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Here’s a good quote to live by:  it is said that doing the right thing when it’s easy to do is easy — it’s doing the right thing when it’s tough that is really tough!

It can be difficult to be tough about things, because it’s always easier to be nicer, to avoid stress, to keep away from things that are challenging systems. But if you study innovative people, the fact of the matter is that they are willing to deal with discomfort, and even seem to thrive on it! They thrive on this by being willing to:

  • ask the tough questions
  • act on the answers to those tough questions!
  • ask questions that make people uncomfortable
  • challenge others to ask tough questions
  • ask why it has become acceptable to not ask questions!
  • ask questions that challenge fundamental assumptions
  • ask questions that show their complete lack of knowledge about something — which is ok
  • ask questions that might make their boss unhappy
  • indicate that while they don’t know the answer to the tough questions, they’re prepared to find out
  • suggest that maybe there have now been too many questions, and now something simply must be done in order to move forward

What’s the key to this line of thinking?

Organizations can become too comfortable with routine, and unless this is challenged on a regular basis, complacency becomes a killer.

By constantly putting a whole bunch of tough questions on the table, innovators can ensure that innovation paralysis does not set in.

Words to live by!

Anyone who has worked with me knows that I do a tremendous amount of research as I customize for my keynotes, often reading several hundred articles on a particular issue or topic as I prepare.

A few months back I was going through a set of articles about the Jetsons, a new keynote topic for me that is getting a huge amount of attention! In doing so, I came across a fascinating story about a school in Seattle that just opened a time capsule that was put away in 1962. The article took a look at what was predicted in 1962, where we are today, and what the kids of 1962 now thought we would see in 2062! You can read it below.

This got me thinking — why not get involved in a project to do the same thing! And so I turned to my good buddy Ian Bates, a Grade 5 teacher. I’ve previously written about him in a post, Things I’ve Learned from Golfing with a Grade 5 Teacher, to see if this might be an idea worth pursuing. (I also went into his classroom last year for a fun little project – What’s the Future of Education? Let the Kids Have a Say — with his Grade 5 kids about careers in the future.)


It took him about 30 seconds before he responded, and so we’ve got a project underway. I went into the classroom and spoke to the kids about the project. They are now busy preparing their predictions and ideas; we’ll revisit in April and put away an actual time capsule to be opened in the year 2045.

This should be interesting! Stay tuned! But to really find out what they are thinking, you are going to have to wait a number of years…..


Pocket phones to flying cars: Third-graders predicted them in ’62
15 April 2012, The Seattle Times

How did Laurelhurst’s 1962 third-graders do at predicting the future?

For expert input, we turned to the Pacific Science Center, which tapped two of its “Science Communication Fellows” — Erika Harnett, a University of Washington professor in Earth and space sciences, and Alex Miller, a UW postdoctoral researcher in chemistry.

We also asked the former Laurelhurst students for predictions about life 50 years from now.

Bert Kolde, 57, Mercer Island, senior director of Vulcan
His 1962 prediction: In space “we will eat paste from tubes.”
The reality: Astronauts don’t eat paste from tubes, but they do eat ice cream from foil packets, and other things, too. The word I’ve heard from astronauts is that the food in space is much like what we eat on Earth, and quite good, too — much better than one would find in many a school cafeteria. — Harnett
Kolde’s prediction for 2062: Rosie the Robot, from “The Jetsons,” will be a mainstream household appliance.

Phoebe Russell, 59, West Seattle, soccer scheduler and registrar
Her 1962 prediction: “There will be a rocket for everyone.”
The reality: While we don’t each have a rocket yet, a commercial spaceport is being built in New Mexico and a firm, Virgin Galactic, is taking bookings for the public to fly into space, for a brief few minutes. — Harnett
Russell’s prediction for 2062: “Government-supplied, accident-proof, sustainable nano-tech-fueled vehicles for all.”

Chris Rich, 58, Seattle, forest-resource company executive
Her 1962 prediction: “You will be able to have a telephone in your pocket.”
The reality: Not only do we have pocket phones, but they have cameras, video cameras, music players and the Internet inside them. — Miller
Rich’s prediction for 2062: “We will have a cashless society and use digital money stored on an all-purpose device that fits in your pocket.”

