50% of US GDP will be taken up by training and knowledge activities within a decade

Home > Archives

Tagged Home Office



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!”

thinksmall

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!

 

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

opi
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

I’ve had seven weeks on the road, with some great events.

At one event, a recent client told me one of the key reasons they selected me over other experts that focus on future trends and innovation was simple. And they put it at the top of their list of “pros” in their evaluation of various speaker alternatives.

Because you answered the phone.

skype

It’s true. I answer the phone! Give it a try – call me at 214.473.4850, 905.855.2950 or 347.3.Future. If I’m not there, I’ll call you back, and we can talk about how I can help you with your upcoming event, conference or leadership event.

They explained further: “We didn’t have to go through layers and layers of agents and bureaus in order to get to you, to see if you might be the right guy for our leadership meeting.”

And it’s true. I answer the phone, if I’m here! I don’t have handlers in the way, unless you reach my wife and business partner Christa, if she is in the office. (We’ve been working in the home office for 25 years together. Still!) I don’t hide from my clients, potential or existing!

I have a small operation — it’s Christa and I. It’s been that way for 25 years. From this small home office, I’ve provided my insight and services to a global audience of clients that includes Disney, NASA, Johnson & Johnson, Chrysler, BASF and hundreds more. Audiences of more than 2,000,000 people at keynotes, corporate leadership meetings and customer events. Most of them driven through personal contact, in which people have come to take the time to understand how I work, and the fact that I deliver insight that is unique, customized and relevant.

And to do that, I answer the phone.

Yes, I do have agents and bureaus too. Some of the most prestigious in the business, some 40 of them in all around the world in Washington, Singapore, Sydney, Stockholm, London, Toronto. All these organizations book me at the same time that they are booking Presidents, Prime Ministers, Olympians and Hollywood royalty. But even when they book me, I encourage them to get the end client in touch with me. On the phone.

Look, I actually encourage potential clients to call me. I’m known for the customized work and research that I do. With this particular client that made the comment above, I had about 6 conference calls over the last six months, leading up to the event, which helped me understand their issues and concerns, and which helped me to build a keynote the really fit their needs.

Try it! Call me. If I’m in the office, I’ll pick up the phone. And if not, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!

 

In the home office here, we’re faced with a dismal spring, as an ice storm, wind and rain continue today!

book-sale-signSo we need some excitement around here to dispel the gloom of a winter that just won’t go away!

So — let’s move some books!

For just $25, we’ll send you all 3 copies of my most recent books : The Future Belongs to Those Who are Fast, What I Learned From Frogs in Texas, and Ready, Set, Done: How to Innovate When Faster is the New Fast!

[stripe_form_begin] [stripe_form_standard_amount medium=true amount=25.00] [stripe_form_end] [stripe_form_receipt]

The price will include shipping!

Your transaction is fully secured and private, using the online credit card processing service STRIPE.

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!”

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. And while I was writing this post, I was looking for an image related to that campaign — and came across this ad from a small California design firm — one that extolls the power of their smallness.

It’s right there : “Small teams work best.”

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!

 

(July 2016 update: Most of my servers are now on droplets on Digital Ocean. LEMP stack with Ubuntu is the current favourite. Raspbian on Pi’s with Ubuntu for #IoT projects. sudo-apt get update should apply to old blog posts!)

A big shout-out to the 10 companies that helped the most in keeping the JimCarroll.com Web site infrastructure in great operating shape throughout 2011. If you want to do a great Web site, you need to do it right. These are some of the technology companies that have supported my site in various ways through the year.

Arrow
Arrow
Slider

Throughout 2011, my Web site has played an incredibly powerful role in supporting my speaking activities worldwide.

Quite a few clients have told me that they’ve found it through a Web search for a ‘futurist’ or ‘innovation speaker’, or have been sent there by one of my speaker bureau clients. They’ve told me they’ve watched the video clips throughout the site, and that with other background information, has convinced them that I’d be a great addition to their corporate leadership meeting or association event.

