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A report from T. Rowe Price on my recent keynote for the 2011 Investment Symposium follows, where I was one of three keynote speakers (the other two being Colin Powell and Charlie Cook). You can find some blog links to each of the three key themes in the article at the end of the article below.

""We thought Jim was amazing - just the positive message we wanted to leave folks with"

It was a fabulous event, and a great opportunity to get a pretty impressive audience — investment managers for a broad range of investment managers for a broad range of Fortune 1000 organizations, pension funds and government agencies.

Summary:

Futurist Jim Carroll, one of the world’s leading experts in global trends and innovation, described how advances in technology and human innovation will combine to create positive change in the future. He explained how businesses can be held back by what he calls “aggressive indecision”— postponing action because they are constantly waiting for economic conditions to improve. Carroll noted that as the pace of change accelerates, the companies that prosper will be those that can adapt and innovate most quickly.

Key Points

  • Long-term trends that will lead us into the future. Silicon Valley is redefining everything—industries that get involved with Silicon Valley will be brought up to their speed. One powerful trend is pervasive interconnectivity—the fact that electronic devices are connected and can communicate with each other—as a driving force. For example, a staid industry such as air conditioning and heating benefits when people can control their entire home environment remotely through a cell phone. On the health care front, sensors can monitor the activities of seniors and report any changes in behavior, allowing people to live independently longer. On a more dramatic note, he believes advances in exploring the human genome will change medicine’s focus from reactively treating disease to proactively searching for potential health problems before they occur.
  • The paradox of pessimism and reality. While many business people are pessimistic about the future and believe economic recovery is at least two years away, technological advances are creating the potential for greater productivity and efficiency. For example, the auto industry now has the flexibility to produce in response to demand instead of building huge inventories that may go unsold. Products can also be brought to market much faster to take advantage of changes in consumer tastes.
  • The next generation. The next generation has grown up with rapid advances in technology, so they are at home with change. This familiarity means young people will greatly increase the rate of innovation as they enter the workforce. This group is not afraid to take independent action—50% believe self employment offers more job security than working for a company. The next generation will receive $12 billion to $18 billion in intergenerational wealth transfers in the next 12 years alone, which could help fund their ambition.

  • Major 10 year trend: The future of every industry to be controlled by Silicon Valley Innovation  
  • The new face of manufacturing: agility, insight and execution 
  • Creativity and the new workforce 

 

(This is a long post!)

Were my comments in the video below — recorded in front of 3,000 people at the annual National Recreation and Parks Association annual conference in Salt Lake City in 2009 — quite possibly the stupidest, dumbest  comments I’ve ever made on stage?

Could we really be headed to a world in which we are going to utilize a lot of technology and innovation to help us deal with a very real and significant challenge – that is, dealing with the tsunami of care-giving that will be required in the world of seniors care?

I’ve been debating this for quite some time, given the confluence of two issues: my wife and I  and sons (and her sister and family) have been quite immersed since December with a family member that has involved the rapid onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia. It is a very sad, intense and emotionally challenging situation; it has revealed to me the personal side of a very complex problem.

And while all this has been going, I had been working on and preparing for my keynote to the DSSI Annual Forum. DSSI is a major supplier within the US seniors care industry, and the conference features the participation of probably the bulk of the seniors care operators in the US.

My keynote was to be focused on innovation in the seniors care sector — where might there be opportunities, and what are the trends that will provide those opportunities.

How did I approach the topic? I truly believe that we live in a period of great transformation, and that people must challenge themselves to think boldly when it comes to innovation. Hence, the innovation opportunity comes from “thinking big.”

So let’s think about the scope of the problem. We all know that in Western nations and mature Asian countries, the seniors care challenge is massive. And with longer life expectancy, we are dealing with a reality in which the challenge of Alzheimer’s care for these seniors will go on for much longer periods of time.

