Innovation : think big, start small, scale fast!

Home > Archives

Tagged Keynotes



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?

A few months ago, I opened this conference with a resounding call to action — there are tremendous opportunities to reinvent and transform manufacturing in North America through advanced methodologies, automation, IoT (Internet of Things) factory digitization, additive manufacturing and more!

It’s captured in my blog post, Trend: Why Manufacturing Needs to Reinvent Itself, Fast! That post is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the reality of what manufacturing needs to do today to compete on a world stage.

500 people showed up for the conference in Philly!! This was typical of the many manufacturing keynotes I did last year – I had 3,000 in Chicago, and hundreds more at various other small and regional events in the sector.

There is a passion and purpose by senior executives throughout the industry, and a hunger for knowledge, on how to re-compete on the world stage, with real innovation, as opposed to “wishful thinking innovation.”

Have a watch — and listen to the folks in the room. Share this video!

I have been providing my insight, and have been speaking to organizations about the future, for more than 25 years.

Over the years, I have come to realize that while the majority of my audience appreciates a whirlwind ride into the future, there are others who just wish the future would go away.

I used to worry and obsess over this challenge, often leaving a stage wondering why I wasn’t able to get through to everyone. Then years ago, I realized that no matter what I do, there will always be a core group who prefer the status quo. They fall prey to the sentiment of Ogden Nash: “progress is great, but its gone on way too long.”

This issue and challenge has become more pronounced and visible in the last year. And a recent event demonstrates to me that leaders today must work harder to deal with, manage and confront the internal conflict that exists over how to deal with the fast future.

Since I’m on a Jetsons’ theme this year with many of keynotes (Keynote: The Jetsons Have Arrived 50 Years Early: What are YOU Going to Do About it?) , I thought that the image below beset captures the nature of challenge!

Leaders today must steer their organization into a fast paced future — through the shoals of disruption, the emergence of new competitors, technology, automation and other challenges — while understanding that there is a core group that will do little to embrace that change. It’s the Flintstones and the Jetsons, in one workplace!

I’m having quite a bit of fun watching the movie in which the Jetsons meet the Flintstones. Consider what is happening with the acceleration of the automotive industry: self-driving cars, intelligent highways, prognostic self-diagnosing vehicles. The industry will be barely recognizable in 10 years! Cars tomorrow will be barely recognizable compared to what we drive today.

And yet, there remain folks who just refuse to participate in the inevitability of the future, and that can be a significant leadership, strategic challenge.

The issue became crystal clear to me with a recent keynote. Anyone familiar with my keynotes knows that I do a variety of text message polls while on stage, whether in front of a few thousand in Vegas or with a small executive group of 15 or 20. It’s a fun, interactive way to get insight from those I am working with.

I started out with my opening poll, after I spoke briefly about the fast trends that envelop our world. The response is typical : most people today feel that the world is moving way too fast for them! Fair enough — the pace of change is overwhelming.

My next question, before I dove into the issues of business model disruption and innovation? A question asking them if they thought their industry would see much change.

Not at all, indicated 40%! In 10 years, things would be the same as they would today. To be honest, this left me kind of stunned. It’s not the typical response.

 

In my wrap up, I asked the audience what barriers might exist in the way of dealing with change? And the answers here were untypical of the many hundreds of such polls I’ve done, with a majority indicating a belief that it isn’t necessary to do anything!

What are we left with? An organization that feels overwhelmed by change; in which almost half this change won’t impact them, and that they didn’t really need to do anhyting to deal with it.

In other words, the future can be safely ignored.

I started using the Jetsons-Meets-the-Flintstones cartoon as a joke; a bit of ill-conceived humour on some recent political events. But it’s not a joke, and this is a real and substantive leadership issue.

As a CEO or senior executive, how are you going to align a fast paced future — one full of challenge and opportunity — to an organization where a significant number of people don’t think that the future will impact them?

At this point in my career, 70% of my keynotes are for leadership meetings, many involving Fortune 1000 organizations. I’m often brought in my a CEO or other senior executive to inspire top leadership to think about the trends that will impact them, and that will provide both opportunity and challenge going forward.

In these events, I often have the chance to listen to the message of the CEO to his or her team. It’s often a chance to understand what organizations are worried about today.

Recently, I spent time with a global Fortune 500. And the senior executive on stage ahead of me made this comment:

We need to become an organization that our customers like to do business with.

That’s a big challenge for legacy organizations, many of whom are my clients: global banks, insurance companies, retailers, organizations with warranty claims systems….

After all, the customer today is used to a world that involves a simple screen like this:

or this….

But when they visit your Web site, they get this!