Tom Greene, 58, Bainbridge Island, co-founded frozen-food company
His 1962 prediction: “The best change will be to go way past Pluto in a rocket so we can find more planets and find out if there is any more life way out in space.”
The reality: Four spacecraft have traveled past Pluto’s orbit, Pioneers 10 and 11 and Voyagers 1 and 2. We still receive signals from the Voyager spacecraft with useful science and hope to do so until 2025, when the power systems will fail. — Harnett

Tom Norwalk, 58, Bothell, heads Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau
His 1962 prediction: “If I went to Pluto. Then I could see the Earth as a star.”
The reality: ∫ A spacecraft, called New Horizons, will be flying past Pluto in 2015 … Scientists will likely try to take an image of the Earth but I don’t know how sensitive the optics are and what the Earth will look like. — Harnett
Norwalk’s prediction for 2062: Seattle will finally have an NBA team and our city will be in the top five destinations to visit in America.

David Shulman, 59, Seattle, film-institute founder
His 1962 prediction: “I want to go to Jupiter because it is the largest planet.”
The reality: Although people have not traveled to Jupiter, the U.S. has sent several spacecraft past Jupiter and one, Galileo, not only spent several years orbiting Jupiter, it launched a probe into Jupiter’s atmosphere and then took a final, fatal plunge into Jupiter’s atmosphere. — Harnett
Shulman’s prediction for 2062: Communication occurs through touch, voice, and even thought. Global warming and rising sea levels; U.S. power concentrated by wealthy under a near-totalitarian government.

Bruce Williams, 58, Leavenworth, retired bank head
His 1962 prediction: Cars that will “float through the air … without stopping for gasoline.”
The reality: A startup company, Terrafugia, has a working prototype of a flying car, and it is taking pre-sales orders … So, flying cars do exist, but not for everyone yet, but soon. We don’t yet have cars that can travel without stopping for fuel, apart from prototypes. Some spacecraft don’t have to stop for fuel because they use solar panels to generate electricity to power the instruments. — Miller
Williams’ prediction for 2062: Zero communicable-disease deaths; 15 percent probability of a catastrophe, such as a nuclear attack, pandemic, mega-earthquake, volcanic eruption or environmental disaster.

Webb Nelson, 59, Seattle, co-founded toy company
Third-grade prediction: “We would have a new invention to get us somewhere under the Earth … something different. And faster.”
The reality: Subways and tunnels conduct below-ground traffic, but largely in transportation forms that have existed for decades. Nelson’s prediction for 2062: Concrete gets harder and stronger with age; the Space Needle will have a centennial anniversary. — Miller
Nelson’s prediction for 2062: Concrete gets harder and stronger with age; the Space Needle will have a centennial anniversary.

 

How many times does this happen – you have a great idea that you know will succeed – only to have it go to a committee, who proceed to destroy your idea?

As I dig into the culture and attitude of a client through interviews with the CEO and other team members, I’m always mystified to find  that some organizations just seem to do everything they can to shut down new ideas. Committees are one of the worst sources of failed innovation.

It happens a lot as a speaker and innovation expert. I will often be contacted by someone in an organization who is convinced that they need my insight in order to move ahead. We have a great discussion, form an outline of how I will help them, and then they try to move it forward. It goes to a committee, gets bogged down, and eventually, they end up booking a motivational speaker!

A few years back, on stage, I went through a list of what goes wrong when it comes to innovation. Innovation failures:

