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As we wind down 2011, it’s a good time to reflect on some of the events I highlighted this year. It proved to be quite the year year, with many fascinating events where I opened or closed a large scale conference or corporate meeting with a keynote address.

One of Jim's key themes is the opportunities of the future - at one in Las Vegas, one fellow was so inspired by the message that he asked Jim when he might consider running for President of the United States. Click to watch!

As we approach the end of the year, everyone turns their attention to 2012 — and begins to wonder “what comes next?” All of my clients are focused on that theme when they engage me for a keynote or corporate workshop — and so a sense of what they were thinking about in 2011 gives you a good sense of what’s going to be important in 2012!

Some of the highlights from this year includes these events:

  • CSC Executive Exchange 2011, St. Andrews, Scotland. A small, intimate, invitation only event where I shared keynote duties with Jimmy Wales, the Founder of WikiPedia. I had CEO’s, CIO’s and CFO’s of some pretty major global organizations. Key theme: “The Next Wave of Digital Game-Changers” – I took a look at how every industry is soon to be caught up in Silicon Valley velocity, as technological comes to change every industry at lightening speed.
  • McKesson IdeaShare 2011, San Francisco, California. Changing roles, changing opportunities. I open this annual event with a message for 4,500 pharmacist / owners that with significant challenges and change in the world of healthcare and retail, the time is ripe for them to innovate with their role and their methods because their has never provided a bigger time for opportunity. The big theme: “Healthcare 2020: The Transformative Trends That Will REALLY Define Our Future.” This proved to be a huge topic for this year, and continues into 2012, as people come to seek insight on what will really happen in the world of healthcare beyond the current political rhetoric.
  • Multi-Unit Franchising Conference 2011, Las Vegas. I share the stage with Sean Tuohy, subject of the Blind Side, who owns quite a few franchise operations on his own. The focus in my keynote is on the fast changes occurring in the world of retail with consumers, technology, advertising and branding, social networking – you name it all!
  • US Air Force Research Laboratory, Dayton, Ohio: This group, which controls the entire research budget for the Air Force, brings me in to open a conference in which they examine new opportunities and methodologies for innovative thinking. Fascinating audience, and indicative of the fact that every organization realizes that the world is changing so fast that a lot of traditional assumptions about innovation and R&D are changing at lightening speed!
  • Consumer Goods Technology Magazine 2011 , Orlando, Florida. The pre-eminent conference for packaged goods, food and consumer products companies, with a huge number of Fortune 500 executives. My theme focuses on ‘what world class innovators do that others don’t do‘, particularly to keep up with changing consumers, mobile technologies, social networks and a variety of other trends. It leads to a blog post by one fellow, “Some mind blowing stats from Jim Carroll ….” Big themes: “Mobile, Social, Location!
  • Maple Leaf Foods, Toronto, Canada. A blog post, “Food industry trends 2011; Report from a keynote” was based on this talk. This blog post is now one of the first search results for anyone searching for anything having to do with food trends — and is now easily the most trafficked Web page on my site. After health care, food trends is probably the second busiest topic area for the year.
  • T. Rowe Price 2011 Investment Symposium. 600 investment managers, senior executives and CEO’s. The other keynotes are Colin Powell and Charlie Cook. My job is to close this two day event with an inspirational, motivational message based on the theme “When Do We Get to Normal? Why Thinking BIG Will Help You Seize The Opportunities of the 21st Century.”
  • World Pharma Innovation Congress, London, UK. I’m honored to open this renowned global conference on innovation within their crucial sector – most of the global heavy hitters from the world of pharma and bio-science are in the room. Opportunities for growth and innovation are coming from hyper-science, opportunities for externally sourced innovation insight, and the big global ‘idea machine’ that is revolutionizing opportunities for innovative thinking.
  • Interactive Manufacturing Exchange, Las Vegas, Nevada. A massive highlight from September — with a dinner keynote for 600 major manufacturing executives, and a morning keynote for 1,000 more. My keynote focus is that there is plenty of room for growth in the North American manufacturing sector, given the tremendous advances that have occurred with methodology and technology. My message must have resonated — after my talk, one fellow got up during the Q&A and asked if I would consider running for President of the US!
  • DSSI Forum, San Antonio, Texas. One of the largest seniors care conferences in the US. I spoke at length and with passion about the big opportunities for innovative thinking in the sector, particularly in light of the big challenges that society faces. This was a very personal event; those who know me well know that we have learned quite a bit about the challenges society faces with Alzheimer’s as a close family member has suffered from the disease.
  • Lockheed Martin, Washington, DC. I’m asked to speak at their 2011 global HR conference. The organization is aligning itself to deal with fast paced change in ever sector of its operations: my theme is what companies are doing o achieve “skills agility”, and why the issue of “deploying the right skills at the right time for the right purpose” is an increasingly important model for the future.
  • Pearson 2011. The future of education. A talk that linked key future trends to the need for massive, transformation thinking in the world of knowledge delivery. Noted one attendee: “Jim Carroll gave a particularly poignant keynote address about the need for true, innovative thinking.  (Think of a 5 year mission on steroids…)”
  • Bombardier Global Operators Conference. The future of corporate and leisure travel. Manufacturing innovation. Consumer change, and the impact of mobility. A wide ranging talk that challenges global airline operators to think about innovation in every aspect of their operations.
  • Fairmont / Raffles Hotels International. A corporate event, focused on the future of the global meetings and events industry. Key theme: organizations will increasingly require short, sharp shocks of knowledge delivery — corporate meetings and events are a big part of this trend, and are a key part of the short term strategic planning cycles that organizations are focused upon.
  • Texas CattleFeeders Association, Amarillo, Texas. The 2nd of two major talks for the cattle/beef industry in the US. Earlier in the year, I opened a private event that had in the room the top 100 cattle ranchers from across the country – representing a  multi-billion dollar investment. My keynotes focus on the significant opportunities for growth in the agricultural industry.
  • International Foundation 57th annual Employee Benefits Congress, New Orleans, LA. A morning keynote for 4,500 people at 730AM in New Orleans — and they all show up, confirming that description that “what I do for a living is go out and talk to large groups of hungover people.” It’s a rousing talk on the theme of Healthcare 2020: Today’s Trends, Tomorrow’s Opportunities
  • Linde Health Group, Munich, Germany. Global opportunities in the world of healthcare – how do we link future trends to opportunities for growth.

