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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 ….”

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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 It’s said that half of what students learn in their freshman year about science and technology is obsolete or revised by their senior year.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.

I had a long conversation with a potential client in the manufacturing sector the other day; they’re looking to bring me in for a keynote in 2016. I’ve developed a reputation in the industry for some cutting edge insight into the key trends that are redefining every single aspect of the sector at an extremely furious, fast pace. I’ve headlined events for tens of thousands at major manufacturing conferences in Las Vegas, Chicago, Orlando and Detroit.

Jim Carroll on stage in September 2011, keynoting the IMXchange - Interactive Manufacturing Exchange -- conference, with a talk on the future of manufacturing and the necessity for continuous, relentless innovation

Jim Carroll on stage in Las Vegas keynoting the IMXchange – Interactive Manufacturing Exchange conference, with a talk on the future of manufacturing and the necessity for continuous, relentless innovation

What’s going on? Here’s a quick snapshot:

  • collapsing product life cycles – simply put, products don’t have as long a lifespan in terms of relevance, consumer attention, rapid escalation of design ideas — whatever the case may be, with shorter life spans, manufacturing organizations are having to pick up the pace!
  • the Internet of Things and product redefinition – every device becomes connected, intelligent, aware… this has major implications in terms of how devices are designed and manufactured. Suddenly, many manufacturers are finding that they must integrate sophisticated user interface capabilities into their products, not to mention advanced computer and connectivity technology.
  • rapid design and rapid prototyping. We’ve seen incredible advances in the ability to conceive, design and develop new products faster than ever before. There is a constantly rising bar in terms of capabilities, and if you can’t pick up on this, you can be sure that your competitors will. The first to market with a new idea is often the winner.
  • the influence of crowdfunding on product design. There is no doubt that the global connectivity that the crowdfunding business model provides is resulting in a change in product conception. Suddenly, anyone can have an idea, fund it, design it, and bring it to market. What I’ve witnessed are situations where these small scale projects are light years ahead of what we’ve seen with established industry players. Crowdfunding is the new garage in many industries.
  • build to demand vs. build to inventory business models. Big auto companies build hundreds of thousands of vehicles, and shove them out to dealers hoping they sell. Tesla Motors takes an order, and builds the vehicle to send to the customer. Big difference — and this model is driving fundamental business model change across every aspect of the manufacturing sector.
  • agility and flexibility. The impact of build-to-demand models is that manufacturers must provide for a lot more change-capability throughout every aspect of the process, from supply chain to assembly to quality control. The ultimate in agility? The Magna factory in Graz, Austria, which can custom build a wide variety of automobiles from completely different car companies.
  • post-flat strategies. What happens when the world gets flat? Put a ripple in it! That’s been the focus of a few of my keynotes for several manufacturing clients. I’ve spoken about organizations who have evolved from having to compete with low-cost producers by focusing on price, to a new product lineup that is based on quality, consumer perception, brand identity, or IoT connectivity.
  • faster time to market. Consumers today have perilously short attention spans. In some sectors, such as fashion, high-tech (smartphones!), food and others, you’ve got to get your product to market in an instant — otherwise, you lose your opportunity.
  • rapidly emerging consumer demand. Closely related to time to market is the fact that new fashion, taste trends or other concepts now emerge faster given the impact of social networks. Think about the impact of food trucks — people can now experiment with new taste trends at an extremely low price point. The result is that new taste trends emerge faster — and food companies must scramble to get new products out to the customer faster. Long, luxurious product development lead times are from ‘the olden days.’ If you can’t speed up, you won’t be able to compete.
  • the fast emergence of same day delivery business models. Amazon, WalMart, Google and others are quickly building big infrastructure that provides for same day shipping. This has a ripple impact on demand, inventory, logistics …. a massive change from the old world of stockpiled inventory.
  • the arrival of 3D, additive manufacturing 3D printers and the inevitable shift to “additive manufacturing” from “subtractive manufacturing based on cutting, drilling and bashing metal..  probably the biggest change the industry will witness in coming years.
  • the acceleration of education requirements. Robotics, advanced manufacturing methodologies, machinining-in-the-cloud, advanced ERP processes : you name it, the skill of 10 years or even 5 years ago doesn’t cut it today. I had one client in the robotics sector observe that “the education level of our workforce has increased so much….The machinists in this industry do trigonometry in their heads.” That’s the new reality going forward!

