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Rethinking Human Capital
March 7th, 2012

I was in New Orleans two weeks ago, where I was a keynote speaker for Talent Strategies 2012.

We live in an era of unprecedented, relentless change — a time of hyper-innovation, rapid skills obsolescence and the rapid emergence of new knowledge, constant career upheaval and evolution of existing careers and emergence of new careers - Jim Carroll

The working title of my keynote was “Talent Management 2020: What Comes Next?“, with this description being provided to program attendees.

We live in an era of unprecedented, relentless change — a time of hyper-innovation, rapid skills obsolescence and the rapid emergence of new knowledge, constant career upheaval and evolution of existing careers and emergence of new careers. In an era such as this, every organization is faced with a need for a new type of talent management flexibility. That’s why some leaders are focused on “human capital agility”: the ability to deploy the right skills at the right time for the right purpose — just in time skills deployment. Whether it is dealing with the impact of faster rates of business model change, the rapid emergence of new markets and products, or more challenging organizational complexities, they are orienting themselves toward skills management as a key organizations success factor.

Join futurist, trends and innovation expert Jim Carroll as he shares his insight into the methods by which organizations are preparing for the changing economy of the 21st century through skills management strategies that focus on agility, insight and execution.”

I do an extensive number of talks about the future of the workforce and human capital issues; indeed, I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve been selected to open the 2012 HR Southwest Conference in October in Fort Worth, Texas – it is the largest regional human resources Conference in the United States – and will focus on a similar theme.

The folks over at Talent Strategies 2012 ran a conference blog, and had this to say about my keynote:

In keeping with the topic of change, futurist and trends and innovation expert Jim Carroll began the day’s second keynote session with this conundrum for human capital leaders to ruminate on: Seven out of 10 preschoolers will work in jobs or careers that don’t even exist today, so how can talent leaders plan for this?

The way Carroll described the velocity of change that’s occurring in our society and our organizations today can be likened to this analogy: Digital camera makers have barely three to six months to sell their gadget before it becomes obsolete. “This is a defining trend that’ll challenge our assumptions and show that we need to keep up in [the] human capital [space],” he said.

His speech was rife with forward-thinking — almost eerily futuristic — technological innovations that are or will become reality in the not-so-distant future. A connected thermostat that can be controlled from any location; a smartphone that’s also a credit card; and a therapeutic robotic animal were just a handful of examples he cited.

“We have to completely rethink what we’re doing with human capital because the same rules will not apply in the future,” he said. Yet, many or most HR leaders default to the mode of deferring decisions about future because of the uncertainty that exists in today’s economic environment. It’s what Carroll calls “aggressive indecision” when it comes to implementing talent strategies – “I’m not going to make decisions [regarding HR] because I don’t know when the economic recovery will occur. In the meantime, our competitors are making decisions that are going to position them for the future,” he said. Keeping up with the rapid pace of change, then, is good business sense because it helps organizations maintain a competitive advantage.

And with that mostly optimistic outlook, it’s in the hands of human capital leaders to become more proactive in creating the conditions for which the workforce of the future can thrive.

Read the summary of "10 Unique Characteristics of 21st century skills" to get a concise issue of the HR issues that are now critical.

In my keynote, I focused on the theme of 10 Unique Characteristics of 21st CenturySkills – which provides a concise overview of just how differently we have to treat the issue of human capital and talent going forward. There’s a nice PDF summary that you can grab through the image.

What are the key issues? In essence, there are a variety of human capital issues that you should be thinking about:

  • Experiential Capital. In a world in which Apple generates 60% of its revenue from products that didn’t exist four years ago, it’s critically important that an organization constantly enhance the skill, capabilities and insight of their people. They do this by constantly working on projects that might have an uncertain return and payback – but which will provide in-depth experience and insight into change. It’s by understanding change that opportunity is defined, and that’s what experiential capital happens to be. In the future, it will be one of the most important assets you can possess.
  • Skills Accessibility Capital. Talent, not money, will be the new corporate battlefront. Simply put, there is so much happening that no one person or organization can know everything there is to know. With ongoing rapid knowledge growth, instant market change, fast-paced scientific discovery and constant skills evolution, getting the right people at the right time for the right purpose will be the key to successful change.
  • Creativity Capital. It is the ability to see the world differently, and the skill to imagine how to do things differently, that will be more important than any other skill. This will bring the needed forward oriented depth that organizations require. When product lifecycles are disappearing, and market longevity is measured in weeks and months, the ability to think, adapt, and imagine will be the foundation to provide for necessary change.
  • Generational Capital. We are set to see the emergence of the most unique workforce in history, with the widest age-span ever. Boomers won’t retire, and kids won’t want to get hired. The result will be a workforce that is transient, temporary, shifting and flexible. It will be those organizations who can match up the experience and wisdom of the aging baby boomers with the insight, enthusiasm and change-adept younger generation who will find the most powerful force to be found in business – an organization that is fuelled by the pure energy of change-oxygen.
  • Collaborative Capital. Forget the idea of having a strategic planning department, and think collaborative culture instead. Take a look around you, and ask yourself, who is succeeding today? It is those organizations who are plugged into the infinite idea loop that surrounds us. They’ve dropped any pretense that they can create the future, and instead realize that the future is being devel-oped by everyone all around them. They have come to learn that their role isn’t to plan for that future, but simply to listen to it, plug into it, and plug their growth-engine into it.
  • Complexity Partnership Capital. In the 20th century, organizations focused on hiring the skills that they needed to get the job done. You simply can’t do that today – skills are too fragmented and too specialized. That’s why successful organizations have mastered the art of complexity supply and demand. They provide their own unique complex skills to those of their partners who need such skills. And when they are short on other skills, they tap into the skills bank of their partners. By selling and buying skills with a broad partnership base, they’ve managed to become complexity partners – organizations that spend most of their time focusing on their core mission, and spend less time worrying about how they are going to do what they need to do.
  • Innovation Capital. Companies that understand that all future innovation comes from the ability to tap into the global innovation loop will thrive; those that follow traditional innovation models, self-centered and insular, will find that their creativity and uniqueness has been smothered.

I think my talk was effective, with one Tweet noting: “Talent Strategies: @jimcarroll is killing it. Great discussion on change, innovation, the future of work, & the evolution of jobs. #strat12”.

 

“Daddy, is that from the olden days?” That’s a question I would often get from my sons when they were small — around 3 or 5 or 7 years old. (They’re 16 and 18 now…)

"Is that a thing from the olden days, daddy?"

Way back in 2003 or so, I wrote an article around their unique view on the world.

I called it “10 Things from the Olden Days.”

Today, August 2011, I’m getting a lot of media calls around the theme of innovation and the pace of change in the world; I think it is all part of the story angle having to do with Steve Job’s retirement, and the blistering pace of innovation that has existed at Apple.

I mentioned this article in one talk moments ago with a reporter, and realized that it might be a good thing to repost the article in full.

So in that spirit, I’ll repost the article.


10 Things My Kids Think Are From the Olden Days
by Jim Carroll, October 2003
One of the most important roles for any executive today is ensuring that the organization is strategically positioned to deal with relentless, ongoing change.

Everyone is faced with rapidly evolving business models, new and unique customer demands, heightened competition, rapid product development and even faster product obsolescence, and increasing career specialization, not to mention dramatic rates of knowledge growth. It is important to be cognizant of the potential impact of all of these trends, in order to clearly assess how an organization should be responding to change.

It is important that you don’t become complacent about the rate of change that envelopes us today. That’s why it can be very useful to have a barometer that helps to measure the rate of change.

In my case, I track what my two boys – aged 8 and 10 – happen to think about the world around them. Their world is a very different one, in that there are a number of things that we take for granted that already to them, are “things from the olden days.”

  • 35mm film.

The other day, I headed out to a local photofinishing store with a Compact Flash digital camera card in my hand, in order to get a variety of digtal picures printed. “Where are you going with the film, daddy?” asked one. Think

….they’ve grown up in a world of pixels, not acetate.

Which made me wonder, did they know what “real film” looked like? Not at all – since I’ve been doing digital photography since 1996, they’ve grown up in a world of pixels, not acetate.

One day, I grabbed some negatives from an old set of photographs, and showed it to them. They were fascinated, but wondered how you got that thing into a computer in order to see the picture.

  • CD’s.

In my home, there are 12,000 (legally acquired) songs on various servers in the basement. Music is pulled through the home network and played through a “digital audio receiver,” a computer-like entertainment device that will be common in homes five years out.

That’s why my son commented to his buddy a few years ago, when he was visiting, that he had “some of those things from the olden days,” referring, of course, to CD’s. Since I converted all of my music back in 1997 to digital format, the CD’s have sat in various boxes, packed away, simply a form of backup.

