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Creating a Great Keynote!
November 15th, 2016

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

Are you kidding?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It turned out to be a great talk!

Let’s talk about organizations that are clearly innovation failures — those who are stuck in a rut, and unable to figure out what to do next.

embracechange

While doing so, ask yourself — is this the organization you work within, or are the CEO of?

With a twenty year focus on innovation, I’ve become convinced that many organizations develop a cultural sclerosis that holds them back to such a degree that their failure becomes a blinding liability.

What is common to these organizations? Several things:

  1. Fear of the unknown in times of economic uncertainty: Certainly the US election has placed many companies into a ‘wait-and-see’ mode: decisions are being deferred at a furious pace. The result is that many organizations are driven by uncertainty. What happens if our market doesn’t recover? What happens if we can’t rebuild the top line? What happens if our customers don’t start spending again? So much fear and uncertainty causes a form of leadership and organization wide paralysis to set in; they’re like deer caught in a headlight, and are frozen in time. Avoid that fate – and fast!
  2. Inertia is easy: when confronted by change, many people react by …. doing nothing. When things are uncomfortable, the easiest thing to do to deal with that discomfort is to avoid it. Such thinking causes many organizations and the people within them to fall asleep. They keep doing what they’ve been doing before, hoping that will carry them forward into future. Obviously that can’t work, for a whole variety of different reasons.
  3. It’s easy to avoid tough decisions : organizations are faced with a lot of change, in terms of business models, customer expectations, cost pressures, new competitors, and countless other challenges. To deal with any one of these issues requires tough decisions, but in many cases, it’s easier to put those decisions off into the future rather than having to deal with them.
  4. An unwillingness to confront the truth: your product might be out of date; your brand might not been seen as relevant and keeping up to date with fast paced innovation in your marketplace; your sales force might be wildly out of date in terms of their product knowledge; your competitors might have a more efficient cost structure because they made the heavy IT investments that you did not. I could go on, but the point is this: you might have serious systemic problems, and are simply unable or unwilling to focus on fixing them. Have a reality check, and use that as a catalyst for action.
  5. A short term focus: like many, you don’t think about business trends longer than three months or a year. By doing so, you are missing out on the fascinating transformations occurring in many markets and industries, and don’t see the key drivers for future economic growth, with the result that you aren’t capitalizing on them.
  6. A culture that is risk adverse: so far, you’ve survived through cautious, careful manoeuvres. Yet the fast rate of change around you has left you naked with that strategy: going forward now requires trying to do a lot of things you haven’t done before. You’ve got a culture that doesn’t accept such thinking. Change that — now!
  7. Paralyzed by the fear of failure: related to your risk aversion is a culture that abhors mistakes. Anyone who errs is shunned; people whisper quietly about what went wrong, and what it might mean. Banish that thinking: you should take your failures, analyze them, and better yet, celebrate them! Put them up on a pedestal. It’s more important that you try things out on a regular basis, since it is clear that what worked for you in the past obviously won’t work for you in the future.
  8. Failure to adapt at fast markets : I’m dealing with companies that know that constant innovation with top line revenue — which means product and service innovation — is all about time to market. You must have an innovation pipeline that is constantly inventing and reinventing the next form of revenue. What you sold in the past — you might not sell tomorrow. How are you going to fix that? By getting into the mindset of the high velocity economy!
  9. A refusal or unwillingness to adapt to new methodologies and ideas: in the manufacturing sector, it’s all about Manufacturing 2.0 or 3.0 or the next phase … in every industry, there is no shortage of new ideas, methodologies, processes, and fundamental change in terms of how to get things done. Maybe you’ve closed your mind off to new ideas, with the result that you fail to see how your competitors are rapidly shifting their structure, capabilities, time to market, product line, and other fundamentals. Wake up — we’re in the era of the global idea machine, and the result is that there is a tremendous amount of transformative thinking out there about how to do things differently. Tune in, turn on, and rethink!
  10. A loss of confidence: the economic downturn of 2008-2009 and ongoing volatility since then has had the effect of causing such widespread damage in various industries that some people and organizations and leaders have lost their faith in the future. They aren’t certain they can compete, adapt and change. Perhaps this is the biggest challenge of all to overcome — but you can only overcome it by getting out of your innovation rut and moving forward.

