manure management problems involves what’s known as “pit crust.” As the name suggests, it’s the top layer of the manure in the pit, and it gets rather hard and crusty, leading to flies and rodents, not to mention enhanced smell problems.

Rapid evolution in biogenetics is helping to deal with the problem. Scientists determined that most of the pit crust comes from the outer shell of the corn that is fed to the animals, so they developed a specialized bio-enzyme that breaks down the shell during digestion, leading to a thinner crust. The result: fewer rodents and flies, less potential for disease and a big, positive environmental impact.

That’s but one example of how rapid scientific advance is causing change. Look into any industry, and you can see the emergence of all kinds of rapid innovation and new developments. Expect that trend to become more pronounced and even faster over time.

3. Hyper specialization will soon be standard : Given that there is so much new stuff going on, the typical farmer might not learn of the latest advances in manure management. That’s where the manure manager comes in — individuals who possess the specialized knowledge of what’s out there and what can be done with it. They are partners in the process, helping the farmers cope with the rapid change swirling around them.

A typical farmer can no longer be expected to know everything there is to know about farming today. They must call in outside expertise to help them deal with every type of complex issue, of which manure management is only one. And this is a trend true across the economy.

There is now so much new knowledge emerging that every profession and career is fragmenting into dozens of sub-specialties. No one person can be expected to master everything anymore.

4. A specialized partner can save you money : Manure managers are experts in providing farmers with the opportunity for revenue enhancement through the more intelligent application of manure on the fields. In one area in the U.S. Midwest, experts have been working with local farmers to undertake detailed soil and yield analysis to determine the best application rates for future plantings. The returns have been significant — one family farm saw a $19 increase in revenue yield per acre through such efforts. That might seem like a small number until you multiply it by 2,000 acres, for a net result of $38,000 — a big revenue improvement for a family farm operation.

That’s but one small example of how a specialized partner, dealing with specialized knowledge, can help you with your business. As the body of knowledge that surrounds us grows, there are all kinds of innovative, new and challenging ways to run the business better .

5. The future will be increasingly complex : Manure provides a useful signupst to a world that is going to involve a lot more change, specialization and complexity. Everything we know – the jobs in which we work, the professions in which we’ve been trained, the skills we possess, the marketplace in which we sell our products, the industry in which we work and the knowledge that we’re expected to master—will be extremely different tomorrow.

The fact that there exists in the world a group of people who are proud to be recognized as manure managers tells us a lot about the complexity of our future. Figuring out how to deal with such complexities will become the essence for innovative thinking, and from that, our future success.

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

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

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

Some of the highlights from this year includes these events:

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

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

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

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

“If Carroll had his way, the phrase “You can’t do that because we’ve always done it this way” would be grounds for immediate dismissal”.

The following article was just published in July in AkzoNoble’s  “A” Magazine, featuring some of my thoughts on innovation in organizations.The organization is the largest global paints and coatings company and is a leading producer of specialty chemicals.

The article is a good read as to how I think and work.

It was distributed in print form to several hundred thousand readers in their global client base.

You can grab the PDF of the article by clicking on the magazine cover on the right.

WHAT’S YOUR VISION OF THE FUTURE
by Jim Wake

If routine rules your working life, you could be stifling any chance of growing and improving your business. Worse still, if you fail to encourage creative thinking, you could well be doomed to failure.

Innovation is not what you think it is, says Jim Carroll, a selfdescribed “futurist” who makes a living advising companies on how they can reinvent themselves to compete effectively in a fast-changing world. “When it comes to the word innovation,” he explains, “a lot of people hear that word and they think it isn’t something that applies to them. I call it the ‘Steve Jobs effect.’ People hear the word and they think: ‘That’s about the design of cool products and only cool people get to do that. I manage purchasing, so how could I be responsible for innovation?’”

But what Carroll tells them – in ways designed to get them to laugh at themselves and squirm in uncomfortable self-recognition – is that innovation is both more mundane and more achievabe than dreaming up the next breakthrough consumer product, writing brilliant computer code, or developing new methods for microsurgery. “I step back and reframe the question,” he continues. “To me, innovation is three things that apply to everyone in the organization. Whether they are the head of purchasing or product development, or the CEO or the Vice-President of sales, it’s about challenging yourself with three questions. What can I do to run this business better? What can I do to grow this business? And what can I do to transform this business?”

