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Another article on a recent keynote I did on the future of manufacturing; in this case, from The Fabricator, the publication for the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association.

A chat with futurist Jim Carroll indicates that fabricators should be open to embracing technological possibilities or risk being left behind.

At one time you needed a room of skilled craftsmen just to make even a simple prototype. Tomorrow it might all be done by the design engineers themselves in hours instead of days because of advanced 3-D modeling software and virtual reality technology.

In helping out with some editorial preparation for The FABRICATOR’s sister magazine, Canadian Metalworking, I had the opportunity to chat with futurist Jim Carroll. (He gave the opening keynote address for the Canadian Manufacturing Technology Show on Sept. 25.) Conversations with such industry and societal observers are always interesting because they take the time to consider what may be possible in the years to come while others have their heads buried in the drudgery of everyday life. My talk with Carroll was no different, and the following three conversation highlights only promise to make those that are technology-averse even more nervous about the future.

Virtual workers come to the rescue. In speaking about the advanced skills needed in modern manufacturing and the dearth of young folks interested in pursuing these types of vocational careers, Carroll mentioned how virtual technologies may be able to fill that gap.

First, he discussed how he has attended vocational skills development programs, like SkillsUSA, all over the world. In fact, he made a point to reference a program in Brazil where at least 1,700 students competing in 75 categories gathered to demonstrate their advanced skills, which included welding. Second, he described how he saw people demonstrating virtual welding systems, where a dummy welding torch follows a path and advanced sensors and software replicate the welding environment even when there is no live arc. He theorized that it won’t be too long before a welder and his equipment in Brazil can be hooked up to the internet and linked to some sort of automated arm at a shop in the U.S. The overseas shop that once threatened to steal U.S. jobs because of low labor rates now has become a valuable source of hard-to-find labor.

To illustrate how this type of technology is not as far off as you might think, Carroll referenced an Audi prototype delivery truck that can be driven by someone back in the office. (There’s a reason the truck has no windows!) In fact, that truck might be in Germany and driven by someone in India.

Product development is reinvented. At one time you needed a room of skilled craftsmen just to make even a simple prototype. Tomorrow it might all be done by the design engineers themselves in hours instead of days because of advanced 3-D modeling software and virtual reality technology.

Carroll described how Amsted Rail, a company involved in manufacturing components for railcars, which is not something normally associated with cutting-edge manufacturing, is combining video game-playing engineers and virtual reality to redefine rapid prototyping. These engineers are thrown into “Xbox” rooms, as the company calls them, to discover the best ways to combine old-school components, such as axles and wheels, with new devices such as energy management systems in next-generation undercarriage assemblies for railcars. In this environment, major design mistakes are easily forgiven, and winning designs can be fast-tracked into production.

New developments in railcar components that help to save fuel and boost reliability keep the customers coming back to buy better products. Fabricators can appreciate how that might help them to secure their place as a valued supplier, which means long-term business relationships in many instances.

The material of tomorrow may be a lot different than it is today. The development of metal alloys is nothing new. Fabricators have been wrestling with armor plate and high-strength steels at the press brake for years. But fabricator swon’t necessarily be working with these new materials in the same way because parts won’t need to be bent or cut. They will be 3-D printed.

Already aerospace companies Boeing and Airbus are seeing 3-D printed parts that are 40 percent lighter than the traditional machined or fabricated assemblies that they are replacing, according to Carroll. Because these metal components are printed layer by layer, a designer can render complex designs that can’t be duplicated in any other way.

Carroll said that new performance capabilities are possible as material scientists create new metal materials. Imagine being able to have two layers of metals seamlessly joined together when it was previously very difficult to join those materials using traditional welding technologies.

Fabricators that may not want to jump into additive manufacturing at the moment shouldn’t fear, Carroll said. Like other manufacturing service providers, companies offering 3-D printing services will start to dot the landscape. They can specialize while fabricators focus on what they do best—at least until they decide to do 3-D printing.

“The fascinating thing is that the future is going to unfold whether we like it or not, and it’s better if we align ourselves to it as an opportunity instead of opposing it and wishing it will go away,” Carroll said.