Bill Gates once 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. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”

It couldn’t have been put better. What’s your choice – to be an innovation leader, aware of where we are going in the future, or an innovation laggard, still mired in short term thinking?

Think growth!

I’m featured in the July/August issue of AgriSuccess, the national publication of the Farm Credit Coop of Canada. You can read the article below, or access the PDF through the image.

Sadly, they printed only a small part of the interview! I dug into my e-mail archive, and so you’ll find the ‘missing bits’ after the end of the article below!


Highlights

  • Development of Ag Ant and photonic weed detection next steps in crop management
  • Be open but cautious when looking at new technology
  • Crowd thinking making a big impact on technological change
  • Acceleration of science has profound implications for agriculture
AgSuccess

Read the PDF version of the article by clicking on the image!

Acknowledged as one of the world’s leading global futurists, Jim Carroll has an extensive list of blue chip clients and has delivered keynote addresses around the world. He has operated his own advisory firm, J.A. Carroll Consulting, since 1989.

What equipment innovations do you see for agriculture in the years ahead?
At the University of Illinois, they have developed what they call the ‘AgAnt.’ It’s a prototype for an automated robot that can assess and detect stress, disease, weeds, soil status and pests. And at Edith Cowan University, they’re working to develop a ‘photonic weed detection system.’ It aims a series of laser pulses at the field, which are reflected back. A photo-detector then analyzes the information and provides instruction to a spray cylinder and valve as to where to apply a treatment.

Science is real. Science is fast. Science is accelerating. And agriculture is science.

I find it increasingly difficult to keep on top of many trends, simply because it is happening so fast. Just five years ago, I was on stage in Las Vegas speaking about this fascinating new, future idea of ‘3D printing.’ And then, just last year, I found myself on stage in front of a group of dental professionals, talking about the fact that 3D printing of dental implants, crowns and other implants, was coming into the industry at a very fast pace. 3D printing is expected to have ramifications for agriculture too. For instance, your local equipment dealership might in some cases be able to “print” a replacement part that you need.

You’ve said there have been some stunningly bad predictions in past decades. As we consider the range of current predictions, how should we sort the good from the bad?

That’s a tough one. Maybe the best ‘worst’ predictions were the ones that rockets would never reach the moon, or Bill Gates’s comment that 640K should be enough for everyone! And yet, some people carry it to extremes suggesting we will soon have elevators that will take us to space or to the moon. How do we sort out the real from the fanciful? Be open, but cautious.

You note that aggressive indecision often kills innovation in companies. Why is this happening?

During the economic downturn in 2001-02, I noticed that many of my clients, regardless of the industry, seemed to have lost their sense of direction. Quite simply, people decided not to make decisions – and they seemed to like it.

The result is an economy in which everyone seems to be stuck in a rut, unwilling and unable to move forward.

Why is this happening? In part, fear of the unknown. And that extends into the world of agriculture. We have a lot of farmers who are afraid to make decisions because the next unforeseen event might prove to have negative consequences.

So what do you do? Do you wallow in indecision, or make aggressive moves to position for a future in which ag only has an upside? I’m in the latter camp.

First, look for the warning signs: a mindset that is averse to any type of risk, an absence of any new product or marketing initiatives, or an organization that is stuck in a rut, wheels spinning, and no one has decided even to call a tow truck.

Second, realize that aggressive indecision means you’ll likely have to respond to external pressures faster than ever before. That’s because while people have learned they can hold off until the very last minute, they are also learning they can still get things right. This leads to a business cycle that involves extended periods of frustrated waiting, followed by a blur of activity as organizations rush about to respond to customers’ demands for instant action.

Third, be prepared to make bold decisions. Want to test it? Find the one big decision you’ve been deferring the longest, and decide one way or the other. Right now.

Technological change has been rapid in the past two decades. Will the rate of change slow, stay the same or accelerate in the years ahead?

It’s certainly going to accelerate – that’s why my tag line has become ‘the future belongs to those who are fast.’ There are numerous reasons why it is speeding up. Certainly the idea of ‘crowd thinking’ is having a big impact. We’ve got this big, global collaborative thinking and research machine with the Internet today.