In my keynote, I jumped right into the “scope” issue. Consider the reality:

  • in the US, the number of Alzheimer’s patients is set to triple to 16 million by 2050
  • the typical Alzheimer patient is disabled for 9 to 20 years – and this will increase to 40- to 50 years as medical advances continue and life expectancy continues to grow
  • we are spending $172 billion a year in treatment – and that is set to grow to $1.08 trillion by 2050 given the growth in the number of cases, and the impact of longevity
  • there is a lot of family care giving that is involved; as the St. Louis Dispatch noted, “Boomers may be spending more years caring for an aging parent than a child
  • and the challenge shows no end in sight: “40% of people over the age of 80 are suffering from dementia – there will be a million new cases a year by 2050

Put these facts into the context of the reality of what is occuring in the world of seniors care today:

  • an ongoing massive ramp-up in demand with shortfall in available and planned units
  • a funding crisis with plunging investment / housing values, and state, federal and municipal tax deficits
  • ongoing skills and staffing issues
  • increasing scrutiny in public eye
  • heightened expectations on quality of service from the boomer generation

That’s why one of the first points I emphasized is what I often do in my keynotes: “World class innovators aren’t afraid of thinking boldly!” Simply put, we have a huge problem, and society and government needs some pretty bold thinking when it comes to solutions. How is society going to care for, in a respectful way, an increasing number of seniors living with a very complex disease? How can we help the caregivers to give better care?

Which brings me to the Paro therapeutic robot.

“It’s Not a Stuffed Animal, It’s a $6,000 Medical Device; Paro the Robo-Seal Aims to Comfort Elderly, but Is It Ethical?” – Wall Street Journal

When I am preparing for a keynote, I often do research that involves reading through several hundred articles on a topic — I access these through an online research service. In this case, while doing my homework, I came across the Paro, as covered in an article in the Wall Street Journal:

It might be the cuddliest medical device ever to cause an ethical quandary. Five years ago, a Japanese robot manufacturer introduced Paro to the world. Built to resemble a baby harp seal—with a plush coat of antibacterial fur—Paro was hailed in Japan as a pioneer among socially interactive robots, one that would help lift the spirits of millions of elderly adults.

It never quite caught on. “It doesn’t do much other than utter weird sounds like ‘heeee’ or ‘huuuu,'” says Tomoko Iimura, whose adult day-care center in Tsukuba City keeps its Paro in a closet.

Now Paro has come to American shores, appearing in a handful of nursing homes and causing a stir in a way that fake seal pups rarely do.

My first reaction was, “that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” I was thinking in the context of what my wife was going through; dealing with someone with Alzheimer’s involves a tremendous amount of love, care, time, and emotional commitment.

How, in my mind, could a fake pet ever provide a level of care that would equate to that offered by a loving family member?

And at that point, I had to check myself — after all, I always challenge people to avoid reacting to new ideas with such phrases. It’s a key part of what I often outline on stage — the “innovation killers” that provide such a degree of organizational sclerosis that it clogs up our ability to try to do something new.

So let’s think about the Paro therapeutic robot. It was approved by the FDA as a medical device; the Wall Street Journal had this to say:

“Powering it are two 32-bit processors, three microphones, 12 tactile sensors covering most of its fur, touch-sensitive whiskers and a system of motors that silently move its parts. They allow Paro to recognize voices, track motion and “remember” behaviours that elicit positive responses from patients”

– It’s not a stuffed animal, it’s a $6,000 medical device, WSJ, June 2010

The more I thought about it, I realized that I was probably guilty of the same anti-innovation attitudes that I often talk to my clients about. Who am I to say that such a device might not play a role in helping to provide for bold, transformative solutions to a challenge that is massive in scope?Maybe I’m guilty of the same type of innovation-blockers’s that I speak on stage about! I pondered that thought through the last month during my daily five mile walks….

Read further into the article, and you come across this:

One recent morning, staff at Marian Manor in Pittsburgh, one of Vincentian Collaborative’s homes, circulated three Paros among residents gathered for a sing-a-long. As 77-year-old Anita Biro sat down at a table, she berated two fellow residents and told them to leave, recalls Beth Kuenzi, activities manager for the home’s dementia unit.

But when Ms. Kuenzi put Paro in front of Ms. Biro, her mood changed. As Ms. Biro stroked the robot’s synthetic fur, the machine batted its eyelashes and tracked movement with its head and eyes.

“I love this baby,” Ms. Biro cooed.

Aides also take Paro to residents’ rooms to get them to socialize. At another Vincentian home, Lois Simmeth, 73, doesn’t always participate in group activities, but she ventures into the hall when she hears Paro’s sounds.

“I love animals,” explains Ms. Simmeth. She whispered to the robot in her lap: “I know you’re not real, but somehow, I don’t know, I love you.”

Five years out? 10? 15? Who knows what type of bold, innovative solutions we might see emerging that could help family members who are in a caregiving situation, or which might help to alleviate the huge burden of care within seniors facilities?

Further into my research, I came across the MedCottage. What a unique innovation this was — a small, wired, backyard “cottage” that a family could use to provide independent living for their parents.

