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And we’re off! A key client just confirmed that for the start of 2017, they need one of my key messages …. right now, in an era of massive uncertainty, they want to kick off the year by shaking off aggressive indecision, and by aligning themselves to fast paced trends. So I wrote them a keynote description that will help them to navigate this complex new world.

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In the face of new challenges, organizations have three choices: they can panic; they can freeze and do nothing; or they can respond with a relentless focus on innovation. In this keynote, Jim outlines the key strategies that align an organization to opportunity in a new era of volatility and uncertainty.

Keynote: Innovating in The Era of Accelerated Uncertainty: How to Adapt to the New World of Volatility

2017 is being marked by the return of higher levels of economic uncertainty, much of it driven by new political realities. Business hates uncertainty — and many react by turning off their innovation engines, waiting to see what happens next in a world in which volatility is the new normal. Yet in the face of new challenges, organizations have three essential choices: they can panic, making rash decisions on structure, markets, investments; they can freeze and do nothing; or they can respond to rapid change through innovation, particularly with respect to strategies, structure, capabilities, markets, products, and activities.

Jim Carroll, one of the world’s leading futurists, trends & innovation experts, shares his insight on the strategies that leading edge organizations are pursuing to stay ahead in a new world of uncertainty. It’s timely and critical insight! Many CEO’s and senior executives understand that in addition to managing existing challenges, now is the time to focus on trends and the future — they must act quickly to establish an innovative mindset before aggressive indecision settles in. Jim provides his unique insight on staying ahead in volatile times, through his signature keynote addresses, discussions at small intimate management/Board meetings, or by speaking and participating in large scale senior management and leadership meetings.

In this keynote, Jim offers his insight into how to innovate in perilous times. History has taught us, over and over again, that those who are aggressive with innovation, and who align themselves to future trends in times of uncertainty, are those who win in the long run. His keynote is loaded with powerful guidance, research and key lessons from the breakthrough performers of the past. Insight from those who have managed to accomplish great things because of a decision to focus on innovation right in the middle of an economic challenge or an era of uncertainty, rather than waiting for future clarity.

One of my favorite innovation phrases that I always use on stage or in a CEO off-site is “think big, start small, scale fast!”

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So I woke up this morning and came into the home office, and was thinking about the “start small’ part of that phrase. And quickly jotted down a list of small ideas.

Here goes!

  •  do small projects: too many innovation efforts get bogged down, bloated, and blow up due to big scope and size!
  • celebrate small wins : not every innovation effort needs to be a home run
  • learn from small failures: I love the phrase fail early, fail often, fail fast; you can do that better if your project is small
  • scatter your team for small exploration: there is so much going on in so many industries that is so tiny but has huge implications, you’ve simply got to let your people explore!
  • reframe the idea of small: put into perspective how small changes can have a big impact
  • look for small winners: for example, there are tremendous innovations in manufacturing concepts with small manufacturers — learn from them!
  • give a small bit: in an era of open collaboration and global insight, giving back some R&D can be a good thing
  • seek small heroes: in the global economy, there is probably a small 1 or 2 person company who is doing exactly the cool, innovate thing you need. Find them!
  • establish small decision groups: destroy committees; if there has to be one to make a decision, limit it to 1 or 2 or 3 people.
  • focus on the power of small: one person can change a company, an industry, a country, a world!

Of course, my ideas aren’t original. The original concept of small perhaps came from the greatest advertising campaign of all time — for the VW Beetle, Think Small.

It’s a powerful concept.

In my case, the entirety of my career as a global keynote speaker, futurist, trends and innovation expert is that it’s me, and my wife, and a small home office that is plugged into a great big world. From here, I serve up insight and guidance to a vast range of global organizations, associations, CEO’s and leadership teams.

Thinking big, starting small, scaling fast.

Perhaps the real secret to succeeding in a world where the future belongs to those who are fast!

 

The Canadian Society of Association Executives had me write a series of articles with some of the unique challenges presented to associations in the context of fast-trends.

Here’s the 2nd one.