  • form a committee. An absolute sure fired way of shutting down ideas! The herd mentality takes over, and activity sclerosis soon sets in.
  • defer decisions. It’s easier to wait than to make any bold, aggressive moves. Uncertainty is a virtue; indecision is an asset.
  • hide failure. If anyone tries something new and doesn’t succeed, make sure that no one else sees it. You don’t want to set a message that it is important to take risks.
  • let innovators work in secret. You want to make sure that the concept of innovation remains some deep, mysterious process that not everyone can participate in. That will help to ensure that most of your team doesn’t pursue any type of fresh new thinking. They’ll just keep doing what they’ve always done.
  • banish fear. Make sure that everyone thinks that everything is going to be all right. You don’t have to deal with potential business market disruption, new competitors, significant industry transformation or the impact of globalization. Everything will look the same ten years from now, so just keep everyone focused on doing the same old thing!
  • accept the status quo. Things are running perfectly, you’ve got the perfect product mix, and all of your customers are thrilled with your brand and the levels of customer service. There’s no need to do anything new, since it’s all going to work out just fine!
  • be cautious. Don’t make any bold, aggressive moves. Just take things slowly, one step at a time. If you move too fast, things are likely to go wrong. Let complacency settle in like a warm blanket.
  • glorify process.  Make sure that everything is filled out in triplicate; ensure that process slows down any radical ideas.  It’s more important to do things perfectly than to make mistakes.
  • be narrow. Keep a very tiny view of the future. You can’t succeed with any big wins, because there aren’t going to be any dramatic surprises in the future. Think small. Act accordingly.
  • study things to death. Don’t let any uncertainty creep into your decision making process. Make sure that if you are to do anything, that you’ve spent sufficient time and effort to understand all the variables. Your goal is ensuring that any decision is free of risk, unlikely to fail, and will in retrospect be carefully and fully documented.

Wait! That’s 11 ways! And there are certainly more attitudes that help to destroy innovative thinking.

What do you think? What are the other attitudes and ways of thinking that manage to shut down organizational idea machines?

And do you want more insight like this? Check my Innovation Inspiration page!

 

Some of the most fascinating organizations in the world have brought me in to encourage their people to think about the future, and how to nurture a culture of creativity and innovation. Organizations like NASA (twice!), Johnson and Johnson, Whirlpool/Maytag, the Walt Disney Corporation and literally hundreds more!

 

One of my key motivational points for my clients has always been this idea.

Many people see a trend and see a threat. Smart people see the same trend and see opportunity

Think about that, and then ask yourself as to how do you keep yourself in an innovative frame of mind.

A good part of it has to do with the company you keep! To that end, I’d suggest that you surround yourself with:

  • optimists. You need to hang out with people who see all kinds of opportunity – not gloomsters who are convinced there is no future out there!
  • people who do. Action oriented people. Folks who accomplish things. Those that do.
  • people with open minds. Innovators aren’t prepared to accept the status quo – they are willing to explore and understand different viewpoints, and use that as a kickoff for creativity.
  • people who have experienced failure. Innovation comes from risk; risk comes from trying things. Try lots of things, and many will fail. That’s good. That builds up experience, which gives you better insight into a fast paced world.
  • oddballs and rebels. Some of the most brilliant thinking and best ideas can come from those who view the world through a different lens. They may seem odd at times, but they can be brilliantly creative.
  • good listeners and debaters. They’re willing to challenge ideas, analyze issues, and think through the possibilities.
  • people who think differently than you do. If you really want to be innovative, go to two conferences a year that have nothing to do with what you do. You’ll be amazed at what you learn, and how it will re-stir your creative juices.

In every single keynote, I focus on future trends and opportunities, and link that to the process and mindset of innovation. I’m an optimist, continually try new things, listen to other people, watch, observe, and listen.

Most important, I refuse to give in to the pervasive negative thinking that so many people seem to envelope themselves within. Maybe that’s why I see so many opportunities in today’s economy.

Think growth!

I’m always thinking about my clients and my keynotes and the messages that I need to deliver on stage. With that, I’m always keeping my eye open for a good business parable. So here’s another one, that came from a unique opportunity for a quick little ski lesson from one of the top downhill racers in the world, Larisa Yurkiw.

Advice for me in a personal lesson from one of the top 3 downhill ski racers in the world: “Focus forward — keep your shoulders pointed to where you want to go. And be like a slinky. You never know what the next bump in the snow is going to throw at you, so you need to be prepared for anything. You can only do that if you are in a position that will let you flex quickly.”

I was skiing this weekend at my home ski club — it’s a small eastern hill known as Georgian Peaks. Bluebird skies and great conditions. And so at one point, I came down one particular run — Rogers — which is rather steep and challenging for someone who only took up the sport at the age of 40.

Normally, I would look like a total doofus on this hill, but the conditions were so good that maybe I looked like I knew what I was doing or faked it well. But I felt that I actually skied it pretty well.

