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What does a global futurist do? Assist clients in understanding the key trends which are impacting their industry, and sharing insight on a pathway forward!

Companies that book speakers know that there are a lot of them out there that will deliver canned talks that, while they might be inspiring, don’t really offer much in the way of substance. I’ve developed a global reputation for being spectacularly different, with highly customaed talks based on original research that go into the key issues of today and trends of tomorrow. You don’t get to have clients such as NASA, Disney, Johnson and Johnson and many others without offering depth of insight. Watch my video, “Why Jim Carroll“, to understand why these and hundreds of other clients have booked me.

I do much of my work on big fascinating stages at big events such as seen below – but I also share my insight at small meetings with Board of Directors or senior CEO led sessions, with as few as 20, 50 or 100 people. Whatever the case may be, my job is to take people into the future, and guide them on how to best get there.

With that in mind, here are some of the highlights of my 2nd half of the year.

Nikon 100th Anniversary Celebration, Tokyo, Japan

This was certainly a treat – they invited me in to headline a dinner with my observations on the future! I opened with a story on when NASA invited me in (twice!) for a talk on the disruption of the space industry, transformative leadership and fast paced trends.

Disruption: Self-Driving Cars and the Sharing Economy, Mercedes Benz, Detroit, Michigan

Obviously, this is a HOT topic, and being invited in by one of the pre-eminent automative companies in the world to share my thoughts on these trends is certainly a career highlight! 2017 was characterized by an increased number of organizations looking for in depth insight to the massive disruption occurring in the industry. Simply check out some of the posts in the automotive trends section of my blog – it’s over there on the right — for some insight into why companies like this are choosing to bring me in.

The Acceleration of Risk in the Era of Disruption, Baker McKenzie client conferences, Dallas and Chicago

It’s pretty cool when the top-ranked global legal firm — operating in 38 countries with 13,000+ legal staff — picks you to come in and speak to their most important clients about the future — and the unique legal issues that the future brings. That’s what Baker McKeznie did! The audience was pretty spectacular – key corporate legal counsel for a vast number of global Fortune 500 companies, individuals responsible for managing the accelerating complex legal issues of our time. My keynote took a look at fast new risks involving intellectual property, the Internet of Things, new careers, accelerated product innovation and so much more. I’m busy working on a blog post on my thoughts – stay tuned!

Manufacturing Trends and Disruption, Legrand, Connecticut

It was a busy year for keynotes in the manufacturing space! This talk was for Legrands North American leadership meeting, where the CEO and his team fine tune strategies and plans for the coming year. They’re big in the global tech industry, manufacturing a wide variety of component parts and cabling. My talk took a look at key trends providing opportunity in the manufacturing process, including the factory of the future, the Internet of Things, digitization, 3D printing, accelerated supply chains and much more.

Future of food, agriculture, retail and consumer behaviour, Simplot, Phoenix, Arizona

This agricultural company is the largest global supplier of French fries to McDonalds and other food companies, as well as being very active in other aspects of the industry. This was a team leadership meeting as well, with individuals from throughout the organization – marketing, product development, legal, finance and accounting, supply chain and more. They invited me in to speak to over 400 executives about key trends that will impact them in the future, including the accelerated pace of agricultural science, changing consumer behaviour, faster marketing and brand challenges, and other similar topics.


 

Future of energy – renewables, batteries and more, SAP Utilities conference, California

You have to love it when a client invites you back – and in this case, SAP was bringing me back in for about the 20th time since they first booked me in 2003! This conference had about 500 executives from the energy utility industry in the room, with a focus on future energy, water and wastewater trends. I delivered a barnburner of a speech in the morning for a small group of senior executives, and a repeat performance later in the afternoon for the entire group, with a focus on the massive, disruptive change occurring in the energy space, including issues around grid party, micro-grids and intelligent grids, the acceleration of renewable generation methodologies, battery storage technologies and more.

Future of customer interaction, SOMOS, Chicago, Illinois

This is a new group — 3 years old — that represents the 1-800 toll free service industry, and the invited me in for a keynote on trends and issues impacting consumer behaviour. I spoke to issues around mobile, increased and accelerated expectations for customer support, and how the Amazon effect is coming to affect the latter, to name just a few issues!