That’s a lot of change, and there’s even more underway.

Want more? Watch this!

VIDEO: Atlantic Design and Manufacturing 2013 Interview with Innovation Expert Jim Carroll from ThomasNet on Vimeo.

Back in June, I was invited to open The BigM, a major manufacturing conference held in Detroit; I followed President Obama’s Treasury Secretary, Penny Pritzker on stage.

There were about 1,000 folks in the room – this is a pretty significant conference that is focused on the renaissance that is North American manufacturing.

This is the 3rd clip from that talk — in which I talk about how world class innovators ‘focus on speed.’ The focus on generating revenue where revenue has not existed before; they reinvent their product lines faster; they plan for shorter product life cycles.

Give it a watch — this is the reality of business velocity today!

At the end of the month, I’ll be the opening keynote speaker for the Camstar Global Conference 2014, in Orlando, Florida.

I will be focused on the theme of the acceleration of product life cycles, the need for new, fast paced manufacturing methodologies, and the issue of what happens as every industry is aligned to the velocity of Moore’s Law.

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Camstar Systems, Inc. announced today that future trends and innovation expert Jim Carroll will deliver the keynote address at Camstar Global Conference, April 27-30, 2014 …… Carroll will lay the framework for the conference theme and kick off a packed agenda consisting of multiple tracks, manufacturing industry trends, case studies, invaluable learning and networking opportunities, a Partner pavilion and an Expert Lab.

I’ve been speaking in the manufacturing sector for ages. And it’s been kind of fascinating to watch, what with the prognostications in 2009 and 2010 that North American manufacturing was ‘dead.’

Take a look around now, and it’s obvious a significant and profound renaissance is underway. Just like I was saying on stage way back then….

What’s the key to the renaissance? Smart technologies that realign the manufacturing process. Rapid prototyping and rapid development. Mass customization to a market of one. Agility, flexibility, and redesign of manufacturing methodology. You name it — there’s a lot of opportunity for organizations to re-invent themselves.

This is what people lose sight of when an industry sector turns down, as it did in late 2008 and 2009. People instantly focus on the negative, and assume the worst is yet to come.

I never do that — I’m always looking into every industry for the bright side; the innovators; the people who are thinking and dreaming big on how to re-invent and renew a sector — and most important, the significant intelligent opportunities that are providing an opportunity for an industry to do things in a way that haven’t been done before.

And this touches people — at one manufacturing event during the downturn, one manufacturing CEO was so inspired  that during the Q&A section, he asked if I might consider running for President! I’d love to, but….

To learn more about my thoughts on the world of manufacturing, hit the Manufacturing Trends section of my Web site over on the right.


International Futurist Jim Carroll to Keynote at Camstar Global Conference 2014

Global authority to link future trends to innovation, creativity, and rapid business transformation.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (November 14, 2013) – Camstar Systems, Inc. announced today that future trends and innovation expert Jim Carroll will deliver the keynote address at next year’s Camstar Global Conference, April 27-30, 2014 at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes in Orlando, Florida.

A leading international futurist, Carroll is widely recognized as a thought leader and authority on global trends, rapid business model change, business transformation during economic uncertainty and the necessity for fast-paced innovation. He is an author, columnist, media commentator and consultant with a focus on linking future trends to innovation and creativity. His previous speaking engagements include events for Lockheed Martin, Stryker Technologies, Johnson & Johnson, Siemens, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), among others.

The Camstar Global Conference is an opportunity for Camstar customers to join other global leaders in manufacturing including thought leaders, analysts, and partners. Carroll will lay the framework for the conference theme and kick off a packed agenda consisting of multiple tracks, manufacturing industry trends, case studies, invaluable learning and networking opportunities, a Partner pavilion and an Expert Lab.