Science itself is accelerating. The new global mind generates new knowledge at furious rates. We’re going from 19 million known chemical substances today to 80 million by 2025 – and five billion by 2100. The discovery of a single chemical substance permitted Apple to miniaturize a hard disk for the first iPad, which led to the birth of a new billion-dollar market.

The acceleration of science has profound implications for agriculture, since much of ag is science-dependent. Consider bio-genomics. The cost to sequence human, animal and plant genomes is collapsing at the same pace that the cost of computer chips collapsed.

Science is real. Science is fast. Science is accelerating. And agriculture is science.


Stuff that didn’t make the cut!

In some of your presentations you talk about the rise of urban farming and jobs for vertical farm infrastructure managers. Most farmers that I know see urban farming as a quaint idea rather than something that will feed a significant number of people. What’s your take on it?

It’s simple — the simple fact is that global food production has to double in the next 30 years to keep up with population growth, and there is little new arable land coming online.

Add to that some basic realities from an international perspective: By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities. Africa is urbanizing so fast that by 2030 it will cease to be a rural continent

Those trends are already leading to the rapid growth of urban farming. I dug out research that shows that there already there are 800 million ‘city-farmers’ according to UN statistics — some 25% of population of Burkina Faso, 35% in Cameroon, 63% in Kenya, 68% in Tanzania. Consider this: 90% of the fresh vegetables in Accra, Ghana come from farming within the city! That’s why we are seeing a lot of agricultural research and innovation around the idea of vertical farming … and hence, a new profession of farmers involved in this field.

Vertical farming is just an example of the massive types of innovaton occuring throughout the global agricultural sector. That’s why futurists like me exist : our job is to remind those who are very involved in day to day realities, and who don’t have a lot of time to think about what comes next, that there is a tremendous amount of change occuring out there.

Lets’ come back to the idea of vertical farming — visit http://vertical-farming.net, which is a global initiative that brings together researchers, academics and others involved in this field. 20 years ago, we didn’t have that type of global mind, but today, we do. This provides for a lot of collaborative thinking, research and idea sharing. This accelerates the pace of innovation and discovery.

Or take a look at http://www.instructables.com/id/Vertical-Hydroponic-Farm/ . This is an example of a community where people are using low-cost computers known as “Raspberry Pi’s” ($5 to $35 per computer) to advance vertical farming concepts. Sure, it might involve hydroponics, but the fact that tech-enthusiasts can share softawre and code also accelrates technology.

Is there any risk from relying on too much leading edge technology?

There is a tremendous amount of risk — privacy, security, criminal activities, social and ethical challenges. The list goes on. That doesn’t mean the pace of technological change is going to slow down.

When I talk about this on stage, I often help people think about their discomfort with change by quoting Ogden Nash, who observed that, ‘for some people, progress is great, but its gone on way too long.’ That I think captures in a nuthsell the reality that we faced with today. Many in my generation — baby boomers — are extremely uncomfortable with the rapid change that envelopes us.

But I really believe that its going to be differen with the next generation : my sons are 21 and 23, and I really believe they are a part of a generation that has a different view with respect to technological change. They’ve already grown up in a world in which they’ve witnessed the arrival and disappearance of entire technologies: think about DVD-players. I often talk about how they view some things from my life as being ‘things from the olden days’ — 35mm film, TV guides, CD’s.

Those young people are coming into the world of agriculture today — they’re taking over the family farm, or working within large industrial or agriculture cooperatives. They’re open to new ideas, new ways of working, and paritcuularly, new technologies.

They’re sitting in the combine with an iPad, an iPhone, and are eager to utilize rapidly evolving precision farming technoogies to achieve that year over year yield increase.

And when it comes to the risk of rapidly evolving technologies, I think they will deal with it in very different ways.

At least, I hope so. As a futurist, I have to stay relentlessly optimistic!

I was recently interviewed by the folks at the Speciality Foods Association, for my thoughts on what is happening in their sector.

How a Futurist Deciphers Trends
By Brandon Fox, January 2016

RD2008Food1.jpg

Fads have a shorter lifespan, trends have a shorter lifespan, consumers have a shorter attention span.

