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I spent the morning yesterday with the Board of Directors of a multi-billion dollar credit union, taking a good hard look at the trends sweeping the financial services space. They know that disruption is real, and that it is happening now.

And disruption is everywhere: every business, and every industry is  being redefined at blinding speed by technology, globalization, the rapid emergence of new competitors, new forms of collaborative global R&D, and countless other challenges.


The speed with which these changes occur are now being increasingly driven by he arrival of a younger, more entrepreneurial generation; a group that seems determined to change the world to reflect their ideas and concept of opportunity. They’ve grown up networked, wired, and are collaborative in ways that no previous generation seems to be.

And therein lies the challenge.

Most organizations are bound up in traditions, process, certain defined ways of doing things — rules — that have helped them succeed in the past. Over time, they have developed a corporate culture which might have worked at the slower paced world of the past — but now has them on the sick-bed, suffering from an organizational sclerosis that clogs up their ability to try to do anything new.

Those very things which worked for them in the past might be the anchors that could now hold them back as the future rushes at them with ever increasing speed.

They are being challenged in a fundamental way by those who think big, and by some really big, transformative trends.

How to cope with accelerating change?  Think big, start small and scale fast!

I’m doing many keynotes in which I outline the major trends and opportunities that come from “thinking big, starting small, and scaling fast,” by addressing some of the fundamental changes that are underway.

1. Entire industries are going “upside down”

One thing you need to know is this: entire industries are being flipped on their back by some pretty big trends.

Consider the world of health care. Essentially, today, it’s a system in which we fix people after they become sick. You come down with some type of medical condition; your doctor does a diagnosis, and a form of treatment is put in place. That’s overly simplifying things, but essentially that is how it works.

Yet that is going to change in a pretty fundamental way with genomic, or DNA based medicine. It takes us into a world in which we can more easily understand what health conditions are you susceptible or at risk for throughout your life. It moves us from a world in which we fix you after you are sick — to one in which we know what you are likely to become sick with, and come up with a course of action before things go wrong. That’s a pretty BIG and pretty fundamental change. I like to say that the system is going “upside down.”

So it is with the automotive and transport industry. One day, most people drove their own cars. One day in the future, cars will do much of the driving on their own. That’s a pretty change — sort of the reverse, or upside-down, from how it use to be.

Or think about education: at one time, most people went to the place where education is delivered. But with the massive explosion of connectivity and new education delivery methods involving technology, an increasing number of people are in a situation where education is delivered to them. That’s upside down too!

You can go through any industry and see similar signs. That’s a lot of opportunity for big change.

2. Moore’s law – everywhere!

Another big trend that is driving a lot of change comes about as technology takes over the rate of change in the industry.

Going forward, every single industry, from health care to agriculture to insurance and banking, will find out that change will start to come at the speed of Moore’s law — a speed of change that is MUCH faster than they are used too. (Remember, Moore’s law explains that roughly, the processing power of a computer chip doubles every 18 months while its cost cuts in half. It provides for the pretty extreme exponential growth curve we see with a lot of consumer and computer technology today.)

Back to health care. We know that genomic medicine is moving us from a world in which we fix people after they are sick – to one where we know what they will likely become sick with as a result of DNA testing. But now kick in the impact of Moore’s law, as Silicon Valley takes over the pace of development of the genomic sequencing machines. It took $3 billion to sequence the first genome, which by 2009 had dropped to $100,000. It’s said that by mid-summer, the cost had dropped to under $10,000, and by the end of the year, $1,000. In just a few years, you’ll be able to go to a local Source by Circuit City and buy a little $5 genomic sequencer – and one day, such a device will cost just a few pennies.

The collapsing cost and increasing sophistication of these machines portends a revolution in the world of health care. Similar trends are occurring elsewhere – in every single industry, we know one thing: that Moore’s law rules!

3. Loss of the control of the pace of innovation

What happens when Moore’s law appears in every industry? Accelerating change, and massive business model disruption as staid, slow moving organizations struggle to keep up with faster paced technology upstarts.

Consider the world of car insurance — we are witnessing a flood of GPS based driver monitoring technologies that measure your speed, acceleration and whether you are stopping at all the stop signs. Show good driving behaviour, and you’ll get a rebate on your insurance. It’s happening in banking, with the the imminent emergence of the digital wallet and the trend in which your cell phone becomes a credit card.

In both cases, large, stodgy, slow insurance companies and banks that move like molasses will have to struggle to fine tune their ability to innovate and keep up : they’re not used to working at the same fast pace as technology companies.