It seems to tie into a key trend — at the DSSI event, former Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson (now President of the AHCA / NCAL, the main association representing the seniors care industry in Washington), noted that a survey indicated that 96% of American’s did not want to spend their later retirement years in a nursing home — they wanted to be in a home care environment.

And so could the MedCottage be a fascinating innovation to the trend towards home care?Absolutely — but it too will run into the “innovation blockers.” Such an idea could be doomed because of “NIMBYISM”  – “not in my neighbours backyard!” Yet things are moving fast on that front too:

The State of Virginia has passed a law allowing installation of MEDCottages in residential backyards, over the objections of homeowners who have expressed fears they don’t belong in neighbourhoods.” Checking up on mom from a distance, Toronto Star, September 2010

Telling this story on stage, I reminded my audience that to deal with the really big challenges that we are faced with, we need fundamental shifts in how we approach things, and a lot of bold thinking and big ideas. Certainly the economics for home-care are compelling. I put up these bullets for the audience of seniors care operators:

  • “In Ohio, home care is estimated at $1,400 per month vs $4,300 for nursing care
  • bold goals: plan shift from 42% to 50% within three years
  • the discussion is occurring – you need to be a part of it!

In other words, my challenge to the seniors care industry is this: clearly, there is a massive trend towards home care, which will also involve a lot of family caregiving. Which led to one of the key points in my keynote: “Innovative organizations make bold leaps, in order to keep up — and stay ahead —  of a faster future”, and this point : ““Our innovation mandate won’t involve tinkering around the edges.”

So where does all this lead in terms of the video clip from my NRPA keynote – was this the dumbest thing I ever said on stage? I don’t think so. Clearly, Silicon Valley has health care in its sights — and that will include seniors care, and home care. Noted one researcher at Intel:

We have the potential to aim our innovation engine at the age wave challenge and change the way we do health care from a crisis- driven, assembly-line, hospital approach to a personal-driven approach, with people taking care of themselves with help from family, friends and technologies

This ties into the research that I refer to in my keynote to the NRPA:

Researchers at the University of Missouri are using sensors, computers and communication systems …. to monitor the health of older adults who are living at home.”

“….motion sensor networks installed in seniors homes can detect changes in behavior and physical activity, including walking and sleeping patterns…early identification of changes can prompt health care intervention….

Study the MedCottage web site, and you’ll discover that it involves some monitoring and other technologies that do exactly that.

Clearly, we have some big challenges to solve in the seniors care industry. Clearly, there will be a trend to home care. And clearly, we are witnessing the emergence of new ideas and innovations that will provide for transformative change.

So no, I don’t think I was wrong in my video.

I don’t think that the experience that my family has been through negates the trends. I think as a futurist, sometimes you have to make bold leaps with your imagination, by carefully studying trends and innovations, and putting into perspective what they mean.

The future is coming — and while we might often wonder about the predictions that are made, we must never dare to question the boldness of what might emerge.

 

When you are on stage in front of several hundred people, you’ve got to be prepared to be interactive and open to insight.

That’s why I regularly use a text message polling tool on stage — I can quickly get a sense of what people in the room are thinking about.

Here’s the results from a recent poll – at the start of a talk I asked the audience (in this case, a group of professionals from a national organization) when they thought we might see an economic recovery. Within 2 minutes, I had 218 responses, which probably represented 75% of the audience.

Of course, that gave me the opportunity to lead into a very important observation — if the majority of folks in the room think that economic recovery is still some time off, what are they doing now to prepare for the inevitable economic upturn?

This was a great time to hit them with a key observation by GE’s Chief Innovation Consultant — breakthrough performers manage to accomplish great things because of a decision to focus on innovation right in the middle of an economic challenge — rather than waiting till they came  into a recovery phase.

Here’s the bottom line : during the oil shock of 70’s, 80’s and 90’s recession, and the 2000 dot com bust, of those companies surveyed, 70% of companies barely survived, 30% died, and 10% became breakthrough performers.

Noted the GE head of innovation: it was explicitly “…because of choices they made in the recession..”

So it really comes down to this: when do you innovate? Are you going to wait until you are comfortable that we’re in a sustained period of economic recovery? Bad decision — because economic volatility is the new normal. Everything we have learned from past recessions has taught us that the winners were those who decided that it was an important thing to keep moving ahead despite massive amounts of uncertainty.

When do you innovate?