Author, speaker, and consultant Jim Carroll offers global trend analysis and strategies for change to companies as varied as Johnson & Johnson, the Walt Disney Corporation, and Yum! Brands. Here, he discusses why trends are more complicated than “what’s hot or what’s not,” the lightning speed of consumer influencers, and why experimentation is necessary to build shopper relationships.

WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING IN THE FOOD INDUSTRY?

Boy, where do we start? I take a different approach—it’s not “what’s hot or what’s not,” but how are things changing and how quickly can specialty food come to market

People are influenced faster than say, five or 10 years ago—or even a year ago—and a lot of that has to do with social networks, but also with just the way new concepts and new ideas are put in front of them.

I spoke to a group of beverage executives a couple of years ago about what was happening with food and alcohol. I told them to think about “Mad Men.” All of sudden, 1960s retro drinks were all the rage. It happened quickly because people are influenced in new and different ways. It’s not, “what are the new taste sensations?” but “where are those new taste sensations coming from?”

[As for what’s emerging now,] consider how hummus grew as a trend—and then consider what comes next: more quinoa, buckwheat, and rice [products] as people seek similar healthy snack and meal options. And there are fascinating new developments like fruit sushi, chocolate-flavored soda, and even bacon-flavored vodka.”

WHERE DO YOU SEE INFLUENCES COMING FROM SPECIFICALLY?

One example I use all the time is bacon. I traced it back from an article that appeared in the Associated Press newswire in March 2011. The article was called “How Bacon Sizzled and People Got Sweet on Cupcakes.” [The author] followed the trend back to a wine distributor in Southern California who, about six years ago, paired a Syrah with peppered bacon at a tasting. That somehow got out onto the blogs of the time and all of a sudden, boom! Bacon became hot. Everyone talks about Facebook and Twitter all the time, but it’s a new kind of connectivity in terms of how we eat and drink and how we share and talk about it.

DO YOU THINK CELEBRITY CHEFS’ INFLUENCE HAS BEEN STRONG ENOUGH TO DRIVE THIS INDUSTRY?

Huge impact. It used to take a new taste trend from a high-end restaurant five years [to filter down] and now it takes six months or three months or less because there is so much exposure. And another thing is food trucks. People can’t meet the high capital cost of a new restaurant, so they roll out a truck. They’re everywhere. You have people with obvious skills. They can now do what they want and get in front of an audience. And with television shows like the Cooking Channel’s “Eat Street,” it’s a supernova that’s moving faster than ever before.

HOW DO YOU DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN SOMETHING THAT’S GOING TO BE SUSTAINED VERSUS A BLIP ON THE RADAR? YOU’VE TALKED ABOUT BEING NIMBLE, BUT IS THERE A DANGER TO JUMPING TOO QUICKLY?

Too fast or too slow? When the low-fat and low-carb trends came along, by the time [companies] got a product to market, the trend had come and gone. One fascinating experience was when I was doing a talk for Reader’s Digest’s food and entertainment magazines on the same day Lehman Brothers went down and the stock market crashed. The focus of the conference quickly became the economic downturn, comfort food, and the fact that people would focus on more grocery shopping and less time in restaurants. That was the day that Campbell’s Soup was the only stock that went up in value. The buzz around the room was that we, as a food industry, are not very fast or agile to respond to these fast-paced trends.

THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN IN 2008—HOW HAVE YOU SEEN THINGS CHANGE SINCE THEN?

I still worry. How far has the industry come along? Well, a little bit. To a large degree, many consumer food companies still have not made much progress. Fads have a shorter lifespan, trends have a shorter lifespan, consumers have a shorter attention span. While you might have had longevity of three to six to 12 months with a particular type of food, is that collapsing now? We’re no longer in a world in which we can sit back and have a one-year planning cycle.

YOU TALK A LOT ABOUT MOBILE TECHNOLOGY. EVERYONE SEEMS TO BE DOING EVERYTHING WITH THEIR PHONES, BUT HOW CAN A COMPANY REALLY LEVERAGE MOBILE?