Not only that, while they work to get their innovation agenda on track, they’ll realize with horror that its really hard to compete with companies like Google, PayPal, Facebook, and Apple — all of whom compete at the speed of light.

It should make for lots of fun!

4.  “Follow the leader” business methodologies

We’re also witnessing the more rapid emergence of new ways of doing business, and it’s leading us to a time in which companies have to instantly be able to copy any move by their competition – or risk falling behind.

For example, think about what is going on in retail, with one major trend defining the future: the Apple checkout process. Given what they’ve done, it seems to be all of a sudden, cash registers seemed to become obsolete. And if you take a look around, you’ll notice a trend in which a lot of other retailers are scrambling to duplicate the process, trying to link themselves to the cool Apple cachet.

That’s the new reality in the world of business — pacesetters today can swiftly and suddenly change the pace and structure of an industry, and other competitors have to scramble to keep up.  Consider this scenario: Amazon announces a same day delivery in some major centres. Google and Walmart almost immediately jump on board. And in just a short time, retailers in every major city are going to have be able to play the same game!

Fast format change, instant business model implementation, rapid fire strategic moves. That’s the new reality for business, and it’s the innovators who will adapt.

5. All interaction — all the time!

If there is one other major trend that is defining the world of retail and shopping, take a look at all the big television screens scattered all over the store! We’re entering the era of constant video bombardment in the retail space. How fast is the trend towards constant interaction evolving? Consider the comments by

Ron Boire, the new Chief Marketing Officer for Sears in the US (and former chief executive of Brookstone Inc.): “My focus will really be on creating more and better theatre in the stores.”

We are going to see a linking of this ‘in-store theatre’ with our mobile devices and our social networking relationships. Our Facebook app for a store brand (or the fact we’ve ‘liked’ the brand) will know we’re in the store, causing a a customized commercial to run, offering us a personalized product promotion with a  hefty discount. This type of scenario will be here faster than you think!

6. Products reinvented

Smart entrepreneurs have long realized something that few others have clued into : the future of products is all about enhancement through intelligence and connectivity. Nail those two aspects, and you suddenly sell an old product at significantly higher new prices.

Consider the NEST Learning Thermostat. It’s design is uber-cutting edge, and was in fact dreamed up by one of the key designers of the iPad. It looks cool, it’s smart, connected, and there’s an App for that! Then there is a Phillips Hue Smart LED Lightbulb, a $69 light bulb that is uber-smart, connected, and can be controlled from your mobile device. Both are sold at the Apple store!

Or take a look at the Whitings Wi-Fi Body Scale. Splash a bit of design onto the concept of a home weigh scale, build it with connectivity, link it to some cool online graphs and you’ve got a device that will take your daily weight, BMI and body-fat-mass tracking into a real motivational tool.  Where is it sold? Why, at the Apple store too!

Do you notice a trend here?

7. Careers reinvented

For those who that the post-2008 North American recovery from the recession was slow, here’s an open secret: there was a significant economic recovery underway for quite some time, as companies in every sector ranging from manufacturing to agriculture worked hard to reinvent themselves. It just didn’t involve a lot of new jobs, because the knowledge required to do a new job in today’s economy is pretty complex. We’ve moved quickly from the economy of menial, brute force jobs to new careers that require a lot of high level skill. The trend has been underway for a long, long time.

Consider the North American manufacturing sector, a true renaissance industry if there ever was one! Smart engineers at a wide variety of manufacturing organizations have transformed process to such a degree, and involved the use of such sophisticated robotic technology, that the economic recovery in this sector involves workers who have to master a lot of new knowledge. One client observed of their manufacturing staff: “The education level of our workforce has increased so much….The machinists in this industry do trigonometry in their heads.”

Similar skills transitions are underway in a wide variety of other industries….

8. The Rise of the Small over Incumbents

We are living in the era that involves the end of incumbency. Companies aren’t assured that they will own the marketplace and industry they operate within because of past success ; they’ll have to continually re-prove themselves through innovation.

Consider Square, the small little device that lets your iPhone become a credit card. What a fascinating little concept that has such big potential for disruption. And it’s a case where once again, small little upstarts are causing turmoil, disruption and competitive challenge in larger industries — and often times, the incumbents are too slow to react.

Anyone who has ever tried to get a Merchant Account from Visa, MasterCard or American Express in order to accept credit cards knows that it is likely trying to pull teeth from a pen – many folks just give up in exasperation. Square, on the other hand, will send you this little device for free (or you can pick one up at the Apple Store.) Link it to your bank account, and you’re in business.

So while credit card companies have been trying to figure out the complexities of the future of their industry, a small little company comes along and just does something magical! No complexities, no challenges, no problems.