The BBC gave me a call to chat about what is really going on with the Internet of Things (populalrly known as IoT) … and ended up running a great summary of our conversation.

The article captures the essence of my thinking that it is very early days yet with IoT. We’re at the starting gate in building the most complex machine ever built, and we’ve got a lot to learn in terms of architecture, security, and its’ role.

Read more about those issues here and here. I’ve been speaking about IoT for over 20 years : a good example is here. And even here, where I talk about the changing role of light bulbs in the era of IOt.

Give the article a read, and see if you agree.

 


The Brain Inside Our Homes
BBC, October 2017

The most humble of objects can join the connected world, thanks to what is known as the Internet of Things – the interconnection via the internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. Smart bathroom scales can log weight and body mass index, then feed the data back to a Fitbit wearable for action; networked dog collars can track a pet wherever it roams, help with training and even detect pain; Amazon’s checkout-free Go stores will allow shoppers to fill their bags and leave the store without queuing or even touching their wallet.

The Boston Consulting Group estimates the world will spend $295 billion on Internet of Things (IoT) systems and devices by 2020.

Yet, according to futurist Jim Carroll, the concept is still in its infancy.

Engineer and futurist Roy Amara observed that people tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate it in the long run. Similarly, Carroll believes that when it comes to the Internet of Things, the world is still in the era of inflated expectations that precedes a crash and is followed by more gradual adoption and global dominance.

It’s like it’s 1994 or 1995 and the worldwide web has just arrived – we know that something big is happening here,” he says. “But there were lots of early experiments with websites and e-commerce. A lot failed. A lot were silly. And it took time to mature and figure out business models.

The Internet of Things presents important challenges around security and privacy, which organisations are only beginning to explore. Many manufacturers are still shipping devices with default passwords and user IDs, leaving them ripe for hackers. Privacy legislation has yet to catch up to a world where a single household can emit thousands of data points every day – unconsciously sharing everything from the layout of an infant’s bedroom to the contents of their refrigerator.

Experts agree it is still too early to identify which of the myriad IoT businesses will become the new Amazon, PayPal or eBay. No one can predict which will face the fate of dotcom bubble victims such as Pets.com or Boo.com, or prove, like the various virtual currencies that preceded Bitcoin, ideas ahead of their time. Yet some industries are clearly ripe for disruption.

By 2020, over-60s will outnumber under-fives around the world. By 2050, there will be two billion people aged over 60 worldwide. In an ageing world, cost-effective elderly care is critical. From wearables that track vital signs through to emergency response systems, virtual assistants and perhaps even internal smart devices swallowed like pills, the Internet of Things will help the elderly live in their own homes, with dignity, for longer. Google and Novartis are developing a smart contact lens for diabetics that won’t just correct vision but will track blood sugar; even the humble floor is getting smart, with systems to detect falls – and ultimately, perhaps, prevent them.

I talk to healthcare groups about virtualisation, remote blood pressure cuffs, diabetes monitoring and more,” Carroll says. “We can rethink the concept of care and re-engineer senior care. We can architect a world where seniors are in their own homes and connected by these devices.”

If climate change is the single biggest threat our planet faces, then the smart grid is key to the European Union’s battle against it. By 2020, almost 72% of EU consumers will have an electricity smart meter, part of a smart grid rollout that could slash the union’s carbon emissions by as much as 9%. By saving energy on operations, helping consumers monitor their usage and even feeding stored solar energy back into the grid, smart meters reduce a household’s carbon footprint. Networked to IoT devices elsewhere in the home, such as thermostats, lighting controllers, refrigerators and washing machines, they will cut emissions even further.

Globally, one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted – that’s over 1.3 billion tonnes every year. For food businesses, IoT technology can help cut waste, whether by monitoring perishables on their journey from farm to store or identifying patterns that cause food to end up in the rubbish bin. In the home, smart refrigerators can warn when food is approaching its use-by date, send real-time information on their contents to a shopper in the supermarket to avoid double-buying – and, of course, remind consumers when to stock up on milk.

