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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 An unwillingness to confront the truth: your product might be out of date; your brand might not been seen as relevant and keeping up to date with fast paced innovation in your marketplace; your sales force might be wildly out of date in terms of their product knowledge; your competitors might have a more efficient cost structure because they made the heavy IT investments that you did not.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!

As a popular keynote speaker with a focus on future trends and innovation, I’m often called upon to deliver a talk that focuses on some very unique or current issues. This post will give you a sense of the types of events that I am being booked into today.

11173324_1139955206031162_1350127962545406975_n There are several key trends that continue to define my business:

  • corporate leadership meetings continue to be a big growth market – I’m often engaged by a CEO or other senior executive for an offsite meeting — on a highly customized topic. There’s more information below on some of the very unique and customized topics that I have taken on as of late.
  • economic uncertainty seems to be growing with the collapse in oil prices, the election, and ongoing questions about global economic growth. That’s a good thing — I’ve got plenty of video and blog posts around the theme of “innovating during uncertain economic times.” It led to strong bookings in 2009-2010, and I’m seeing an uptick for this type of topic again today. Global economic turmoil? Time to innovate! Read more.
  • a topic that is drawing continuing attention has to do with a new book I am working on: “Think Big, Start Small, Scale Fast“. Many companies continue to be blindsided by the speed of technology change, business model change (think Uber), empowered consumers, new competitors — you name it! This simple phrase resonates with people as a keynote topic: read more!
  • in addition, the topic of the “Internet of Things” ties into the current high velocity change occurring in every industry as Silicon Valley comes to drive the speed d of industry. Industries that have had me in on this topic include the automotive/trucking industry (Volvo / Mack Trucks), packaging/paper (Mondi International out of South Africa), energy and infrastructure (GE Lighting, Lennox, Honeywell, and Trane Ingersoll Rand), among others. Read more.

Customized keynotes

This area continues to be my biggest growth market. I truly believe that clients today are looking for much more than a canned message; they want real insight, deep research, and a highly customized message. I’ve certainly been delivering; here are a few of the unique topics that I have taken on:

  • The Future of Steel” — a keynote for the global leadership meeting of the Finnish company, Konecranes. They build the massive structures used at container ports, shipyards, railroads, oil fields and other industries. They were looking for a keynote that looked at the future of the steel industry, one of their key industry verticals. Watch for an upcoming blog post on the unique research that I undertook
  • Physician Recruitment in the Era of Digital Intimacy” – PracticeMatch is a US company that specializes in the recruitment of doctors/physicians. They were looking for a talk that would take a look at the challenges in recruiting the Millennial medical professional. They didn’t want a canned talk about this unique generation — they wanted real insight. You can read my blog post, which gives you a sense of how deeply I dug into the topic, on this blog post.
  • The Future of Risk in the Era of Big Infrastructure” — this Friday, I’m in Las Vegas with Kiewit, a North American construction company involved in massive oil, energy, highway and other infrastructure projects. More specifically, I’m with their legal team — 50 executives responsible for managing risk throughout the business. My keynote takes a look at new forms of emerging risk, given trends unfolding globally. It’s a very unique and customized topic combining future trends and legal risk — I’ll be blogging about this next week
  • The Future of Energy Infrastructure” — the topic for which GE Lighting, Lennox, Honeywell, and Trane Ingersoll Rand engaged me. This is a good example of very specific customization to an industry of the broader “Internet of Things” topic. You can read a blog post and watch video from the GE event, held in NYC, on the blog post “5 Things to Know About the Connected Future
  • The Future of Intelligent Packaging” — Mondi, a South African based organization, brought me to Prague to open their global leadership meeting. They are deep into the packaging industry in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, and wanted a talk that would help their team understand the opportunities that would unfold as packaging materials become intelligent, connected, and interactive. You won’t look at a box of Wheaties the same after you’ve thought about this topic! An Atlanta based company, Neenah Paper and Packaging, was also looking for a similar topic — which is a good example of the fact that almost every industry is being reinvented by an era of “hyperconnectivity.” There’s more here.
  • The Future of Sports and Fitness” – I admit it was a thrill to open the CEO leadership meeting for the Sporting and Fitness Industry Association — and to be followed on stage by Roger Goodell, Commission of the NFL. (I didn’t bring up Tom Brady). This booking relates to the ongoing theme of the future of health, wellness and fitness, and “Healthcare 2020” :
  • Autonomous Vehicle Technology, Self Driving Cars and Intelligent Highways” — both the Colorado Department of Transportation and Volvo have had me in to look at this extremely hot topic. You couldn’t have failed to notice stories in the news that both Google and Apple are developing self-driving vehicles. There is a seismic change underway in this massive industry, and I’ve got some great background with keynotes for major players as it unfolds. Automotive World, one of the leading global publications in the auto industry, covered my thoughts on this topic in the article, Is the Auto Industry Ready for the World of 2030. Read more.