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There are people who are making big bold bets, big bold decisions, who are going to change the world and who are going to do things differently.” That phrase was from my opening keynote for the Accenture International Utilities and Energy Conference in San Francisco some years back.

It’s a good sentiment, and is a good way to think about the idea of ‘thinking big.’

One recent client engaged me for a talk for their global team, with the keynote title “Achieving Agility: Aligning Ourselves for an Era of Accelerating Change”. That’s a good example of how I outline the attributes for success in a world of high velocity change. With that, I focus on how organizations and leaders must incorporate four key capabilities: agility, insight, innovation and execution.


Corporate agility concept is perhaps the most critical: organizations must presume that the rate of change today is so fast that product lifecycles are collapsing, business models are relentlessly shifting, and customers are unforgiving and fleeting. To name just a few key trends!

Agility implies that we must innovate and adapt based on rapidly changing circumstances, on a continuous basis.

How do we do that? By adopting several key guiding principles that form the basis for all corporate strategy and activities going forward:

  • plan for short term longevity: No one can presume that markets, products, customers and assumptions will remain static: everything is changing instantly. Business strategies and activities must increasingly become short term oriented while fulfilling a long term mission.
  • presume lack of rigidity: Many organizations undertake plans based on key assumptions. Agile organizations do so by presuming that those key assumptions are going to change regularly over time, and so build into their plans a degree of ongoing flexibility.
  • design for flexibility : In a world of constant change, products or services must be designed in such a way that they can be quickly redesigned without massive cost and effort. Think like Google: every product and service should be a beta, with the inherent foundation being one of flexibility for future change.
  • build with extensibility: Apple understood the potential for rapid change by building into the iPod architecture the fundamental capability for other companies to develop add-on products. Think the same way : tap into the world. Let the customer, supplier, partners and others innovate on your behalf!
  • harness external creativity: In a world in which knowledge is evolving at a furious pace, no one organization can do everything. Recogize your limits, and tap into the skills, insight and capabilities of those who can do things better.
  • plan for supportability: Customers today measure you by a bar that is raised extremely high — they expect you to deliver the same degree of high-quality that they get from the best companies on the planet. They expect instant support, rapid service, and constant innovation. If you don’t provide this, they’ll simply move on to an alternative.
  • revisit with regularity: Banish complacency. Focus on change. Continually revisit your plans, assumptions, models and strategies, because the world next week is going to be different than that of today.

To me, that’s what agility is all about!

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.

Let’s face it: the trends impacting life and property/casualty and groups benefits insurance companies are real.

The industries will be disrupted by tech companies. Existing brokerage and distribution networks will be obliterated as more people buy insurance direct. Predictive analytics will shift the industry away from actuarial based historical assessment to real-time coverage. Policy niches, micro-insurance and just-in-time insurance will drive an increasing number of revenue models. The Internet of Things (IoT) and massive connectivity will provide for massive market and business model disruption. Fast paced trends involving self-driving cars, the sharing economy, blockchains, personal drones, swarmbots, smart dust, artificial intelligence and augmented reality will either mitigate, accelerate or challenge the very notion of risk assessment and underwriting! What happens when Amazon, Google or some kid in a garage decide to really change the insurance business model?

What seemed to be science fiction just a few short years ago has become a reality today, as time compresses and the future accelerates. Whichever way you look, all sectors of the insurance industry are set for an era of disruption, challenge and change! Is the industry ready for transformative change? Not really! A recent survey indicated that while 94% of Chief Strategy Officers at insurance companies agree that tech will “rapidly change their industry in 5 years,” fewer than 1 in 5 CSOs believe their companies are prepared.

Does the insurance industry have the innovation culture necessary to deal with the potential for what comes next? Maybe not.

Jim has been the keynote speaker for dozens of conferences, corporate events and association annual meetings in the insurance sector, including • Certified Professional Chartered Underwriter Association • LIMRA International • Assurant Insurance • Chubb Commercial • Lincoln Financial • GAMA International • Cigna  • Blue Cross Blue Shield  •Equitable Life Insurance Company  •RBC Life Insurance •MetLife •SwissRe •American Institute of Actuaries • American Automobile Association • FM Global and SunLife. Jim led a discussion on the future of insurance at a private meeting that included CxO’s from most major insurers, including Allianz, XL Insurance, Travelers, AIG,  Zurich Financial Services, Allstate, AXA, MetLife Auto & Home, Farmers,  CNA,  Nationwide, American Famity, Chubb, Ping An, Lloyd’s of London, Liberty Mutual, The Hartford, Generali, GEICO, State Farm, Progressive, and RSA.