The nomadic worker carries different attitudes towards life and work, and rejects many of the currently accepted “norms” of the corporate environment. Their attitudes will revolutionize the world of work.

The nomadic worker carries different attitudes towards life and work, and rejects many of the currently accepted “norms” of the corporate environment. Their attitudes will revolutionize the world of work.

They provide good food for thought! More to come over the next week!

Nomadic Workers

The workforce is transformed as “nomadic workers” dominate the economy.

The number of full time jobs will continue to dramatically shrink – yet, we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg in the change of the relationship between employer and employee.  Companies will hire the best talent, regardless of where that person might be. A

new form of career competitiveness is emerging, with extreme competition for this group of nomadic workers – highly skilled individuals who call the shots.

All this in the context of a global economy in which where people work from won’t matter – a trend that has implications for the future of both rural and urban economies. Lifestyle choice will come to dominate career decisions.

The nomadic worker carries different attitudes towards life and work, and rejects many of the currently accepted “norms” of the corporate environment. Their attitudes will revolutionize the world of work.

The end result? The shape of tomorrow’s company won’t be defined by the walls in its offices – it will be defined by the reach of its computerized knowledge network, and its ability to tap into the skills and capabilities of the nomadic worker, at the right time, in the right place, for the right purpose.

Questions for Association Leaders

  • What are you doing to attract the new, independent contract worker into our association, and how do you remain relevant to their needs?
  • As your profession fragments into many different sub-specialties, how do you retain your relevance?

I’m featured, this month, in an article in Medical Products Outsourcing Magazine, entitled “Artful Adaptation: Packaging and sterilization providers must keep pace with rapid change to innovate, grow and improve product safety.”

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“The medtech industry—perhaps more so than other industrial sectors—has long subscribed to the Carroll Testament. Medical device manufacturers with an “adapt or die” core philosophy, for instance, have higher survival rates than those resistant to changing market forces”

You can read the full article here — it’s well worth a read! Very much focused on several of my major themes, include that organizations must continually seek and hunt new revenue opportunities where those opportunities have not existed before.

It’s kind of funny, though — while the author (the Managing Editor) quotes me and some my video clips at length, he does seem to be a little disparaging at times. I’m called an “Innovation Whisperer”) (that’s a first for me) and a preacher with disciples! Interesting stuff!

Whatever! It’s all fun — here’s some choice quotes from the article. I really recommend you read the entire article.


 

Artful Adaptation: Packaging and sterilization providers must keep pace with rapid change to innovate, grow and improve product safety”
Medical Products Outsourcing Magazine, June 2014

Jim Carroll, a.k.a. the “Innovation Whisperer,” is a preacher of sorts.

The internationally-renowned futurist and social trends expert has crisscrossed the globe, extolling the virtues of change and creative thinking to thousands of business owners searching for the secret to entrepreneurial immortality.

Carroll, however, spreads his gospel in a most paradoxical and unoriginal way—usually by repeating the same tag line in keynote speeches: “the future belongs to those who are fast.

While it’s not the catchiest aphorism, it effectively conveys Carroll’s professional doctrine to his faithful disciples: Embracing innovation and keeping pace with a rapidly changing world will ensure future business growth and survival. “The world is changing very fast. Things are evolving at lightning speed,” Carroll told an audience of business executives several years ago in Las Vegas, Nev. “The reality going forward at this point in time is that it isn’t necessarily the big organizations who will own, win and control the future. It will be the fast, the agile…it will be those who can keep up with very rapid change and ingest that change. The high-velocity economy demands that we do, demands that we think, demands that we collaborate, demands that we share, and demands that we innovate in different ways.”

The medtech industry—perhaps more so than other industrial sectors—has long subscribed to the Carroll Testament. Medical device manufacturers with an “adapt or die” core philosophy, for instance, have higher survival rates than those resistant to changing market forces. Medtronic Inc. is a classic example: The Minneapolis, Minn., firm ascended to Fortune 500 heaven by catering its products to physicians, once the sole agents of purchasing decisions. Now, however, innovation revolves around cost containment and clinical efficacy to satisfy penny-pinching hospital administrators and insurers.