A few months back, I showed them some of my old LP records. That really freaked them out.

  • Airplane tickets.

I’m serious! We travel a lot, and we’ve been using e-tickets for as long as they can remember having memories.

I had a recent trip that involved an honest to goodness paper ticket, and they thought the red and green carbon paper was really neat. They wondered if they could do some type of art project with it, while I had to patiently explain that it was worth a lot of money, and that we shouldn’t fool with it.

  • TV Guides.

Saturday mornings in our home are “cartoon mornings.” It is the only day of the week that my wife Christa and I will let them “veg-out” for a few hours and watch their favorite shows.

I came down one Saturday morning, only to find both sons with very sad expressions.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. “There’s no data, daddy” said one. “No what?” I asked? He pressed the button for the “electronic program guide” on the TV – we have digital cable – and all the boxes showed the description, “no data.” I guess there must have been some type of hiccup in the system.

I went to the front door, grabbed the newspaper, took out the tv listing section, and said, “here, I’ll show you how we did it in the olden days.”

They weren’t impressed.
  • Analog clocks.

Call these kids digital or what! We were fortunate enough to be out of town when the Great Northeast Power Failure of 2003 occurred, vacationing in Phoenix. But both boys were very curious as to what the power outage would mean and curious about its effects.

“How do people go to sleep?” one asked. That was a new one – we weren’t quite sure what they meant. Until we realized that both of them have grown up with a digital clock beside their bed — if they wake up at night, they check the time, and know it is time to go back to sleep.

We’ve learned that they can’t even sleep without one.

  • TV’s with knobs.

One day, I mentioned that we didn’t have such devices in the “olden days.” “How did people change the channel?” they innocently asked.

I realized that they had no concept that back then – what, twenty years ago at most? – that most people actually had to get up off the couch to change the channel.

The thought seemed completely foreign to them!

  • Store clerks who punch in prices.

When my boys were 2 and 4, they use to play grocery store checkout. One would hand over the purchases, while the other would run the scanner and go “beep.”

They’ve grown up in a world of bar codes, and it is a rarity when they see someone using an actual cash register where you type in the numbers.

  • Portable vacuum cleaners.

“What’s that?” the eldest asked the day we were moving into our ski cottage, pointing at our old portable vacuum cleaner. We’ve had a built-in vacuum system for almost a decade, and so he was mystified as to the nature of the device in front of him.

They watched in awe as we used it the first time, particularly as we pulled it around bumping into walls and doors. One observed that it was kind of a “dumb design,” in that it seemed to do more damage then good.

  • Analog thermometers.

For year, as soon as we saw the bare hint of a fever, we’d quickly measure their temperature with a fancy digital thermometer. Which is why when they saw an old-fashioned, mercury glass thermometer at their grandparents house they were fascinated.

How was it used, they wondered. Better yet, did it go beep when it was finished?

  • A sky without the Space Station.

Ever since they can remember, they’ve gone into our backyard at dusk on clear evenings, watching for the International Space Station and various satellites. They know that mommy and daddy will tell them precisely where to look, at what time, and in what direction the station or satellite will be traversing overhead.

That’s because they’ve grown up with a Web site called Heavens-Above, which will tell you the exact details, for any particular point on earth, where you can easily observe such orbiting wonders.

To them, this is a normal and expected part of life—to me, it is fascinating that a system has evolved that lets me discover such magic.

What does all of this mean?

The interesting thing is that each one of these examples, when examined in the larger sense, involves some type of sweeping industry, product or corporate change, and hence dramatic change upon the careers of hundreds of thousands of people.

In but a few years, the world has changed to a sufficient degree that my boys are growing up in a world that is dramatically different, even from that which existed five years ago.

I remain convinced that the rate of change is only going to increase, and that preparing people to cope with change is one of the most important skills we need to provide.

Ogden Nash once observed that “progress is great, but its gone on far too long.”

That might be a worthy sentiment for some, but those who think like that are ill-equipped to cope in a world of tomorrow that will continue to be unlike anything we know today.

 

 

 

Enhance your balance sheet!

In the 20th century, financial capital was the resource of choice. That’s doesn’t cut it anymore. Today, it’s all about skills, experience, creativity and more. Do you have what it takes?