I captured this sentiment on stage in Las Vegas some time back. Maybe it’s worth a watch. Ask yourself the question, and look around at what you are doing right now to prepare for the future. Are you in an innovation frame of mind right now?

 

Hundreds of thousands have seen Jim Carroll on stage with a keynote focused on future trends, innovation & creativity….with a focus on the trends that will drive their future.

What are the major trends that will shape our world in the future? Here’s what you need to be thinking about now!

How SMALL is your world? Are you thinking BIG enough in terms of just how many big trends are going to impact your future?

Many people ask me how I spend my time in nailing many of the trends that will redefine society, industries, markets and nations into the future….

It involves a lot of research and a great deal of listening to other experts. But it also comes from the fact that I spend my time as a speaker at corporate meetings, massive association events and board retreats, with the resultant opportunity of seeing what many of the most innovative organizations in the world are focused upon. Just take a look at my client list, and you’ll get a sense that I have a constant stream of global executive level insight that drives my view of the future. Take a look at the track record of what I’ve been up to. There’s some pretty solid and significant insight happening here. Take a look at what world class innovators do that others don’t do.

My trending observations also involves a lot of common sense. Take the “expectation gap” which I outline below. This is a pretty significant trend, and it’s pretty well blindingly obvious when you think about it,

So what comes next? Here’s a quick list of 10 trends that you could be thinking about as we go into 2011. I’ve got dozens — no, hundreds — more. Hang out on this blog, track my thoughts, jump in, and let’s continue to innovate our way into the future!