 

“The world demands that we look at the future and constantly ask ourselves, ‘Given the rapid rate of change coming at us, how do we ingest that future?’ “Carroll said during one of his countless public sermons. “How do we do things differently in order to deal with the future in which the future is happening faster than ever before? We have to completely rethink what we are doing and focus on innovation. Because the same rules of the past do not apply in the future.”


 

All companies innovate but few, if any, live up to Jim Carroll’s definition of the word. In his eyes, innovators are not the quintessential “cool” people developing “cool” products but rather the ordinary minions who have learned how to grow and transform their business. “Innovation is a funny word. We hear the word ‘innovation’ and who do we think of? We think of Steve Jobs,” Carroll once mused to CEOs and senior executives. “But innovation is about much more than people who innovate new products. To a degree the ability to innovate hinges on how quickly you can ingest all of the new ideas, capabilities and methodologies that are emerging. We’re in a world in which it can no longer take five years to plan and release something new. Innovative organizations know we’re in a world where volatility is the new normal. Everything is changing faster than ever before. Innovative organizations concentrate on how to build global scale. Innovative organizations know that things are going to evolve and change and twist and turn, particularly with the global economy.”

The most innovative organizations perfectly fit all those curves and evolve just as quickly as the hypercompetitive world in which they exist. They are the ones to first invest in emerging markets, or support new, unproven yet potentially disruptive technologies. Innovative organizations can anticipate trends before they happen, enabling them to avoid the “tyranny of success” trap that has led to the demise of countless corporations.

I haven’t done of these posts in a while — it’s a semi-regular summary of 10 of the most recent search phrases that resulted in people discovering information in my blog through the last week.

It’s a useful way to see what people around the world might be thinking about, or some of the issues that are top of mind. It’s also a great way to discover some of the unique blog posts throughout my site — with well over 1,000, there’s a lot of useful content in here that you might not find.

You might consider buying a copy of my book, The Future Belongs To Those Who are Fast — it’s a great compendium of the best of these posts from over 10 years of blogging!

You can see some other What’s Hot entries here.

I use some fabulous Web site tracking software — notably Woopra and OpenTracker — both of which give me *real time* insight into what people are discovering on my site, so it’s pretty easy to pull this information together. Here we go:

  • a search for “what trends are driving today’s consumer” led to the Consumer & food category of my blog; it leads to a whole series of blog posts that focus on these issues
  • someone in India looking for “innovations in retail” was led to the post “Creativity, trends and innovation in retail, packaging and consumer goods“, a post from 2005 that still bears powerful relevance to what is happening in these sectors today
  • from South Africa, a search for “futuristic trends in agriculture” led to “10 Big Trends for Agriculture” — a post I wrote many years ago but which continues to be one of the most popular pages on my Web site. And even though it was written in 2005, it still remains powerfully relevant today. I do a LOT of keynotes in the agricultural sector
  • over in Belgium, someone was looking at Google for “new trends in fitness and wellness.” They hit a relatively new post I did earlier this year, “Trend Report: The Future of Health, Fitness and Wellness
  • from Cincinatti, a search for “latest trends in the property and casualty insurance industry” led to “The insurance industry in 2015” , a concise overview of how this industry is undergoing dramatic and fast paced change
  • in Indiana, someone searching for “10 ways to kill innovation (or what not to do)” found the blog post “10 Surefire Ways to Destroy Innovative Thinking,” one of the most favourite blog posts I’ve ever written
  • a search for “fast food industry trends” from someone in Louisiana led to my blog post, “The BIG food industry trend for 2012: Bold Goals, Big Bets
  • If only I had a dollar for each search done where people from the US end up on my site for information on future healthcare trends. A search from a major US pharma company for “key trends business us healthcare market led to “10 major health care / pharmaceutical trends, a really concise summary of the scientific, technological and other trends that are transforming the sector
  • Just moments after this search, someone from Florida was looking for “future healthcare trends , and they were led to a more comprehensive detailed post that gets a lot of traffic, Healthcare 2020: The Transformative Trends That Will REALLY Define Our Future
  • and from the Philippines, a search for the phrase “Leaders are innovative and future – oriented. They focus on getting the job done” led to my blog post, “How future ready is your organization?” It provides some good insight on whether your organization is clearly aligned for what comes next — or is simply stuck in the here and now.