Retail and consumer behaviour, XCelerate 2017, Las Vegas

This event draws the CIO’s and strategy executives for a vast number of the largest grocery and consumer product retailers from across North America. There was one big word in the room – Amazon! My keynote examined the types of retail trends that the national media (such as Time Magazine) turns to me for, including faster supply chains, collapsing product lifecycles, the new consumer and brand influencers, intelligent and active packaging and more. This was one of many retail events this year — the highlight being when Godiva Chocolates brought me in (twice!) earlier this year for a similar talk.

Disruption and innovation, McKay CEO Forum, Vancouver, Canada

Imagine a room full of 300 CEO’s and senior executives, and you get the McKay CEO Forum, one of the pre-eminent senior level events in Western Canada. I did a wide ranging talk on the theme of disruption and industry transformation, putting into perspective the stark trends that are impacting and reshaping every industry at a furious pace.

Quintiq World Tour 2017, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

This is a company that builds a software platform that helps companies to manage complex supply chains and workforces, and my keynote focused on why the need for ‘managing complexity’ is becoming critical in the context of faster trends. If the world gets faster, it gets more complex. The winners will be those who can manage that complexity!

 

CPAmerica, Washington, DC

An accounting and professional services firm! My keynote took a look at the disruptive trends which are and will continue to change their client base, and the unique financial, legal, risk and partnership issues that this might present them going forward. It was a talk that took a look at the future of professional services in the era of fast paced change!

Fin-tech and disruption, Finastra annual user group meeting, Orlando, Florida

This company is a software vendor to the community bank and credit union industry – and naturally, that’s what I zoned in on. With a little bit of the Jetsons to boot! (While all of my talks are highly customize to the audience and issues at hand, I also have 25 years of stage craft experience, and know how to have fun with a crowd!. In these days of mobile device obsessions, you need to know how to work an audience and engage them.)

Manufacturing Trends and Disruption, AssaBloy, Connecticut

Another CEO led leadership meeting, in this case for this company which is one of the world’s leading manufactures and suppliers of door and window locks — everything from simple deadbolt assembly to complex chip based hotel door locking devices. Globally, a wide variety of manufacturing organizations are finding that I’m THE guy to inspire them to think about Manufacturing 2.0, the Factory of the Future, and how to get there.

Future of food and consumer behaviour, Dallas, Texas

The National Automatic Merchandising Association CEO saw me at an event, and told me she immediately determined that I should come in and headline one of their events — in this case, their annual Coffee, Tea & Water conference. Fast changing consumer behaviour, the rapid evolution of taste trends and brands, the impact of social media, intelligent packaging, the Internet of Things and more!

Future of the global economy, Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, Oklahoma, OK

Over 700 local executives from throughout the city attended the event that I headlined, with a keynote that took a look at over 20 trends which are providing opportunity in the global economy. While much of the US is on the ropes with the never-ending political soap opera, senior executives are also eager to understand where the global economy is really head. OKC picked me to do this job, and the reports coming in are that they are thrilled with the job that I did!

Economic development trends and the future of manufacturing, International Asset Management Council, Richmond, Virginia

The International Asset Management Council is an organization relentlessly focused on economic trends, and represent two distinct groups – economic development representatives from government organizations, including states, provinces and cities, as well as individuals in many Fortune 1000 organizations responsible for future site locations for manufacturing plants, R&D facilities or other corporate locations.My talk took a look at the disruptive trends of today, and what that will mean for future economic development opportunities tomorrow.

Canadian Manufacturing and Technology Show, Toronto, Canada

This is the biggest manufacturing conference in Canada, organized by SME (previously, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers). This is the 4th time SME has had me headline an event – two other notable ones were the massive IMX show in Las Vegas, and the Big-M manufacturing conference in Detroit. 

Henry Schein, Long Island, New York

This company is one of the major players in the dental, medical and veterinary products industry, serving well over 100,000 medial professionals around the world. The senior leadership brought me in for a look at the rapid evolution of medical science, consumer and patient trends, healthcare issues — and the potential disruption that might come from Amazon and other organizations. Companies everywhere need to stay apprised of the accelerating rends which will shape and impact their industry, and this is a good example ifo the many internal leadership events I do for organizations. It doesn’t hurt that I’d previously done keynotes in each of these industry verticals.

