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Over the last 25 years as a speaker on future trends and innovation, I’ve seen many cases where companies have jumped onto a trend simply because everyone else. Or, they’ve suddenly decided that ‘innovation’ is important, without really defining a purpose or goal behind such a focus.

Rather than by just jumping on a bandwagon and doing what others are doing , try asking better questions as to why you should or should not be doing something!

Innovation that is based on “jumping on the bandwagon” is doomed to fail, for many, many reasons:

  • it’s lazy: true innovation takes hard work. It involves massive cultural, organizational, structural change. It involves an organization and leadership team that is willing to try all kinds of radical and new ideas to deal with rapid change. An innovative organization can’t innovate simply by jumping on a trend. Trying to do so is just trying to find an easy solution to deep, complex problems.
  • it involves little new creativity: by linking a new approach to doing things with a “hot topic” or trend means that people end up shutting their brains down. Creativity is immediately doomed through commonality.
  • it’s just a bandaid: bandwagon based innovation causes people to look for instant solutions and a quick fix, rather than trying to really figure out how to do something differently.
  • it’s misfocused: it involves putting in a solution is sought without identifying a problem. It’s backward in terms of approach.
  • it encourages mediocrity: it reduces innovation to an “idea of the week,” and does nothing to encourage people to really look at their world in a different way.
  • it reduces innovation to sloganeering: truly creative people within organizations are tried of slogan-based management. They’ve seen far too many ‘radical right turns’ and ‘new beginnings’ — and when they realize that their management team has jumped onto the latest hot trend, their faith and motivation goes out the window.
  • it destroys innovation: after the bandwagon effect ultimately fails (as they always do for the reasons above), people end up feeling burned out, cynical, demotivated — and they’ll be prepared to do little when the “next big thing” comes along.

 

It’s more important — and more difficult — than that.

Today’s photo is actually from a keynote for an agricultural organization, but the quote in the picture actually started out having to do with the fast pace of change in the automotive sector. The thought came to mind with my morning photo preparation, because I’m currently preparing for a hands-on, interactive session with a Board of Directors, on the future of self-driving cars and more.

Companies that don’t yet exist will build cars that aren’t yet designed, using materials not yet invented, with manufacturing methods that have not yet been conceived..…”

I could have made this quote back in 2000, in the context of where Tesla Motors is today. I pretty much did when I predicted the emergence of Tesla back in 2003 when I led a leadership team for an event with DaimlerChrylser at Mercedes Benz HQ in Germany.

After I prepare my morning picture, I send it out via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. (You can find all of them on my Instagram feed). This one drew some instant response:

Good point — every industry is subjected to the similar trend of uncertainty.

Since I still had the picture on my laptop and was having my morning coffee, I did a quick revision, to make it more general. “”Companies that don’t yet exist will build products that are not yet conceived, based on ideas that have yet been generated, using materials not yet invented, with manufacturing methods that have not yet been conceived..…”

That too got a fast response, with a number of shares  – but one curmudgeonly fellow decided to take a few shots:

So I tweeted back.  “Geesh you are in a bad mood. Cheer yourself up. The type of thinking is real.” I linked to a quote from Tesla Motors on their unique experience with the Model 3. It somewhat parallels my thinking.

I really should know better.

 

Futures-babble? Sure. Let’s check the assumptions and deconstruct my quote from a historical perspective to put this type of future-babble in perspective:

  • companies that don’t yet exist: Netflix, AirBNB, Uber are the easy ones. We’re seeing a lot of existing ones disappear. The entire history of business involves companies that come into industries, change it, do something new, and upset the balance.
  • products not yet conceived. Really? CD’s, DVD’s, drones, curved skis…. isn’t the whole human experience about conceiving new products?
  • ideas not yet generated. Um, iPads? Didn’t someone invent the concept of a car?
  • materials not yet invented. Velcro, folks. I actually just did a talk for the senior leadership team of Arconic — a new spinoff of the aluminum giant Alcoa. I can tell you that capitalizing on the rapid emergence of new materials based on advanced science is very much on their mind. Should I tell them that maybe it’s just future-babble?
  • manufacturing methodologies not yet conceived. Additive, 3DPrinted manufacturing? Build to demand manufacturing models? Mass customization? Rapid prototyping and SmartThings? Seems we have had a constant stream of new methodologies and capabilities.