“This signature event engages manufacturers of all sizes in all locations with industry leading discussions on Camstar products, future direction and best practices to meet today’s manufacturing challenges head on,” said Scott Toney, CEO of Camstar.

Toney said he is very pleased to announce Jim Carroll as the keynote speaker. “Carroll will challenge our audience to broaden their perspective on the issues rapid change, hyper innovation and future growth opportunities’. He is renowned as a ‘thought leader’ and authority on global trends; some of the world’s leading organizations turn to Mr. Carroll for insight into the future trends and innovation.”

“World-class innovators possess a relentless focus on growth,” said Jim Carroll. “They continually transition their revenue source through relentless product and service reinvention and solve customer problems before the customer knows there’s a problem. They focus on upside down innovation by sourcing innovation ideas through their customers and focus on long-term wins through constant incremental improvements. Carroll will also share his perspective on why right now is a great time to make bold decisions and do great things.”

To learn more and register visit the Camstar Global Conference 2014 website.

I recently discovered that I was quoted in one of the Phillipines major business journals, BusinessWorld, n an article, “Biggest Business Innovations Engines of Innovation” published back in February.

It’s always great to see the media pick up on a few of the key themes that I am always trying to hammer home to people — there’a s lot of very simple and basic guidance, that often seems so obvious, that can help organizations get on the right path with their innovation efforts.

So it is with the two points that are referred to in this article.

They picked up on two key themes that I often focus on, and it’s worth pointing them out:

Stagnation will also buy a company a quick ticket out of business. According to futurist and innovation speaker Jim Carroll, the most original firms and industries are those that experience very high velocity, or a lot of fundamental change at a fast pace. For them, this is a necessity in the face of various trends and challenges – whether it’s to address shorter product life cycles, to keep up with ever-changing customer expectations, or to collaborate with a partner organization and leverage their skills.

Taking notes from firms that evolve at such a pace is one way to rekindle that creative spark. Curiously, Mr. Carroll has noted that these sources of inspiration are often found in completely different sectors from one’s own.”

I’ve often suggested that companies try to deepen their creative pool, either by studying innovation in completely dissimilar industries, and event o the point of hiring people you don’t like. Otherwise, you can simply get stifled with the sameness that comes with unoriginal thinking. I’ve even suggested to people that rather than going to the same old conferences every year, they should pick one or two events from entirely different industries in order to site their creative juices.

  • 10 great innovation ideas – “hire people you don’t like” 
  • Article – Re-energize your association – Listen beyond the grassroots 

I also find that too many organizations get caught up in fads when trying to innovate. Certainly that is true right now with social networking; while it is certainly important, I think too many are jumping in without a clear idea of what they are trying to do. This was referred to in the article:

On the other hand, Mr. Carroll has warned against blindly pursuing the latest innovation trend, a common trap he has called “bandwagon innovation.” If taking the hip approach ends in failure, it can derail any creative progress the company has made so far.

By then, employees may become too disillusioned and burned out to try out the next “in” strategy. A company’s real free-thinking workers are not compelled by the “slogan-based management” that comes with bandwagon innovation, and will hardly be enthused when they see their execs following the crowd.”

 I’m also referring to situations in which I’ve seen a company or organization form a special innovation team. They start up their project, go into a special room — and everyone wonders, ‘what’s up?” This fails because it makes innovation special; it makes it seem like it is something you do once as a project; it is just wrong on so many different levels. Innovation is a corporate culture — an attitude driven from the leadership that continually challenges everyone to ask themselves, “what can I do to run this better, grow the business, and transform the business.”

  • 10 surefire ways to destroy innovation – Form a secret committee 

 

From my CAMagazine column….

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Can you keep reinventing your business at the speed demanded?

I am not alone in thinking we’re in the midst of a significant economic transformation. As Mick Fleming, president of the American Chamber of Commerce Executives, said recently, “It’s going to be a move from a bad economy to the next economy.”