That’s 10 search phrases — and a simple summary of some great insight. Stayed tuned — more “What’s Hot” posts to come!

If you want to track analytics on your own Web site, I highly recommend both Woopra and OpenTracker. Fascinating insight!

Earlier this month, I was down in Amarillo, Texas, where I was the opening keynote speaker for Day 2 of the annual conference of the Texas Cattlefeeders Association.

Jim Carroll – “I’m willing to admit that it was the first time I’ve ever had audience members getting their boots shined before my keynote address! But talk about an audience focused on innovation!”

The event was lined as the result of another keynote I did in Sonoma County, California last April, where I spoke to a  gathering that included “what were probably the top 100 cattle, stockyard and feedlot operators in the US.” I reported on that event in a post, “Agriculture 2020: Innovation, growth & opportunity.”

The common theme to both of these keynotes? There is massive, significant opportunity for global growth in the agricultural sector. While there might be a lot of short term volatility due to the daily twists and turns with the global economy, one undeniable fact remains: global food production has to double over the next several decades to keep up with population growth and increasing food intake, particularly within emerging economies. I’ve found with both of these audiences that there is a relentless sense of optimism, and certainly a pretty significant openness to new ideas and opportunities for innovation. Read the post about “agriculture 2020” and you’ll get a sense of the reasons for their optimism.

That’s why I was fascinated to come across an article (“Future of ag is all about refrigerators“) that appeared in the Farm & Dairy Blog back in October (its the official for the well known Farm & Dairy Newspaper) that covered  my thinking and message in a nutshell:

We still face a global food market — a world population that stands at 6.9 billion and could reach 7 billion by the end of October.

If those numbers make your head spin and you really feel disconnected from that reality, think about refrigerators instead.

Carroll reminds us, as other have, that the growing population also has a growing segment with greater income, and they will eat more meat. He cites figures that estimate per capita meat consumption growth from 2000 to 2030 of 49 percent in China, 79 percent in India, and 22 percent in Brazil, for example.

And in India, the number one consumer product on an individual’s wish list is a television.

Number two? A refrigerator.

“Right now, refrigerators have only a 13 percent market penetration,” Carroll wrote in a blog post earlier this year.

“Talk about opportunities for growth.

 Sometimes the easiest way to think about future trends is to forget all the fancy analysis, detailed summaries, and simply concentrate on one simple statistic and trend. Most people in the world don’t have a refrigerator. Many want to have one. That fact alone is going to drive agriculture forward at a furious pace.

Farm & Dairy wasn’t the only one to pick up on this theme: over at The Social Silo (“Agriculture gets wired”), an article appeared, “Five Farm Things to Chew On This Week“, which offered up some “food for thought” for those in the agriculture sector.

Their last point? Refrigerators!

We’ve heard so much about world population growth and “who will feed the world,” that we’ve actually become a little distanced from that conversation. But the reality is this: As more people worldwide increase their income and class standing, they will eat more meat. In India, the number one item on wish lists is a television. The second wish? No, not a car, but a refrigerator, says futurist Jim Carroll. “Right now, refrigerators have only a 13 percent market penetration. Talk about opportunities for growth,” Carroll wrote in his blog last spring.

Carroll predicts per capita meat consumption growth from 2000 to 2030 will be 49 percent in China, 79 percent in India, and 22 percent in Brazil.

That alone should give you something to chew on.

Of course, agricultural producers have to balance the reality of growth with innovation in methods involving production, due to growing concerns about sustainability, safety and quality. The Farm & Dairy article went on to observe this issue around innovation.