The Internet of Things is central to the worldwide Smart Cities movement, which itself links closely to global climate action goals. “We can give internet connectivity to all kinds of devices,” Carroll says. “Like a light pole. We can stick in environmental sensors and turn it into a FitBit for the city. We can put charging stations in it, for charging electric vehicles with credit card transactions. It might become part of an intelligent highway solution, where it’s monitoring traffic, interacting with cars, fining drivers using high-occupancy vehicle lanes.

In California, the city of San Diego is upgrading some of its streetlights to install 3,200 sensors, transforming them into a connected digital network. The anonymised data should help monitor traffic, pollution and carbon emissions, identify crimes and assist first responders, and even help visitors find a parking place.

And in Taiwan, the engine room that fabricates many of the hardware that powers the Internet of Things, government and mayors are embracing the Smart Cities movement. The nation that manufactures the Amazon Echo smart speaker hosts an annual Smart Cities summit and is equipping its own urban centres with a low-power wide-area network tailored to the Internet of Things.

In the capital, Taipei, a network of sensors already monitors pollution – driverless buses that collect data on road conditions and traffic are undergoing trials. Local smart scooter start-up Gogoro, which operates on user-swappable batteries, just launched its first solar-powered charging station. In the southern city of Tainan, Acer has developed a smart parking app that enables users to find parking spaces quickly, as well as paying parking fees and parking tickets through a licence-plate recognition system. It was also in Taiwan that German luggage-maker Rimowa chose to launch its smart-tag system, meaning passengers on EVA Air could check in their bags via smartphone, saving time at the airport.

It’s this electronic alchemy – transforming everyday objects such as parking meters or luggage tags with the power of the network – that Carroll sees as the most life-changing element of the Internet of Things. “That’s what gets me excited,” he says. “Not any particular type of device, but how we can fundamentally transform anything so it can do so much more than we thought possible.

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Companies that don’t yet exist, will build products that are not yet conceived, based on ideas not yet invented, with manufacturing methodologies that have not yet been conceived. Are you ready for the new world of disruption?

That’s the reality of manufacturing today, and that will be the focus on my keynote next week when I open the Canadian Manufacturing Technology show in Toronto, Canada.

The reality of our future is found in the quote above, and in this video clip here:

The folks at Canadian MetalWorking/Canadian Fabricating and Welding, reached out to me for an advance look at some of the topics and issues I’ll cover in my talk.

 

Seek Out Opportunities for Innovation
Canadian MetalWorking, September 2017

When reinventing manufacturing, the reality is that manufacturers need to focus on new business models with agility and flexibility while quickly raising up production. If the manufacturing sector in a particular nation wants to be the leader in the industry, it must start to think like a tinkerer economy by accelerating change.

This is the view of futurist Jim Carroll, who espouses the concept that prototyping and concept development will continue to mature in the near future, all while becoming more and more important to the manufacturing sector.

He says by building flexibility into the process, manufacturing companies can bring new technologies and new generations to the market faster than ever before and seeing their profits skyrocket.

Canadian Metalworking caught up with Carroll before his opening keynote speech at CMTS 2017. Here’s what he had to say.

CM: For a small and mid-sized Canadian manufacturing companies, where should they be in terms of technology adoption during this period of Industry 4.0?

Carroll: No. 1 they need to appreciate what is happening out there and be willing to accept that things are changing at a relatively significant speed. Some high-level trends such as robotics, digital factory, and 3-D printing may not be applicable for small industries, but this does not mean that they should not be aware that these trends can affect the future of their industry. Understand what is happening out there and start small.

There are a lot of opportunities out there, for instance, if you take 3-D printing, there are a lot of contract 3-D printing facilities. Last week I was talking about a company that is positioning themselves like the Uber for 3-D printing. If you can conceive a product using your CAM software and ship them the files, they will find a 3-D printer with the [needed] capability and match you up with them so that you can do your prototype. Where 3-D printing is accelerating fairly quickly is in rapid prototyping design.

You might be a 100 person or smaller company, but you can certainly experiment with this technology to figure out what is going on, rather than thinking 3-D printing is something farfetched from science fiction, because it is not. The best thing is to think big, start small, and scale fast.

CM: Some companies are dragging their feet and are not integrating advanced technology into their operations. What sort of warning would you offer up to these manufacturing companies?