Jim Carroll has been helping insurance organizations in the world understand the tsunami of change that is FinTech, the impact of mobile technology, social networks, rapid business emergence, accelerated risk, the emergence of new global competitors and heightened customer expectations.

In his keynotes he puts into perspective the real trends impacting the future of insurance, offering critical insight into the key innovation and leadership strategies in a time of disruptive change.

My message on the speed of change in retail is drawing attention, further and further afield.

Case in point – yesterday, I was a keynote speaker for a global leadership meeting of Pladis held in London, UK. This is the newly merged entity of three iconic global brands — Godiva Chocolate, McVitie’s biscuits from the UK, and Ulker from Turkey.  I was asked to provide my insight to 300 executives from around the world in a morning keynote, and then followed this up in an intimate discussion with members of the board and the senior management team.

It’s hard to discount the speed of change occurring in the world of retail and consumer products. Consider this:

  • e-commerce could be 25% of the retail – grocery and convenience — experience by 2021
  • “shopper marketing,” which combines location intelligence, mobile technology and in-store display technology for a new form of in-store promotion, continues to move forward
  • mobile payment involving Apple Pay and disappearance of the cash-register, providing opportunity and challenge with loyalty, infrastructure and disruption
  • the continued migration to the same-day shipping model from titans such as Google, Amazon, John Lewis
  • Amazon Alexa, AI and shopping bots! Simply talk and products are added to your shopping cart, and delivered within an hour
  • the rapid installation of “click and collect” infrastructure (i.e. an online purchase, with same day pickup at a retail location)
  • faster ‘store fashion’ with rapid evolution of in-store promotion, layout and interaction
  • the arrival of active, intelligent packaging and intelligent (“Internet of Things”) products
  • collapsing product life-cycles, rapid product obsolescence and the implications on inventory and supply chain
  • the evolution of the automobile to an online shopping and credit card platform (yes, this is real….)

Here’s the thing – we are going to see more change in the world of retail in the next 5 year than we have seen in the last 100. Savvy brands, retailers, shopping mall and retail infrastructure companies are working to understand these trends, and what they need to do from an innovation perspective to turn them from challenge to opportunity.

That’s my role. This is all happening in the context of massive and fast disruption as new competitors enter the food, CPG and retail space. Consider this chart of players in 2016 from Rosenheim Advisors, and look at the players in each category.

 

The rate of change is going from fast to furious, and innovation is critical!

My keynote title for London yesterday? “Achieving Agility: Aligning Ourselves for an Era of Accelerating Change!” Learn more in the retail and consumer products trends section of my Web site.

 

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In 2017, politics is bound to once again dominate the world of healthcare. When that happens, people tend to lose sight of the remarkable advances, driven by science and innovation that are occurring, that make this one of the most exciting industries out there.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article that we are out of big ideas. WHAT A LOAD OF CRAP – consider, for example, what is occurring with the science and technology of medicine!

With that in mind, consider the tremendous advances that have occurred with the science and technology of medicine. This is a grab bag of a few of those trends:

  • technology is taking over medicine. BIo-connectivity devices such as remote blood pressure monitoring devices allows for the virtualization of many health care services (“bedless hospitals”) at a much lower cost
  • Google and other companies are working on a contact lens that will monitor blood sugar/glucose for diabetes patients
  • we will soon see ‘smart medical implants’. This will include a contact lens, surgically implanted, that will feature storage, a battery, sensors and other electronics to aid in vision
  • we have ingestible pharmaceuticals, such as from Proteus, that report on how well a particular cancer treatment might be working
  • global grand challenges and funding are set to solve big diseases, such as a $3 billion fund establish by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife
  • we will soon see a computer chip that will diagnose infectious diseases through continue bloodstream monitoring
  • 3D printing technologies now allows us to provide customized hip-replacements and other medical implants, or the printing of prosthetics for amputees — including in war ravaged areas such as Sudan and elsewhere
  • computational, real time analytical healthcare dashboards will allow us to monitor and track the emerging of infectious diseases and other conditions in real time; Google Flu Trends was a harbinger of what is coming
  • smart packaging allows the development of pharmaceutical/drug products that will aid in the use of the product
  • digital mobile technologies are allowing many people to ‘get closer’ to their health, by monitoring, gaining a better understanding and actively managing chronic conditions such as blood pressure and diabetes
  • wearable sensor technologies (such as the contact lens mentioned above) allows for continuous monitoring of medical conditions
  • personalized medicine and pharmacogenetics provides for more targeted drug and medical therapies
  • there is continued momentum towards virtualized healthcare concepts that don’t require visits to a doctors office, for common treatable conditions
  • patient generated data and shared patent edited medical records are providing for more consultative medical relationships
  • ‘frugal innovation’ is leading to such ideas as smartphone-based medical imaging capabilities
  • continued rapid advances in the cost collapse of genomic medicine
  • AI advances leading to an ongoing decrease in the cost of medical diagnosis, including pathology slides, x-rays, retina scans and more
  • continued advances in anti-aging strategies
  • inexpensive medical tests, often referred to as a “lab-in-your-pcoket” devices
  • the ‘exercise is medicine’ trend which recognizes real methods to reverse the staggering cost of lifestyle disease
  • robotic technology advances providing opportunities for those who have lost hands or limbs