To Carroll, it’s a lot more about awareness than it is about genius. “Running the business? Innovation offers all kinds of opportunities to take costs out of the business. With computerized technologies to streamline processes, for example. It’s just unlimited potential. Growing the business is all about how we get into new markets, new product development, how we generate revenue where revenue hasn’t existed before. Transforming the business is about restructuring ourselves. How we collaborate better, how we reshape the way we’re doing R&D, how we do things differently as an organization.

“A lot of people still think that innovation is some deep mysterious thing,” he goes on. “To me, the link is that there’s a whole bunch of obvious trends which are going to impact an organization, whether they’re demographic, social, political, business trends, whatever. Innovation is simply responding to and keeping up with those trends. Some of it is drop-dead obvious: in Western society, we have a looming boom of baby boomers who are going to become older and sicker and require more care, so that just impacts a whole variety of different industries. With technology, there’s a whole bunch of fascinating trends underway where a lot of everyday devices around us are going to gain intelligence, are going to be linked to the internet, so that’s an obvious trend. And in terms of politics, what’s playing out in Egypt – where there’s a transition of power from one generation that is unplugged, unconnected, to a different generation that is plugged in and connected. Those are the kinds of obvious trends I’m talking about.”

But of course, what is obvious to Carroll – who acknowledges that research is an important part of what he does – may not be so obvious to the person who is focused on meeting deadlines and paying the bills. Still, he is convinced that management can nurture an environment which encourages creative thinking and the willingness to take risks that is pretty much a prerequisite for innovation. “I call it tone at the top. It is something that is CEO-led. He or she has to set the tone for a culture which allows for continual change and adaptation and innovation, in order to keep up with the very fast-paced change around us. If you don’t set that tone at the top, then you really are doomed to failure. I see a lot of organizations try to make innovation something special. They form a little innovation team and go off in a little room and study innovation. But that just doesn’t work. It’s a culture throughout the organization where the leadership is saying to everyone that you’ve got to challenge yourself on those three questions, and we will judge you during the annual review process and in your remuneration and in your job description.”

One example he points to is Google, which provides “innovation time off” – a provision allowing engineers to devote up to 20 percent of their time on projects not directly related to their job descriptions or responsibilities. “It’s important,” says Carroll, “that organizations establish a whole series of projects that are very focused on innovative outcomes, in addition to having everyone responsible for day-to-day innovation.” He also suggests that routine is one of the biggest threats to innovation. “I think it’s very easy for an organization to go into autopilot. If you can do something to shake up their complacency – whether it’s the rebel coming on board or doing something to cause some chaos – that’s a good thing because people need to wake up to how quickly their world is changing around them.” In his talks – he gives dozens every year to audiences as diverse as Texas bankers, California cattle farmers, national park management professionals and the US Professional Golfers’ Association – he can almost be aggressive in trying to combat complacency.

“Here’s what I’ve learned,” he says during one of his videos from a keynote speech. “In every single organization there are people who wake up every single day. The very first thought that comes to their mind is ‘what am I going to do today to kill new ideas?’” It’s a comment which provokes nervous laughter, but that’s because everyone in the audience recognizes a kernel of truth there. “You know that they’re out there because they come into their meetings and you’re presenting new concepts and new ways of doing things, and they’ve got all these little code words that they use to shut ideas down.”

If Carroll had his way, the phrase “You can’t do that because we’ve always done it this way” would be grounds for immediate dismissal. “Never mind that the world is going to change, that the world is going to go over there really, really fast, and we’re still here and we have to get over there with the rest of the world,” he says mockingly. “There are people out there who’ve adopted the attitude of ‘you can’t do that; we’ve always done it this way – it won’t work!’ You come up with a really good idea, you put it out there, you seek some reaction and there is a naysayer at the table who immediately says: ‘It won’t work’; or ‘Dumbest idea I ever heard, it’s too risky, we’re not an organization that takes risk.’” He lets the thought hang there for an instant and then points out the obvious: “The only way to get ahead is to take risks.” As if he himself has suddenly been appointed CEO, he then starts issuing orders to the audience: “Each of you from this point on agrees that you will never use, or permit to be used in one of your meetings, that phrase ‘you can’t do this because we’ve always done it this way’. You’re going to completely ban that phrase ‘it won’t work, dumbest idea I ever heard’. You’re going to banish the type of thinking that tries to hold us back from doing new things.”