Today’s customer has a higher bar of expectations: they expect the same level of service from you that they get at Amazon.com. They want:

  • extreme personalization!
  • extreme simplification!
  • a complete interaction history in an instant
  • pro-active notification when changes in their relationship with you occurs
  • instant online support with ticket references for followup
  • and all of this needs to be supported on mobile – NOW!

Innovating with customer service is one of the most important things you can do, and yet one of the most challenging. It involves complex legacy systems, integration with back end databases that run on COBOL! and very difficult development issues.

That’s not to say it can’t be done — and indeed, in this world of increasing expectations, it must be done!

While I find myself doing keynotes in Las Vegas, Orlando and Phoenix for audiences of up to 7,000, I also regularly do a whole series of small, CEO or Board meetings that are focused on future trends, strategies and opportunities.

I’m thouroughly enjoying myself while preparing for an upcoming 2017 event in this space; I’ve been retained by an organization that is having an offsite with its leadership team and Board that will be impacted by trends in the automative industry. I’ve had several preparatory calls with the Chairman — he obviously gets the opportunities and challenges of disruption. These include what I call introductory ‘should-we-dance’ calls (‘should we book this guy?’), as well as planing calls now that the event is confirmed.

For a recent conference call, I’ve prepared an outline of my approach. You might find it a good overview if you are looking for a session that would involve similar insight for your senior leadership/Board team!

You can access the Pdf 

In the next two weeks, I’ll have two unique keynotes to close off the year: a keynote for the United Soybean Board on the future of agriculture in St. Louis, and then an event in New York City for the senior leadership team of one of the world’s largest life insurance companies.

Then, it’s time for a holiday break — I’ll be busy with one son running the backyard snowmaking machine, and I’ll be working with the other to flood the newly constructed ice rink at the chalet.

** Read more about our awesome backyard snowmaking system below!

But after that, the future fires up in fast fashion as January kicks in! Here’s whats’ coming already in the early part of 2017:

  • I will speaking to the a leadership meeting for the new organization, Arconic. This is a public spin-off of the global aluminum giant, Alcoa, that will be focused on major opportunities in the transportation, construction and other sectors.
  • two days later, I’ll. focus on the future of construction industry for a leadership meeting of the Alberici Group, a major organization in the industrial and commercial construction sector. I’ll take a deep look at future trends and opportunities in the industries that affect them as a means for spotting opportunities for innovation
  • two events in New Orleans follow in fast fashion. The first is for the American Financial Services Association — I’ll be taking a good look at the future of the automotive industry. Everything from the reality of self-driving cars, the emergence of smart highway infrastructure, the sharing economy and more, and how this might impact the future of automotive lending
  • the second N.O. event is for United Suppliers, an agricultural cooperative, where I’ll take a look at the fast paced trends in this industry
  • that’s followed up by an private innovation awards event for a hi-tech company, based around my theme, “What Do World Class Innovators Do that Others Don’t Do?” — and why its important to celebrate innovation success!
  • hot on the heels of that event, I’ll keynote a global event for Bayer  in San Antonio, spinning back into agriculture world with a real – hey, agriculture is a hot topic!
  • then, its off to Palm Springs, where I will host a half day session with a major company in the automative retail/repair space, with the Board of Directors and senior leadership team, again, all around the theme of the future of the automative industry and disruptive innovation

** Backyard snowmaking? Why not! At our chalet, we’ve always had a little ‘luge run’, and one of my sons always wanted to make snow, so he built his own. As I wrote on Facebook: “As temperatures in the north east begin to plummet, it’s time to turn to thoughts of snow. For that, you need to accelerate your innovation with a backyard snowmaking system. Here’s ours. It can pump out a 10×20, 2″ base of snow in 2-4 hours. It utilizes a pressure washer, air compressor, and a very sophisticated system of valves and nozzles to atomize the water to the right consistency. It also requires optimal snowmaking conditions, and so for that, we have a Raspberry Pi with a SenseHat running Linux that monitors dew point, humidity and temperature in real time, so that the proper Wet Bulb temperature snowmaking is calculated and known.”

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 ….”

volvo-givemeyourmind550

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.

This January, I’ll keynote the American Financial Services Association 21st annual Vehicle Finance Conference & Expo in New Orleans.

afsa

The event draws some heavy hitters who will share their insight into what comes next, including the CIO for Toyota Financial Services, the President & CEO of TD Auto Finance U.S., the Executive Vice President for Ford Motor Credit Company, among others.

