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At this point in my career, 70% of my keynotes are for leadership meetings, many involving Fortune 1000 organizations. I’m often brought in my a CEO or other senior executive to inspire top leadership to think about the trends that will impact them, and that will provide both opportunity and challenge going forward.

In these events, I often have the chance to listen to the message of the CEO to his or her team. It’s often a chance to understand what organizations are worried about today.

Recently, I spent time with a global Fortune 500. And the senior executive on stage ahead of me made this comment:

We need to become an organization that our customers like to do business with.

That’s a big challenge for legacy organizations, many of whom are my clients: global banks, insurance companies, retailers, organizations with warranty claims systems….

After all, the customer today is used to a world that involves a simple screen like this:

or this….

But when they visit your Web site, they get this!

Today’s customer has a higher bar of expectations: they expect the same level of service from you that they get at Amazon.com. They want:

  • extreme personalization!
  • extreme simplification!
  • a complete interaction history in an instant
  • pro-active notification when changes in their relationship with you occurs
  • instant online support with ticket references for followup
  • and all of this needs to be supported on mobile – NOW!

Innovating with customer service is one of the most important things you can do, and yet one of the most challenging. It involves complex legacy systems, integration with back end databases that run on COBOL! and very difficult development issues.

That’s not to say it can’t be done — and indeed, in this world of increasing expectations, it must be done!

Over the last 25 years, many CEO’s of Fortune 1000’s and other companies have brought me in for sessions to encourage their teams to align to the future. Simply take a look at my client list!

Over this period of time, I’ve become quite adept at spotting the challenges that a client might face. There’s a laundry list of issues I can spot. Ask yourself if you have these ones:

  • actions are based on lifelong lessons that no longer apply
  • variation in routine is abhorred
  • the strategies they have in place are often outdated by faster trends
  • they are structured by command and control structures that don’t allow for agility
  • outdated HR practices reward mediocrity
  • individualism is punished
  • risk is something to be feared, not embraced
  • collaboration is often absent
  • corporate culture breeds change-resistance anti-bodies
  • they prefer to discount the big thinkers who are discounting their industry

It’s an interesting time to be in business. Disruption, fast paced business model change, technology!

The future belongs to those who are fast, and yet many are structured for slow.

 

While I find myself doing keynotes in Las Vegas, Orlando and Phoenix for audiences of up to 7,000, I also regularly do a whole series of small, CEO or Board meetings that are focused on future trends, strategies and opportunities.

I’m thouroughly enjoying myself while preparing for an upcoming 2017 event in this space; I’ve been retained by an organization that is having an offsite with its leadership team and Board that will be impacted by trends in the automative industry. I’ve had several preparatory calls with the Chairman — he obviously gets the opportunities and challenges of disruption. These include what I call introductory ‘should-we-dance’ calls (‘should we book this guy?’), as well as planing calls now that the event is confirmed.

For a recent conference call, I’ve prepared an outline of my approach. You might find it a good overview if you are looking for a session that would involve similar insight for your senior leadership/Board team!

You can access the Pdf 

In my keynotes, I often talk about how the rate of change — whether with business models, product life cycles, the rapid emergence of new competitors, business model disruption, skills and knowledge and more!  — is speeding up. With such change, there’s a lot of uncertainty within many industries as to what to do next: a senior executive of one client commented to me from his perspective, “….entities are engaged in survival tactics because they don’t know what to do next ….”

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Here’s a simple reality: Innovation is all about adapting to the future — and if the future is coming at you faster, then you need to innovate faster.

Given that, innovation shouldn’t be about trying to survive the future — it should be about thriving.

At a recent keynote to senior executives, I outlined some truths as to the future:

  • It’s incredibly fast: Product life cycles are collapsing. It’s said that half of what students learn in their freshman year about science and technology is obsolete or revised by their senior year. There are furious rates of new scientific discovery. Time is being compressed.
  • It involves a huge adaptability gap: Earlier generations — boomers — have had participated in countless “change management workshops,” reflecting the reality that many of them have long struggled with change. Gen-Connect — today’s 35 and under — will never think of change management issue. They just change.
  • It has a huge instantaneity: The average consumer scans 12 feet of shelf space per second. Most news becomes old hat within 36 hours of emerging. Rapid prototyping, 3D printing and the maker community mean that a product can go from conception to reality in a matter of weeks – if not days. We live in the era of the rapid idea-cycle.
  • It hits you most when you don’t expect it: Every organization must deal with two realities: the rapid emergence of new technologies, and the sudden adoption of old-hat ideas. If you want to understand what comes next, study Gartner’s concept of “hype-cycles”
  • It’s being defined by renegades and rebels: 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, whether you like it or not
  • It involves partnership: Old business models involved asking, “what can we do to run our business better?” The new business model is this: “What can we do to run our customers, suppliers and partners business better?
  • It involves intensity: 80% of the revenue from the typical video game is earned within 4 to 5 days of release. That’s becoming the norm in many industries — although not in days, but perhaps months. Companies are discovering their new reality involves short, sharp shocks of revenue, followed by a need to constantly re-asses and reinvent. We must learn to run our business at video-game intensity: in fast paced markets, we need fast paced business capabilities!
  • It’s bigger than you think: I used to joke, back in 2003,  about a futuristic GoogleCar, and an era in which Silicon Valley would become the new centre of the automotive universe. With self-driving cars and other efforts, its not a joke anymore. Every industry is witnessing similar levels of disruption and acceleration. Complacency is a dangerous thing, particular when every organization is faced with constant, relentless external innovation from unexpected competitors.
  • It involves innovation intensity: With rapid change, everyone in an organization must innovate. Some years ago, I appeared on a the CNBC Business of Innovation show. It featured a lot of “innovation elitists” who seemed to indicate that only special people can “do” innovation. Wrong : thriving in the future has a leadership that involves everyone in innovation. No idea is too dumb, no opportunity is too small. In an era of fast change, organizations must be relentlessly innovative, and that requires drawing on the skills and creativity of everyone
  • It comes from experiential capital: With a fast future, you must learn and relearn. Corporate equity isn’t just money: it’s the cumulative experience and knowledge of the team. Yeas ago, Verizon took a lot of abuse from analysts for its’ big fiber optic bet, yet here’s what I see: the CEO stating that the cost of installing fiber dropped 30% in 2005, and that there was a further reduction of 15-20% by  2006. By the end of end of 2006, they expected it to cost 1/2 that of 2005. The more they do, the better they get. That’s experiential capital, and that’s an invaluable asset.

The future is going to hit you whether you like it or not; it’s your approach to it, and how you innovate with it, that defines your future success.

I was interviewed recently by Independent Banker magazine for my thoughts on trends impacting the world of banking. I do a lot of keynotes in this area — with clients such as VISA, the National Australia Bank, the Texas Credit Union League, American Express, CapitolOne, the American Community Bankers Association, Wells Fargo and many, many more.

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To Carroll, anyone is capable of innovating an aspect of the community banking industry. However, he believes to do so, three essential questions must be asked. What can I do to run the business better? Grow the business? And most important, transform the business?

The full article is available at their Web site: 

 


Instill an innovative mindset to push your bank into the future
By Sam Schaust

Innovation is not a word solely owned by today’s tech giants in Silicon Valley. Or so thinks Jim Carroll, a futurist from Toronto who has given dozens of keynote speeches on the power of innovation to companies such as Walt Disney, Wells Fargo and NASA.

A lot of eyes gloss over the word ‘innovation,’ and people think the word only applies to someone like Steve Jobs who designed cool stuff that changed the world,” Carroll says. “They might think, ‘I’m a banker. What can I do?’”

To Carroll, anyone is capable of innovating an aspect of the community banking industry. However, he believes to do so, three essential questions must be asked , the first of which is: What can be done to run the business better?

There are plenty of opportunities to implement more information technology to reduce costs, streamline processes and become more efficient,” he says.

Which begs the second question: What can be done to grow the business?

Concepts regarding “how to use mobile to capture the millennial generation” and “how to utilize leading-edge transaction technology or new products to attract untapped customers,” Carroll notes, are typical subsections of this question. “Essentially, it all comes down to how you think differently to attract new sources of revenue,” he says.

Finally comes the question: What can be done to transform the business? “Transformation of the business is all about preparing for the fact that, for example, with credit-card payments, now Apple and PayPal are competitors,” Carroll says. “With an increasing number of organizations getting into the banking space, you may need to change the essence of what you do and how you do it to keep up with reality.”

Staying current with today’s banking industry—along with innovating for the future—could require an internal shake-up. As Carroll suggests, “By hiring somebody who thinks just like you, you aren’t going to get any creative, innovative ideas. Instead, if you hire somebody you don’t like or who is dramatically different from you, then you’ll get those different opinions.

Groundbreaking ideas often can come from outside of your field of business, Carroll believes, adding that adopting “an outsider mentality” could prove to be a valuable asset.

“With an increasing number of organizations getting into the banking space, you may need to change the essence of what you do and how you do it to keep up with reality.”
—Jim Carroll, Futurist

Thinking opportunistically

To bring about a new revenue opportunity, Carroll sees an advantage in embracing methods that break from the traditional structure. “Part of what I talk about is speed of opportunity,” he says. “What’s happening out there is new opportunities are emerging faster and you’ve got to have a culture and capability to grab onto that very quickly.”