Keeping a Web site such as JimCarroll.com up and running with little downtime,  in a way that it is fast, responsive, and always available, takes a bit of effort. I do all the maintenance, blog postings and updates on my own. But it’s also through the help of a variety of partners that I’ve got a site in which the average Web page loads in under 3 to 4 seconds — pretty good for a media rich, complex site.

And so as we wind down the year 2011, I thought it would be a good time to give a shout-out to the many technology partners that I use to keep this Web site in tip top shape, or let me watch how well it is working. In no particular order, these partners include:

  • Blogvault: A fabulous WordPress backup service. Plug it in, pay a small fee, and you’ve got peace-of-mind knowing that your Web site is being backed up on a regular minute by minute basis. What’s better is their 1-button Web site restore. For example, I just had to move my son’s Web site over to my main Web server, and using the backup copy it worked like a charm – instantly!. Highly recommended!  
  • VaulltPress; another WordPress backup service that I am using. I started out with VaultPress before I met Blogvault, but I’m not one to easily leave a relationship that is working so well. Like Blogvault. this service does a regular minute by minute backup of my entire WordPress based Web site. Redundancy of backup can be a good thing – that’s why I’ve got two backup services!  
  • Woopra – Web site analytics software. With these folks, I’ve got a fabulous real time dashboard that shows me how people are using my Web site — how they found me, what they’re looking at, and what pages they are spending their time on. This has allowed me to continually redesign my site, ensuring that my clients can easily find the insight they are looking for. There are almost 1,000 blog posts — and I’ve discovered where people really spend their time. 
  • OpenTracker. These folks are a competitor to Woopra — and have their own unique strengths. I particularly like how I can do some pretty deep analysis of Web traffic as it is happening in real time – it gives me a real sense of what people were looking for, and what pages really draw significant attention. 
  • MediaTemple: extraordinary Web hosting with incomparable service — if you are willing to pay for a strong, reliable host, you’ll get stellar service. I had a support question on Thanksgiving Day — and it only took minutes for them to respond. I started the year out with a shared Web hosting service, and to be honest, you can take a significant performance hit if your site gets busy. In April I moved over to their DV (Dedicated Virtual) service, so that I’m the only one running as a server on the space I share. I’ve seen major performance improvements and fabulous reliability. Pingdom tells me I’ve only had 5 outages, and I know that each of those times has been due to something I’ve screwed up on my own. 
  • W3TC: a typical Web site / WordPress blog can slow down when it is serving up a variety of video, images and other information rich sources, particularly under heavy traffic loads. That’s where this service comes in — it spreads out the content to my “content delivery provider,” Amazon CloudFront …so that the images that you see on the Web site don’t actually come from my site, but from a variety of Amazon servers around the world. If you want to speed up a WordPress based Web site, W3TC is likely the best tool out there. 
  • CopterLabs: every once in a while, you need some custom programming done on a Web site. I found and hired Copter Labs to design the cool ‘image slider’ that you see on the top of this post. They do great work, are extremely professional, and truly do draw upon a team of WordPress experts worldwide – while my project was managed from Portland, Oregon, the actual work was done by a fellow in the UK. 
  • GTMetrix: to keep this complicated infrastructure moving and in great operating shape, you’ve got to able to do some deep analysis of where any bottlenecks might be emerging in your site. Every time you add a new feature, you run the risk of introducing some slow performance. GTMetrix lets me look into performance and continually fine tune its operations.  
  • easyDNS: the key component to any Web site is having a domain service that figures out just “where” jimcarroll.com happens to be located — and where and when images are being serviced from Amazon Cloudfront. Not just that, but a great domain service should automatically flip your Web site to a backup host in case things go wrong. That’s the role of easyDNS — I’ve been using them for 15 years — and could not recommend them more highly!  
  • Poll Everywhere: last but not least, but PollEverywhere ranks as my favourite tech tool of 2011. I was described in a blog post as a ‘raving fan’ of this service, and that is extremely true. I use PollEverywhere to do live text message polling while on stage – while they’re not really a part of my Web site, they are a very, very important partner! 