But wait, there’s more!

Despite all that, the challenges in healthcare are vast. Aside from the political challenges (which will likely be a gong show), we are faced with a continuing rampup in self-inflicted lifestyle disease (which could cost Western society $150 billion more over 10 years), a shortage of specialized skills, a funding mismatch, expectation gap, anti-science hysteria and more.

But all-in-all, there are a lot of big ideas and bold solutions.

I knew ‘fake news’ was a thing in 2016. Who would expect to see it in the Wall Street Journal?

Does the science of healthcare make a difference? In 2012, I did a keynote for the health care professionals and senior leadership of Mercy Health, and suggested they get aggressively involved in exploring virtual health care ideas. Imagine my surprise when I came access this item today – Mercy Virtual! The initiative was established in 2006, but picked up significant steam from 2013 onwards…. with 300+ patients now being monitored from afar. I sspecifically remember suggesting that as an activity when some questions came up in the Q&A.

It’s nice to know that in my own small way, I am helping to effect big changes in the world of healthcare!

In my keynotes, I often talk about how the rate of change — whether with business models, product life cycles, the rapid emergence of new competitors, business model disruption, skills and knowledge and more!  — is speeding up. With such change, there’s a lot of uncertainty within many industries as to what to do next: a senior executive of one client commented to me from his perspective, “….entities are engaged in survival tactics because they don’t know what to do next ….”

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Here’s a simple reality: Innovation is all about adapting to the future — and if the future is coming at you faster, then you need to innovate faster.

Given that, innovation shouldn’t be about trying to survive the future — it should be about thriving.

At a recent keynote to senior executives, I outlined some truths as to the future:

  • It’s incredibly fast: Product life cycles are collapsing. It’s said that half of what students learn in their freshman year about science and technology is obsolete or revised by their senior year. There are furious rates of new scientific discovery. Time is being compressed.
  • It involves a huge adaptability gap: Earlier generations — boomers — have had participated in countless “change management workshops,” reflecting the reality that many of them have long struggled with change. Gen-Connect — today’s 35 and under — will never think of change management issue. They just change.
  • It has a huge instantaneity: The average consumer scans 12 feet of shelf space per second. Most news becomes old hat within 36 hours of emerging. Rapid prototyping, 3D printing and the maker community mean that a product can go from conception to reality in a matter of weeks – if not days. We live in the era of the rapid idea-cycle.
  • It hits you most when you don’t expect it: Every organization must deal with two realities: the rapid emergence of new technologies, and the sudden adoption of old-hat ideas. If you want to understand what comes next, study Gartner’s concept of “hype-cycles”
  • It’s being defined by renegades and rebels: Increasingly, the future of many an industry is being defined by industry expatriates. When a real innovator can’t innovate within a company, they step outside, form a startup, and spark massive industry change on their own. Before you know, they’ve reinvented you, whether you like it or not
  • It involves partnership: Old business models involved asking, “what can we do to run our business better?” The new business model is this: “What can we do to run our customers, suppliers and partners business better?
  • It involves intensity: 80% of the revenue from the typical video game is earned within 4 to 5 days of release. That’s becoming the norm in many industries — although not in days, but perhaps months. Companies are discovering their new reality involves short, sharp shocks of revenue, followed by a need to constantly re-asses and reinvent. We must learn to run our business at video-game intensity: in fast paced markets, we need fast paced business capabilities!
  • It’s bigger than you think: I used to joke, back in 2003,  about a futuristic GoogleCar, and an era in which Silicon Valley would become the new centre of the automotive universe. With self-driving cars and other efforts, its not a joke anymore. Every industry is witnessing similar levels of disruption and acceleration. Complacency is a dangerous thing, particular when every organization is faced with constant, relentless external innovation from unexpected competitors.
  • It involves innovation intensity: With rapid change, everyone in an organization must innovate. Some years ago, I appeared on a the CNBC Business of Innovation show. It featured a lot of “innovation elitists” who seemed to indicate that only special people can “do” innovation. Wrong : thriving in the future has a leadership that involves everyone in innovation. No idea is too dumb, no opportunity is too small. In an era of fast change, organizations must be relentlessly innovative, and that requires drawing on the skills and creativity of everyone
  • It comes from experiential capital: With a fast future, you must learn and relearn. Corporate equity isn’t just money: it’s the cumulative experience and knowledge of the team. Yeas ago, Verizon took a lot of abuse from analysts for its’ big fiber optic bet, yet here’s what I see: the CEO stating that the cost of installing fiber dropped 30% in 2005, and that there was a further reduction of 15-20% by  2006. By the end of end of 2006, they expected it to cost 1/2 that of 2005. The more they do, the better they get. That’s experiential capital, and that’s an invaluable asset.