Carroll: No matter who you are or what you do, fascinating things are emerging out there regarding these significant trends. So, spend time figuring out what you can utilize today and tomorrow to turn it into an opportunity.

Will the world of manufacturing be fundamentally different in the next five or 10 years? Of course, yes, pushed by the whole issue with jobs skills.

There is no shortage of employment in manufacturing. It’s just that some people don’t have the right skills. For instance, robotics company Genesis Systems, one of the largest robotics manufacturing businesses in Iowa, said to me that it is almost like the typical robotics machine operator in a factory today has to be able to do trigonometry in their heads because it has become so sophisticated.

Brute force, manual routine skills are from the older days. All jobs now require higher level skills. If you are a manufacturer, you have to appreciate what is going on and what it is going to mean regarding the skills you have and the skills you are going to need.

CM: How does the changing pace of technology in a manufacturing environment change the way that these companies maintain and improve their employees’ skills levels?

Carroll: It is generational. There are a lot of baby boomers out there that struggle with technology. Growing up with a punch card, we grew up with a unique relationship with technology. My kids that are 28 and 24 are different, having never seen the world without the Internet. These new generations that are coming to the work force think differently and act differently.

Skills Canada and Skills USA have the initiative to help young people find a career path in skilled trades. Last year I opened their global competition in Saõ Paolo, and they have [hundreds of] kids competing in 75 categories in 400,000 sq. m of space. Advanced welding was among one of the competitions. They have folks who demonstrate virtual welding, how with technology in one room and can theoretically weld from a facility 1,000 miles away. So, get involved with Skills USA or Skills Canada. In the end, it all goes back to understanding what is going on out there and appreciating the acceleration of technology to make a conscious decision to get on board.

CM: Can you provide an example of an organization that is embracing Industry 4.0 and is a good example of manufacturing’s future in North America?

Carroll: I saw this when I was at Amsted Rail in St. Louis, which offers engineered system solutions that combine castings, bearings, wheels, axles, and energy management devices. They always think about what they can do in terms upgrading their technology.

Amsted Rail is frequently bringing new employees from younger generations and set up what they call an “Xboxer,” which means that they let these mid-20s engineers play with all this new technology and figure out how to bring in this new technology into the operation.

CM: Do you feel optimistic about this state of manufacturing in North America given the examples you provided with this mid-sized companies looking at their business at a different way?

Carroll: Things like collaborative robotics, digital factory, and additive are going provide a significant transformation of what manufacturing is. The rest of the world is going to go there, and you are not going to slow down the acceleration of science and the technology. There is a choice, either you get on board, or you don’t.

CM: What technologies do you think manufacturers should be keeping a close eye on?

Carroll: Two things. 3-D printing and accelerated material science will have the most impact in manufacturing for at least the next five years.

3-D printing is moving forward at a furious pace. For instance, there is one coming along called CLIP [continuous liquid interface production], which is almost out of the Transformers movie. Seeing that type of acceleration, what took something like 14 hours before now takes about 6.5 minutes with CLIP technology. Additive is real. It has a huge role now in rapid prototyping and iterative design.

Look at aerospace. Airbus and Boeing have figured out that they can 3-D print and develop parts of planes with a structure that are 40 per cent lighter. From that perspective, companies are starting to see what they can achieve with these fascinating new materials driven by science.

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We’re in the era of ‘connected energy,’ and everything is set to change in pretty dramatic fashion.

That will be the essence of my message when I speak to several hundred energy and water utility executives when I keynote the annual SAP Utilities conference in Huntington Beach, California. It’s great to spend some time with SAP again — I did about a dozen keynotes for them from 2003 to 2007, back in my “What I Learned From Frogs In Texas” days!