Global Economic Growth Trends, Nevada Economic Development Conference, Las Vegas, Nevada

Sadly, one week before the horrific Las Vegas shootings, I spoke at the University of Nevada Las Vegas for economic development officials from across the state, on key economic opportunist beyond the tourism and gaming sector. It covered issues related to renewables and energy, self driving cars and accelerating industries, workforce and skills issues and much more

 

That’s a few of the events from the fall! Stay tuned for 2018 – it begins with some excitement, when I headline the World Government Summit in Dubai, this February. Previous speakers have included Barak Obama, Prime Minister Abe of Japan, Elon Musk and others. It should be fun! And I am thrilled to have the opportunity to make an impact.

 

Every morning, I post a little future/motivational quote from some of my stage pictures. You can track this over on Instagram; I also tweet them.

Some folks have recently asked, ‘how do I come up with the idea as towhat to post each day?” Each picture has a story, and so I will start to explain that once I post the picture!

For many events, I’m booked as a futurist to come in and explain the new world that people are discovering all around them. We’re inundated with change, often found in new words and praises. That was the inspiration for todays’ stage quote.

This was the subject of a blog post, Your new vocabulary for 2017. Words and phrases like smart buildings, robotic hype cycles, scientific exponentiation, virtualized hospitals, intelligent infrastructure, connected energy and more.

Each of these phrases signifies a trend, and each trend has disruptive challenge and transformational opportunity. In many cases, putting these trends into perspective is the core of one of my keynotes, such as in my keynote: The Jetsons’ Have Arrived 50 Years Early: What are YOU Going to Do About It?

As the wild year of 2016 draws to a close, and 2017 arrives, what can you expect in the coming year?  Rather than a list of predictions for 2017, let’s simply focus on some of the words and phrases that will become a bigger part of your life next year and years beyond.

The big phase for 2017? “Destructive, impulsive unpredictability.” Get used to it: and align your strategies, capabilities, skill sets and business plans to deal with this reality as it comes about. It will happen a lot — and a new kind of volatility will be the new normal. I think the early stock-market driven euphoria will prove to be just that…..

Beyond that, what can you expect? Accelerated change! If you do anything in 2017, expand your mind and learn about the things that you don’t know. After all, “you don’t know what you don’t know, until you try and do something you’ve never done before. Then you know!

Here are some of the phrases that indicate what I’m watching carefully in 2017, and advising my global blue chip clients on. Watch this space in 2017, since I’ll be certain to be speaking, writing and blogging about them.

  • smart buildings
  • robotic hype cycles
  • scientific exponentiation
  • virtualized hospitals
  • intelligent infrastructure
  • vertical farming
  • connected energy
  • prognostic diagnostic maintenance
  • extended experience partnerships
  • predictive loss mangement
  • shared mobility
  • generational velocity
  • yottabit pipelines
  • small prototyping
  • magnified cynicism
  • diversity of ideas
  • sketch to scale
  • hypecycle divergence
  • crowd-thinking
  • accelerated disruption
  • digital garage innovation
  • mind-into-matter manufacturing
  • upside down idea generation
  • innovation inertia
  • experiential capital
  • iterative innovation
  • avoidance failures
  • predictive storytelling
  • bionic construction methodologies
  • 4d printing
  • end of runway manufacturing
Creating a Great Keynote!
November 15th, 2016

During a call yesterday, a client was asking whether I could customize my talk for their group.

Are you kidding?

Here’s a good case study of the typical process that I goes through.

This particular organization was in the retail space; through conversations with several member of global management, we built a list of the key issues that I would focus in on my talk: these being the key issues that the leadership believed that the rest of the team need to be thinking hard about.

