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I do a lot of Fortune 1000 leadership events. By way of example, I’ll be spending time with a massive manufacturer in the rail industry in just a few weeks, and will deliver them a highly customized talk that will help them accelerate their innovation efforts.

For them, it’s important that my leadership keynote speaks to the concept of innovation in a way that is relevant to everyone in the room.

Hence, three simple things about innovation!

My leadership keynotes speak to the issue of innovation in a way that is relevant to everyone in the room

  • it’s urgent that the organization focuses on innovation right now
  • it’s important that as they do so, they re-evaluate the concept of what they believe innovation to be
  • it’s critical that they take on a large number of experimental projects oriented towards innovative thinking

Putting each of this issues into perspective explains my thinking:

Do it now: Every industry is faced with unprecedented change. Think about financial services: there’s the impact of mobile banking, the transfer of wealth to a new generation who thinks about financial management in entirely different ways, the emergence of new competitors. The list goes on and on. You can come up with a similar list for any industry. That’s why it important that organizations establish a culture in which innovation is a priority, in order to keep up with and take advantage of the trends swirling around them

Reframe the concept:  Many organizations fail at innovation because they don’t really understand what it could be. For many people, they think innovation is for cool people who design cool products that change the world: call it the “Apple effect.” But for years, I’ve been reframing innovation from another perspective that helps to open up the minds of people as to its opportunity.

Innovation is a culture in which the leadership and the entire team continually challenges themselves with three questions: what can I do to run the business better, grow the business, or transform the business?

There’s a good video clip that you can watch on that theme, “Rethinking Innovation”  

 

Experiment – a lot:  Technology is the driver of disruptive business model change in every industry. Social networks, new competitors, the Internet of Things, the Amazon effect — you name it, and there is an absolute flood of disruption. Most organizations don’t have the skill or insight to deal with fas technology-driven change. But world class innovators continually establish a regular series of projects by which they can build up their experience with the stuff that comes from the idea-flood. The more experience they build up, the more “experiential capital” they create. I’ve argued that going into the high velocity 21st century economy, “experiential capital” will become as critical if not more important than financial capital.

I actually spoke about the concept of “experiential capital” when I was the opening keynote speaker for the annual general meeting of the PGA of America – it’s worth a watch.  

Suffice it to say, if you rethink innovation in terms of these three basic concepts, it will help you deal with a world in which the future belongs to those who are fast!

I was a keynote speaker in San Diego last week for the PSCU Senior Leadership & Member Forum. I was honoured to be following Captain Mark Kelly, NASA astronaut, onto the stage.

Need to think a bit more about opportunities from innovation? Read my “Masters in Business Imagination Manifesto!”

The conference is attended by senior executives of credit unions from throughout the US.

My keynote, built in close consultation with the client, focused on key three points related to the overall theme of innovation:

  • it’s urgent that credit unions focus on innovation right now
  • it’s important that as they do so, they re-evaluate the concept of what they believe innovation to be
  • it’s critical that they take on a large number of experimental projects oriented towards innovative thinking, and that they do it now

Putting each of this issues into perspective explains my thinking:

Do it now: The world of financial services is faced with unprecedented change — the impact of mobile banking, the transfer of wealth to a new generation who thinks about financial management in entirely different ways, the emergence of new competitors. The list goes on and on. That’s why it important that credit unions establish a culture in which innovation is a priority, in order to keep up with and take advantage of the trends swirling around them

Reframe the concept:  Many organizations fail at innovation because they don’t really understand what it could be. For many people, they think innovation is for cool people who design cool products that change the world: call it the “Apple effect.” But for years, I’ve been reframing innovation from another perspective that helps to open up the minds of people as to its opportunity.

Innovation is a culture in which the leadership and the entire team continually challenges themselves with three questions: what can I do to run the business, grow the business, or transform the business?

There’s a good video clip that you can watch on that theme, “Rethinking Innovation”  

A few years back, I was interviewed at ProfitMagazine, and had this to say about the concept of innovation as I see it:

Profit: So Jim, one of the frustrating things that I find with the term innovation is that people often equate it with only product development.  So what’s your definition of innovation?

Jim Carroll: It’s absolutely true.  I Call it the Steve Jobs iphone innovation problem.  Everybody hears innovation, they think of the iphone, they think about iPod, they think about Apple and they think that’s all that innovation is, you know, coming up with cool products.  To me, it’s about much more.  It starts out with a fundamental presumption, it doesn’t matter what your business is or what industry you compete in, you’re going to be faced with more competition, more challenging customers, your business model is probably going to be subjected to greater changes.  You’ve got issues in terms of cost input, you probably finding your top line, your revenue line is being subject to the pressure.  You’ve got all kinds of challenges being thrown at you.  And from my perspective, innovation is coming up with a lot of unique ideas, whether it’s around your business model, whether it is around the manner by which you compete, whether it’s around your structure, whether it’s around, you know, the methods that you use to compete in your market place, whether, you know, nothing to do with your skills, I mean, it’s everything.  It’s simply, you know, taking the mindset that that my world is going to change on a continuous basis and I am going to make sure that I have a constant stream of ideas as to how I can keep up and how I can deal with those trends.