That’s my list of my key 10 providers for 2011. Obviously, there is a lot more at work here in terms of the technology infrastructure. I must mention Apple in light of the  : the home office consists of a Mac Pro, new Macbook Pro, iPad, iPhone, and just about everything-Apple. Between the home and the chalet, we’ve got 4 Apple TV’s and just about ever other whiz-bang iDevice possible. The fact is, Apple has helped to take my business to new levels — Pages, Number, and most importantly, Keynote have all replaced the Microsoft office tools that I was using up until 2007. Earlier this year, while on stage, I actually had to use Windows 7 when I wasn’t allowed to use my Mac on stage — and I was completely, totally lost!

Not to forget as well Keynote Pro: these folks designed the Keynote presentation template that I use on stage — one that has now probably been viewed by over 100,000 people in the last two years alone. It’s not a key part of what I do on my Web site, but from a stage perspective, it’s certainly a key part of my success! 

Thanks to all – and here’s to 2012!

Update: For those asking about how I manage to walk on stage and do what I do, and also manage the tech infrastructure — you can’t figure out the future if you don’t deeply into the technology that will drive it! For what it’s worth, I’ve been geeking out as a hobby since 1982, starting with a Radio Shack Model III. My latest project, in my ongoing effort to keep the Website humming along, is to utilize a MediaTemple VE server running on an “LEMP stack.”  (I’ve had a test site running with Apache and Nginx as a proxy, but there’s still a lot of Apache overhead.) So the next stage involves a barebones Ubuntu operating system (Linux), running Nginx (instead of Apache, for performance), Mysql and PHP. (Hence, LNMP, not LAMP). It’s based on this article here. Looks awesome!

For over 20 years, I’ve been working from my home office, serving a global clientele that includes some of the largest organizations in the world, with unique insight on future trends and innovation. Everyone from the PGA of America to Johnson & Johnson, NASA and the Walt Disney Company. Not unsurprising, this has involved some pretty heavy duty travel – I’ve seen the world!

This week, I’ll have the perhaps dubious distinction of surpassing 1 million miles on one of the airlines that I utilize the most. That’s 1 million miles actually IN THE AIR. (I’m told by the airline that I’ve actually earned over 5 million miles if we add in all the flight, car, hotel, credit card and other bonuses.)

That’s like going to the moon twice and back. At an average speed of 500MPH on a jet, it’s about 2,000 hours spent in the air — more counting taxing and all the other delays. Just over 83 days “up there.”

Out of a sense of curiosity, I did a few calculations, and figure that I’ll pass this milestone somewhere over Lake Michigan on my return to my home airport of Toronto, Canada.

I can’t help but thinking of this scene from the movie Up In The Air, starring George Clooney, in which he surpassed 10 million miles. I couldn’t imagine! So with this dubious distinction in mind, here’s the clip.

Fortunately, unlike the fellow George Clooney portrayed in the movie, I very much have a life beyond flying! Most of my trips are short and to the point ; there is much time in the home office and with my family; and for many of my more exciting international trips, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity of bringing my wife and two sons with me. Just this summer, I was booked to keynote a pretty significant CEO level event in St. Andrews, Scotland — we all went on the voyage, and managed, of course, to get a round of golf in.

Here’s to the next million miles!

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:

One of my most recent blog posts reflected on the death of my fax machine, and how we now live in a period of time in which many devices can simply “disappear” from our lives as they are replaced by new technologies, business models or concepts that we can’t even begin to imagine.

This is a fav0rite theme of mine; in a recent keynote, I used  my often told “Things from the Olden Days” story, which outlines how my sons view many of the things that were once a part of my life — as being positively ancient!

There’s an important theme here that can help you think about future trends, and the impact of increasing rates of product innovation and obsolescence.

One of the best ways to get a sense of the this velocity , is by taking a look at the world around you, and thinking about how it might change. I call it the “10 Things Test.”