Think big, start small, scale fast. If you think big and look five years out—you’re, say, an olive oil company—the bottle is going to be intelligent. It’s probably going to have a chip built into it. You’ll 
probably have some type of relationship, either direct or indirect, with the consumer. That’s a given.

HOW WILL A CHIP ON A LABEL OR BOTTLE HELP THE 
COMPANY GET TO KNOW THE CONSUMER?

The consumer might have liked the company on Facebook—maybe there was a very effective ad on Facebook and they have agreed to share their information. That establishes the relationship. When [the consumer] walks into the store, their mobile device has that 
relationship embedded in it and the product with the active 
packaging chip in it recognizes that they’re near and starts running a commercial on an LED screen while they’re walking into the store. It might say something such as, “You’ve liked this before, so here’s a coupon that we’ll zip to your mobile device.”

That kind of freaks me out.

I’m 56 and that kind of freaks me out, too. My son—he’s 20—is in a different world. He views contractual relationships in a very 
different way. Five years, 10 years from now, he’s going to have more of a budget for spending, and will he accept that idea of zipping a coupon to him? I think he will.

There’s a stat I dragged out years ago—the average consumer scans 12 feet of shelf space per second. Think about that. You have very little time to grab their attention, so you’ve got to experiment quickly with new ways of putting [your product] in front of them.

Brandon Fox is the food and drink editor of Style Weekly in Richmond, Virginia. Her work has also appeared in The Local Palate and the Washington Post.

Back in April, I opened the 2011 International Society of Medical Publication Professionals annual conference in Washington. Their newsletter on the conference is now out, with a report on my keynote.


The meeting opened Monday afternoon with Jim Carroll’s keynote presentation, which focused on the importance of innovation and on future changes that may occur with healthcare and the practice of medicine.

According to Mr. Carroll, “So much change is going on in the world today that every organization is struggling with what will happen in the future.” To drive home the point that “the future belongs to those who are fast,” Mr. Carroll shared three statistics that he carries with him:

  • 65% of children in preschool today will work in jobs that do not yet exist
  • 50% of material learned in the first year of a college-science degree will be obsolete by the time of graduation
  • • A manufacturer has only 3-6 months to sell a new digital camera before it becomes obsolete

To highlight the rapid pace of technology, Mr. Carroll used several interactive “text” polls where he asked a question of the audience who used their cell phones to text in their answers. Mr. Carroll noted that the world is changing quickly and that 2-3 years ago, very few people would have been comfortable texting a response to a question asked at a meeting.

Mr. Carroll then discussed how companies need to embrace the rapid speed of innovation to remain successful. He described how the head of innovation at General Electric studied innovation during times of economic downturn and found that 60% of companies barely survived such a downturn. However, the 10% of companies that focused their dollars on innovation were the companies that came out in a positive position when the economic recovery happened. Those that didn’t developed “organizational sclerosis,” which shuts down the ability to innovate and adapt to changing environments.

Mr. Carroll then quoted from his book: “Some people see a trend and see a threat—other people see the same trend and see an opportunity.”

Over the next 10 years, Mr. Carroll predicted that major changes will occur regarding healthcare, the environment, and energy. He then described several trends that will result from these changes including:

  • Movement to a model of preventive healthcare.
  • Embracing Health 2.0 (referring to when patient records are all electronic).
  • Connecting all relevant devices. For example, a cell phone connected to a biometric sensing system could allow your doctor to monitor your blood pressure via your phone. As a result of bioconnectivity, more healthcare will occur through virtual care instead of at hospitals, extending the reach of the primary care provider to the home.
  • Utilizing the power of the cloud, which is the mass of data that exists on remote servers or social networks (outside of hard drives).
  • Delivering medical knowledge to providers as needed (ie, the concept of “just in time knowledge”). Mr. Carroll noted that medical knowledge is doubling every 8 years.
  • Developing systems that can handle the new scientific velocity.
  • Developing innovations based on an optimism for the future.

Challenges for such innovation may include the velocity of change, ethics (what is considered ethical may vary in different parts of the world), and the ability of regulatory systems to keep up with scientific velocity.