Growing through experience

Carroll believes that an innovative attitude at a community bank needs to be set from the top. “It’s got to start at the board,” he says. “Although, that’s the toughest thing and it simply doesn’t come overnight.”

By adopting a forward-thinking mindset, mistakes are sure to be made, Carroll adds. “Be an organization that doesn’t just celebrate wins, but failures, too,” he says. “In today’s world, organizations will get ahead through the depth of their financial capital. That’s important, but there’s also our experiential capital—the experience we gain from trying something new.

By hiring somebody who thinks just like you, you aren’t going to get any creative, innovative ideas.” — Jim Carroll, Futurist

Innovation typically comes from a general interest for what’s occurring beyond one’s industry, Carroll notes. By simply embracing the what’s new or unusual, “we build up our experience,” he says. “And the more experiential capital we have, the better positioned we are to make big, bold leaps in the future.

 

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

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

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

It should be fun!

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

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

thinksmall

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

Here goes!

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

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

It’s a powerful concept.

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

Thinking big, starting small, scaling fast.

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

 

I spend a lot of time in conversation with CEO’s, leading researchers, scientists and others as I prepare for my keynotes and leadership meetings. I undertake a lot of detailed research, often reading sets of hundreds of articles on a very specific subject as I prepare for a talk. My mind is a sponge, absorbing and ingestion insight and information at a furious pace.

But I’ve also learned that you can often learn from the most unexpected sources. Such as a grade 5 teacher, that by virtue of serendipity, becomes a member of your home golf course, and ends up becoming a regular buddy on the links.

grade5education

“Instead of individual subjects, students will study events and phenomena in an interdisciplinary format. For example, the Second World War will be examined from the perspective of history, geography, and math”

I don’t know how many times he has started a conversation with the phrase, “Let me tell you about Finland...” but that caught my attention today as the article above floated into my Facebook feed this morning.

It’s one of the trends that has been telling me about by virtue of his experience in the classroom. You can learn a lot about an industry — say, the future of education, where I do a lot of keynotes — but listening to folks in the trenches. Such as a grade 5 teacher. Here are some of his observations:

  • kids learn differently today than they did even just 5 years ago, and it will be even more different just 5 years from now. He caught my attention with that observation – what is happening in the classroom in terms of the ingestion of knowledge is happening faster than we think. It’s all based on interactivity, video, and tablets. Todays’s 10 year old has grown up in the technology tsunami, and simply acquires knowledge differently. Tomorrow’s grade 5 will be fundamentally different from the grade 5 kid of today. Change is relentless.
  • the ingestion of knowledge is all about video. Youtube and other sources are more relevant today than any sort of textbook. This echoes my own experience with my sons, now 21 and 23. I spoke about this during a keynote for the Institute for Credentialing Excellence in Phoenix a few years ago. Check the video in my post The Future of Education: Rethinking Opportunity in the Era of Knowledge Velocity. The son referred to in that video has a golf handicap of 1. He’s scratch. He changed his golf grip, not by working with a golf pro, but by watching YouTube videos.
  • it’s about short, sharp shocks of knowledge. The education system today talks about curriculum and pedagogy and phrases and methodology that were cool in the 1960’s. The methodology is barely relevant today, at all. Everyone knows that. No one really knows how to fix it, so those in the classroom figure out how to fix it on their own. Disruption is occurring, one grade 5 teacher at a time.
  • structure is irrelevant to them. Their minds are so busy, flitting from one concept to another, and the education system in North America hasn’t changed to deal with that reality. Finland has. Change needs to come, and it needs to come fast!
  • they are more world aware than we think. We might often think that the mind of a 10 year old isn’t very connected. This generation is global, aware, in a way that no other generation in the history of mankind has ever been. He indicated that one of his most painful days as a teacher was yesterday as some of the kids asked and talked about the rise of Donald Trump — with all of his moral failings on public display. How do you deal with that? We’re in uncharted territory here…
  • even their parents are different and expect so much more. The parents of todays 10 year old is the world’s first post MSDOS generation. When they began using computers, Mac’s and Windows were already the interface of choice. The Internet was a part of their lives for as long as they’ve had busy, inquiring minds. They are technology-immersed too, and carry none of the technology hangups of their baby-boomer predecessors too. They too expect change, technology, and interactivity to drive the education system. They are not getting it at an official level.

But wait, there’s more! Lots to learn! Lots more golf yet to come!

We all know that the education system is massively stuck in an innovation rut, unable to deal with the reality of change that swirls around it. And so many questions are raised by the reality on the ground. Such as: what the heck is the world of human resources going to do as today’s 10 year old becomes a part of the workforce in just 10 years?

What can you learn from this? Certainly this: seek to learn from unconventional sources. Just as today’s grade 5 student learns in different ways that are not part of the education system.