  • faster emergence of new store infrastructure : i.e. contact-less payment technology is a fact with iPhone’s, and other smart-phones. What happens when this occurs on customer interactions ; how quickly can a retail / restaurant organization scale to deal with it (i.e. rapid technological innovation is continuing unabated despite the economic downturn, and things like this will have a big impact on how business is done!)
  • faster challenges in terms of freshness of brand image: today, with the impact of the Net and social networks, a brand isn’t what you say it it — it’s what “they” say it is
  • new influencers: consumers are influenced in terms of choice in ways that go beyond traditional advertising. For example, consider the Celebrity Baby Blog (yes, there is such a thing), and how it has come to influence fashion trends for infant wear
  • new forms of brand interaction: the concept of the “location intelligence professional” — corporations are deploying strategies that integrate location into the virtual web, interacting with above mentioned cell phones that provide for in-store product uplift
  • rapid emergence of store architecture issues: intelligent infrastructures – McDonald’s has a $100 million energy saving plan that is based on IP based management of in store energy We’re also seeing the rapid emergence of green / eco design principles that provide more opportunities for savings
  • faster evolution of consumer taste preference : new food trends go from upscale restaurant to broad deployment in as little as 18 months now, compared to 5 years ago; consumer choice changes faster, requiring faster innovation!
  • faster idea cycles. New concepts, ideas, business strategies, advertising concepts happen faster because of greater global collaboration ; brands have to keep up with the idea cycle

Next, my keynote would touch on how the client could be more innovative in dealing with fast paced trends? Some potential methods include:

  • the concept of upside / down innovation – customer oriented innovation
  • generational collaboration – how to unleash the creativity of Gen-Connect
  • concept of business agility: how do we structure ourselves to act faster
  • theme of experiential capital : how can we take on more risk oriented projects simply to build our expertise in new areas such as social networking
  • fast, global, scalable project oriented teams : how do we learn to collaborate better internally
  • innovation “factories”: how can we scale successful internal projects faster to achieve greater benefits
  • partnership oriented innovation: how do collaborate on innovation with our suppliers and others in the supply chain?

Some of the conclusions that came from the global discussions in the lead up to the event? These were responses draw from the audience through the use of online text message polling:

  • we need to learn how to innovate more locally but globally scale
  • a better “innovation factory” to rollout is critical
  • can’t compromise speed to market with structure/bureaucracy
  • spread R&D out
  • collaborate to a greater degree on an international basis
  • innovation should be part of reward and structure
  • more brand clarity, particularly given muddiness of impact of social networking
  • need a more forceful commitment ($, structure, rewards, goals) to innovation

From this, I built my keynote so that it had a structure of “what are the issues,” “what do we need to about them in terms of potential responses”, and “what are some of the organizational changes we need to make to deal with them.”

It turned out to be a great talk!

Is your community positioned for success in the era of autonomous vehicle technology? Are you thinking about this from an economic development perspective?

intelligenthighway

“Towns withered and died on whether they were on the mainline of a railroad – Do you want to be a community that wants to be on the forefront of this shared technology…or are you going to sit back and wait? It’s going to be a big economic driver.” – Futurist Jim Carroll

It’s a valid question, and one that I’ve been addressing for a number of years. I covered this issue in a keynote for 2,000 mayors and elected officials when I was the opening keynote the Texas Municipal League, as well as the Colorado Department of Transportation Summit. There have been many other similar situations. But I think that perhaps now, the opportunities that come from community that supports advanced, intelligent and hyperconnected transportation infrastructure is only just beginning to hit the radar of those responsible for economic development.

At least, because I’m finding an increasing number of people reaching out to me to talk about the issue. For example, BisNow recently ran an article, The Future Intersection of Driverless Cars and CRE (Commercial Real Estate); read it here.

Jim Carroll, a noted futurist who has spoken to a number of automotive companies as well as such organizations as NASA and the PGA, says autonomous vehicles will have the same economic impact railways did in the 19th century and highways did in the 20th century. And those cities that quickly adopt and build “intelligent infrastructure” to accommodate driverless technology will be the ones to thrive in this new world. “Towns withered and died on whether they were on the mainline of a railroad,” Jim says. “The same went for highways: Cities that were connected directly by major interstates thrived. And now cities are facing a similar paradigm shift, “and really that becomes an economic decision,” Jim continues. “Do we want to be a community that wants to be on the forefront of this shared technology…or are we going to sit back and wait? It’s going to be a big economic driver.”