What is the shape of the next economy? In many cases, it will involve structural change based on an acceleration of business cycles. Consider manufacturing, for example. We’re moving from a world of mass production to mass customization, or what I call agility-based manufacturing. I often cite the case of Honda, as noted in a 2008 article on the financial website Bloomberg: “Honda’s assembly lines can switch models in as little as 10 days.” By contrast, the article suggests, it could take months for most rivals to make the same change.

Companies such as Honda can see what’s selling strongly and quickly reorient their production to fit that demand. In the meantime, its competitors are busy cranking out 700,000 versions of the same old car, hoping to sell it to consumers who have already moved on to something different. It’s no wonder Detroit is being killed off by its long-term reliance on gas-guzzlers.

Everyone now understands that the old Detroit-based manufacturing business model was deeply flawed. The newer model, based on agility and flexibility, is the model of the future. If an organization can rapidly change its production to accommodate what consumers are willing to buy, it has a good chance of future success.

This ability to respond quickly to change is a corner-stone of opportunity. Competitors will emerge, particularly as the new connected generation rejects existing business models and innovative people continue to shake up the fundamentals. Take the business model of Wizzit, a South African cellphone-based banking system, which could cause upheaval throughout the banking sector as mobile technology garners more of our attention.

Furthermore, the nano-cannibalization of markets is becoming a business trend rather than an aberration. For example, Apple broke new ground years ago by tossing out an entire iPod Nano product line worth billions of dollars of revenue, replacing it with a newer, up-to-date product. Imagine even considering that. How could it cannibalize its own product revenue?

I recently spoke at a leadership meeting for a global organization, where the CEO spoke of a future in which the company’s success would come from what he called “chameleon revenue” — the sales derived from entirely new product lines. The chart he presented said it all: the organization’s future consisted of a steady decrease in baseline revenue and accelerating revenue streams from markets it currently does not participate in.

I think this will become the norm for most organizations. The ability to rapidly enter and exit markets will define future success. The ability to sustain multiple, short-term product life cycles, each perhaps no more than 36 to 48 months long, will be a critical success factor. Agility at discovering, producing and capitalizing on new revenue sources will be a fundamental necessity. In other words, your ability to change your spots and your colour on a dime will be the key driver for your potential.

Which begs the question: does your financial system have the capability to provide information on your chameleon revenue streams? Does it provide the insight and analytical tools to tackle product life-cycle revenue so the organization can assess how quickly its chameleon revenue streams are evolving? If it doesn’t, what do you need to do to adapt?

Analysis of Apple's revenue shows extent of innovation

This is from my January 2011 CAMagazine column.

The article was based upon a blog post by Asymco in October of 2010, and includes some commentary from a previous blog post I made on fast changing product life-cycles.

When Apple reported results last fall that blew past analyst expectations, there was a lot of talk about how this innovation juggernaut continues to redefine the technology market.

Yet much of the discussion overlooked a significant factor: 60% of Apple’s revenue came from products that didn’t exist three years prior to the earnings release, according to an analysis of Apple’s revenue by mobile app developer Asymco.

Think about that in the context of your operations. What if you had to replenish your product or service line every two or three years? It could become the new normal in many industries.

One of the most profound changes to come about during the past decade has been the collapse of product life cycles. Think about the graph in your marketing textbook from years or decades ago when you first learned about the concept of product life cycles. Remember how it showed a product coming to market: sales increase, reach market maturity and eventually begin to drop off. That’s been the model of product life cycles as taught in business schools for the past 100 years or so.

The rule of thumb was that companies would innovate and introduce a new product. If it succeeded, the company would experience growth. At some point, sales would peak. The product would then become obsolete or overtaken by competitors and sales would decline. That might involve a time period of 10, 15 or even 25 years.

What a quaint model. Too bad it bears no resemblance to today’s reality. The product life-cycle model today is being turned on its ear by instant obsolescence. In some industries, that product obsolescence now occurs during the growth stage; in the high-tech industry, the decline phase caused by instant obsolescence can occur during the introduction of a product or even before a product makes it to the marketplace.