  • the expectation gap: it’s one of the most obvious, most significant, and most challenging trends going forward into the future. Quite simply, Western society is defined by an increasing divergence between what people expect, and what they will get. People expect the world’s greatest health care services; with the aging of society, it is dramatically clear that the system won’t be able to deliver what they expect. Boomers expect that they will have a comfortable retirement pensions; the economic reset and collapsing home values have made it increasingly clear that their hopes will likely have been dashed. People expect that they can live longer, but the increasing prevalence of lifestyle diseases due to obesity and other factors means that in some areas of the Western world, 60 is the new 70. People expect that they can reduce the size of “big government” but have no sense of just how to go about doing this without a great deal of pain. Whatever the case may be, our future is increasingly defined by this gap, and it is going to have huge ramifications for just about everything around us. And here’s the reality: a lot of organizations are going to make a lot of money in helping to close the gap! Take health care and what is really going to happen in terms of future trends. Huge opportunities for growth!
  • industries blur: In the past, we’ve have “industries” which have focused on particular products and markets. Increasingly, the concept of an “industry” is going to blur as fascinating new trends provide interesting new opportunities. Consider this: the world of fashion and healthcare are going to merge. We are going to see an increasing number of bio-connectivity health care devices that will be used for the remote monitoring of health care conditions. Quite simply, people will increasingly wear small “smart appliances” that will monitor their compliance with exercise programs or that will keep their doctors up to date with key health indicators. But people won’t want to wear medical appliances though: they’ll want to wear fashion! Health-care jewelry anyone?
  • energy gets smart: Clearly we’re going to see continued high-speed innovation with renewable energy sources, and velocity with grid-parity: the point in time at which the cost of producing renewable energy equals that of carbon based sources. Much of this is coming about as Silicon Valley gets aggressively involved in the energy sector Taiwan Semiconductor, one of the largest chip manufacturers in the world, has invested $193 million in solar-cell maker Motech Industries. That’s but a small example of a major trend in which hi-tech companies are getting aggressively involved in every single aspect of the renewable energy marketplace. Just look at what Google is up to with wind-farms off the Eastern Seaboard!
  • the collapse of attention spans: Everything changes when people lose their ability to focus: sports, shopping, living…..the numbers with the next generation of consumers are simply staggering. The average teen sent 435 text messages per month in 2007; it’s now 2899! That’s 97 messages per day, an increase of 566% in just a few years. It’s estimated that they now spend 7.5 hours a day engaged with some type of media screen; if you add in the fact they are multitasking, it comes out to 11 hours of screen time per day — or 53 hours a week. Thats’ more time than involved in a full time job, and more time than their parents spend at work. What’s the impact? Continued hyper-speed in the evolution of branding and advertising; surreal rates of change involving products and services; unbelievable rates of change in how decisions are made and people are influenced. If you don’t know how to think, market and promote at nano-speeds, you’re not ready for the future!
  • faster market evolution: If we’re thinking faster, than we are innovating faster! New products flood the market at ever increasing speeds, and fast-consumers snap them up in a moment and evolve their lifestyles quicker. We’re all going to begin moving at Apple-speed as Silicon Valley increasingly comes to control the pace of innovation in many industries. Put it this way: it took two years for Apple to sell two million iPhones, but only 2 months for them to sell 2 million iPads! And just about a month to sell 1 million iPhone 4’s! We’re seeing the same trend in many other industries and product lines: the business of outsourcing the manufacturing LCD TV’s exploded from $9.4 billion in 2009 to over $21 billion in 2010, and an estimated $30 billion in 2011. Some products are obsolete before they are released: Lenovo learned this fact when they cancelled their planned “tablet computer” this June due to the unbelievably fast success of the iPod with market domination.
  • innovation partnerships. Given this rate of change, companies are quickly learning that in this fast paced world, they can’t innovate on their own; it is simply too difficult to keep up. And they’ve realized that they can enjoy greater success through open innovation and other external innovation partnerships. A great example of what happens when innovation “opens up” is seen with the partnership between consumer appliance maker Phillips and Sarah Lee on the single-serving coffee machines. It’s a market that grew from nothing to 12 million machines and 7 billion coffee “pods” in just 5 short years! Everywhere I go, I see organizations focused on challenging the core concepts of how they do “new things.” There’s a new mindset, and this is going to drive a big part of the growth for organizations going into the future.
  • the fight against workplace boredom. When there’s so much fun and fast change in the world, a job can be a mind-numbing experience. That’s why one survey suggested that 67% of Gen-Y admitted on their very first day on a new job, they were already thinking about another job. Organizations are fighting back against boredom by trying to keep staff engaged. At IBM’s Bromont Canada plant, the “3×10” program aims to combat workplace boredom by changing employees full set of responsibilities 3 times every 10 years. The program is managed by someone who has worked in 10 different jobs within the plant over the last 28 years. Expect within a few years the likelihood that a 3×10 program will have shifted to a 2×1 program….
  • American-Idolatry : People love competition, they love winners, and they relish the battle! Everyone is learning that if they are to succeed in the future, they have to appeal to the new base of hero-worship that comes from our new awards driven society. Everywhere I go, I see companies who are far more willing to celebrate and elevate heroes. DHL holds an annual innovation day which includes an award ceremony with partners who have worked with them on innovative ideas. Deloitte South Africa hosts an annual “Best Company To Work For’ survey and combines into it an elaborate awards ceremony. The future of workplace and partner renumeration is all about the red-carpet, the spotlight, and the celebration of success!
  • the big impact of small incrementalism. Everyone is learning that one way to win the future is by having a lot of small wins that add up to big gains. The oil industry currently retrieves only 1 out of 3 barrels per well on average, yet a 1% improvement represents huge revenue gains! 7% of power on transmission and distribution lines are lost as heat, yet reduce that loss by 10% – and that would equal all the new wind power installed in the US in 2006. Todays’ typical automotive system uses only 25% of the energy in the tank — the balance is lost to waste, heat, inefficiency. Work on increasing that on a year over year basis, and there are some pretty solid gains through innovation. .At DuPont, the savings add up: globally, they now produce 40% more material as a global company using the same amount of energy they used in 1990. Up to 30% of the energy used in a typical industrial or commercial building today is wasted, but new, incremental improvements in green building design and other eco-principles are fixing this fast. Every industry I am dealing with sees small marginal wins adding up to huge tactical advantage! Small is the new winner…
  • communities redefined: there were 37 million senior citizens in the US in 2006, or about 12% of the population. By 2030, there will be 71.5 million of them, representing 20% of the population. Other nations in the Western world are seeing the same trend: we’re all about to become like Japan! And the reality of funding issues means it will be impossible to have the same seniors-housing or assisted living type of infrastructure that we’ve had in the past. The next generation of retirees are going to live at home longer; they’ll live with each other more; the hippies of the 60’s are going to find themselves in the seniors communes of 2015! Community-bliss: far out, man! What does it mean? Communities are going to have to be rethought, re-designed and reconstructed – community ergonomics is going to be a massive growth industry! Overall, we’ll see a lot more growth in high density, compact, mixed-use communities – and a lot of innovative thinking as to just what the concept of ‘community’ means.

These are but a few trends that I’m thinking about. I’ve got HUNDREDS more.

Think about these trends from this perspective: there is a lot of transformative change that is underway.