Experiment – a lot: There is so much changing the world of banking and credit unions. Technology, social networks, new competitors, the emergence of the digital wallet — you name it, and there is an absolute flood of ‘new stuff.’ World class innovators continually establish a regular series of projects by which they can build up their experience with the stuff that comes from the idea-flood. The more experience they build up, the more “experiential capital” they create. I’ve argued that going into the high velocity 21st century economy, “experiential capital” will become as critical if not more important than financial capital.

I actually spoke about the concept of “experiential capital” when I was the opening keynote speaker for the annual general meeting of the PGA of America – it’s worth a watch.  

Suffice it to say, if you rethink innovation in terms of these three basic concepts, it will help you deal with a world in which the future belongs to those who are fast!

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 

 

A few weeks ago, I was the opening keynote speaker for the 2011 Multi-Unit Franchising Conference held at The Venetian in Las Vegas.

The audience were owners and operators of multiple franchise operations, primarily from the restaurant / food sector, but also from other franchise operations in auto, pet care, home supplies and other retail product lines.

An audience of close to 1,000 listens to Jim Carroll's keynote on fast paced consumer, retail and restaurant industry trends in Las Vegas

My keynote topic was built on the theme “”Where Do We Go From Here? Why Innovators Will Rule in the Post-Recession Economy – And How You Can Join Them!”

 

What did I take a look at? A wide variety of the fast-paced trends impacting the retail / restaurant sector today. I broke my talk down into 3 key trends, what I might call:

  • Consumer velocity
  • Mobile madness
  • Intelligent infrastructure

1. What We Know: Consumer behaviour shifts faster today than ever before

The average consumer scans 12 feet of shelf space per second.” That’s a stat I’ve long used to emphasize that the attention span of the typical shopper of today is shorter than ever before — and retailers need to innovate to ensure they can keep the attention of today’s consumer.

It’s not just keeping up with fleeting attention spans — it’s about adapting to the fast pace of how quickly consumer choice changes. Consider what is happening with the rapid emergence of revenue in the late night business segment – it was up 12% in 4th quarter 2010, compared to 2-3% for other parts of the day. That’s why major chains have been focusing on new “happy hour” offerings — and so their success increasingly comes from how quickly they can scale and adapt to fast moving trends.

We’ve seen plenty of fast innovation from various organizations in the sector to respond to quick consumer change. Morton’s capitalized on the new consumer sensitivity towards value when it jumped on the trend that involves the “casualization of fine dining” with its’ $6 mini-cheeseburger.

Other fast trends drive the industry. The Sydney Morning Herald ran a great article in April of 2011, noting that “… the world of cooking and restaurants is becoming more like an arm of show business …..” with the result that “everyone wants to see the chef.” That’s why we are seeing many restaurants from fine-dining to fast casual moving the kitchen to the “front of the house,” or in other cases, a lot of TV display technology that provide for video links from tables to the kitchen. The evolution that is occurring is that the chef is becoming the star, and more and more of the staff are becoming ‘performers.’ Innovators in appropriate sectors would see the opportunities and jump on this trend.

Whatever the case may be, the consumer of today changes quickly, and innovators check their speed and agility in being able to respond to this reality.

2. What We Know: Technology – especially mobile – has become the key influencer of today’s consumer decision making.

Simply put, the velocity of mobile adoption, local search and product promotion is evolving at a pace that is beyond furious.

Consider the growth rates underlying today’s technology. It took two years for Apple to sell two million iPhones. It took 2 months for them to sell 2 million iPads! It took 1 month to sell 1 million iPhone 4’s!

The impact of such trends is an explosive rate of growth of wireless Internet usage. Mobile represented but 0.2% of all Web traffic in 2009. That grew to 8% by 2010, and is expected to hit 16% of all traffic this year.

Some suggest that mobile searches now exceed the number of computer based searches. What is also well known is that most mobile searches are for “local content.” Not only that, but Google has found that when someone gets a smartphone, the number of searches they make increases 50 times!

What is clear is that people are using their mobile devices to find nearby – stores, retailers, restaurants and just about everything else. Combine this with the emergence of new promotion opportunities (through apps and other tools) and you’ve got a revolution in the making in terms of local product promotion. That’s why the success of many retailers / restaurants will come from their success with location-sensitive coupon technology.

Bottom line? Innovation is: rethinking in-store uplift in terms of new methods of interaction!