Mr. Carroll concluded by stressing how ISMPP needs to become more aggressive in educating others about the important role of those involved in developing medical publications. Mr. Carroll ended his talk with what he described as Ten Great Words:

  1. Observe – Pick up knowledge.
  2. Think – Think about the message and how to provide Big Bold Solutions.
  3. Change – What can you change personally?
  4. Dare – Watch for 3 ideas you think you would never do and then try them.
  5. Banish – Discard anything that is an innovation killer.
  6. Try – Try 3 things you said you would.
  7. Question – Challenge the assumptions.
  8. Growth – Challenge yourself to grow.
  9. Do – What do I, myself, need to do?
  10. Enjoy – Enjoy what you are doing!

 

Well, the headline caught your attention, didn’t it?

So what gives? How could “golf” possibly be the most important word in a year which promises ongoing economic volatility, potential signs of a recovery, restless consumers, potential challenges with the housing market, extremely fast paced business model change driven by technology — and countless other opportunities and worries?

Because the game of golf is probably one of the best barometers for the pace of the economic recovery. And in and of itself, the fact that the game is examining its future is probably the best sign that innovation and change has risen to the top of the leadership agenda.

Consider the first issue: golf and the economy. When the economy is hot, and companies are secure in their belief in economic growth, there are a lot of leadership events in which strategies are discussed, customers are engaged, and new business ideas are launched.

Corporate off-sites. Leadership meetings. Customer events. CEO-led strategy sessions. All the things that organizations do to ensure that they can focus on opportunity and growth. When the economy is in a good way, we see a lot of these events, and inevitably, they’re held at a resort, conference center or hotel that includes some great opportunities for golf, because that’s where a lot of the real business gets done.

Two years ago, many of these events disappeared or were scaled back in a significant way, as many organizations were focused on survival rather than growth. In the darkest days of the economic downturn and the subsequent era of gloom, customer and leadership events were small, low key, local, and didn’t have an element of golf.

But these events are back in a big way, and they’re being done in such a way that “golf” is most definitely back on the agenda. Only it’s not labelled “golf” on the agenda anymore – instead, you’ll see something like : “1:00PM – Private meetings”. In the last while, I’ve been doing or having been booked for a significant number of leadership, CEO and customer-oriented events at golf-oriented conference centers and locations all over North America.

Smart Meetings Magazine, a US publication, covered my thoughts in the January 2011 issue this way:

“Jim Carroll, a futurist, trend and innovation expert who has written and spoken about the economic horizon, often quotes the American Chamber of Commerce when discussing what lies ahead: “We’re going from a really bad economy to a new economy.” Here’s a rundown of what that will look like. … While Carroll says he’s seen a dip in association bookings, “corporate leadership events are way up.” In this sector of the industry, 2011 bodes well for the amount of meetings held and the funds devoted to them. …. With the economy in ascent, planners should see more hefty budgets allocated for meetings (or, as Carroll puts it, “There will be more golf this year.”)

Here’s the second reason why the world “golf” is so important — because the game itself know that innovation and change has become absolutely critical to provide opportunities for growth.

Read about the PGA of America’s reaction to Jim Carroll’s keynote

Last November, I was invited to be the opening speaker for the 94th Annual General Meeting of the PGA of America.

It’s the first time they have EVER had an external speaker open their event.

When I first got the call, I was a little bit stunned. This was THE PGA.

But then I began to think about my conversation with their senior management. Everyone knows that growth of the game is challenged by a variety of issues, including demographics, the collapse of attention spans, time availability, and a host of other issues. The PGA knows this, and they know that focusing on innovation and change — and confronting these trends — has become one of the most important things they needed to do.

And so they found me — and invited me in to challenge their members to begin just such a dialogue.

I’m seeing many such events. Heck, just over a month ago, NASA — yes, that NASA — had me down to Texas to speak to a senior leadership team on the issue of “Transformational Leadership”. I had in the room with me a very fascinating audience — astronauts, program directors, launch controllers. What was the real issue on the table? NASA’s world is changing fast, and the need for innovative thinking has become critical.

If organizations like the PGA and NASA are putting innovation at the top of their agenda, and innovation is the driver of economic growth — then clearly, golf has to be most important word in indicating where we are going with the economy in 2011.

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