The session description reads:

“The future belongs to those who are fast! That’s the mantra of futurist Jim Carroll — and no where has this become a reality faster than in the world of utilities. There is no doubt that the next phase of the world of energy involves the convergence of a variety of trends, each of which is significant on their own, but combined, provide an opportunity for massive disruption — and opportunity. The era of massive hyper-connectivity at an industrial, commercial and residential level as a result of the acceleration of the Internet of things. The rapid advancement of energy science, particularly with battery storage, alternative energy sources and other leading edge technologies. Business model disruption through the fast arrival of technologies that support personal and local energy energy microgrids through backyard wind, solar, biomass and other forms of energy generation. New demand and infrastructure requirements arising from such significant trends as smart cities, self-driving cars and intelligent highway infrastructure. And then there are simple light poles — which are now becoming ‘fitbits for cities’ with embedded environmental sensors, car-charging technologies, Wi-Fi hotspot capability and traffic management technologies! But wait — there’s more! At M.I.T. they are even in the midst of research as to how to grow solar cells from plants! That’s why no less than the Edison Energy Institute has stated that going forward, ““The threats posed to the electric utility industry from disruptive forces, particularly distributed resources, have serious long-term implications for the traditional electric utility business model and investor opportunities.”

The challenges and opportunity in the energy sector are real, and it’s captured pretty accurately in that summary. Need a hint of what is going on? Simply take a look at what is happening with battery storage technology.

Quite simply, we are in a situation in which a centuries old business model – the centralized production of power, distributed one-way through a relatively unintelligent system — is set to change in so many ways.

I’ve spoken at numerous energy conferences through the years, including the global Accenture Energy & Utilities Industry conference. Just a few months ago, I spoke privately to the nuclear division of one of the countries largest energy utilities, literally with 20 nuclear engineers in the room. And a few years back, I was engaged by the CEO of PG&E to do a video on what happens if grassroots power production and micro-grids lead to the disruption of the industry.

 

Stay tuned: I’m sure I’ll have a lot to post, including an overview of why light poles are a harbinger of what’s to come with our connected future!

A brand today can go from hero to zero in a matter of months….” In that context, you’d better get ahead of the fast future, before it gets ahead of you!

Consider Sony. Once they were a really cool company with the coolest technology on the planet — the Walkman.

Then they weren’t, because they didn’t keep up with the future, and didn’t innovate fast enough.

We live in an era of instant obsolescence. I often tell the story on stage of how my sons — now 24 and 22– perceive many of the things which were once a part of my life as being from the “olden days.” We’ve actually come up with a pretty long list.

Sony once had a really cool brand name, and the Walkman had deep, deep brand value. Yet Sony seemed to lose its innovative spirit, and started going wrong in a big way. It ended up destroying a good chunk of the brand value behind the Sony name — when I think of Sony now, I think of a company that is slow, behind the times, ponderous.

Which begs the question : are you operating with enough agility and rapidity in order to ensure that your own brand doesn’t become a “brand from the olden days?”

The rate at which the Sony brand lost its value is nothing short of stunning — and was due to a series of well known missteps (among others):

  • they failed to keep up with the rapid growth and demand for flat panel TV’s and other hot new technologies: they failed with market agility.
  • they decided that going to war with their customers (by slipping destructive software onto their music CD’s) was more important than developing great technology that caught the next wave of consumer electronics. Look up “Sony rootkit” for the story from over a decade ago.
  • they dropped the ball on the necessity for continuous operational excellence , as evidenced by a disastrous recall of laptop batteries some years back.

The list goes on. Are you making similar mistakes that is costing you brand image? You certainly are, if:

  • Your brand looks tired, because it is tired. Case in point — many companies in the automobile industry missed out on the revolution as the dashboard becomes a computer, because they weren’t watching what their customers were doing. They were busy releasing automobiles that were some five years behind the living rooms of their customers — and that certainly brought the brand sheen off of some of the biggest auto companies. They are still trying to catch up.
  • Customers see a lack of innovation: Consumers today are immersed in a global cloud of new ideas. They’re witnessing constant, relentless, awe-inspiring forms of innovation all around them, as they deal with a flood of new consumer technologies, packaging based product innovation, and ongoing advancements in retail environments, both offline and online. They’ve come to expect that the brands they deal with are at the leading edge, in design, functionality, message and purpose.
  • Lousy, ineffective customer service: Guess what – when it comes to interaction with your customers, they measure you up against the world’s best. If you don’t add up, you are doing some significant damage to your brand equity right there. Customer support is no longer good enough — fanatical support is better.
  • You don’t know that you customers know more about your brand than you do: Your customers today are immersed in the global innovation idea feedback loop. They busy sharing ideas on what’s really cool, and they are even busier taking apart the folly of those who have been left behind. In doing so, they are rapidly reinventing products, services, brands and image. If you aren’t listening, you are guaranteeing that you’ll fall behind.
  • A lack of purpose or urgency: I’ve studied many organizations who still don’t have the key information they need for market agility. They don’t have instant feedback mechanisms which tell them of rapid developments in specific markets. They don’t know how to regroup quickly “when bad things happen.” They still operate blind, as if it’s 1990: their sales force goes into a customer meeting, oblivious as to what that customer has been thinking about them. They approach every day as if it were the same as yesterday; meanwhile, their market and their customers have run away from them!
  • A lack of market and competitive intelligence: It’s the information-age, get it? There’s no shortage of information to be had. Yet I see companies who seem shocked when a competitor drops a ‘bombshell’ announcement — only to realize that they were the only one who thought it was a bombshell. Everybody else knew what the competition was up to, because in this new hyper-connected world, everyone knows what everyone else is doing!
  • A regular series of fumbling missteps: The saddest thing is that Sony has messed up in so many ways, that some customers now look at as if it has a “L” on its forehead. Today, small mistakes can be instantly compounded. Take the concept of compounded financial interest. Now realize that a small PR mistake, a lousy executive decision, or poor execution, can lead to the same type of instant, global brand devaluation — that can compound on itself at an extremely high interest rate!

A brand today can go from hero to zero in a matter of months. How do you avoid such a fate?

  • Recognize that brand longevity is now a critical issue
  • Ensure your sales, marketing, development and customer support team are relentlessly focused on the currency of the brand
  • Make sure that continuous brand innovation is part of your corporate mantra
  • When confronted with the new and challenging customer, learn from them rather than running away
  • Be incessantly focused on the likely innovations that will come to impact your brand
  • Learn to think five to six product lifecycles in advance — and plan to do them all within six months.
  • Make forward oriented intelligence a critical aspect of what you do.

Gore Mutual is a property and casualty insurance company located in Canada, and they are running a full day session to help their broker understand and deal with the fast pace of change.

I’m thrilled to be a part of the day, and will share the stage with well known Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki, and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield!

 

I’ll be focussing on disruptive, fast change:

I love ‘small world’ connections, and here’s what’s fun about this event:

  • the artwork for the event (above) was done by Laurence Smink — a graphics and artistic superstar! Laurence did the cover for my book, The Future Belongs to Those who Are Fast!
  • He also did the cover artwork for the book of a good friend, Nicola JD Maher, the Tiniest Warrior of All, published by my publishing arm, Oblio Press
  • Chris Hadfield has published multiple books — and his book agent is Rick Broadhead, Canada’s leading literary agent, at RBA Literary. Before he did that, Rick and I wrote 34 books about the Internet in the 1990’s that sold well over 1 million copies!

This is going to be a great event, and I look forward to sharing the stage with two iconic thought leaders.

 

I spend a huge amount of my time dealing with senior executives in global companies; just hit my client list for a sense of what I do. This usually involves a lot of conversations with CEO’s of Fortune 1000’s, startups, and other C-suite executives.

With that, I’m always fascinated by the public promise of a company, and the eventual reality of what is delivered.  With that, I give you the public promise of Sir Richard Branson of Virgin when it comes to his staff:


That’s a good message for a CEO to promise. Treat people as you would like to be treated.

Sir Richard, maybe you should make sure your staff treats potential business partners with the same degree of respect. Just a thought…..

As a global expert on trends and innovation, I often see the dichotomy between the promise of a brand and the reality. So here’s a story for you to ponder. Is the promise above real?

Maybe not, from a recent experience of mine. Listen in: it’s not much a story, but I  find it interesting and want to get this off my chest…. and you might find it to be so too.