3. What We Know: We will have far more opportunity for operational innovation through the rapid emergence of new technology, infrastructure and other trends

Consider how quickly near-field payment technology is going to steamroller the retail / restaurant sector. Simply put, over the next few years, the credit cards in our wallet will disappear as our iPhones, Blackberries and Android phones become the credit card infrastructure of the future. This is a HUGE trend — it provides countless opportunities for innovation, disruptive business model change, new competitors, and all kinds of other fun opportunities.

The trend has enormous velocity – we can expect $113 billion in transactions by 2016,  with 3.5 billion transactions – and with this comes new opportunities for loyalty and contact followup. From an innovation perspective, the sector will have to ensure they can ingest the new infrastructure quickly enough, and keep on top of the industry change that it will cause to ensure that challenges are turned into opportunity.

There are all kinds of other areas of fast change that present opportunity. Consider the issue fo ‘green buildings’ and sustainability. The West Australian newspaper recently noted that “with the rapid increase in knowledge, skills and availability of materials, costs have fallen. The industry now understands how to build green and building a 5-star Green Star building is now generally cost neutral.”

Some franchisees are taking this to heart, with aggressive plans involving eco-friendly buildings. Chick-fil-A has a  LEED initiative in building a test model restaurant that has water usage down by 40% through rainwater collection; an electricity reduction of 14% through the use of skylights & energy efficient appliances; 20% of the building content is from recycled material; and 30% more fresh air than regular buildings. While the structure is 15% more expensive to build, they expect a fairly quick payback — and will manage to get a branding image to their customer base that they don’t just talk sustainability – they do it!

From this perspective, innovation is keeping ahead of and planning for hyper-innovation with IT, energy, environmental and other infrastructure trends that impact facilities or the nature of the customer interaction.

 

Innovators get ahead by focusing on bold ideas, and exploring the concept of 'experiential capital' - Jim Carroll

I also emphasized that innovators aren’t afraid to make bold moves. Every franchise and retail organization today is looking for opportunities for cross-promotion, cross-selling and product placement. So consider this observation from the Dallas Morning News in March 2011 in an article titled: Funeral home adds little sip of heaven: Starbucks Coffee.

At McKinney’s Turrentine Jackson Morrow Funeral Home, it’s now possible to pay your respects to the dead or plan your own funeral with a venti Caramel Macchiato in hand

Craziness, or smart niche-marketing? I think it’s innovation!

So what do you do? My message to the folks in Las Vegas was to get involved and explore these fascinating new worlds that surround you!

Many of them might hold themselves back from Facebook advertising, because the concept might simply seem overwhelming for a small to medium sized mulit-unit franchise operation. Yet, today Facebook now accounts for 1 of 3 every online ads. And we are seeing the rapid emergence of new online ‘aggregators’ that are focused on helping small business take advantage of that fact. These organizations — such as Blinq — manage the buying of thousands of individualized ads, based on age, location, interests.

They should simply try the world of mobile promotion. Buffalo Wild Wings gave it a shot for one recent NFL based initiative, and indicated that they tripled the return on their investment.

Think differently in terms of new ways of reaching the consumer. Pizza Pizza, a Canadian chain, recently released a new iPhone App that allows online ordering. Nothing new or special about that – such apps are becoming a dime a dozen, and are quickly becoming de rigueur. What is cool is that the chain has revealed that it is working to link the  app payment system to university meal card plan, in recognition of the fact that many students in the target market might not have credit cards (or “credit worthy” cards.)

Bottom line? One of my key closing messages was that innovators focus on the concept of “experiential capital” -there’s a lot going on, and to figure out, we should just get out and do it! Try new ideas, explore new initiatives, undertake new projects. One of the only ways to get ahead is to work quickly to build up your experience in all the new opportunities that surround you.

From my CAMagazine column….

—-

Can you keep reinventing your business at the speed demanded?

I am not alone in thinking we’re in the midst of a significant economic transformation. As Mick Fleming, president of the American Chamber of Commerce Executives, said recently, “It’s going to be a move from a bad economy to the next economy.”

What is the shape of the next economy? In many cases, it will involve structural change based on an acceleration of business cycles. Consider manufacturing, for example. We’re moving from a world of mass production to mass customization, or what I call agility-based manufacturing. I often cite the case of Honda, as noted in a 2008 article on the financial website Bloomberg: “Honda’s assembly lines can switch models in as little as 10 days.” By contrast, the article suggests, it could take months for most rivals to make the same change.

Companies such as Honda can see what’s selling strongly and quickly reorient their production to fit that demand. In the meantime, its competitors are busy cranking out 700,000 versions of the same old car, hoping to sell it to consumers who have already moved on to something different. It’s no wonder Detroit is being killed off by its long-term reliance on gas-guzzlers.