In the 21st century, given the high velocity economy and the need for agility, organizations will need many different, nontraditional types of capital:

  • Experiential Capital. In a world in which Apple generates 60% of its revenue from products that didn’t exist four years ago, it’s critically important that an organization constantly enhance the skill, capabilities and insight of their people. They do this by constantly working on projects that might have an uncertain return and payback – but which will provide in-depth experience and insight into change. It’s by understanding change that opportunity is defined, and that’s what experiential capital happens to be. In the future, it will be one of the most important assets you can possess.
  • Skills Accessibility Capital. Talent, not money, is the new corporate resource for the battlefrontSimply put, there is so much happening that no one person or organization can know everything there is to know. With ongoing rapid knowledge growth, instant market change, fast-paced scientific discovery and constant skills evolution, getting the right people at the right time for the right purpose will be the key to successful change.
  • Creativity Capital. It is the ability to see the world differently, and the skill to imagine how to do things differently, that will be more important than any other skill. This will bring the needed forward oriented depth that organizations require. When product lifecycles are disappearing, and market longevity is measured in weeks and months, the ability to think, adapt, and imagine will be the foundation to provide for necessary change.
  • Generational Capital. We are set to see the emergence of the most unique workforce in history, with the widest age-span ever. Boomers won’t retire, and kids won’t want to get hired. The result will be a workforce that is transient, temporary, shifting and flexible. It will be those organizations who can match up the experience and wisdom of the aging baby boomers with the insight, enthusiasm and change-adept younger generation who will find the most powerful force to be found in business – an organization that is fuelled by the pure energy of change-oxygen.
  • Collaborative Capital. Forget the idea of having a strategic planning department, and think collaborative culture instead. Take a look around you, and ask yourself, who is succeeding today? It is those organizations who are plugged into the infinite idea loop that surrounds us. They’ve dropped any pretense that they can create the future, and instead realize that the future is being devel-oped by everyone all around them. They have come to learn that their role isn’t to plan for that future, but simply to listen to it, plug into it, and plug their growth-engine into it.
  • Complexity Partnership Capital. In the 20th century, organizations focused on hiring the skills that they needed to get the job done. You simply can’t do that today – skills are too fragmented and too specialized. That’s why successful organizations have mastered the art of complexity supply and demand. They provide their own unique complex skills to those of their partners who need such skills. And when they are short on other skills, they tap into the skills bank of their partners. By selling and buying skills with a broad partnership base, they’ve managed to become complexity partners – organizations that spend most of their time focusing on their core mission, and spend less time worrying about how they are going to do what they need to do.
  • Innovation Capital. Companies that understand that all future innovation comes from the ability to tap into the global innovation loop will thrive; those that follow traditional innovation models, self-centered and insular, will find that their creativity and uniqueness has been smothered.

Enhancing your real world balance sheet with these new elements of capital will prove to increase your innovation capability to a great degree.

What’s the depth of all the different types of capital outlined above? Do you have the depth of investment necessary to get you through the future? If not, start to think about how you can start to get some major investment happening!

In light of some recent criticism of criticism I’ve made of media companies, I thought it best to roll this posting from last December forward.

In the 20th century, financial resources were the primary capital of choice, allowing organizations to enter, dominate and evolve in their marketplace over time.

Today, financial depth doesn’t cut it — it’s the abiliy to respond to rapid change that is the primary asset. And sadly, there are many organizations who don’t have a good balance sheet.

Simply look at Sony with the recent “root-kit” debacle, and you realize that while a company can have all the money it needs, it won’t survive if it doesn’t evolve at the fast pace the world demands today. If Sony is guilty of anything, it is the fact that it has seized up with an organizatlonal sclerosis that has clogged it’s ability to respond to change. The customers have moved on to a different world — and Sony just doesn’t seem to understand that.

Sony has been spending money trying to protect old markets, rather than inventing new ones. It’s been busy trying to build on past glories rather than fighting new battles. It has spent its energy in fighting a war with its customers, rather than building them great things. It has sought to grow by buying, rather than expanding through creativity. It has done just about anything wrong that you could ever do.

It is dying.

Will it recover? Can other organizations suffering from similar degrees of corporate clotting survive?

Perhaps — if they refocus their energy by using the only form of capital that is important. Capital that isn’t monetary by nature, but which provides an organization with the resources to focus on change as the key success factor.