For example, last year Lenovo pulled the plug on an iPad-like product even before it was released because it was obvious that its limited feature set had already made it irrelevant and obsolete in a very fast-paced market. The product simply had no chance of competing against the iPad. It was killed before it was even produced.

If you want to master innovation, you need to think about how your own product life cycle is changing. Look at the numbers: it took two years for Apple to sell two million iPhones; it took just two months for it to sell two million iPads. And, as my 17-year-old son pointed out when we were chatting about this at the dinner table, it took but a few weeks to sell a million iPhone 4s.

Clearly Apple is on a very significant innovation roll here, but there are lessons to be learned for other organizations. If product life cycles are collapsing in your industry, do you have the capability and wherewithal to generate revenue where revenue hasn’t existed before? Are you prepared to bust into new business models so you can enter markets where you haven’t participated before? Do you know how to add service and other revenue streams to commodity product lines so that you can generate additional revenue from previously stale product lines?

For years, I’ve been preaching to my clients that their ability to survive and thrive in the future is going to come from their ability to generate new sources of revenue and adapt — I covered the issue about a year ago in a column on the concept of chameleon revenue (Netwatch, December 2009). Apple’s numbers indicate that the trend might be picking up steam.

Product lifecyclesThis graph represents the model of product life cycles as taught in business schools for the last, oh, I don’t know, 100 years?

Companies would innovate, and introduce a new product. If it succeeded, they would experience growth. At some point, sales would peak. The product would then tend to become obsolete or overtaken by competitors,  and sales would decline.

What a quaint model. Too bad it bears no resemblance to todays’ reality. Many industries are now finding that product obsolescence now occurs during the growth stage; in the hi-tech industry, the “decline” phase caused by instant obsolescence can even occur during the introduction,

Back in June, I was the opening speaker for the Consumer Electronics Association CEO Summit in Ojai, California, and spoke to this trend. At the time, Lenovo had just pulled the plug on a pad-like product, even before it was released, because it was obvious that its’ limited feature set had already made it irrelevant and obsolete in a very fast paced market.

The reality of today’s market is that of instant obsolescence, and if you want to master innovation, you need to think about how your own product life cycle is changing.

Here’s a video take that is worth watching on the trend:

A newsletter is now up on the site with a short report about my keynote in Tahoe last month for this group. [ link ] Here’s what it had to say:
The sessions started up early the next morning. The first speaker was futurist Jim Carroll, who discussed Innovation and Strategies for the Future of Rural Telcos. He gave everyone a lot to think about with a number of insights into our generation, the next generation and innovation. Read more…

He pointed out that the attendees were part of the only generation not to grow up with computers at birth, but to have to deal with them. He discussed the fact that our faith in the future has been shaken by the challenges we have experienced in the telecom industry. We’re no longer excited about developments like distance education and telemedicine. It’s difficult to have the courage to go forward in today’s business climate.

This has led to new business realities:’ Aggressive indecision – it’s easier not to make any decisions than to worry about making the wrong one; ‘ Shorter payback expectations and short lead times to alleviate the risk ; ‘ Rapid product evolution (like Wi-Fi); ‘ Hyperinnovation (shorter product life cycles)

All of this has led to a corporate innovation gap. People are no longer willing to stick their necks out with innovative ideas. Carroll emphasized that it’s important to bring back the courage to innovate and think strategically about our companies and communities. The telcos are the folks defining the future of the community by virtue of the infrastructure they put into place. They need to be innovative to provide the best opportunities for our kids and for our community economic development. He noted, “Communities that don’t solve
the broadband divide will find increasingly negative implications.”

He suggested the following steps:

#1 Manage Your Attitude, #2 Accept Inevitability, #3 Anticipate – don’t react, #4 Experiment (again), #5 Take risks (step outside your comfort zone and plan to make a reasonable number of mistakes), #6 Restore your courage, #7 Take it one step at a time, #8 Innovate, #9 Make do and #10 “Just do it.”

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