He encourages his audience to conduct a simple test the next time they are sitting in a meeting – keep score of the “innovation killing” phrases that come up: a point for every time they hear “it won’t work”, “you can’t do that”, “I don’t know how”, and several others demonstrating fear of trying. Five bonus points for “The boss won’t go for it” and ten for “Why should I care?” Your company is already in trouble – innovation-adverse, in his words – if you score more than five, “innovation dead” if you score more than ten, and you might as well either close up shop or give him a call if you score more than 15.

At the other end of the spectrum are the behaviors, practices and corporate cultures that generate new ideas – ideas flow freely throughout the organization, subversion is considered a virtue, creative champions are present throughout the company, people understand that innovation is not just about

technology, but about doing things differently and better, and that failure is an inevitable – and acceptable – part of the innovation process. “Hire people you don’t like,” he urges, and “forget everything you know”. In this changing world, he claims, we don’t need MBAs so much as we need “MBIs” – Masters of Business Imagination. “The phrase Master of Business Administration is about running the business. That’s great, but what are you going to do to grow and transform the business? We [spend] more time thinking about how our markets are changing, how we might build new relationships with our customers, thinking about how we might go in and disrupt other business models and how we might ingest technology faster to do awesome things within our industry. We should just have a lot more people with a lot more imagination on our team.”

Carroll wasn’t always a change guru – he spent 12 years as an accountant. But somewhere along the way, he realized that technology was moving much faster than the business world, and that there was a business opportunity convincing the corporate world that it needed to change to accommodate new technologies and trends, or get left behind. He points out that Apple generates 60 percent of its revenue from products that didn’t even exist four years ago, and that the only thing that is certain is

that everything will be different before you know it. Half of what students learn in their first year in college is obsolete by the time they graduate. “Having been at this for 15 years,” he says, “I think that the necessity for organizations to get on board with this type of thinking is becoming more critical, because business is changing faster, customers are changing faster and technology is changing faster. My key word is velocity. The need to do a lot of radical things is speeding up because everything out there is speeding up.”

 

I found myself in Sonoma County, California earlier this week; I was the opening speaker for a small corporate conference that featured what were probably the top 100 cattle, stockyard and feedlot operators in the US.

This was a pretty heavy duty event, so to speak, with some individuals representing ranches with upwards of 30,000 to 50,000 head of cattle. We’re talking billion-dollar operations here. A very exclusive group – as noted in the invitation, the sponsors ” have partnered to create an advanced leadership development curriculum entitled the 4C Summit – an experience that will be unlike any other ever offered in animal agriculture.”

My role? To encourage this group to think about future trends in the world of agriculture and food production; opportunities for innovation; and how to live out on the edge in terms of thinking about big ideas.

What the client DIDN’t want was what he found  from a lot of other innovation speakers he spoke to, who seemed to offer up the same refrain: “Plug into Twitter, get onto Facebook, get social, and you’ve mastered innovation!

Uggh. Yah, right! Real innovation comes from studying obvious future trends, and aligning yourself to those trends to seize opportunity and achieve growth.

So it was a thrill to speak to such an exclusive group — and I had a lot of ground to cover! First off, recognizing that this could be a dispirited crowd given past trends — they could be in a mindset that might not encourage innovative thinking.

After all, as I pointed out, they’ve suffered from:

  • stagnant growth (6.4% over 25 years) while imports have tripled
  • a continuing drop in the number of feedlots
  • consolidation of buyers (top 4 meatpackers control 80% of market from 36% in 1980), which give them fewer options
  • an overall decline in consumption in the US (94.3 lbs per capita to 59.1lbs from 1976 to today….)

What’s the result of these trends, and the impact of the recent recession? Aggressive indecision — a mindset that I’ve talked about on this blog for a long time.

“Many ranchers are wary of investing in expanding their herds, even with exports rising and prices climbing, because “they’re uncertain about the future,” said Gregg Doud, chief economist at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which represents ranchers and feedlots.” Where’s the Beef: Food Inflation Fears, Wall Street Journal, August 2010

Yet given this uncertainty, what are the trends that drive the opportunity for
innovation? I covered many; here’s a few.