This is no time to think “small.” This is the time in which you need to be thinking “big.” How “small” is your world: do you have a narrow view of opportunity? The reality is that right now, thinking BIG in terms of opportunity and the future will be crucial to your future success.

What does that does it mean for your future? In the old days, companies had “industries” that they worked within, “markets” that they sold into, and “business models” that they pursued. Assumptions that drove their decisions.

Every single assumption that you might have about your future could be wrong. Challenge those assumptions, think about the rapidity of future trends, innovate — and you’ll find the growth opportunities that seem to elude so many others.

2010ExpectationGap.jpgAnother report on my keynote for 4,000 at the annual meeting of the National Parks & Recreation Association, putting into a concise summary the key trends that I covered (from the Parks & Rec monthly magazine).

“… a solid turn-out of nearly 6,000 park professionals and advocates made the 45th edition of Congress a resounding success. …. The theme, “Looking to the Future,” permeated nearly every facet of the event held at the Salt Center Convention Center.

In keeping with the Congress theme, Looking to the Future, opening session keynote speaker Jim Carroll did not disappoint. The Canada-based futurist built his address around key themes and issues likely to confront the field of parks and recreation in the next 10 to 15 years.

Carroll encouraged the packed convention hall to think in terms of transformation.

Other trends Carroll advised attendees to be aware of included:

  • healthcare (we’ll be treated for the conditions we’re likely to have before they set in)
  • hyper connectivity (mapping, body sensors, and sports equipment)
  • Next-Gen re-engagement
  • fragmentation (the result of a faster, more connected world that will shape sports, recreation, and hobbies)
  • re-defined communities (society’s big problems will be solved locally)
  • water/energy/environmental conservation issues
  • demographics (think baseball diamonds that evolve into cricket pitches)
  • workforce trends (Gen Y has a radically different set of job expectations than its predecessors)
  • gaps in expectations (expect a disconnect between what the public wants and what it can afford)

If someone today were to ask me what the most challenging trend will be for first-world nations to deal with — it would have to the last issue.

I’ve got a lot to write and say about the “expectation gap” issue, and have been covering this in dozens of speeches over the last while.

The “expectation gap” is a trend that will define both the opportunity for innovation, as well as distinct perils for standards of living should it not be carefully managed. And to a huge degree, it relates to the political and social maturity that a country can display as it tries to deal with and manage the gap.

More to come!

2009FutureFastHalifax.jpgExpectation gaps create tremendous opportunity

Chronicle Herald, November 2009

By Kelly Hennessey, ABC



There are two ways your community can look at the rapid-fire pace of change we are experiencing: Bury your collective heads in the sand and hope it goes away, or embrace the opportunity change presents for transformative growth.

Jim Carroll would strongly encourage you to seize transformative growth and the opportunities it presents.

Mr. Carroll, a Halifax native, is a world-leading global futurist, trends and innovation expert speaking today at the Greater Halifax Partnership’s Building Our Future event, the last in a series for 2009.

“There are two trends communities need to face now to stay strong for tomorrow,” says Mr. Carroll. “One trend is the expectation gap.”

Take any segment – health care, pensions, post-secondary education – and boomers expect there is enough money to fund these costs for themselves and their children in the future. The gap?

“We can’t fund our current levels in many sectors into the future,” says Mr. Carroll, “but that’s okay. This quickly changing environment creates the opportunity to innovate – and innovation opens the door to all kinds of new possibilities, new jobs, and new growth.”

Take the health care and life sciences sectors in Halifax. These groups are critical to the economic stability of our region and Mr. Carroll believes as they solve the expectation gap in their sector, it will open up big potential here – and on a worldwide basis.

Which brings us to Mr. Carroll’s second trend: That overseas markets present the next big opportunity for this region.

“Canada has always thought it important to look overseas to reduce reliance on one economic partner. What is happening now is there are more, and more frequent, border irritants to the south. This makes the overseas markets even more attractive and more important.

“Given the global knowledge economy, there is no better time for Nova Scotia to turn aggressively outward and do more of the Bermuda-type ‘in-shoring’ deals.” In January 2009, the provincial government signed a memorandum of understanding between Nova Scotia and Bermuda to encourage new business growth in the areas of knowledge, finance, education and tourism.

Amid the trends, Mr. Carroll makes one other key point: Complacency is not an option for organizations seeking future growth.