It was a thrill for me back in February of this year when I was contacted by the office of Sir Richard Branson to see if I might contribute to a “book”  his office was putting together, specifically:

Virgin is embarking on a project to consider the future of UK work and business 20 years from now. We’re keen to bring together some of the best minds in the country – to form predictions on the most pertinent emerging trends and recommendations for how we best work towards a thriving 2037.”

Their ask  was to see if I could contribute to a section on the future of the workplace, as in:

The How you Work chapter will focus on working environments, communication with colleagues, access to the office, commuting, global vs local, access to support communities”

The idea was that they would deliver this sometime towards the end of this month, with a number of contributors participating. They indicated that given my background with speaking and writing about the future of the workplace, workforce and the organization that I would have some ‘powerful’ insight.

I don’t mind saying that being involved in such a project would certainly be a thrill and probably one of the highlights of my global career, next to such things as doing talks for Disney, NASA and the Swiss Innovation Forum!

With that, an exploratory call was arranged by the folks at Sir Richards office to discuss my potential contribution. I took the call while out on a ski hill, and we kicked ideas back and forth for about 1/2 hour. The call certainly seemed to go well, and they indicated they would get back to me within a week to talk about ‘next steps.’

And then, silence. Nothing. So I followed up with an email. Then another, and then another. And ….nothing. Complete and utter — and baffling — radio silence. Not a simple, single response to several emails asking if the project was moving on. Not even anything telling me, ‘thanks for the exploratory call, but we’ve moved in other directions…..”

To this day, I still don’t even know what happened with the project. Who knows — maybe we’ll see something in the next few weeks, and I will know that I didn’t make the cut.

So what? Well, here’s the thing: what I see from Virgin in this case is complete disrespect from Sir Richards staff. The complete and simple lack of the courtesy of a response to several inquiries, following up on our original conversation. How do you square that with the promise of a CEO to treat his staff with respect? If that very staff can’t treat potential external business partners with similar respect….?

This isn’t sour grapes; it would have been a lot of fun to participate. Heavens knows I’ve got plenty of other things to do….

But what gets me is this: Sir Richard is known for establishing companies, and a culture, that thrives on the utmost of respect and service. Virgin Airlines, for example, can put many other companies to shame for its ability to be relentlessly customer centric. His promise in a quote such as above is to excel in establishing a staff culture based on respect…

Yet that respect doesn’t seem to trickle down from his office….

My question to Sir Richard is this — why can the staff in your office not carry the same attributes? It might be time for you to ask a few questions….

Just wondering.

Obviously, I spend a lot of time thinking about innovation. And given my global client list, I have a unique front-row seat into what organizations are doing to succeed — or, as they case may be, not succeed — with their innovation efforts.

With that, here’s a quick list of 10 more things that smart, innovative companies do to create an overall sense of innovation-purpose.

  • Heighten the importance of innovation. One major client with several billons in revenue has 8 senior VP’s who are responsible for innovation. And the fact is, they don’t just walk the talk — they do it. The message to the rest of the company? Innovation is critical — get involved.
  • Create a compelling sense of urgency. With product lifecycles compressing and markets witnessing fierce competition, now is not the time for studies, committee meetings and reports. It’s time for action. Simply do things. Now. Get it done. Analyze it later to figure out how to do it better next time.
  • Ignite each spark. Innovative leaders know that everyone in the organization has some type of unique creativity and talent. They know how to find it, harness it, and use it to advantage.
  • Re-evaluate the mission. You might have been selling widgets five years ago, but the market doesn’t want widgets anymore. If the world has moved on, and you haven’t, it is time to re-evaluate your purpose, goals and strategies. Rethink the fundamentals in light of changing circumstances.
  • Build up experiential capital. Innovation comes from risk, and risk comes from experience. The most important asset today isn’t found on your balance sheet — it is found in the accumulated wisdom from the many risks that you’ve taken. The more experiential capital you have, the more you’ll succeed.
  • Shift from threat to opportunity. Innovative organizations don’t have management and staff who quiver from the fear at what might be coming next. Instead, they’re alive from breathing the oxygen of opportunity.
  • Banish complacency and skepticism. It’s all too easy for an organization, bound by a history of inaction, to develop a defeatist culture. Innovative leaders turn this around by motivating everyone to realize that in an era of rapid change, anything is possible..
  • Innovation osmosis. If you don’t have it, get it — that’s a good rule of thumb for innovation culture. One client lit a fuse in their innovation culture by buying up small, aggressive, young innovative companies in their industry. They then spent the time to carefully nurture their ideas and harness their creativity.
  • Stop selling product, and sell results. The word solution is overused and overdone, but let’s face it — in a world in which everything is becoming a commodity and everyone is focused on price, change the rules of the game. Refuse to play — by thinking about how to play in a completely new game.
  • Create excitement. I don’t know how many surveys I saw this year which indicated that the majority of most people in most jobs are bored, unhappy, and ready to bolt. Not at innovative companies! The opportunity for creativity, initiative and purpose results in a different attitude. Where might your organization be on a “corporate happiness index?” If it’s low, then you don’t have the right environment. Fix that problem — and fix it quick.