And Ian Frisch (who sometimes writes for : The New Yorker, WIRED, Bloomberg and Playboy), notes in his article, So, Do Self-Driving Cars Mean We’ll Work During Our Commutes? – read it here.

We will see situations where some cities will want to be at the forefront of this trend and encourage the infrastructure needed to support self-driving cars,” says Jim Carroll, a futurist, trends, and innovation expert. “That will have bigger implications because companies will want to relocate to where this technology is emerging first.”

If your company does relocate, and your commute gets bumped up a few hours, being able to work while your car drives you to the office would dramatically increase efficiency.

Right now, there are buses in the Bay Area with wi-fi,” Carroll says. “If you have a three-hour commute to San Jose, you’re fully equipped to jump in on a meeting on that bus. This will be a more personalized extension of that trend. People are already shifting how they work, but autonomous vehicles will push them to shift work in new and different ways. But, before that’s a reality, we will see organizations investing in communities that are open to the intelligent infrastructure that encourages things like auto vehicles. That’s the key to all of this.

I’ve covered this issue in numerous keynotes: here’s a clip from my Texas Municipal League keynote:

The key issues are this:

  • self driving cars, tractors and trucks – there’s a lot going on, but it’s not going to happen all at once
  • this new era isn’t just about the vehicle — it’s about the infrastructure that surrounds and supports them
  • in other words, there is a lot going on with intelligent highway infrastructure ….
  • there are going to be different levels of intelligence when it comes to the roads and highways that support such vehicles
  • communities will discover that they have an opportunity to get in front of others if they support advanced intelligent highway and road infrastructure
  • some will upgrade existing transportation corridors that accelerate the adoption and use of intelligent autonomous vehicles
  • others will put in place entirely new transportation corridors – self-driving dedicated roads
  • an increasing number of companies will begin to make relocation decisions to those communities who have advanced intelligent transportation plans in place

If you are involved at a political or economic delveopment level, the big issue for you is : where do you want to position your community?

Or will you go the way of communities that died when railroads and the interstate highway system came along?

Here’s a clip from a keynote I did for GE — what is the real impact and potential of the Internet of Things (#iOT)?

 

I’m thrilled to be selected to be the opening keynote speaker for WEFTEC 2012, which is recognized as the largest annual water quality conference and exhibition in the world. It will be held in New Orleans this fall; it will be the 5th major conference that I have headlined in New Orleans this year.

You can read the press release here from the Water Environment Federation. 

This is an extremely important event, dealing with one of the most significant challenges of our time. The issue of water is critically important as we go into the future, and there are huge opportunities for innovation with regard to water safety, quality, sourcing, recycling and treating. Consider just a few critical facts:

  • demand for water is expected to rise 50% in developing countries between now and 2025
  • 85% of US water utilities, desperately working to upgrade dated infrastructure, indicated in a  survey that said that the average water consumer has no idea as to the size of the gap between what they pay for water / wastewater services, and the actual cost of delivery
  • around 30% of the food produced worldwide is never eaten, and the water used to produce it a real loss

Balance such stark trends — and there are many of them — against the innovative thinking that is occurring within the industry. Consider the “Seawater Greenhouse”, which can, according to an article in The Independent Newspaper, which can “make the desert bloom with seawater, corrugated cardboard and wind.”

Wow! This is going to a fascinatingly innovative industry to get involved with. I look forward to the research on this one, and inspiring the world of water to more aggressively innovative with the future.

Some extracts from the press release:

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Jim Carroll, a respected author, columnist, media commentator and consultant who links future trends to innovation and creativity, will deliver the keynote address during the Opening General Session of WEFTEC 2012 this fall in New Orleans, LA. The opening session will kick off the Water Environment Federation’s (WEF) 85th annual technical exhibition and conference, a five-day event that is expected to draw thousands of water quality professionals and exhibitors to the New Orleans Convention Center from September 29 to October 3, 2012.