1. There is massive, significant opportunity for global growth.

The statistics are simple and clear:

  • the world’s population will increase 47%, to 8.9 billion, by 2050
  • a simple fact: global agriculture production must double to sustain growth
  • a stark reality: little new arable land will come to play a role in that production

In other words, existing producers will have to double production to keep up with global demand.

Clearly, a substantial number of people are entering the global middle class through the next decade; as noted by McKinsey: “Almost a billion new consumers will enter the global marketplace in the next decade …. with an income level that allows spending on discretionary goods.

As this transition to middle class occurs, entire societies will transition to a diet that involves more consumption of meat. In India, the #1 “aspirational purchase” is a television. What do you think is #2? If you said a car, you are wrong — it’s a refrigerator! And right now, refrigerators have only a 13% market penetration! Talk about opportunities for growth.

The opportunity is clear – per capita meat consumption growth from 2000 to 2030 will be 49% in China, 79% in India, and 22% in Brazil.

2. There are significant long term trends that will drive global agricultural innovation and opportunity, if approached from the right perspective

I also covered four key trends that will have a huge impact on agriculture from every single perspective:

  • food security becomes a foremost “national interest” agenda
  • significant international agricultural investments
  • sustainability practices moves to the forefront of customer agenda
  • food quality and safety ratings become commonplace

On the first issue — we are going to witness many nation states work fast to ensure the security of their food supply. We are seeing it happen now with China, in order that it can ensure a sustainable reliable supply of food for its population in the future. How big an issue this is this?

“Food security will be the greatest challenge to civilization this century, with shortages leading to higher prices, political instability and mass migration, warn scientists, farmers and academics.” Looming food crisis showing on our shelves Sunday Age, April 2011

The issue of food security leads to the second big trend, and that is significant international agricultural investments. Quite simply, there’s a lot of investment money sloshing around involving agriculture.

“The World Bank reported this month that the number of large-scale farmland deals in 2009 amounted to about 45 million hectares, compared with an average of less than 4 million hectares each year from 1998 through 2008.” Investors bet the farm, Los Angeles Times, September 2010

Even Harvard University is getting into the act,  with a significant investment into one of the biggest ranches in New Zealand — the Big Sky Dairy Farm in Central Otago. (New Zealand Herald, June 2010)
These two trends are unfolding at the same time that sustainability practices moves to the forefront of customer agenda. Consider a very unique partnership between some “unlikely allies” that involve sustainable business practices in agriculture. This is going to affect EVERYONE in the industry:

“Food manufacturers, retailers and WWF are joining forces to address how to feed the world’s population, writes Paul Myers. When the World Wildlife Fund engages the ideologically distant interests of the cattle industry, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s to discuss global food production, it’s clear something is cooking…..Unlikely alliance, Sydney Morning Herald, February 2011

What is cooking is an effort by these organizations to move to sustainability practices to the forefront, in order to respond to consumer demand. And what the sustainability trend leads to is a world in which food quality and safety ratings become commonplace.

Wal-Mart, which sells more than 20 per cent of all US groceries, is developing an eco-labelling program that will give a green rating to all items sold in its 7500 stores worldwide…. Unlikely alliance, Sydney Morning Herald, February 2011

This will trickle right down to the farm and the ranch: agriculture is going to have to demonstrate sustainability at a micro-level:

“A group of cattle producers in Gippsland, Victoria, is marketing beef sourced from properties with independently audited environmental management systems that comply with the international ISO 14001 standard. Their “enviromeat beef”, sourced from 15 suppliers, is thought to be the first labelled food product backed by an environmental management system in Australia.” Unlikely alliance, Sydney Morning Herald, February 2011

Many farmers and ranchers might view these issues as a challenge, and a threat. But as I emphasized in my keynote, “Some people see a trend and see a threat. Others see opportunity!” The key innovation opportunity is now to work within these new realities in order to stay ahead of what the customer demands!

3. Ranchers need to think big! There are huge transformative opportunities!

In my keynotes, I always try and challenge the team to adapt to the mindset of Bill Gates, who observed that “we always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.”

I always pull out a number of examples of some of the big, bold, whacky innovative thinking that is occurring in any particular industry.