Essentially, sit in a room, whether at work, home, in a factory, retail store or wherever you might be, and take a look around. Compile a list of ten items that you see, and then sit back and ask yourself, “How might these things change in the next decade?”

If you really took the time to think about the items you examine, you might be very surprised by the depth of the change that is coming. Here’s what I saw with my “10 Things Test” in my home office:

  • Paint. It turns out that “white” could be the new “green” when it comes to the world of paint. Dulux, one of the world’s premiere paint manufacturers, is actively involved in learning how to use starch based plants such as pota- toes and wheat to replace upwards of 25% of the petroleum based products used in a typical paint. Given the increased focus on the environment today, this could be a significant and market-leading innovation.
  • Window shades. Think “smart-glass.” Our need for window shades will soon be eclipsed by intelligent glass that will automatically adjust its opacity and transparency for various conditions. The windows will also soon be covered by a film that absorbs sunlight which will generate electrical power. Whether it’s bright sunlight, a need to better manage heating and cooling costs, or to provide for greater privacy, it’s likely that we’ll see rapid changes with this basic component of the home and office.
  • Tissue box. It’s not the tissue itself which will have changed, but the retail technology which interacted with the box as you worked your way through the store. The box itself will have developed intelligence; it was busy updating the stores inventory system and revenue sales figures as you walked with it out the door. (You didn’t have to go to a check out; they’re so yesterday!)
  • Eyeglasses. Sure, they’ll still be there. But maybe they will have the ability to link directly to an implant next to the neurons in your retina, providing a direct visual link through the bifocal part of the lens for close up objects. If that’s too farfetched, then a more realistic scenario would be genetic alteration of the macular tissue in your eye that would prevent any inflammatory genes from killing your vision cells – thus leading to a reduction in the leading cause of blindness in seniors – AMD (age-related macular degeneration).
  • Ceiling lights. They’ll be drawing upon the solar panels on the top of your roof and that of your neighbors. You’ll have established a small community energy grid, which bypasses a need to tap into the local electrical network during the days when the sun is ready to rock and the wind is ready to roll. Solar panels are decreasing in cost at a steady pace, just as their efficiency is increasing; the same holds true for wind power. Given the likely increased volatility with traditional energy supplies, we’ll see an increasing focus on alternate, micro-grid energy innovations.
  • Laptop. What laptop? Your desk is now monitored by a 3D virtual sensor that traces the action of your fingers. You aren’t really typing onto a keyboard anymore, since there isn’t one. Instead, the ceiling light has directed a holographic keyboard onto your desktop; simply simulate typing anywhere with the holographic keys that you see, and your words will appear on screen.
  • Orange juice. It will still come from Florida, but it will be packaged in such a way that the shelf life has been dramatically extended. There are huge new innovations within the world of agricultural packaging; for example, some bananas are now shipped with a special membrane that doubles the shelf-life of the product by regulating the flow of gases through the packaging.
  • Telephone. It’s likely to be “so yesterday.” The next generation of kids is fully immersed in interactive tools; for them, an office with virtual 3D long distance video chat will be as normal as apple pie. Not to forget the technology behind the telephone as well; there’s a good chance that you’ll be sourcing your communications service from an offshore supplier, perhaps in China, Russia or South Africa. The entire industry will have defragmented and disappeared, as technological change drives many of the current business models into absolute obsolescence.
  • Eyedrops. The trend towards hyperconnectivity will impact medical products in a big way. The packaging in which the eyedrops are purchased will “connect” to the global data grid that surrounds us, automatically pulling up a short interactive video on whatever screen that happens to be handy, with instructions on use and precautions. In effect, the role of product packaging will have been transformed from being that of a “container of product” to an intelligent tool that will help us with use of the product.
  • The view outside. For more of us, it won’t be of office towers and concrete jungles, but rather, our yards, the lake we cottage at, or the beach we play on. Ten years out, the concept of “what do you do for a living” will have changed completely to the idea of “what do you like to do?” as the itinerant career begins to dominate. (It’s estimated that in just a few years, some 60% of engineering professionals will be self-employed, providing their skills on a part time basis to the global economy.) You’ll be increasingly engaged in active life-design, carving out a series of activities that blend your personal interests with the need to go out and earn some funds. You’ll work at a regular series of short term, highly stimulating, frequently changing project assignments. You might not have a job, but you’ll certainly have some demand for your time.