These are just a few examples of some of the unique topics I’ve been taking on. Remember — clients are looking for real, deep, specific, customized and tailored insight.

Feel free to contact me if you want to explore some ideas!

Trends Expert Jim Carroll to Keynote CGT’s Leadership Event

Trends and innovation expert Jim Carroll will deliver the keynote address at this year’s premiereConsumer Goods Business & Technology Leadership Conference, October 23-25, 2011 at the Ritz Carleton Grand Lakes in Orlando, Fla.

CGT is the leading magazine and information source on the technology and other trends impacting the CPG industry.

A leading international futurist, Carroll (www.jimcarroll.com) is widely recognized as a thought leader and authority on global trends, rapid business model change, business transformation during economic uncertainty and the necessity for fast-paced innovation. He is an author, columnist, media commentator and consultant with a focus on linking future trends to innovation and creativity. He has previously spoken at events for the Professional Golf Association (PGA), HJ Heinz, Johnson & Johnson, the Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), among others.

Hosted by the Consumer Goods Technology (CGT) magazine, a publication of Edgell Communications, the Consumer Goods Business & Technology Leadership Conference remains one of the most significant consumer goods industry events and is now in its 13th consecutive year. In attendance will be senior-level marketing, supply chain and IT executives from leading CG companies. Carroll joins an agenda jam-packed with presentations from leading consumer goods companies, like Kimberly-Clark, Dean Foods, PepsiCo, Del Monte and many more.

“We are the only event that covers all aspects of the consumer goods industry, with an extremely broad range of attendees by managerial function,” noted Albert Guffanti, publisher, CGT.

Guffanti continued: “We are very pleased to announce Jim Carroll as our keynote speaker, who will challenge our audience to ‘think big’ about their future by focusing on the theme, ‘What Do World Class Innovators Do That Others Don’t Do’. He has a track record that is recognized worldwide as a ‘thought leader’ and authority on global trends; rapid business model change; business transformation in a period of economic uncertainty; and the necessity for fast paced innovation.”

Carroll will concentrate on several key trends in his engaging keynote address: how world-class innovators possess a relentless focus on growth. They continually transition their revenue source through relentless product and service reinvention and solve customer problems before the customer knows there’s a problem. They focus on upside down innovation by sourcing innovation ideas through their customers and focus on long-term wins through constant incremental improvements. Carroll will also share his perspective on why right now is a great time to make bold decisions and do great things.

“I’m thrilled to participate in this annual conference,” noted Carroll. “While we might be in a period of economic volatility, history has taught us that it is those organizations who focused on innovation thinking during a period of uncertainty are those who are best positioned as economic growth returns. There is plenty of opportunity in the CG industry in all area of product development, operations, partnership structures, retail activities, taking advantage of the rapid evolution of mobile technologies, and branding and marketing opportunities. The future belongs to those who are fast — today, it’s all about scalability, rapidity and the ability to deal with extremely fast rates of change from every perspective. I’ll challenge attendees to concentrate on the core activities that will help them focus on the opportunities of the future, rather than the challenges of the past.”

Click here to access the event’s web page, view the outstanding agenda and/or to register.

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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