I’ve long observed that one of the key global economic drivers is that a lot of people are spending a lot of time solving the big problems faced by the industrialized world. In my “Where’s the Growth” trends document, I make the observation:  “What’s likely to lead us out of this recession? A combination of bold goals on energy and the environment, significant investment in health care to fix a system that is set for absolutely massive challenges, combined with high-velocity innovation in all three sectors.”

In the spirit of that observation, think about this report!

America’s dairy farmers could soon find themselves in the computer business, with the manure from their cows possibly powering the vast data centers of companies like Google and Microsoft…..With the right skills, a dairy farmer could rent out land and power to technology companies and recoup an investment in the waste-to-fuel systems within two years, Hewlett-Packard engineers say in a research paper to be made public on Wednesday…According to H.P.’s calculations, 10,000 cows could fuel a one-megawatt data center, which would be the equivalent of a small computing center used by a bank.

”The cows will never replace the hydroelectric power used by a lot of these data centers,” Mr. Kanellos said. ”But there is interest in biogas, and this presents another way to make manure pay.”“One Moos and One Hums, But the Could Help Power Google”, New York Times, May 2010

Whacky? Crazy? Who is to say! I actually wrote about this opportunity back in 2004 when I penned my “I found the future in manure” article!

4. Innovators concentrate on all kinds of innovation opportunities

I’ve always stressed that people can challenge themselves to innovate by focusing on 3 key questions; what can we do to run the business better, grow the business, and transform the business.

In that context, for these ranchers, there’s plenty of innovation opportunity. When it comes to running the business better, there is a massive opportunity for the continued deployment of technology to better manage the herrd, deal with food safety and tracability issues, manage the health of the herd; the list is endless! Growth of the business? Consider the opportunities that come about with direct-to-consumer relationships as our world of connectivity continues to expand. Transform the business?  Change the business model! One Australian group was faced with the challenge of getting fresh meat to Indonesia — and so they built the MC Becrux — basically a floating stockyard for thousands of head of cattle! (I admit, to go forward this will have to be done to fit into the sustainability model….)

5. Innovators ride accelarating rates of change

Quite simply, there’s a lot of scientific driven innovation in the agricultural sector. One conference I spoke at noted that we are seeing a lot of “advances in genomics, combinatorial chemistry, high throughput screening, advanced formulation, environmental science and toxicology, precision breeding, crop transformation, nanotechnology, synthetic biology and bio-informatics are tools that will transform the industry.”

It couldn’t be said better. Even the field of animal genomics is evolving at a furious pace — the same trend in which Moore’s law is driving down the cost of sequencing the human gene, so too it is with animal genetics, which has a big potential impact on the quality of future production.

6. Innovators adapt to accelerating generational change

Perhaps the biggest trend occurring in agriculture today is that we are seeing a generational turnover. As the family farm and industrial ranch transition from the baby boomer to today’s 25-30 year, there will be more rapid ingestion of new technologies. Quite simply, we are going to witness more change on the farm and ranch in the next ten years than we have seen in the last 50! That’s providing even yet more opportunity for innovation.

—-

As always, I had a lot of interaction with the audience through Q&A, and live text message polling. I walked through the innovation killer attitudes that I often talk about, and asked the audience what they thought they were most guilty of. Here’s what they had to say!

Overall, it was a great day, a great keynote, with a lot of the unique research and background that I take on for this type of assignment!

 

10 Big Trends for Agriculture
December 22nd, 2005

I’ve got a number of keynotes coming up in the New Year focused on the agricultural sector, and have done quite a few in the past.

My client list in the ag sector is pretty long; it includes groups such as the Farm Media Journal • FMC Agriculture • Texas Cattle Feeders Association • FCC Services US (Farm Credit Cooperative) • MicroBeef Technologies • Mid-America Crop Protection Association • FarmTech • AgProgress Conference • Agricorp • Colorado CattleFeeders Association  • CropLife Canada • US Department of Agriculture • American Agriwoman Society • Syngenta • American Landscape and Nursery Association • Monsanto!

My insight resonates with the agricultural crowd, whether farmers, ranchers, or agricultural support and bio-science companies. I recently spoke to the top 100 cattle, stockyard and feedlot operators in the US at a private event in Sonoma County, California. The US Farm Credit Cooperative has brought me in twice. Want to think about opportunity? Read the post, Agriculture 2020! Innovation, Growth & Opportunity — and also read on below.