As one of the world’s leading international futurists, trends and innovation experts, Carroll has provided strategic guidance and insight to some of the most prestigious organizations in the world. He is recognized worldwide as a thought leader and authority on global trends, rapid business model change, business transformation in a period of economic uncertainty, and the necessity for fast paced innovation.

“We live and work in a period of unprecedented change”, said Carroll. “Intelligent infrastructure concepts continue to emerge from the hypothetical to the real while new design methodologies and concepts challenge water professionals to keep ahead of these fast paced developments. I’ll cover the key trends that will provide challenge in the future and outline how to turn them into opportunity.”

The theme of this year’s Opening General Session will focus on “A New Direction for WEF” and tie into the organization’s new Strategic Direction that was announced earlier this year. Carroll’s presentation on innovation and transformation strategy is expected to frame the larger program theme and provide some tools and tips for how to achieve a higher level of success through significant, transformative change.

From my November CAMagazine column …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Science fiction? I don’t think so.

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

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

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

A few weeks ago, I was the opening keynote speaker for the 2011 Multi-Unit Franchising Conference held at The Venetian in Las Vegas.

The audience were owners and operators of multiple franchise operations, primarily from the restaurant / food sector, but also from other franchise operations in auto, pet care, home supplies and other retail product lines.

An audience of close to 1,000 listens to Jim Carroll's keynote on fast paced consumer, retail and restaurant industry trends in Las Vegas

My keynote topic was built on the theme “”Where Do We Go From Here? Why Innovators Will Rule in the Post-Recession Economy – And How You Can Join Them!”

 

What did I take a look at? A wide variety of the fast-paced trends impacting the retail / restaurant sector today. I broke my talk down into 3 key trends, what I might call:

  • Consumer velocity
  • Mobile madness
  • Intelligent infrastructure

1. What We Know: Consumer behaviour shifts faster today than ever before

The average consumer scans 12 feet of shelf space per second.” That’s a stat I’ve long used to emphasize that the attention span of the typical shopper of today is shorter than ever before — and retailers need to innovate to ensure they can keep the attention of today’s consumer.

It’s not just keeping up with fleeting attention spans — it’s about adapting to the fast pace of how quickly consumer choice changes. Consider what is happening with the rapid emergence of revenue in the late night business segment – it was up 12% in 4th quarter 2010, compared to 2-3% for other parts of the day. That’s why major chains have been focusing on new “happy hour” offerings — and so their success increasingly comes from how quickly they can scale and adapt to fast moving trends.

We’ve seen plenty of fast innovation from various organizations in the sector to respond to quick consumer change. Morton’s capitalized on the new consumer sensitivity towards value when it jumped on the trend that involves the “casualization of fine dining” with its’ $6 mini-cheeseburger.

Other fast trends drive the industry. The Sydney Morning Herald ran a great article in April of 2011, noting that “… the world of cooking and restaurants is becoming more like an arm of show business …..” with the result that “everyone wants to see the chef.” That’s why we are seeing many restaurants from fine-dining to fast casual moving the kitchen to the “front of the house,” or in other cases, a lot of TV display technology that provide for video links from tables to the kitchen. The evolution that is occurring is that the chef is becoming the star, and more and more of the staff are becoming ‘performers.’ Innovators in appropriate sectors would see the opportunities and jump on this trend.

Whatever the case may be, the consumer of today changes quickly, and innovators check their speed and agility in being able to respond to this reality.

2. What We Know: Technology – especially mobile – has become the key influencer of today’s consumer decision making.

Simply put, the velocity of mobile adoption, local search and product promotion is evolving at a pace that is beyond furious.

Consider the growth rates underlying today’s technology. It took two years for Apple to sell two million iPhones. It took 2 months for them to sell 2 million iPads! It took 1 month to sell 1 million iPhone 4’s!

The impact of such trends is an explosive rate of growth of wireless Internet usage. Mobile represented but 0.2% of all Web traffic in 2009. That grew to 8% by 2010, and is expected to hit 16% of all traffic this year.

Some suggest that mobile searches now exceed the number of computer based searches. What is also well known is that most mobile searches are for “local content.” Not only that, but Google has found that when someone gets a smartphone, the number of searches they make increases 50 times!