I’ll take a deep look at what is happening with the automotive world in the future — the reality and evolution of self-driving, autonomous vehicle technology, intelligent and smart highway infrastructure, the evolution to prognostic, self-diagnosing vehicles, the sharing economy and new business models, the acceleration of connectivity and innovation in the automotive sector, and the implications of all this on the future of automotive lending!

It should be fun!

This is one of many keynotes I’ve done in and around this sector. It involves a lot of deep research on the latest trends and initiatives, as well as comprehensive discussions with the client and industry insiders.

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!

I spend a lot of time in conversation with CEO’s, leading researchers, scientists and others as I prepare for my keynotes and leadership meetings. I undertake a lot of detailed research, often reading sets of hundreds of articles on a very specific subject as I prepare for a talk. My mind is a sponge, absorbing and ingestion insight and information at a furious pace.

But I’ve also learned that you can often learn from the most unexpected sources. Such as a grade 5 teacher, that by virtue of serendipity, becomes a member of your home golf course, and ends up becoming a regular buddy on the links.

grade5education

“Instead of individual subjects, students will study events and phenomena in an interdisciplinary format. For example, the Second World War will be examined from the perspective of history, geography, and math”

I don’t know how many times he has started a conversation with the phrase, “Let me tell you about Finland...” but that caught my attention today as the article above floated into my Facebook feed this morning.

It’s one of the trends that has been telling me about by virtue of his experience in the classroom. You can learn a lot about an industry — say, the future of education, where I do a lot of keynotes — but listening to folks in the trenches. Such as a grade 5 teacher. Here are some of his observations:

  • kids learn differently today than they did even just 5 years ago, and it will be even more different just 5 years from now. He caught my attention with that observation – what is happening in the classroom in terms of the ingestion of knowledge is happening faster than we think. It’s all based on interactivity, video, and tablets. Todays’s 10 year old has grown up in the technology tsunami, and simply acquires knowledge differently. Tomorrow’s grade 5 will be fundamentally different from the grade 5 kid of today. Change is relentless.
  • the ingestion of knowledge is all about video. Youtube and other sources are more relevant today than any sort of textbook. This echoes my own experience with my sons, now 21 and 23. I spoke about this during a keynote for the Institute for Credentialing Excellence in Phoenix a few years ago. Check the video in my post The Future of Education: Rethinking Opportunity in the Era of Knowledge Velocity. The son referred to in that video has a golf handicap of 1. He’s scratch. He changed his golf grip, not by working with a golf pro, but by watching YouTube videos.
  • it’s about short, sharp shocks of knowledge. The education system today talks about curriculum and pedagogy and phrases and methodology that were cool in the 1960’s. The methodology is barely relevant today, at all. Everyone knows that. No one really knows how to fix it, so those in the classroom figure out how to fix it on their own. Disruption is occurring, one grade 5 teacher at a time.
  • structure is irrelevant to them. Their minds are so busy, flitting from one concept to another, and the education system in North America hasn’t changed to deal with that reality. Finland has. Change needs to come, and it needs to come fast!
  • they are more world aware than we think. We might often think that the mind of a 10 year old isn’t very connected. This generation is global, aware, in a way that no other generation in the history of mankind has ever been. He indicated that one of his most painful days as a teacher was yesterday as some of the kids asked and talked about the rise of Donald Trump — with all of his moral failings on public display. How do you deal with that? We’re in uncharted territory here…
  • even their parents are different and expect so much more. The parents of todays 10 year old is the world’s first post MSDOS generation. When they began using computers, Mac’s and Windows were already the interface of choice. The Internet was a part of their lives for as long as they’ve had busy, inquiring minds. They are technology-immersed too, and carry none of the technology hangups of their baby-boomer predecessors too. They too expect change, technology, and interactivity to drive the education system. They are not getting it at an official level.

But wait, there’s more! Lots to learn! Lots more golf yet to come!

We all know that the education system is massively stuck in an innovation rut, unable to deal with the reality of change that swirls around it. And so many questions are raised by the reality on the ground. Such as: what the heck is the world of human resources going to do as today’s 10 year old becomes a part of the workforce in just 10 years?

What can you learn from this? Certainly this: seek to learn from unconventional sources. Just as today’s grade 5 student learns in different ways that are not part of the education system.

I certainly intend to, and as golfing season draws to a close, think I need to commit to going into his classroom and doing another presentation for his class, as I did last year. Not to present my views — but really, to try to listen to theirs!

Here’s a video I filmed with his kids in his class last year. Invigorating stuff! Here’s a promo clip I filmed for my opening keynote for EdNet 2016 in Dallas a few months ago. When we think about the future of education, we need to think about the careers that the kids of today will be working in. Many of those careers don’t exist. Here’s what the kids think about that!

The kids understand the future! Does the education industry?