There were quite a few other keynotes for associations, government and corporations. In addition to these high profile engagements, which featured audiences of up to 6,000, I also hosted a number of small CEO level events. In one case in Washington, I spent the morning with a small group of 15 CEO’s/CIO’s/CFO’s in a boardroom style setting, where we explored the opportunities for growth that coming from linking future trends to innovative thinking.

Advance bookings for 2012 are exceedingly strong — so far, I know I’ll be in Palm Springs, Tampa, Orlando, Phoenix, Aspen, New Orleans (x2), San Antonio and many other locations.

Think growth. Think opportunity. Think trends. Think positive!

Why we ski….
March 25th, 2011

“What I really feel is that, if on a pair of skis … I forget everything but the joys of living…” Viscount Anthony Knebsworth, in a letter to his father, Earl of Lytton, 1924

The mood is melancholy in the home office today, as we head out for our final ski weekend of the year.

Doing the math, I think we have probably gone ‘up north’ to our ski chalet at least 14 weekends a year, for the last 10 years. That’s a big commitment. And through that time, I’ve come to intimiately link the process of learning how to ski in your ‘middle years’ to the process of innovation.

Back in 2003 …. they’re significantly taller now!

Let me start at the beginning – ten years ago, I didn’t know how to ski; neither did my sons who were but 5 and 7 when we flung them at the hills. My wife had a bit of easier time, with a few years of casual skiing under her belt.

Back in 2001, 9/11 had just happened; it was autumn; the global mood was gloomy. Economically, the world was pretty challenged; and in my case, there was certainly a drop in bookings as the global meetings and event industries pulled back. It was an easy time to really pull back and recoil in fear at what was going on in the world — or to get out and do something.

So in a moment of inspiration, we decided that we needed to do something to keep in a positive frame of mind!

Let’s take up skiing as a family!

And so, for the last ten years, from mid-December until the end of March, we have spent just about every single weekend getting to the chalet, and dragging our sometimes weary-selves out to the hill every Saturday and Sunday morning. We’re talking early starts here — at first, we were all in lessons, and had to be at the base of the hill by 9 or 915. Then, my sons became volunteer instructors, and then full time instructors, and they had to be there at 815AM. This meant most weekends began at 645am, a sometimes challenging process on Sundays’ when there might have been a little bit too much apres-ski the night before. Ten years of committing that in the winter, it’s not about sleeping in — it’s about getting out and relishing in the cold, the snow, the wind, the sunshine — whatever the heck the weather-gods were going to decide to throw at you that day!

The last five years have been particularly extraordinary; with my sons working,I’ve often found myself as the first guy in the lift line, 830am, despite temperatures some weekends of -30C, high wind, bone chilling cold — and wondering if I had a few loose screws. (I stopped taking ‘weekend work’ about 8 years ago when I realized that speaking at a conference in Miami at 8am on a Saturday simply couldn’t compare to skiing with my family and friends instead!)