We’re going to need more food, but we’re going to have to produce it more sustainably. That will take innovation, new ways of thinking, and new ways of farming.

Carroll predicts we’ll see more change on the farm in the next 10 years than we’ve seen in the last 50, and he might be right. Today’s farmer has reinvented himself at least once in his lifetime, and will have to be ready to reinvent his farm again.

Ag entrepreneurs will flourish. The opportunity is there for the future of agriculture. Just open the refrigerator.

I must admit, it certainly is a thrill to work with folks throughout the agriculture sector — I do find this to be one of the most innovative sectors of the population. That might come as a surpass to many people, who often view farmers and ranchers as folks who are stuck in tradition. Nothing could be further from the truth — the sector has come to accept innovation as a core virtue for years.

Indeed, I wrote about this way back in 2005, when i was out there talking to the theme, “I Found the Future in Manure: How to Capitalize on the Rapid Evolution of Science”. Those series of keynotes were based on the very theme of innovation that I was discovering throughout the agriculture sector in the early part of 2000-2001. I even ended up writing an article that made it into my Ready, Set, Done book, called “I found the future in manure!”

One thing I’ve come to appreciate is that farmers and ranchers and those who support theme can be some of the most innovative people on the planet. Here’s a video clip from a keynote to a US Military conference in Dallas — yes, the military — and I’m describing to them the unique innovation insight that can be learned from farmers.

 If you want to master innovation — then think about refrigerators, and think like a farmer!

 

  • Farm & Dairy: The future of ag is in refrigerators 
  • Agriculture 2020: Innovation, opportunity and growth 
  • Farm Progress Magazine: Texas Cattlefeeders will Beef Up in Amarillo 
  • Food industry trends 2011: Report from a keynote 
  • Blog post: I found the future in manure 
  • 2004 article: “I found the future in manure!” 

 

 

 

I’m honored to be invited to be the closing keynote speaker for this event which starts tomorrow; I speak at the closing lunch on Friday, on the theme, “When Do We Get to Normal? Why Thinking BIG Will Help You Seize The Opportunities of the 21st Century.” I’m sharing headlining duties with two other fascinating speakers.

Jim Carroll will be the closing keynote speaker for the 2011 T. Rowe Price Investment Symposium, offering his thoughts on the global economy, future trends and innovation!

Im my talk, I will be examining three key issues :

  • next generation investor trends. This is somewhat like the talk I did for the National Australian Bank just two years ago – how is the next generation of hyper connected, socially networked investor going to change in terms of wealth management, investment decisions and other activities. There’s a good blog post referenced below, “14 Key Innovation Strategies for Financial Advisors, and Financial Organizations” that you’ll find here.
  • the future and optimism: where are we going to witness the next billion and trillion dollar industries? What’s happening with science, connectivity, manufacturing, skills and innovation that will drive global economies forward?
  • “Designed in Emerging Markets!” – what’s next, and in particular, what’s happening with innovation worldwide — and what does that mean for the global economy.

So much of the global investment community is overdosing on pessimism – I’m not with what I see happening within my global client basis.

As I often observe when I walk out on stage — “I’m a futurist. I can’t walk out there and tell you that your future sucks — because it doesn’t. The world I see is full of innovation, creativity, the reinvention of existing business and the birth of new ones.”

I haven’t done of these posts in a while — it’s an observation of 10 of the most recent search phrases that resulted in people discovering information in my blog through the last week.

It’s a useful way to see what people around the world might be thinking about, or some of the issues that are top of mind. You can see some other What’s Hot entries here.

I’ve got some fabulous new Web site tracking software — notably Woopra and OpenTracker — both of which give me *real time* insight into what people are discovering on my site, so it’s pretty easy to pull this information together.