Everyone now understands that the old Detroit-based manufacturing business model was deeply flawed. The newer model, based on agility and flexibility, is the model of the future. If an organization can rapidly change its production to accommodate what consumers are willing to buy, it has a good chance of future success.

This ability to respond quickly to change is a corner-stone of opportunity. Competitors will emerge, particularly as the new connected generation rejects existing business models and innovative people continue to shake up the fundamentals. Take the business model of Wizzit, a South African cellphone-based banking system, which could cause upheaval throughout the banking sector as mobile technology garners more of our attention.

Furthermore, the nano-cannibalization of markets is becoming a business trend rather than an aberration. For example, Apple broke new ground years ago by tossing out an entire iPod Nano product line worth billions of dollars of revenue, replacing it with a newer, up-to-date product. Imagine even considering that. How could it cannibalize its own product revenue?

I recently spoke at a leadership meeting for a global organization, where the CEO spoke of a future in which the company’s success would come from what he called “chameleon revenue” — the sales derived from entirely new product lines. The chart he presented said it all: the organization’s future consisted of a steady decrease in baseline revenue and accelerating revenue streams from markets it currently does not participate in.

I think this will become the norm for most organizations. The ability to rapidly enter and exit markets will define future success. The ability to sustain multiple, short-term product life cycles, each perhaps no more than 36 to 48 months long, will be a critical success factor. Agility at discovering, producing and capitalizing on new revenue sources will be a fundamental necessity. In other words, your ability to change your spots and your colour on a dime will be the key driver for your potential.

Which begs the question: does your financial system have the capability to provide information on your chameleon revenue streams? Does it provide the insight and analytical tools to tackle product life-cycle revenue so the organization can assess how quickly its chameleon revenue streams are evolving? If it doesn’t, what do you need to do to adapt?

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?

2010Faster.jpgWhat should innovative organizations do? When everything is faster still, focus on these things:

  • build up experiential capital – think big, start small, scale fast. The experiential projects are the “start small” part of the equation. Know what you don’t know, and set out to learn those things
  • master collaboration and share: the world is changing too fast, and things are too complex, to do it all on your own. Innovators have mastered the skill of learning from others
  • focus on tactical to strategic transitions: innovators don’t have staff who perform a lot of routine tasks. Each and every single person helps to achieve the core strategic goals of the organization, even if just in a small way
  • monitor global idea cycles: your future is being invented all around you, and you success comes from your ability to plug in, tune in, and turn on
  • fuse generational insight: we’ve got really disparate viewpoints, capabilities and levels of patience amongst generations. Innovators bring these differences together in order to get the best from each generation.
  • take on anticipatory projects: one thing is certain: tomorrow won’t be like today. Innovators look at what might happen tomorrow, and try those things out, in order to be better prepared for when the future arrives.
  • be a farmer: it’s all about growth, and learning how to relentless focus on that mission
  • displace indecision: it’s simply unacceptable to waver, wait, and pause. Innovators get things done.
  • implement quicker: there’s not a lot of time to get things done when markets, customers, expectations, competitors and business models all change at a furious pace. Innovators are religious on agility and speed.
  • think bold: this isn’t a time for small visions and small ideas. We’re witnessing the birth of transformative new industries, companies, careers and ideas. Jump on board and go for the big win, not just the small stuff.

If five years, your business, markets, products, customers, industry and structure will look nothing like they do today. What are you going to do about it?

Experiential Capital
March 25th, 2009

In my book Ready, Set, Done: How to Innovate When Faster is the New Fast, I made this observation: “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
.”

In this clip from a recent keynote, I speak to why experiential capital has become even more important with the economic downturn.

I close with the observation: “Investing in experiential capital is one of the most important things you can do.” When people ask me about the “secrets” of innovative organizations, this is one of the key attributes I outline. They realize they are immersed in a world of fast-paced ideas — and they take on many different projects, some of which are doomed to fail, in order to build the overall experience of the organization.

I did a keynote yesterday for a major packaging / printing company, focussing on global economic, business, social and other trends, outlining how this industry might be affected.

One of the phrases I used — and I’ve used this in the last 3 talks — revolves around the concept of “experiential capital.” This particular organization is starting to take some careful steps into the China marketplace, and when it comes to innovation, they will build up some important capital — experience.

In a world of rapid, relentless change — in which Apple can toss out a $1/2 billion market overnight in order to enter a new one (with the move from the iPod Mini to the iPod Nano) — it’s important that companies stay firmly focussed on innovation and creativity.

A key way of doing this is to build up the skills and insight of their people in a whole variety of areas — by working on projects that might have an uncertain return and payback — but doing so explicitly with the goal of building up their experience.

I call it “experiential capital”, and I think it is one of the most important investments that an organization must make today.

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