I certainly intend to, and as golfing season draws to a close, think I need to commit to going into his classroom and doing another presentation for his class, as I did last year. Not to present my views — but really, to try to listen to theirs!

Here’s a video I filmed with his kids in his class last year. Invigorating stuff! Here’s a promo clip I filmed for my opening keynote for EdNet 2016 in Dallas a few months ago. When we think about the future of education, we need to think about the careers that the kids of today will be working in. Many of those careers don’t exist. Here’s what the kids think about that!

The kids understand the future! Does the education industry?

A Memo to the CEO
November 1st, 2016

 

 

To:           CEO’s Worldwide

From:     Futurist Jim Carroll

Date:       November 1, 2016


 

I know things are extremely busy, particularly given the current climate of economic uncertainty. Yet, there is a key issue that you need to make sure is on your agenda.

Innovation.

The most important thing that you can do right now, as you work to navigate your way through the challenging economic shoals that surround you, is to make sure that you don’t kill it in its tracks. My observations are that you risk doing so. That’s worrisome.

Read more – click for a higher resolution — or access the PDF

 

memototheceo memototheceo-pg2

 

We certainly live in interesting times!

Here’s what I’ve noticed in this new era of hyper-turmoil and uncertainty — many organizations are turning off their innovation engines, waiting to see what happens next in a world in which volatility is the new normal.

bigbolddecisions

The New Yorker had a great article in 2009 after the financial meltdown, “Hanging tough,” that outlined  how some companies choose to ensure that they stay innovative in recessionary times – while others did not. In the context of the uncertainty of today, it’s worth a read. For example, they contrast two cereal companies: one that chose to focus on innovation despite uncertainty, while another did not.

“You’d think that everyone would want to emulate Kellogg’s success, but, when hard times hit, most companies end up behaving more like Post. They hunker down, cut spending, and wait for good times to return. They make fewer acquisitions, even though prices are cheaper. They cut advertising budgets. And often they invest less in research and development. They do all this to preserve what they have.”

My recent discussions with Fortune 1000 CEOs and senior executives in both UK and the US certainly indicate that this is happening again. Post-Brexit, uncertainty and aggressive indecision is roiling the C-suite in the UK — deferring decisions has become the norm. In the US, the never-ending election has placed a pause on most big decisions — inaction has settled in like a wet-sponge!

Big question – in this context, is the UK done? Can America innovate again, or is this a cultural and leadership ‘new normal?’ Here’s what I know – the winners and losers of the future are being determined right now!

Yet history has taught us, over and over again, that those who are aggressive with innovation, and who align themselves to future trends in times of uncertainty, are those who win in the long run. For years, I’ve talked on stage and in my leadership meetings of the key observation by GE’s Chief Innovation Consultant. Simple, powerful guidance: breakthrough performers manage to accomplish great things because of a decision to focus on innovation right in the middle of an economic challenge or an era of uncertainty– rather than waiting till they came into a recovery phase.

The research found that during the oil shock of 70’s, 80’s and 90’s recession, and the 2000 dot com bust, of those companies surveyed, 70% of companies barely survived, 30% died, but 10% became breakthrough performers. Noted the GE head of innovation: it was explicitly “…because of choices they made in the recession.”

So it really comes down to this: when do you innovate? Are you going to wait until you are comfortable that an era of uncertainty is over? Bad decision — because economic and political volatility is the new normal!

Everything we have learned has taught us that the winners were those who decided that it was an important thing to keep moving ahead despite massive amounts of uncertainty. Get out of your future-funk! Try this clip from a keynote I undertook on stage after the meltdown of 2008-2009. “Innovators get out in front of the recession“.

Consider this: the New Yorker article is pretty blunt with it’s findings on innovation-losers:

  • “numerous studies have shown that companies that keep spending on acquisition, advertising, and R. & D. during recessions do significantly better than those which make big cuts”
  • “a McKinsey study of the 1990-91 recession found that companies that remained market leaders or became serious challengers during the downturn had increased their acquisition, R. & D., and ad budgets, while companies at the bottom of the pile had reduced them”
  • “Uncertainty is always a part of business, but in a recession it dominates everything else: no one’s sure how long the downturn will last, how shoppers will react, whether we’ll go back to the way things were before or see permanent changes in consumer behavior. So it’s natural to focus on what you can control: minimizing losses and improving short-term results.”

Innovation winners?

  • “Kraft introduced Miracle Whip in 1933 and saw it become America’s best-selling dressing in six months; Texas Instruments brought out the transistor radio in the 1954 recession; Apple launched the iPod in 2001.”

Read the article. It’s powerful stuff!

Given that, what do you do? Change your culture and set out to achieve breakthrough results despite uncertainty!


Here is some more innovation-soup for your innovation-soul!