And then a voice in the lift line behind me — “I followed you all the way down!” Larisa Yurkiw was standing there. “Let’s do a few more runs.

If you don’t know Larisa’s story, you should. She started at the same small Ontario ski hill, and progressed to the elite of the global downhill ski racing circuit, racing against her friends Lindsay Vonn, Julie Mancuso and others. Before her retirement, she was ranked number 3 in the world, competed in the Olympics, and more. What makes the story more unique is that she did it all on her own terms, establishing and funding her own ski team because the national sports association didn’t step up and believe in her. She did!

It’s a great story, and she’s now telling it in a powerful stage keynote – A Daring Need for Speed. (Full disclosure : I’ve been mentoring Larisa on how to take her story to the stage, and she’s doing a great job. If you are looking for a powerhouse speaker with a fascinating keynote, check her out!)

Back to my story — so we went up the lift, and then she gave me a tip at the top. I might not have it exactly right, but it was something like this:

“Focus forward — keep your shoulders pointed to where you want to go. And be like a slinky. You never know what the next bump in the snow is going to throw at you, so you need to be prepared for anything. You can only do that if you are in a position that will let you flex quickly.”

The essence of her 2 point lesson for me was to keep focused on where I was trying to go, and to be flexible and agile in my stance. Did it work? We did several more runs together, and I felt a fair bit more control in what I was doing. It’s too bad the season is coming to an end!

But for me, there was more than just a quick ski lesson — there was a great business story in that simple guidance! It’s almost the perfect business leadership lesson for the high velocity economy! With business model disruption, the emergence of new, nimble competitors, the onrush of technological change, challenging consumers and more, organizations today must have have more flexibility than ever before to respond to a sudden change in conditions, just as on a ski hill.

But that must be done in the context of keeping a key goal and strategy in mind — staying focused on where you want to go on the journey.

So your leadership lesson for today? Focus forward & be a slinky – simple, yet effective and compelling!

 

A time when technology arrives to market obsolete
Futurist Jim Carroll describes trucking trends likely to shape disruptive years to come
Mar 17, 2017 Aaron Marsh | Fleet Owner

It’s a pretty wild concept: that technology today — including that in trucking — is being eclipsed and outdated almost as soon as it can be brought to market. But if you want to know what’s around the next corner for trucking, that’s where you need to start, says futurist Jim Carroll.

According to this future trends analyst and foreseer of sorts, if you want to get out in front of the next big change in trucking, keep in mind that when it comes to the future, you may have no idea what you should really be thinking about.

To set the stage and “bring you into my world — and that is a world of extremely fast-paced change,” Carroll referenced research on the future of careers in the U.S. that suggests about 65% of children now in preschool will have a job in a career that does not yet exist.

“Think about that: if you have a daughter, son, granddaughter, niece, nephew or whatever who’s in kindergarten or grade one, roughly seven out of 10 of them are going to work in a job or career that does not even yet exist,” Carroll told listeners. He spoke at the recent Omnitracs Outlook user conference in Phoenix.

How does something like that happen? It already did recently: he gave the example of smartphones and GPS services, which have sprung up over about the same time period. It’s resulted in geographically and directions-oriented apps and location intelligence professionals. Oh, wait a minute — “location intelligence professionals”?

“Think about that phrase, and think about what’s happening in the world of trucking and logistics,” Carroll noted. “Think about how integral all of those mapping applications have become in the world of your business.”

“That’s a career that didn’t exist 10 or 15 years ago,” he continued. “Now, cast your mind into the world of trucking 10 years from now and think about the careers and jobs that might exist.”

Here’s another guiding example. If you take “any type of degree today based on science” at a college or university, Carroll contended, “things are evolving so quickly that it’s estimated that half of what we learn in the very first year of a degree program will be obsolete or revised by the time we graduate three years later.”

Those who are fast

The point is, technology changes are coming from seemingly everywhere, and change — including in trucks and their growing embedded technology like Internet connectivity or advanced safety products — is accelerating.

And that is so much the case, noted Carroll, that many kinds of technology are out-of-date almost as soon as they hit the market and you can buy them. Think about smartphones, which often see multiple models of a given phone issued in a single year.