I always find it fascinating when curmudgeons jump out and undertake critic-babble.

My quotes stand on their own. I don’t see anything the least bit wrong with them. They will become true, over and over and over again.

Challenge yourself to align to a future that is not yet invented, but in fact, is being invented all around you. Listen to the future-babble. Watch for all the signs and trends that are changing everything – faster. Refuse complacency.

It might make a difference in how you approach things.

From a recent keynote for a global leadership team, covered in another recent post.

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.”

One of my favorite innovation phrases that I always use on stage or in a CEO off-site is “think big, start small, scale fast!”

thinksmall

So I woke up this morning and came into the home office, and was thinking about the “start small’ part of that phrase. And quickly jotted down a list of small ideas.

Here goes!

  •  do small projects: too many innovation efforts get bogged down, bloated, and blow up due to big scope and size!
  • celebrate small wins : not every innovation effort needs to be a home run
  • learn from small failures: I love the phrase fail early, fail often, fail fast; you can do that better if your project is small
  • scatter your team for small exploration: there is so much going on in so many industries that is so tiny but has huge implications, you’ve simply got to let your people explore!
  • reframe the idea of small: put into perspective how small changes can have a big impact
  • look for small winners: for example, there are tremendous innovations in manufacturing concepts with small manufacturers — learn from them!
  • give a small bit: in an era of open collaboration and global insight, giving back some R&D can be a good thing
  • seek small heroes: in the global economy, there is probably a small 1 or 2 person company who is doing exactly the cool, innovate thing you need. Find them!
  • establish small decision groups: destroy committees; if there has to be one to make a decision, limit it to 1 or 2 or 3 people.
  • focus on the power of small: one person can change a company, an industry, a country, a world!

Of course, my ideas aren’t original. The original concept of small perhaps came from the greatest advertising campaign of all time — for the VW Beetle, Think Small.

It’s a powerful concept.

In my case, the entirety of my career as a global keynote speaker, futurist, trends and innovation expert is that it’s me, and my wife, and a small home office that is plugged into a great big world. From here, I serve up insight and guidance to a vast range of global organizations, associations, CEO’s and leadership teams.

Thinking big, starting small, scaling fast.

Perhaps the real secret to succeeding in a world where the future belongs to those who are fast!

 

Do you?

It can be difficult to try to be innovative in many organizations. Many people with an innovation-oriented mindset often find their enthusiasm destroyed when they approach senior management with an initiative. And when their effort is turned back, it can extremely frustrating!

hirepeopleyoudontlike

What happens is that a series of excuses are made as to why we don’t need to focus on the future right now:

  • we don’t understand it, so we don’t think we need to do it!
  • maybe we shouldn’t confront the tough issues right now
  • we are too busy fighting fires – there’s no time for anything else!
  • we don’t have the skill sets to deal with this!
  • we haven’t thought about this in our strategic planning process
  • we don’t have time to think about it…
  • we don’t have a budget f
  • what we’ve been doing all along is perfectly ok, isn’t it?
  • there’s so much going on, and we don’t know where it might fit in terms of priorities!
  • and the worst? it’s too far ahead of its time!

Of course, it’s easy to take this wall of negativity and step back from the project and curb your enthusiasm — and give up! Here’s a clip from my keynote in Zurich in which I talk about the challenges you might face.

But real innovators don’t give up! They work to address the organizational sclerosis that might be in place. What you should do  is confront these excuses head on: there are a variety of different reactions depending on the different excuses that are used:

  • if they don’t understand it, educate them! This might involve building a better business case for the initiative; bringing them up to date on the key business drviers and trends that require some bold steps and dramatic change.
  • help them that those who tackle the tough issues usually win. This is a good time to put into perspective the concept of accelerating change. You need to make sure that the leadership team understands that everything around us today is changing faster than ever before, and will continue to do so: business models, methods of customer interaction, new forms of competition. Business today is all about continually confronting a flood of tough issues; we should be bulking up our capabilities to deal with a world of incessant change.
  • if the organization is always in fire-fighting mode, change the agenda. Maybe they won’t be fighting as as many fires over the long term if they have a clear view of the future, and have a strategy that aligns to that future. So rather than asking, “whoah, where’d that come from,” they’re asking “ok, what comes next, and what do we need to do about it?
  • skill sets don’t give us the capability: That’s a weak excuse: if there are shortfalls in certain key skills to deal with current business realities, deal with it and fix it fast.
  • if it’s not part of the strategic planning process, make it part of it. Every organizations has multiple processes in which issues and activities rise to the top because they’ve been idenitified as fitting within the overall strategic plan. If yours isn’t part of the plan, work to get it there.
  • get people thinking about what comes next: Does the organization have a regular series of forward looking leadership meetings? Does it take the time to assess the trends which might impact it on a 1, 2, 5 and 10 year basis? Is it busy looking at we have really spent a lot of time thinking about what comes next
  • we don’t have a budget for that! Following the process of getting the initiative into the strategic plan will help to lead to the next step: getting the project properly approved and funded within the overall budget process for the organization.
  • make it clear that it isn’t ok to keep doing the same thing that has been done in the past. You’ve got to clearly articulate the new threats the organizations faces and the opportunities that it can pursue as a result of ongoing change.
  • there’s so much going on, and we don’t know where it might fit in terms of priorities! This is a tricky one, because in this type of situation, its pretty well certain that there is some weak management in place who doesn’t know how to set a clear action plan that the team must follow. Best bet is to address the other issues on the list, and work to put in place a clear business and strategic plan for your initiative, with sound business reasoning as to why it needs to be done.
  • it’s too far ahead of its time! Frame the future to the organization this way: do we want to always be fast followers, or do we truly want to be market leaders?

In Zurich,I noted on stage that “we develop corporate cultures that stifle — that kill our ability to try to do anything new…..” That’s what you’ve got to work to avoid — it’s not easy to do — but absolutely necessary!

Earlier this year, I was featured in the UK’s Retail NewsAgent 125th anniversary publication, with a variety of comments on trends that will impact the retail space, such as this quick quote which commented on the integration of Siri, automobiles and the shopping experience.

CarCreditCard

I just came across this additional quote in one of the articles, about the future of in-store interaction and payment.

The pace of change in the world of retail right now is simply staggering!

Two things will be consistently present in nearly every type of retail business, according to Jim Carroll – mobile phones that influence our purchasing decisions and LCD TVs – and there is going to be a distinct link between the two.

“I played out a scenario for the leadership team of Gap in which I had ‘liked’ them on Facebook so had a relationship with them,” he says. “I walk into one of their stores and it will recognise me and run a customised commercial on an in-store TV saying ‘welcome back Jim. We’re giving you a $20-off coupon today and in aisle seven there is something you might like.’”

Mr Carroll believes that the technology currently used by Oakley in snowboarders’ sunglasses – which gives wearers access to Facebook, hill conditions and statistics from their run – will also influence retail in the near future.

“Apple is cutting deals with all the car manufacturers to get Siri in them. By 2017 we will be driving along and you will ask Siri in the augmented reality dashboard which store has X product. She will put five stores on the map and you will pick one, which the car’s autonomous driving technology will take you to. What’s more, you will have payment technology embedded in your car so that will be your credit card too.”

It might sound like a goofy scenario, but it isn’t really. Right now, we’re seeing major cell companies working to cut deals with automotive companies to get SIM-cards into automobiles — partly to support in-vehicle WiFi, but also to support the potential for future payment transactions. And while we see a well publicized failure with augmented reality with the pullback of Google Glass technology, there’s no doubt that there are rapid advances occurring with augmented reality technology.

The other big part of this trend is known as ‘shopper marketing’, an intersection of mobile, location intelligence and social networking technology — the idea being that there are methods of providing for in-store promotional opportunities.

You can read the full version of the Retail Newsagent 125th anniversary article with a variety of observations from various futurists on the future of retail here.

Some months back, the folks at Retail NewsAgent in the UK sent me a series of questions asking about the future of retail. They were busy preparing for their 125th anniversary issue, and were interviewing a number of fellow futurists for insight into the trends that might shape and impact the sector in the future.

RN_125-SmartphoneThey’ve run a pretty lengthy article which I’ll post later this week, but here’s a short little article that they also ran in which two of us talk about the impact of the smartphone on the overall shopping experience.