The future is going to hit you whether you like it or not; it’s your approach to it, and how you innovate with it, that defines your future success.

Office Products International Magazine contacted me for an article about the future of the workplace, for their 25 anniversary issue.

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Obviously this is an industry that has a keen interest in the issue — after all, if your target market is the office, and that office is changing, you need to know! Here’s what I wrote!


What’s the future of the office workplace? People love trying to figure out that question. Futurist Jim Carroll is one of them…

When trying to imagine the workplace of the future, a good start is to look back at the cartoon show The Jetsons, which was first aired in the US in 1962 and purported to show what the world would look like in 2062 – 100 years on.

Watch The Jetsons today and it would seem most of its predictions have actually come true: autonomous, self-driving cars (although their vehicles could fly); video calling apps such as Skype or FaceTime (George Jetson used to communicate with his boss at Spacely Sprockets like this). He also views his news and other information on a flat screen TV – let’s say, using a version of our internet. In addition, Rosie the robot maid scurries about doing all kinds of things for the people that are a part of her ‘life’.

jetsons

Taking note of science fiction, back-to-the-future scenarios, and even cartoons such as The Jetsons can provide glimpses into what the workplace might look like in the coming decades.

But let’s think in more practical terms, by aligning the office of the future to the careers and workforce that will be our reality.

In 1997, I coined the phrase ‘nomadic workers’ while writing Surviving the Information Age, and made the following predictions:

  • The number of full-time jobs will begin to dramatically shrink. Yet, we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg in the change of the relationship between employer and employee as the nomadic worker becomes the dominant form of corporate resource.
  • Companies will hire the best talent, regardless of where that person might be. A new form of career competitiveness will emerge with extreme rivalry for this group of nomadic workers – highly skilled individuals who call the shots.
  • 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. Nomadic workers have different attitudes towards life and work, and reject many of the currently accepted ‘norms’ of the corporate environment. Their attitudes will revolutionise the world of work.
  • Office walls won’t determine the shape of tomorrow’s company – the reach of its computerised knowledge network, and its ability to tap into the skills and capabilities of nomadic workers, wherever they might be, will define it.

I was pretty much bang on with those trends – certainly much of it has already become true. More people work from home than ever before (in my case, I’ve had a home office for 25 years; my kids grew up in a world in which their parents have always worked at home).

A global war for the best talent means that there is an entire economy of highly-skilled nomadic workers. And in my own case, I joke that I work really hard to not have to go and get a job – instead, I hire out my future-forecasting skills to organisations worldwide.

Those trends will continue to play out in the future. But what else will happen? In my view, there are three key trends that will define the future of the office and the workplace: the rapid emergence of new careers, the continued rapid evolution of technology, and the impact of the next generation.

1. Future vocations

First, consider what is happening with skills, jobs and careers. Last year, I was the opening keynote speaker for the global WorldSkills challenge in São Paolo, Brazil, and spoke about the fact that we are now witnessing the rapid emergence of all kinds of new careers.

I’m talking about vocations such as robotic pharmaceutical therapy monitors, water footprint analysts, vertical farming infrastructure managers, drone helicopter insurance crop risk managers, and – not forgetting – manure managers!

The key point here is that many of these new careers involve the processing of information which can be done from anywhere. An insurance risk manager that relies on drone technology doesn’t have to be on location, they can simply do their work from wherever they are.

The result of this is an even greater dispersion of highly skilled jobs around the world.

Organisations in the future will continue to hollow out, hiring skills and talent on an as-needed, short-term contract rather than permanent basis. Centralised offices will become smaller, with a core group focused on strategic goals that simply link to needed talent as and when required.

2. Connecting the workplace

The second trend is the Internet of Things (IoT) which will provide some of the most fascinating changes in the workplace and office of the future. What is it really all about? Simply put, every device that is a part of our daily lives is going to become connected and we will be aware of its status and its location.