“There’s so much going on in terms of disruptive innovation, the rapid emergence of new opportunities and fascinating new technologies for marketing and promoting your business. I think the best thing to do is simply to adopt an attitude that it’s fast, it’s scary, but you’re fully prepared to experiment, try out new ideas, and always stay focused on potential new opportunities.”

“The timing of Jim Carroll’s insight couldn’t be better,” says Paul Kent, President and CEO of the Greater Halifax Partnership. “We’re pleased to bring him back home to invigorate our thinking and open our eyes to the trends we can capitalize on for economic growth.”

The Greater Halifax Partnership is the catalyst for economic growth and confidence in Greater Halifax, the economic hub of Atlantic Canada.

2009Accountant-Fast.jpgOne of the columns I write on a regular basis is for CAMagazine, which goes to about 100,000 professional chartered accountants. My big secret? Despite the fact that I spend my time advising some of the biggest organizations in the world on strategies for innovation and creativity, I’m also a professional accountant. I spent some 12 years way back in the 1980’s with one of the world’s largest professional services firm.

My June column is out — and it talks about the challenge of trying to reconcile the emerging demands for more financial disclosure with the short attention spans that come with the Twitter era.

You can access the full article below; but here’s a few excerpts:

We stand at a seminal moment – a crossroads as it were – between what we might call the new age of disclosure and the new era of inattention.

….we will see all kinds of new rules and regulations within the financial sector and beyond, including most of the business world. Let there be no doubt, in the year to come we will witness a new, onerous set of regulations surrounding financial disclosure….

On the other hand, while we ponder an emerging need for more detailed disclosure, media reports seem to indicate that the general populace is rushing off to Twitter-ize itself.

So here’s the thing: to satisfy the demands of angry investors, the typical 10Q and SEDAR filings will have to quadruple in size, if not more. Pretty soon, a typical public company will need to file several thousand pages of disclosure documents to keep up with regulations. Financial statement footnotes will become complicated enough to deserve their own dead tree. An army of accountants will find itself dedicated to the cause of digging deeper with every single sentence.

At the same time, the audience for whom these lengthy documents are targeted is concentrating on writing 140-character texts.

So, the big question is, what is the relevancy of accountancy in the Twitter era?

Might you instead find yourself one day writing a financial disclosure that goes like this: Qlfd opn’n. Gng Cncrn vr m2m vln on unreal(dude!)ized rvnu.


If you understand that, then your brain synapses have shrunk enough to fit the speed of information in the modern age
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2009Seniors.jpgIn the interview just posted on my site (“What is a futurist“), I commented that “we live in transformative times — we’ll look back at 2009-2010 as the period of time in which we started to apply really transformative thinking to solving some of the big problems we have in health care, energy and the environment.”

I find that a lot of people don’t think about the major changes that are going to occur over the long term. Bill Gates caught this reality when he observed that “we always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.”

I followed this line of thinking when I was the opening keynote speaker for the Alberta Senior Citizens Housing Association two weeks ago. The challenges faced by the industry are pretty stark:

  • a massive ramp-up in demand with a shortfall in available and planned units
  • a funding crisis brought about by plunging investment / housing values, and a bigger tax deficit as a result of the economy
  • ongoing skills and staffing issues
  • increasing scrutiny in the public eye
  • heightened expectations on quality of service from the boomer generation

Perhaps the biggest issue of all is that every baby boomer would hope that during their sunset years, they’d be able to live out their time in a wonderful retirement home.

That’s simply not going to be the case — the simple demographics of North American society indicate that society and retirement savings won’t be able to pay for this reality. Get into other areas of the world, including Asia, and the crisis in seniors housing is going to be even bigger, particularly that some countries aren’t even yet to the unit-level that we have in North America.

So what’s going to happen? We’re going to see big, transformative thinking. Rather than placing seniors in retirement homes, why not extend the retirement home concept into their own home. Community and family care is going to play a huge role here,

Technology will also play a big role in this transformative change, as it will move us to the concept of the “virtual retirement home.” By 2020, most seniors will live in their own homes, and their health conditions will be actively monitored through a network of intelligent bio-connectivity and other devices. We won’t have a lot of senior citizen homes — we’ll have virtual seniors networks.

In my keynote, I spoke about research that is underway now into this concept. (US Fed News, February 2009 Health-monitoring technology helps seniors live at home longer, University of Missouri Researchers find“). Two key points:

  • Researchers at the University of Missouri are using sensors, computers and communication systems …. to monitor the health of older adults who are living at home.”
  • ….motion sensor networks installed in seniors homes can detect changes in behavior and physical activity, including walking and sleeping patterns…early identification of changes can prompt health care intervention….”