IBM’s Think Marketing blog found my site, and interviewed me on some of my thoughts around innovation and culture. Give it a read!

 

Hatching your next great idea: 5 ways to set the stage
by Jennifer Goforth Gregory, IBM Think Marketing Blog

Sometimes, you wake up and it feels like it became spring overnight. But when you stop to think about it, the change of seasons happened gradually over the course of a few weeks, and you missed the subtle signs. The daffodils started blooming last month. You started leaving the house without a coat. And, last week, you noticed a few trees sporting light green leaves.

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With 25 years of working with some of the leading organization in the world on issues related to creativity and innovation,  I’ve seen some of the best and worst approaches to the issue. The worst approach? An innovation suggestion box! That will doom your efforts from the start!

I will often sit back and analyze what I’ve seen in order to establish some powerful lessons for other people. Here’s just such a quick list of 10 more things that smart, innovative companies do to create an overall sense of innovation-purpose.

  • Heighten the importance of innovation. One major client with several billons in revenue has 8 senior VP’s who are responsible for innovation. And the fact is, they don’t just walk the talk — they do it. The message to the rest of the company? Innovation is critical — get involved.
  • Create a compelling sense of urgency. With product lifecycles compressing and markets witnessing fierce competition, now is not the time for studies, committee meetings and reports. It’s time for action. Simply do things. Now. Get it done. Analyze it later to figure out how to do it better next time.
  • Ignite each spark. Innovative leaders know that everyone in the organization has some type of unique creativity and talent. They know how to find it, harness it, and use it to advantage.
  • Re-evaluate the mission. You might have been selling widgets five years ago, but the market doesn’t want widgets anymore. If the world has moved on, and you haven’t, it is time to re-evaluate your purpose, goals and strategies. Rethink the fundamentals in light of changing circumstances.
  • Build up experiential capital. Innovation comes from risk, and risk comes from experience. The most important asset today isn’t found on your balance sheet — it is found in the accumulated wisdom from the many risks that you’ve taken. The more experiential capital you have, the more you’ll succeed.
  • Shift from threat to opportunity. Innovative organizations don’t have management and staff who quiver from the fear at what might be coming next. Instead, they’re alive from breathing the oxygen of opportunity.
  • Banish complacency and skepticism. It’s all too easy for an organization, bound by a history of inaction, to develop a defeatist culture. Innovative leaders turn this around by motivating everyone to realize that in an era of rapid change, anything is possible..
  • Innovation osmosis. If you don’t have it, get it — that’s a good rule of thumb for innovation culture. One client lit a fuse in their innovation culture by buying up small, aggressive, young innovative companies in their industry. They then spent the time to carefully nurture their ideas and harness their creativity.
  • Stop selling product, and sell results. The word solution is overused and overdone, but let’s face it — in a world in which everything is becoming a commodity and everyone is focused on price, change the rules of the game. Refuse to play — by thinking about how to play in a completely new game.
  • Create excitement. I don’t know how many surveys I saw this year which indicated that the majority of most people in most jobs are bored, unhappy, and ready to bolt. Not at innovative companies! The opportunity for creativity, initiative and purpose results in a different attitude. Where might your organization be on a “corporate happiness index?” If it’s low, then you don’t have the right environment. Fix that problem — and fix it quick.

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