Here we go:

    • a search for “food product trends marketing” from Ireland resulted in someone hitting what is currently one of the most heavily visited pages on my Web site — “Food industry trends 2011 – Report from a keynote“. Literally a few hundred hits a day!
  • from Bangalore, India, a search for “healthcare industry trends presentation” led to the page “Healthcare 2020: The Transformative Trends That Will REALLY Define Our Future“, also one of the most popular pages on my site. What is evident is that people find a tremendous amount of value in the detailed trends outlines as found in this type of post and the previous food industry post — there are a lot of these scattered throughout my blog covering a wide range of industries. Try the Trends link for a list by industry.
  • another popular search concerns the future of the meetings and events industry. From San Diego this morning, a search for “event industry 2012 trends” led to the post “Future of the meetings / events industry
  • from Singapore, a search for “characteristics of the 21st century” led to the post “10 Unique Characteristics of 21st Century Skills” which is a useful guide to the key HR issues that you are facing now and into the future
  • on the HR theme, it’s kind of funny that someone in Larisa, Greece, did a search this morning for “Jobs of the future 2015“, which took them to the post “Good jobs in Bad Times – I’m interviewed on PBS on future career trends“. Maybe it will help to inspire someone for post-Greek economic meltdown HR innovation!
  • from Kenya, a search for “importance of innovation to consumers” led to the post “The importance of innovation in the era of the “new normal.” This post is a good summery of the key factors which require fast paced innovation today.
  • from Malaysia, someone searching for “future ready organization” hit the post, “How future ready is your organization?”. I wrote that in 2009 – and write about the velocity ratio, the rate of ‘rising tides’ and other factors that might give you a sense of whether your organization is keeping up with the speed of innovation occurring in your industry.
  • out in Madras, India, a search for the phrase “innovation themes for wealth management technology” led to a post that summarized my 2009 keynote for the National Australia Bank – “14 Key Innovation Strategies for Financial Advisors & Financial Organizations”
  • from North Carolina in the US, a search for “bioengineered body parts” odd to the post from 2006, “Bio-engineered body parts, the Cold Store and personalized medicine…” Consider what I wrote in 2006! “The pill bottle linked into my home network grid in order to interact with the prescription drug company. They had specifically engineered this medicine the day before for my own bio-code, based on a quick sampling of my blood and sinus condition that was done at the local Cold Store.”
  • last but not least, someone in Las Vegas did a search this morning for the phrase “things you have to do in vegas during the recession.” That took them to a great post that still works with the current and ongoing volatility in the global economy, “10 Things You Need to Do to Innovate in a Recession

That’s 10 search phrases — and a simple summary of some great insight. Stayed tuned — more “What’s Hot” posts to come!

If you want to track analytics on your own Web site, I highly recommend both Woopra and OpenTracker. Fascinating insight!

From my November CAMagazine column …

I owe my optimism to Google
by Jim Carroll, CAMagazine, November 2011

I am a heavy user of the Google Alerts system; it constantly scans the web for articles about future trends, innovations and many other topics that are central to my business and beliefs.

It’s a perfect tool for keeping up to date on what is going on in the world, since it can focus on topics that are important to you.

It can also be the antidote to the sense of gloom that can develop if you rely on the 24-hour news cycle of radio and television. Stories of ongoing stock-market volatility, political gridlock in the US and a never-ending European debt crisis imply there isn’t much left to enjoy in the future — that it’s all downhill from here.

That’s why when Google Alerts pulls up a little nugget such as The Washington Post articleTech company to build science ghost town in NM; backer says project will be economic boost” (Sept. 6, 2011), you get some reassurance that everything is going to be A-OK.

Apparently, the plan is for a Washington-based company to build New Mexico’s “newest ghost town to test everything from renewable energy innovations to intelligent traffic systems, next-generation wireless networks and smart-grid cyber security systems.” This could be the perfect laboratory-type environment to help shape our world through the next several decades. For years, I’ve been suggesting that we are entering a world where everything around us is linking together and that this is going to lead to fascinating new developments.

Put this New Mexico town in perspective in relation to an article that appeared in the Globe and Mail a couple of weeks earlier (“Google gets behind the wheel,” Aug. 25, 2011). The piece outlined how Google was actively testing a series of vehicles in the San Francisco Bay area that would auto-pilot themselves through city streets, using Google Maps and a series of internal and external sensors on the car.