“We live in a time of absolute, instant obsolescence.”
—Futurist Jim Carroll

That drive for the latest model has now even filtered into social standing. “The way your friends judge you today is very much based on the technology you carry around,” Carroll observed. “So in other words, if you go to a party and take out a flip phone, people will be kind of looking at you like, ‘What a loser — he’s got something from the olden days.'”

Carroll gave another example of digital cameras — actually something of a moot point, he suggested, since “this is back in the old days five years ago when people actually bought cameras and weren’t all just using their phones” — where products have about 3-6 months after they’re brought to market before they’re obsolete.

“We live in a time of absolute, instant obsolescence,” he argued, attributing that phrase to global media magnate Rupert Murdoch. Some years ago, Murdoch had pointed out that there is such change happening and at such speed, “that increasingly, the future belongs to those who are fast,” Carroll said.

Trucking: unrecognizable

Polling the audience, he asked listeners what they thought the trucking industry — its methods, its equipment, its technology — would look like in a decade. Most everyone, 86% of those who texted in, voted that they think the industry will be “barely recognizeable, or fully and completely disrupted.”

That’s a clear expectation of considerable change in trucking. “So let’s try another question: if we are in the midst of so much change,” Carroll said, “are we prepared for it?”

And on that note, he added that being prepared for the potentially disruptive/ disrupted future of trucking is to realize that change has been happening faster, particularly in these latter years, than people expected.

To illustrate how, Carroll referenced a time he’d spoken before a roomful of astronauts and astrophysicists at NASA about the future of space. Carroll’s choice of what to present on? The Jetsons. That animated TV show came out in 1962 and was meant to depict life 100 years in the future in 2062.

Except, if you watch some of those old episodes, “George [Jetson] is using Skype. He’s getting his news off the Internet,” contended Carroll. “Elroy has a drone. You can watch one episode where he’s sitting in the living room and using a controller just like we have with our drones.

Along with the Jetsons, here’s another example of the sci-fi, fictional future arriving sooner than expected: a group of scientists has prototyped this device, Carroll noted as he held it up to his head, which essentially works like the Star Trek medical tricorder set in the 23rd century.

“You can watch another episode where they’ve got an Apple Watch,” he continued. “George communicates with his boss via Facetime. Obviously, they’ve got self-driving cars, autonomous vehicles, all over the place, albeit they fly.”

“My point is this: we believed that this future would arrive in 2062, and all of a sudden, it is here much sooner than we thought,” he told the audience. “Could that be the case with our future overall?”

In terms of envisioning the future, perhaps think a little offbeat but observe the trends converging. Here’s an example. “Think about trends, and think about what has happened with drone technology,” noted Carroll. “I think a trend which is going to lead us to the world of self-driving, flying cars is we’re going to learn how to scale up our drones and sit a human in them.”

Warehouses on wheels

Carroll advised trucking professionals to think big change when they’re picturing what the industry will look like in the years to come. “Think about what’s happening here,” he said. “There are people with big, bold ideas. Think about what’s happening in the transportation space.”

What kinds of things could happen? Maybe a new type of truck or vehicle will be developed. Autonomous technology could be accelerated and advanced. New distribution models could emerge. Or maybe something else could — something entirely different that turns the trucking you know now into the trucking you knew way back when.

“We’re going to talk to our truck just as we talk to our iPhone. We’re going to have augmented reality screens in the visor. We’ll probably have robotic handlers built into the truck for loading and unloading. We’ll have payment technology built into the vehicle — not only has our cell phone become a credit card, but so has our truck.

“We’ll simply do a biometric thumbprint to complete a transaction,” Carroll painted his future trucking portrait. The only thing, though, is that those technologies, and testing of them, is happening now.

There’s also this: “Part of the changes you see happening [in trucking] is we are witnessing very significant changes in what retailers and manufacturers are doing with their supply chains,” he added. Trucks can now become something more like mobile distribution hubs, for example.

Because of the rise of online shopping and fulfillment, stores will become more like showrooms, and “we’re witnessing the end of inventory,” Carroll contended. Consumers will browse these showrooms and purchase a product, he suggested, and then a streamlined distribution system will deliver that item to the purchaser’s home — hint: trucking would have to be involved here — perhaps even within an hour.