What are those attributes? There are ten of them:

  • experiential capital: In a world in which Apple can toss out a $1/2 billion market overnight in order to enter a new one (with the move from the iPod Mini to the iPod Nano) — it’s critically important that an organization constantly enhance the skill, capabilities and insight of their people. They do this by constantly working on projects that might have an uncertain return and payback — but which will provide in-depth experience and insight into change. It’s by understanding change that opportunity is defined, and that’s what experiential capital happens to be. In the future, it is one of the most important assets that you can possess.
  • a strong agility index: Slow paced organizations simply won’t survive. Those organizations that have a high-agility index — that is, the ability to suddenly and dramatically shift course — will be those who will thrive in the years to come.
  • strong skills accessibility capability: Talent, not money, will be the new corporate battlefront. Simply put, there is so much happening that no one person or organization can know everything there is to know. With ongoing rapid knowledge growth, instant market change, fast-paced scientific discovery and constant skills evolution, getting the right people at the right time for the right purpose will be the key to succesful change.
  • massive creativity capability: in my Masters of Business Imagination Manifesto, I suggest that it is the ability to see the world differently, and the skill to imagine how to do things differently, that will be more important than any other career skill. When product lifecycles are disappearing, and market longevity is mattered in weeks, not years, the ability to think, adapt, and imagine will be the foundation to provide for necessary change.
  • generational insight: We are set to see the emergence of the most unique workforce in history, with the longest age-span to have ever occurred. Boomers won’t retire, and kids won’t want to get hired. The result will be a workforce that is transient, temporary, shifting and flexible. And it will be those organizations who can match up the experience and wisdom of the aging baby boomers with the insight, enthusiasm and change-adept younger generation who will find the most powerful force to be found in business — an organization that is fuelled by the pure energy of change-oxygen.
  • collaborative intelligence: Forget the idea of having a strategic planning department, and think collaborative culture instead. Take a look around you, and ask yourself, who is succeeding today? It is those organizations who are plugged in to the global mind that surrounds us. They’ve dropped any pretense that they can create the future, and instead realize that it the future is being developed by everyone all around them. They have come to learn that their role isn’t to plan for that future, but simply to listen to it, plug into it, and plug their growth-engine into it.
  • complexity partnerships: in the 20th century, organizations focused on hiring the skills that they needed to get the job done. You simply can’t do that today — skills are too fragmented and too specialized. That’s why successful organizations have mastered the art of complexity supply and demand. They provide their own unique complex skills to those of their partners who need such skills. And when they are short other skills, they tap into the skills bank of their partners. By selling and buying skills with a broad partnership base, they’ve managed to become complexity partners — organizations that spend most of their time focusing on their core mission, and spend less time worrying about how they are going to do what they need to do.
  • global innovation traps: a recent blog post featured a clip from a keynote where I spoke about the “infinite idea loop.” Companies that understand that all future innovation comes from the ability to tap into the loop will thrive; those that follow traditional innovation models, self-centered and insular, will find that their creativity and uniqueness has been smothered
  • forward oriented intelligence: The key premise of my book, What I Learned from Frogs in Texas, is that too many organizatons have lost their orientation to the future. They are too busy complying, restructuring, administering and reorganizing to realize that their world is dropping out from underneath them. The frogs learned out the hard way that if you don’t have good insight into what comes next, there is going to be a big problem and it’s going to be ugly.
  • depth of mission: We’ve all known for years what has been wrong with Sony — too much inter-company squabbling, turf-wars, and inward focused turmoil. Along the way, Sony lost sight of its mission to build great stuff for people who wanted great stuff. If you can have a company that has a simple mission, a clearly stated goal, and a passion and purpose to achieve it, you’ll be able to put in place the most critically needed asset — a team that is oriented towards success.

It’s clear that Sony does not possess many of these assets. It doesn’t realize that it no longer controls its future — its’customers do. It isn’t plugged into the global innovation loop — instead, its’ efforts are spent on trying to define the future that it would like to have. It’s got a bunch of middle-aged baby boomers in charge who don’t have a clue as to how the world is unfolding. (And I’m a middle-aged baby boomer). And I can only imagine that the recent experience has destroyed any sense of mission among its staff — its people are dispirited, disenthused, angry and full of recrimination for a future that they think has gone wrong. (Well, it has, because it has done all the wrong things.)

I find it really depressing that a company as big and creative as Sony could have lost its way. On the other hand, I continue to encounter too many people and companies who are busy sleepwalking into the future, just like Sony.

Remember — it ain’t the money, it’s the ability to change that is most imporatnt asset for the future.

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