Is all of this science fiction? It might seem like it, but most, if not all of the scenarios above are entirely plausible, based on science, technology and trends that exist today.

A friend of mine suggested if you are having trouble taking the 10 things test, then start off with this variation: name 10 things around you that have changed in the last 10 years. Include items that didn’t exist. In his case there is a laptop, a Blackberry, the iPhone, MP3 dictaphone with speech recognition, GPS unit, inflated plastic insulator packaging material, acoustic guitar with PZM mike and internal tuner, and bluetooth mouse.

The challenge in thinking about the future is that it can be difficult to comprehend the sheer velocity by which trends are occurring. That’s why the “10 Things Test” can be such a valuable method of putting into perspective the velocity of change, and from that, provide a starting point to begin to crystallize some of the opportunities for innovation that surround you today.

Farewell, old fax!
March 2nd, 2011

Here’s an article from my column for March’s CAMagazine.

It’s fascinating to think how many technologies can enter our lives and then one day, simply disappear!

—–

We recently lost an old friend. Our fax machine finally packed it in. This wasn’t just any old fax machine. It was a Panafax UF-600, which my wife and I got for our home office and fledgling business in October 1990.

How many products today last 20 years? We dispose of cellphones within a year or two, if not faster, to grab the latest hot features; we go through televisions like we go through fashion. Yet this device, which had a simple, concise and singular purpose, managed to stick with us and fulfil its role for two decades, a remarkable achievement in our era of instant obsolescence.

Looking at the machine as it sits on the office floor, destined for the dustbin of technological obsolescence, I think about the many stories it could tell, providing insight into how quickly our world is changing. For example, it suffered a Y2K failure. With all the hype and hysteria that surrounded this nonevent, our poor little machine suffered a date failure, rolled back into the last century and we were never able to fix it. So for the past 10 years, as a futurist, I’ve sent the occasional fax with a date of 1910 at the top.

In the early days of my hectic speaking career, the fax machine was the “good news machine.” New contracts from speakers’ bureaus for events in far-off places would come in; the noise of the fax was a distant early signal of the success that would come with my unique career evolution.

Back in the days before BlackBerrys and iPhones and constant connections, we would come home from a two-week unplugged holiday only to discover rolls and rolls of fax messages spooled up from its thermal imaging system, each one with the details of a new contract. Yet, over time, most of these communications transitioned to the Internet and e-mail. The business success continued, but the vicarious thrill that came with the fax ringer began to disappear. We sort of miss it.

It was a window to change. My sons, who have become young men of 15 and 17, learned about the vastness of the world through the range of technologies that existed in our home office. But I’m not sure they ever understood what the fax machine was for — it became an historical curiosity to them. As the number of faxes received began to decline, the occasional arrival of one every second week always provided the spark for conversation. “Why do some people use the funny machine?” they would ask.

Perhaps the most amusing moment was when the boys were about four and six years old, and we heard the familiar ring of the fax machine during dinner one night. “Oh, there’s a fax coming into the office,” I said. The youngest quietly got up from the table and went down to the office. He came back a few moments later, commenting that he didn’t see it. After a few questions, we discovered that he thought a “fox,” not a fax, was coming into the office so he went down to take a look. I think he was disappointed. Brave, too.

Will we get a new fax machine? We’re not quite sure; we’ve come to think that this technology might have finally run its course. We scan most anything we send now; most people send documents via e-mail. The majority of faxes we received in the past year were junk. We pay a monthly bill for a unique phone number that doesn’t seem to serve a purpose.

Whatever our decision might be, it is kind of sad to see an old friend disappear.

Send this to a friend

<---->