“You are becoming warehouses on wheels, and everybody has this in their sights in terms of big, transformative thinking in your industry,” he argued. “And what is really also happening is that every single industry out there is speeding up.”

For close to 25 years, I have been relentlessly studying what makes organizations successful at dealing with the future and innovation. I know why some fail, while others succeed.

In those who fail, there are some common traits :

  • People laugh at new ideas
  • Someone who identifies a problem is shunned
  • Innovation is the privileged practice of a special group
  • The phrase, “you can’t do that because we’ve always done it this way” is used for every new idea
  • No one can remember the last time anyone did anything really cool
  • People think innovation is about R&D
  • People have convinced themselves that competing on price is normal
  • The organization is focused more on process than success
  • There are lots of baby boomers about, and few people younger than 25
  • After any type of surprise — product, market, industry or organizational change — everyone sits back and asks, “wow, where did that come from?”

Innovative companies act differently. In these organizations

  • Ideas flow freely throughout the organization
  • subversion is a virtue
  • success and failure are championed
  • there are many, many leaders who encourage innovative thinking, rather than managers who run a bureaucracy
  • there are creative champions throughout the organization — people who thrive on thinking about how to do things differently
  • ideas get approval and endorsement
  • rather than stating “it can’t be done,” people ask, “how could we do this?”
  • people know that in addition to R&D, innovation is also about ideas about to “run the business better, grow the business and transform the business
  • the word “innovation” is found in most job descriptions as a primary area of responsibility, and a percentage of annual renumeration is based upon achievement of explicitly defined innovation goals

The fact is, every organization should be able to develop innovation as a core virtue — if they aren’t, they certainly won’t survive the rapid rate of change that envelopes us today.

Last week, I was in Palm Springs, California, with a session for a board of directors on what’s really going on with the acceleration towards self-driving cars and trucks.

To prepare, I used my secret weapon, and actually grabbed close to 850 articles from the last two months on things going on in this fast moving sector, and read through them all. Whoah! Lots happening and fast! ( That’s typical of the preparation I put into many of my leadership meetings and keynotes.)

One article in the bunch, though, really captured my attention: “Penguins could keep your self driving car safe“. The article was published in January over at the Daily Mail. 

The essence of the research reported upon in the article is this: “penguins hunt in groups and synchronize their dives to catch fish.” Studying how they do so could provide invaluable insight into the evolution of self-driving cars. Much of the article focused on how that type of behaviour could help to avoid the future hacking of cars, but I think that there is much more going on than that…..

Self-driving cars will be connected by telemetry, LIDAR and other technologies, and will operate in a pack mentality to coordinate their efforts. This permits the emergence of ‘pelotons’ — connected ‘trains’ of vehicles in communication with each other, and in communication with intelligent, connnected smart highway technology. (Did you know that Amazon has some patents with respect to the latter?) We are already seeing trials in which groups of 6, 8 or 10 trucks travel together, separated by just a few feet, travelling in a coordinated group at 60mph. Pack-activity.

Penguins are great in travelling in packs, so why not learn how they do it, and engineer that into autonomous vehicle technology…. and so studying how nature does this will provide deep insight into what to do this with cars and trucks.

If you think this through, the result? The Intel-Mobileye $15 billion deal is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, for what is to come in terms of access to skills and R&D in automotive.

You can expect Silicon Valley and car companies to be seeking out and hiring a lot of penguin-researchers, and other specialists in the study of animal behaviour. It’s called biomimicry, and its an approach that has been used for quite some time to engineer unique solutions to complex problems.

The thinking is that there are opportunities that can come from emulating the time-proven methodologies and strategies as seen in nature. Examples abound, as noted in the Daily Mail article:

  • the way that ants communicate has been used in telecommunications research
  • “Salto”, the jumping robot seen below, was developed by studying the behaviour of “bush-babies”

It goes beyond animals : I’ve been keynoting quite a few manufacturing conferences, and have spoken about the acceleration of 3D printing, or additive manufacturing. Here’s something cool : Airbus is evolving its approach to 3D printing by study botany, with the thinking that if it can mimic the structural strength of plants, it can print interior structures that are lighter and stronger. Important for airplanes!