This type of research is real, and when we look back from 2019 or 2020, we’ll realize that this was the type of transformative thinking that would help to bring about a solution to a pretty big problem. And it’s important to realize that there’s a lot of activity going on in this particular field. Notes one key researcher from Intel, speaking about the research they are doing in this area:

We have the potential to aim our innovation engine at the age wave challenge and change the way we do health care from a crisis- driven, assembly-line, hospital approach to a personal-driven approach, with people taking care of themselves with help from family, friends and technologies.”

When I look around me at the deep problems our world faces, I see a lot of innovative and transformative thinking, with big ideas as to how to solve those complex problems.

Transformative thinking — it’s all around you — you need to start watching.

09FinancialWidgets.jpgMy latest CAMagazine article is out.

In January, I was invited to address a group of CIO’s and CFO’s from some of the world’s largest insurance companies — a pretty heavy duty crowd. My challenge? Get them away from focusing just on the here-and-now, and think a bit about some of the challenges that tomorrow will present.

Part of my voyage took them into a view of what their industry might look like ten years out. Here’s a few extracts:

Are you ready to open up your accounting and financial systems to the Facebook generation? In 10 years, that won’t seem like a silly question. But even today, it’s an issue you should think about

In the next few years, we are likely to enter the world of the “accounting mashup,” in which customers, suppliers and business partners start to interact with you through online widgets. As this happens, you’ll discover new business models that will provide sales opportunities, streamline customer support and reduce operating costs.

Young people entering the workforce are able to instantly and easily reshape information so that it is more accessible, shareable and far more interesting. They’ve taken to the world of music and video and have learned how to reassemble bits and pieces into something new.

My favourite music mashup, from years ago, came from a DJ group known as The Kleptones. Their “A Night at the Hip-Hopera” remix took a swath of music from Queen, wrapped it around other sounds and songs, all in a story about early attempts by the music industry to shut down music sharing.

So what does this have to do with accounting? Who is to say that the Facebook generation isn’t going to look at the Best Buy Remix idea and rethink the whole concept of an accounting system in light of that? Why would we expect them to sit in front of a boring web browser, reviewing data on a boring ERP screen? Why would we not consider the possibility that they might write a tool that gets things done in a different way?


Predicting the future often involves the extrapolation of current trends. Given that mashups are a big part of youth culture, it shouldn’t be surprising that we’ll find the concept making its way into business in the next several years. Get ready!

  • Read the full article They’ll spice up your systems

gen-connect2.jpgOne of my latest columns focuses on what will likely be the corporate issue of 2008 – managing generational challenges in the workplace.

In the column, “Here we are now, entertain us,” I take a look at the unique attitudes that Gen-Connect is now starting to bring in to the workplace. There are several key observations from the article that are critical to understanding the future of the workforce:

  • What is clear is that we are witnessing the death of the long-term career and corporate loyalty, which will soon be but a quaint memory from the previous century.
  • I often tell the story of a young engineering graduate who turned down a job with an architectural firm because its 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work hours conflicted with the time he expected to be carving arcs into deep powder in the mountains. It’s a real attitude, and it’s already happening around us. The challenge, when such trends are so patently obvious, is trying to figure out what to do about it. And a good part of the solution will come through the transformation of rewards and remuneration.
  • Gen-connect has very little patience, particularly when it comes to being rewarded for good work or significant effort. These youngsters are used to instant rewards: their Xbox/Wii video-game-oriented world has them accomplishing a goal, moving up a level, and earning some points or other valuable form of currency that helps them accumulate additional armour, weapons or whatever else is needed to accomplish the game’s next challenge.
  • That’s why, at a recent conference, I framed the issue of rewards transformation to an audience of financial professionals this way: “Organizations that can attract, engage, retain and amuse an increasingly complex workforce will be the ones who find success in the rapidly evolving global economy.”
  • Put the emphasis on the word amuse. Today’s Gen Y doesn’t, and tomorrow’s Gen-connect certainly won’t, have any patience whatsoever for slow and steady career paths.

Related postings:

  • Article: Here We are Now, Entertain Us
  • Related article: Don’t Mess with My Powder, Dude!
  • Keynote topic: What’s Happening with Our Workforce: Achieving Competitive Advantage Through Skills Agility
  • Critical Trends Analysis: 10 Unique Characteristics of 21st Century Skills
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