The entire PDF is available on the right, but here are two quick extracts:

Canadian futurologist Jim Carroll, adds that the relationship between consumers and their smartphones introduces new shopper marketing opportunities too.

“I did a session with the leadership team at Gap. I played out a scenario where I had a Facebook relationship with Gap and ‘liked’ them. I walk into one of their stores and they recognise me and run a customised commercial on an in-store TV, saying ‘Welcome back Jim. We’re giving you a $20-off coupon today and in aisle seven there is something you might like’.

“Every 15-year-old is already giving away all their private life and they are not going to care about privacy when they get 20% off by linking their mobile to a screen in store.”

Mobile innovation is also changing payment technology at rapid pace.

“Control of the speed of innovation in every industry is shifting to Silicon Valley and the likes of Apple and Amazon are innovating a lot quicker than traditional retail companies,” says Jim Carroll. “As soon as Apple puts a chip in the iPhone that supports credit card transactions the industry will change at lightning speed.”

Over the years, I’ve done a tremendous number of presentations into the retail sector — check here for a glimpse! On the page, I use one of my favourite observations about the world of retail in a world of fast paced change: “The average consumer scans some 12 feet of shelf space per second. Mobile interactions in the retail space are about to become common. You’ve got but multi-seconds to grab their attention.

Obviously, if everyone is carrying around a smartphone, then that becomes a primary window in which to try to grab their attention!

 

It was a year ago today that my son Willie and I travelled to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, outside of  Washington, where I was to deliver a keynote for a senior leadership team.

The Innovative Technologies Partnerships Office (ITPO) hosts meeting with Jim Carroll

“Change is happening, and it is happening quickly. The key for research based science centres such as Goddard is that they must reach outside of their world in terms of innovation and opportunity; collaborate and partner in new and different ways; respect the acceleration of science that is emerging on crwowfunding networks”

The theme of my talk? In the grand scheme of things, over the long term, “the business of space is changing,” and organizations such as NASA need to evolve with the new business models that are emerging.

Of course they know that; but the challenge is working the message through the organization, encouraging people to think differently about the future. That was my job in speaking to several hundred of their top research scientists, innovation partnership directors and others.

This was my second keynote for NASA: a few years earlier I spoke outside of Houston to a group of astronauts, launch directors, mission controllers and other folks with fascinating careers!

Consider the reality faced by any science-drive, government funded organization such as NASA today, particularly with ongoing debate over the size and scope over government spending. It’s a reality that involves:

  • funding and budget cuts on an ongoing basis
  • cancellation and gutting of programs
  • greater pressure on remaining initiatives
  • a growing public weariness with all levels of government, with resultant policy debate on the purpose and benefit of programs such as those carried out at Goddard

Contrast that to the rapid emergence of what some call the “NewSpace” industry, as a series of bold thinkers, iconic entrepreneurs, crowdfunded teams and others look to opportunities in the heavens as the “next big thing.”

  • it’s estimated that today, there are 350 companies worldwide in the “NewSpace” industry
  • 75% are privately held
  • opportunities being examined not just space tourism, but in-space manufacturing, pharmaceutical development, and asteroid mining
  • investors include such folks as Eric Schmidt (ex of Sun Microsystems), Charles Simonyi (ex of Microsoft), James Cameron (Titanic and Avatar), and Larry Page (of Google), among others

There is a quote from Bill Gates that I use in every presentation I do: “Most people tend to overestimate the rate of change that will occur on a two year basis, and underestimate the rate of change that will occur in ten years. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.”

So it is with NASA and similar industries — the industry you are in today will look nothing in 10 years, like it does today.

My message: change is happening, and it is happening quickly. The key for research based science centres such as Goddard is that they must reach outside of their world in terms of innovation and opportunity; collaborate and partner in new and different ways; respect the acceleration of science that is emerging on crwowfunding networks.

It was a wonderful day; particularly with the post-event tour and discussions, once of the most exciting events I have participated in. And I think they enjoyed it — the feedback that came in right after the stated, “On behalf of the entire Innovative Technology Partnerships Office, thank you for your engaging and thought-provoking presentation at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. From the feedback we have received, the event was a great success. Thank you for sharing your insight and expertise with us!”

 

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