I often joke on stage that this could get a bit out of hand: I might get on my weighing scales one day, and it will send an email to my fridge, blocking access for the day because I’m not living up to the terms of my wellness contract.

The IoT will lead to some of the The Jetsons-type forecasts of the past. It’s quite likely that self-driving cars will result in mobile offices on wheels – the car does the navigation, so we’ll have more time to get some work done on the way to the office.

Massive hyperconnectivity will keep employees aware of where fellow workers are, when office supplies are running low, or will link them to a specific location on a manufacturing assembly line that requires instant maintenance.

We will live and work in a world that is hyper-aware of the status of everything around us and that will lead to some fascinating workplace changes that I don’t think we can even yet comprehend.

3. The virtual workforce

It is perhaps the third trend that will have the most profound impact. Consider this fact: 10-15 years from now, most baby boomers will have retired or will be set to soon retire. This technology-adverse generation grew up with mainframes, COBOL and MS-DOS, and as a result, never really adapted to a workplace of videoconferencing, video whiteboards and other methods of collaboration.

Conversely, my sons, aged 21 and 23, grew up with the Xbox and PlayStation, Skype and text messages. This generation will soon take over the workforce, and most certainly take advantage of every opportunity to continue to virtualise the world of work. They will use Google Glass-type devices to embed live video into their everyday work routine. Virtual reality will become common enabling them to live and work in a world of massive augmented reality. They will be able to teleport their minds to far-flung locations where their virtual avatar will participate, interact and collaborate with others.

They are going to live in a world of technology acceleration unlike anything we have known, and rather than battling it as older generations have so often done, they will embrace it with open arms and open minds.

Does this all mean that the traditional office of today – a meeting place where individuals gather to share efforts on projects, ideas and opportunities – will disappear? I don’t think so. I believe that we are social creatures, and we crave opportunities for interaction. It will just be a very different form of interaction.

Brace yourself. The future will be here faster than you think.

Jim Carroll is one of the world’s leading futurists, trends and innovation experts, with a client list that includes NASA, The Walt Disney Company, Johnson & Johnson and the Swiss Innovation Forum. Follow him on Twitter @jimcarroll or visit www.jimcarroll.com

It’s been a fun week, with keynotes in Dallas and Napa Valley – one on the future of education, and the other involving the future of manufacturing.

Yet my talks don’t just include keynote presentations — I’m often engaged to come in to small, intimate leadership meetings to help senior executives understand some of the trends that will shape their world. This week, that included a presentation to a group of CEO’s at an off-site event in Colorado Springs. The event was organized by a private company that has equity interests in the organizations in the room — representing some $10 billion worth of value.

World of money

“At one event I spoke at, it was suggested to me that some $10 trillion of wealth was represented in the room”

My talk focused on the trends that will provide opportunity and challenge in the future — ranging from business model disruption, to the Internet of Things, the impact of the next generation, accelerating science and the new R&D, and many other topics.

In these situations, I don’t provide insight on particular stocks to invest in — but do provide guidance on the trends that will shape our world on a 5,10, 15, 25 year basis.

And it is clear that with an increasing number of these bookings, private equity managers have come to rely on my insight in a way that helps them to assess where they are going with their own investments and interests.

What’s interesting is that through the years, I’ve done quite a few of these presentations for very-high net worth families and firms. It has included such groups as the Wrigley family foundation and companies that manage the Rothschild wealth.

And in one of the most fascinating events I’ve participated in, I was invited to Athens to address several hundred representatives of what are known as  ‘family offices’ — organizations that manage the wealth of the world’s wealthiest. While I did not get a complete list of attendees, I do know that some of those in the room represent and manage the wealth of folks such as the Bill & Melinda Gates family office; the Accellor-Mittall families, those of the founders of Google and many, many others.

It was suggested to me that some $10 trillion of wealth was represented in the room.

What’s common to all of these talks?

Viewpoints on the trends that will define our world, and which will spell opportunity in the future!

 

Last week, I was the opening keynote speaker for a small insurance industry group — and had senior executives of quite a few major property & casualty and life insurance companies in the room.

As always, I undertook an extensive amount of detailed research on the latest status of innovation within the industry. In addition, I looked back on my research and interview notes for previous keynotes for CEOs and other executives for the largest insurance companies in the world.