What is clear is that people are using their mobile devices to find nearby – stores, retailers, restaurants and just about everything else. Combine this with the emergence of new promotion opportunities (through apps and other tools) and you’ve got a revolution in the making in terms of local product promotion. That’s why the success of many retailers / restaurants will come from their success with location-sensitive coupon technology.

Bottom line? Innovation is: rethinking in-store uplift in terms of new methods of interaction!

3. What We Know: We will have far more opportunity for operational innovation through the rapid emergence of new technology, infrastructure and other trends

Consider how quickly near-field payment technology is going to steamroller the retail / restaurant sector. Simply put, over the next few years, the credit cards in our wallet will disappear as our iPhones, Blackberries and Android phones become the credit card infrastructure of the future. This is a HUGE trend — it provides countless opportunities for innovation, disruptive business model change, new competitors, and all kinds of other fun opportunities.

The trend has enormous velocity – we can expect $113 billion in transactions by 2016,  with 3.5 billion transactions – and with this comes new opportunities for loyalty and contact followup. From an innovation perspective, the sector will have to ensure they can ingest the new infrastructure quickly enough, and keep on top of the industry change that it will cause to ensure that challenges are turned into opportunity.

There are all kinds of other areas of fast change that present opportunity. Consider the issue fo ‘green buildings’ and sustainability. The West Australian newspaper recently noted that “with the rapid increase in knowledge, skills and availability of materials, costs have fallen. The industry now understands how to build green and building a 5-star Green Star building is now generally cost neutral.”

Some franchisees are taking this to heart, with aggressive plans involving eco-friendly buildings. Chick-fil-A has a  LEED initiative in building a test model restaurant that has water usage down by 40% through rainwater collection; an electricity reduction of 14% through the use of skylights & energy efficient appliances; 20% of the building content is from recycled material; and 30% more fresh air than regular buildings. While the structure is 15% more expensive to build, they expect a fairly quick payback — and will manage to get a branding image to their customer base that they don’t just talk sustainability – they do it!

From this perspective, innovation is keeping ahead of and planning for hyper-innovation with IT, energy, environmental and other infrastructure trends that impact facilities or the nature of the customer interaction.

 

Innovators get ahead by focusing on bold ideas, and exploring the concept of 'experiential capital' - Jim Carroll

I also emphasized that innovators aren’t afraid to make bold moves. Every franchise and retail organization today is looking for opportunities for cross-promotion, cross-selling and product placement. So consider this observation from the Dallas Morning News in March 2011 in an article titled: Funeral home adds little sip of heaven: Starbucks Coffee.

At McKinney’s Turrentine Jackson Morrow Funeral Home, it’s now possible to pay your respects to the dead or plan your own funeral with a venti Caramel Macchiato in hand

Craziness, or smart niche-marketing? I think it’s innovation!

So what do you do? My message to the folks in Las Vegas was to get involved and explore these fascinating new worlds that surround you!

Many of them might hold themselves back from Facebook advertising, because the concept might simply seem overwhelming for a small to medium sized mulit-unit franchise operation. Yet, today Facebook now accounts for 1 of 3 every online ads. And we are seeing the rapid emergence of new online ‘aggregators’ that are focused on helping small business take advantage of that fact. These organizations — such as Blinq — manage the buying of thousands of individualized ads, based on age, location, interests.

They should simply try the world of mobile promotion. Buffalo Wild Wings gave it a shot for one recent NFL based initiative, and indicated that they tripled the return on their investment.

Think differently in terms of new ways of reaching the consumer. Pizza Pizza, a Canadian chain, recently released a new iPhone App that allows online ordering. Nothing new or special about that – such apps are becoming a dime a dozen, and are quickly becoming de rigueur. What is cool is that the chain has revealed that it is working to link the  app payment system to university meal card plan, in recognition of the fact that many students in the target market might not have credit cards (or “credit worthy” cards.)

Bottom line? One of my key closing messages was that innovators focus on the concept of “experiential capital” -there’s a lot going on, and to figure out, we should just get out and do it! Try new ideas, explore new initiatives, undertake new projects. One of the only ways to get ahead is to work quickly to build up your experience in all the new opportunities that surround you.

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