In other words, the future doesn’t just belong to those who are fast. It belongs to those who understand the importance of penguins!

“Why did this get me in trouble? The firm I was with had a contract with a large national postal services organization, and it seems the CEO took exception to someone internal promoting the virtues of a whacky new form of communication that could replace paper mail.”

The folks at Postal and Parcel Technology Magazine approached me some months back to write an article about the future of mail in the era of technology, and particularly, e-mail.

I suggested to them that rather than looking forward, why not look to the past for valuable lessons?

Such as, how organizations seem to always react in a negative way to new technologies, new ideas and innovation?

What better way to do so than by writing about the fact that I was almost fired in 1989 (yup, 28 years ago) because of a cover story that I was featured in about electronic mail. And the fact that some folks who had a vested interest in paper mail read the article, didn’t like it, and complained. Kind of loudly. Because they didn’t like change….

The folks at Postal and Parcel loved the idea – and so we ran an article, below.

So what happened in 1989? I wasn’t fired. I ended up quitting the firm some months later, after 10 years, because the senior leadership team couldn’t comprehend my indications that something ‘big’ was happening.

For a few years, I made a lot of money actually consulting to companies on technology. Then I wrote some books (34, actually) about the Internet, and sold about 2 million books. That got me on the speaker circuit. I started speaking about the future. Companies took notice of what I was saying. More and more people and companies noticed, and I soon found myself providing guidance on the future to some fascinating organizations. One day, I found myself in front of some astronauts and astrophysicists at NASA, speaking to them about the future of space, the space industry, and the realities of innovation!

The article — click the image for a full version. Or access the PDF : . Read it below!

 

 

Fright Club
Jim Carroll Explains Why Organizations Should Never Fear Change
Postal and Parcel Technology International, March 2017

In October 1989 I was almost fired from a job with a global professional services firm because of email! Not because of anything I had sent or received, but because I appeared in an office automation magazine extolling the benefits of using electronic mail over regular paper mail.

Why did this get me in trouble? The firm I was with had a contract with a large national postal services organization, and it seems the CEO took exception to someone internal promoting the virtues of a whacky new form of communication that could replace paper mail. After some explaining that I had no nefarious intent, cooler heads prevailed and I kept my job, although I later decided it was developments like email that really interested me, so I became a global futurist and expert on innovation, and today count Disney, NASA and Johnson & Johnson among my clients.

Email is an example of something that forever changed the way we communicate, but as my story shows, there are people who don’t like new technology and the change it represents. But it also makes the point that you have to move beyond that type of thinking if you are to survive.

Over the years, I have spent time with a tremendous number of organizations and have seen some business models decimated by technology – just as others turn the same ideas into an opportunity. Ideally you want to be in the latter camp, but how?

First of all, accept that in the future you won’t even recognize the industry you are operating in. That’s because the rate of business model change is accelerating in every single industry. In 10 years’ time your business model will look nothing like it does today, with a huge disruption most likely to stem from a younger generation with a better grasp of the latest technologies.

Now, the technology they use will probably seem unrelated or irrelevant to your area of business at first, and you may discount it, but the truth will be that if you don’t embrace it, your operation won’t survive. Examples of this type of disruption are occurring right now.

Battling against a culture of innovation can set you upward this. form of organizational sclerosis. It will clog up your ability to pursue new ideas. How do you recognize if you have a problem? There are a few recognizable signs For example, do you laugh at new ideas? Is your organization more focused on process than success/ Is the company culture very much, “Well, this is how we do it because we’ve always done it this way?”

Innovative companies are different. Ideas flow freely throughout the organization, and success and failure are championed. There are many leaders who encourage innovative thinking, rather than magaers who run a bureacracracy, and a number of creative champions who thrive on thinking about how to do things differently. These companies recognize that innovation is also about how to run, grow and transform the business.

The fact is, every organization should be able to develop innovation as a core virtue – if it isn’t, it certainly won’t survive the rapid rate of change that envelopes us today.