(Last December, I was the opening keynote for the annual Insurance Executive Conference in New York City; in the room was the CEO for Transamerica Life, among others; this is typical of many talks I’ve done within the industry over the course of 20 years)

"Kicking off Executive Leadership Council meeting with our friends @GAMAIntl  & keynote @jimcarroll in Amelia Island"

@IntellectSEEC – “Kicking off Executive Leadership Council meeting with our friends @GAMAIntl & keynote @jimcarroll in Amelia Island”

Let’s face it: the trends are real. The industry will be disrupted by tech companies. Existing brokerage and distribution networks will be obliterated as more people buy insurance direct. Predictive analytics will shift the industry away from actuarial based historical assessment to real-time coverage. Policy niches, micro-insurance and just-in-time insurance will drive an increasing number of revenue models. The Internet of Things (iOt) and healthcare connectivity will provide for massive market and business model disruption. I could go on for hours!

To gauge the current thinking within the industry as to “how to deal with what comes next,” my session included some hands-on, live interactive text-message polling.

Right out of the bat, I asked the participants if they felt ready for the massive disruption now underway in the insurance sector.

And the fact is, they are not:

gama1

Having said that, they know that they are in the midst of some pretty significant change — the majority indicated that they believe that the insurance industry will not look anything in 10 years like it looks today.

gama2

The reaction in the room parallels that of a recent Accenture study that I referenced in my keynote:

  • CSO’s at global companies and 94% of CSO’s at insurance companies agree that tech will “rapidly change their industry in 5 years”
  • fewer than 1 in 5 CSOs in insurance believe their companies are prepared
  • fewer than 1 in 10 believe their companies are “high value achievers”

A similar observation was found in a recent PWC study on the insurance industry:

  • “Nine in 10 insurance executives polled by consultant PwC reckon at least part of their business is at risk over the next five years – a greater proportion than in any other area of finance”

Clearly, these executives know that something needs to be done to deal with the potential for business model disruption in the industry. Yet is the industry prepared to deal with it?

Not really:

  • “Fewer than 50 per cent of respondents in the life and general insurance sectors said they would increase IT spending to help them access new customers.” Fintech is booming – but where are 
the insurance tech startups? 
29 September 2015, City AM

Here’s the current problem: there is tremendous potential for complacency to seep into the industry, particularly as Google has pulled back from its’ Google Compare initiative. (This service let people use a Google tool to do comparison shopping for insurance policies from major carriers; the CEO of Google Compare also spoke at the New York event last December).

  • “Google’s initial failure shows technology firms won’t necessarily have “an easy road” to success in the new sector.” Beating Silicon Valley to the Punch; Digitizing Insurance, 11 March 2016

Is the complacency warranted? Not in my view — I think most tech companies, when disrupting an industry and suffer an initial setback, come back in a bigger and more significant way. It’s most likely that when Google, Amazon, Apple and other tech companies  come back in to disrupt insurance, they won’t be working with major carriers to do it!

  • “Expect that when the megatechs enter the insurance space, they will insist on taking control of a much bigger portion of the sales journey, positioning themselves as an alternative end-to-end solution provider, not just a lead generator.” Life Insurance Disruption, Asia Insurance Review, June 2016

Does the insurance industry have the innovation culture necessary to deal with the potential for what comes next? My next poll gave me a pretty stark response — the industry continues to be bound up in some pretty significant organizational sclerosis.

gama3

Is there a way out of this mess? Can the industry fix the clear strategic mismatch which exists?

In my keynote,  I suggested that disruption in such a significant issue that it really needs to be dealt with at the level of the Board; strategy needs to be kicked up a notch; clear responses and actions are warranted.

Quite clearly, specific responsibility needs to be put in place to implement a  disruption-strategy. Back to the Accenture report:

  • “Companies that have put in place chief digital officers and chief innovation officers and who report directly to the CEO tend to have a dedicated focus on technology-focused initiatives …. That’s a sign that they and C-level peers are taking technology-disruption seriously.”

Industry insight also clearly shows that insurance companies must “partner-up” to deal with the fact they simply don’t have the technology expertise to compete with Google, Amazon and others.

  • “an overarching theme …. not least among them insurers .. is that they cannot face technology driven innovation by themselves” – “How to disrupt the high-tech disruptors”
National Underwriter & Health
September 2016

Are many insurance companies following the path to partner up? Sadly, no:

  • “Only 28% of the respondents said they explored partnerships with fintech companies and less than 14% actively participated in ventures or incubator programmes.” Insurance Companies Slow in 
Bridging Fintch Gap, Mint, July 2016

I’ve been providing strategic level guidance to senior executives in the global insurance industry for over 20 years.

The issues, challenges and opportunities are stark. They’re real. They’re not going away.

Will most companies survive? Maybe not. Stay tuned!

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