I’m preparing for a series of events at the end of February, and now is a good time as ever to put up a list of what I see happening.

Want more insight like this? Then read the post,

  1. Massive growth in food demand: The UK Food and Agriculture Association estimates that the world population will increase 47%, to 8.9 billion, by 2050. That’s a potentially huge food marketplace. That fact, more than anything, spells the reality that the agricultural industry is full of potential opportunity!
  2. A continuing rampup in efficiency: Simple fact: global agriculture must double in the next 30 years to sustain this type of population growth. Add this reality check: there is little new arable land in the world. The result is that existing producers will have to continue to focus on smarter, better, more efficient growing in order to meeting demand.
  3. Hyper-science: One of the realities of the infinite idea loop in which we now find ourselves is this: while there are 19 million known chemical substances today, the number is constantly doubling every 13 years… with some 80 million by 2025, and 5 billion by 2100. Science is evolving at a furious pace, and with science at the root of agriculture, we will continue to see constant, relentless new methods of improving crop and livestock yield.
  4. Innovation defines success: Growers that focus on innovation as a core value will find success; their innovation will focus on the triple-feature need for growth, efficiency and ingestion of new science. It will be by adopting new methodologies, products, partnerships and ideas that they will learn to thrive.
  5. Retail and packaging innovation drive agricultural decisions: Do this: stare at a banana. Did you know that Chiquita banana has come up with a special membrane that doubles the shelf-life of the product, doing this regulating the flow of gases through the packaging? Take a look at Naturepops: each lollipop is wrapped in fully bio-degradable film made from plant matter, and the bags they come in are made from recycled paper, water-based ink and poly lactic acid made from cornstarch. There’s a huge amount of innovation happening with packaging companies and on the store shelf, and all of these trends have a big impact on agriculture.
  6. Intelligent packaging moves front and center: Innovation with packaging will take an even bigger leap in years to come, and will involve hyperconnectivity, a trend that will be driven by food safety, tracability, country of origin and nutrition labelling needs. Our lives are soon to be transformed by packaging that can “connect” to the global data grid that surrounds us; and its’ role will have been transformed from being that of a “container of product” to an intelligent technology that will help us with use of the product, or which will help us address safety and tracability issues.
  7. The energy opportunity: Agriculture is set to play a huge role as we wean ourselves away from our dependence on oil and natural gas. The US Department of Energy plans to see alternative fuels provide 5% of the nations energy by 2020, up from 1% today. And it is expected that there will be $1.2 billion in new income for farmers and rural landowners by getting involved with new energy sources such as windpower. Europe plans to have a market that involves at least 20% usage of bio-fuels by 2020, and Feed & Grain estimates that liquid fuels from agricultural feed could replace 25% to 30% of US petroleum imports by that time.
  8. Convenience and health take center stage: We will continue to see rapid change in consumer taste and expectations as people comes to place more emphasis or doing their best with the little time that they have. For example, it is expected that fresh-cut snacks grew from an $8.8 billion market in 2003 to $10.5 billion by 2004, according to the International Fresh-Cut Produce Association, as part of a trend in which produce and fruit continue to compete with traditional snacks. Expect such unique trends to growth both in terms of number and rapidity.
  9. Direct consumer-producer relationships blossom: As this technology evolves and as people become more concerned about the safety of what they eat, a natural result is a frenetic rate of growth in direct relationships between growers and consumers.
  10. Generational transformation: perhaps the biggest trend is that we are about to witness a sea-change in the rate by which new ideas in the world of agriculture are accepted, as a new generation of technology-weaned, innovative younger people take over the family farm.
  11. Partnership defines success: If there is one trend I emphasize in every industry I’m involved with, it is that no one individual or organization can know everything there is to know. As I indicated in my I found the future in manure article, this trend is also becoming prevalent in agriculture. We will continue to see an increasing number of partnerships between growers and advisers, suppliers, buyers, retailers and just about everyone else, so that they learn to deal with the massive complexities that emerge from rapid change and innovation.

Wait — that’s 11 trends! And that’s indicative of just how rapidly this industry is set to be transformed……

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