I am a big believer that the world of communications and logistics – as found in the postal industry – has a fascinating and marvellous future in this new, fast-paced, virtual/physical economy that is being created. But to do that, you must have an open mind and a willingness to embrace the future.

In other words, don’t fire the messenger. Ask yourself, “What is the messenger really trying to tell us?

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Read the original 1989 article here!

Does your organization have the right stuff to deal with todays’ information-empowered, globally collaborative, we-know-better-than-you-do customer? Probably not!


Imagine that you are a big company. Imagine that you roll out a new piece of software that was supposed to make things better for your customers.

Imagine that it doesn’t do that — and it makes things worse, in that a feature that existed for your best customers has now disappeared. Even worse — those very same customers now have to pay a fee to do what they could previously do for free. In other words, imagine that you’ve broken a customer-system, and you are now penalizing those customers for your mistake.

Imagine this : you’ve tried to make things better, and you’ve only made them worse. Does this happen in the real world? Alarmingly, often. I’m going through this exact type of experience right now with a billion-dollar company that I deal with regularly.

Out of respect — since I think their CEO is a smart guy — I won’t name names. I will, however, offer up my advice on how to respect, not mistreat, your customers. The fact is, in this hyper-connected world, your customers know a lot more about what is going on than you do. If you fail at customer service or customer interaction, it can go public in a big way.

You don’t just need to be excellent in customer relationships – you need to be relentless excellent.

These are the fundamental truths of the new customer relationship.

  1. Fix things fast, because things break fast. As things go wrong, fix them fast. Have a communications plan. Be prepared to reassure the customer quickly. In this new era of hyper-information feedback, don’t let the customer sit and stew for a moment — proactive information and proactive action is the only weapon you have, and you have to use it.
  2. Adopt customer-niceness as a core virtue during the pain period. There are rules and fees and structure that can exist in any customer relationship. But make everyone aware on the team that there are likely some things that are going to have to be waived during the rollout. The core virtue is, “we’re going to be nice to the customer, because we know it is not the customers fault that things have gone wrong.”
  3. Admit that mistakes will happen . It’s ok. It’s the 21st century. Bad things go wrong all the time. Accept that, and use that as a go-forward strategy. “Things will go wrong and we will work to fix them fast” is a better strategy than “we plan on rolling it out and holding our breath that things don’t get messed up.”
  4. Don’t hide from the customers. Customers today can turn on you in an instant. Rumors, stories, misinformation can abound. The customer has a lot of information, and might not always be reading it right — but they can certainly make it go wrong in a hurry. A clear, and open, and honest, reactive strategy with the customer is in your best interest. More communication is the best rule.
  5. Be open. Solicit feedback – get the customers on side. Don’t just rollout new ideas, technologies, services or other things, and hope for the best. Know that there will be problems, issues, and things that will go wrong. Start out on the right foot with the customer base when things go wrong by admitting that you screwed up, and by seeking their input, guidance. The new business world is all a beta — Google gets this, and you should get this too.
  6. Turn customers into fixers. The customer is a new customer. They expect operational excellence, and if they don’t get it off the bat, they are prepared to help fix it. The complexity of a new customer software system can undergo all kinds of testing internally, but some things will never show up until it goes live. That’s why you want to recruit the customer as a problem solver. Turn it from a “bad rollout of new software” into something different, by letting the customer know that you want them to help stress test the system and find the things that aren’t working quite right.
  7. Get everyone inside on the same page. Let everyone throughout the organization know that something new is going to be happening that could cause customer stress. Get them to understand that the new JOB #1 is Customer-Destressification.
  8. Have an escalation plan. As things go wrong, be prepared to pump them up the chain in a hurry. Have a team ready to analyze what the customers are saying, do triage on the big ones, and work them quickly.
  9. Empower people with niceness. Customer-centricity and the instant-age demands that the customer be made happy — quickly. Give staff who have not previously had the authority, the authority to do things to the customer that are nice. That will help to ease the early part of the “pain process.”
  10. Learn from the experience. Learn from this rollout to figure out how to do it better the next time.

In today’s hyper-competitive environment, your customer relationship can be fleeting at best. They often know more about your market than your staff does. Act accordingly, or you look like a fool — and you end up losing customer loyalty.