Fast-forward a decade or two — or maybe less — and you can see a world in which we’ve solved some of our energy, infrastructure, transit and city-crowding problems through some extremely intelligent infrastructure.

Science fiction? I don’t think so.

Everyone has an option as to how he or she wants to prepare him- or herself for the future: as a pessimist, convinced the frequent twists and turns in the global economy indicate economic gloom is our future, or as an optimist, who knows there are a tremendous number of innovative people dedicated to discovering the next big thing, and working to solve some of the major problems our global society faces.

This ghost town in New Mexico could turn into one of the most important innovation engines of our time. I have no doubt that at some point we will have highways and city streets full of cars that effortlessly guide themselves along. We’ll have extremely smart buildings that will regularly interact with the presence and activities of their inhabitants to manage their energy usage, helping to reduce our use of energy worldwide. We’ll see the emergence of fascinating, hyperconnected healthcare technologies that will allow an increasing number of baby boomers to live out their senior years in the comfort and safety of a connected community rather than traditional seniors homes.

The future is out there — and it’s yours if you choose to watch it and track it.

My blog back engine pointed out to me this morning that a few articles that I posted to the blog some years back had disappeared. So with that in mind, I’ll repost a few of them in the next few days.

Read Jim's other post - "What do you do after the world get's flat? Put a ripple in it!' Click on the image!

This one is from my June / July 2008 CAMagazine column. It’s still and even more relevant today. Have a good read!

Advice for a flat world

by Jim Carroll, CAMagazine, July 2008

A few years back, I posted an entry to my weblog titled, “What do you do after the world gets flat? Put a ripple in it!”My post came in response to the buzz surrounding the bestselling book The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman.

Executives everywhere were scrambling to understand the impact of a massive global economy; the impact of offshoring and outsourcing; and how business models would be forever changed with increased global competition.

To me, the answer was obvious — innovative organizations should avoid the product commoditization that comes with the flat world. CEOs have two choices: move forward into a world where you are competing on price, or innovate, change and adapt so you are playing in a different, higher-value market.

Of course, not only products have to innovate in a flat world, so do professional skills. There’s no doubt we will continue to see a number of organizations outsource their financial, legal and other backroom functions. Just witness the growth in business process outsourcing or recruitment process outsourcing. Accountants, human resource professionals, legal experts — almost anyone with a professional skill is impacted, unless they move into a higher-tier marketplace.

Given this reality, it might be a good time to assess your career, skills and future options and determine if you want to continue going forward in a commodity market or if you want to up the value of your brand. The obvious answer is to take the latter route. We’re seeing this trend within the profession to a massive degree today: those who develop unique knowledge niches and concentrate on the delivery of very specialized services find themselves in great demand, while those with commodity skills are likely worried about the potential impact of a recession upon their career prospects.

If you focus on career specialization, the flat world is not a threat but an opportunity. It’s become a cliché, but in the much-hyped knowledge economy, those who have special capabilities often truly do have a global marketplace. Today, it is easier than ever to market your skills to that worldwide audience.

With that perspective in mind, I have three pieces of advice. First, it pays to have a blog. I’ve been posting to mine for more than 6 years and discovered that by regularly placing relevant, useful observations online, my position in Google for various topics and phrases has consistently increased. I seem to be in a sellers’ market: I just turned down a request to go to Shanghai to speak on the topic of global trends after a global CFO found my flat-world article online.

Second, invest in online search engine advertising. I’m a big fan of Google AdWords, despite the fact that the media seems to have soured on Google lately. Third, relentlessly track how people are finding your unique skills. I regularly use Google Analytics to examine how other people manage to find me online. By drilling down and seeing what people are searching for, I can adapt and change my areas of focus and expertise.

The same experience could hold true for anyone with unique professional skills. If your focus has been the de- sign and implementation of sophisticated ERP systems, why not reach out to a global audience? If you have mastered certain forensic investigation skills, realize that your market isn’t restricted to a small, local geographic world. In the flat world, the opportunities are wide open.

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