So why the melancholy mood? Ten years on, it’s the final weekend in which the four of us will all head ‘up north’ together. Next year, my oldest son heads off to university. Our weekends will have changed, but the skiing will continue. So it’s a bit of a thoughtful drive today.

What might this possibly have to do with the theme of innovation?

Because I think that the commitment that we made to skiing, is comparable to the commitment you have to make to innovation. We didn’t know how to ski. We wanted to learn, wanted to become good at it, and wanted to make it a part of our life.

So here’s the linkage between “becoming a skier for life” and becoming an “innovator for life.”

  • you need to be relentless in your focus
  • you need to commit
  • you need to stick to your goals
  • you need to consistently and regularly mark and acknowledge your progress
  • you need to admit that while you might not know anything about the subject at hand, you are willing to spend the time to learn about it
  • you have to conquer your fear that you might fail
  • you need to be prepared that there are a lot of others who are better at it than you are, but perseverance will eventually pay off with their respect
  • your first attempts might look pretty unpolished, but success will come over time in an incremental way. It’s not all about having a home run right at the start!

If you are willing to take on a challenge, you can accomplish great things. My sons have; my proudest moments this year came when:

  • my oldest son attained his Level II ski instructors qualification after a gruelling 5-day instruction/examination; he’s now part of a small group of elite skiers that are recognized for their skills. He has an important new life skill that I think is unparallelled.
  • my youngest son, a snowboarder,and also a Level I instructor, was rewarded with the Instructor of the Year award at our ski club, chosen for his diligence, maturity, attendance record, respect, and yes, even for a snowboarder, great attitude.

Here’s to the snow! What’s the link between innovation and skiing? Here I am on stage in Zurich, just before I went off to ski the Swiss Alps in 2006:

Last year, I was the opening keynote speaker for the 2010 International Association of Conference Centersl my focus was on the future of the meetings and events industry (in which, as a keynote speaker, I play a frequent role.)

Jim Carroll's thoughts on the future of the global meetings industry

I just found that they ran a report on my talk, and it’s a good summary of what I believe to be the key trends driving this industry forward. It was a fairly accurate overview, in that signs for 2011 are that by and large, many aspects of the global meetings and events industry, though still challenged, are bouncing back from their lows of 2009 and 2010.

—–

From IACC’s CenterLines Publication

Futurist Jim Carroll confidently assured his audience of IACC conferees that their bread & butter – face-to-face meetings – is not leaving the business landscape.

The words of his Thursday morning keynote were music to the ears of an audience that is battling business downturns. Carroll said he’d lived through five recessions and the thing they have in common is that they all are temporary.

What happens with an economic correction, even a significant one?” Carroll asked. “We always get to the point where we see articles about economic growth. The collective sense in this room is that we’ll see this happen in six months to two years. … We know how this movie ends.”

While acknowledging the wonders of evolving technology and the specter of developments not yet imagined, Carroll said the need to meet face- to-face is fundamental and will not be replaced.

New products are developed and updated with amazing speed, and how do you have a sales force that can deal with that continual flood without providing proper education?” he pondered. “Effective sales teams are built through sheer enthusiasm for a goal that comes from face- to-face meetings.”

Carroll pointed to an Australian study that predicted that 65 percent of preschoolers would eventually work in jobs and careers that do not currently exist. And, in any degree program based on science, because knowledge is evolving so fast, it is estimated that half of what somebody learns in the first half of the degree program will be obsolete or revised by the time they graduate.

The reality of the future of meetings is that learning is what most people will do for a living in the 21st century,” he said. “There will be a requirement to constantly replenish that knowledge, and a huge focus on knowledge delivery.

Carroll observed that Microsoft has suggested that in the coming years, 50 percent of U.S. gross domestic product will be taken up by training and knowledge delivery. Progressive organizations will continue to bring people together to meet. Carroll ignores the purveyors of doom who say the meeting business is in a death spiral.

We’ve been there before. Remember the post- 911 buzz? Everybody was going to stop flying, stop going to hotels – it was the end of the event industry,” Carroll said. “People said it was the end of face-to-face. It didn’t happen then, and it isn’t going to happen now.”

Carroll suggested that constant re-evaluation and the quest for new ideas is key to staying ahead of the curve. Observing key habits and attitude, Carroll said that world class innovators …

  • possess a relentless focus on growth
  • move beyond the short term
  • constantly replenish revenue streams.
  • obsess over the concept of corporate agility
  • don’t fear the future; they just do the future
  • invest heavily in experiential capital
  • banish the innovation killers.

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