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I’ve been quite priviliged through the years to be able to observe, within my global blue chip client base , some of the fascinating innovation strategies that market leaders have pursued.

What is it they do?

Many of them make big, bold decisions that help to frame their innovative thinking and hence, their active strategies.

For example, they:

  • make big bets. In many industries, there are big market and industry transformations that are underway. For example, there’s no doubt that mobile banking is going to be huge, and its going to happen fast with a lot of business model disruption. Innovative financial organizations are willing to make a big bet as to its scope and size, and are innovating at a furious pace to keep up with fast changing technology and even faster evolving customer expectations
  • make big transformations: I’m dealing with several organizations who realize that structured operational activities that are based on a centuries old style of thinking no longer can take them into a future that will demand more agility, flexibility and ability to react in real time to shifting demand. They’re pursuing such strategies as building to demand, rather than building to inventory; or pursuing mass customization projects so that they don’t have to compete in markets based on price.
  • undertake big brand reinforcement: one client, realizing the vast scope and impact of social networking on their brand image, made an across the board decision to boost their overall advertising and marketing spend by 20%, with much of the increase going to online advertising. In addition, a good chunk of existing spending is being diverted as well. Clearly, the organization believes that they need to make bi broad, sweeping moves to keep up to date with the big branding and marketing change that is now underway worldwide.
  • anticipate big changes: there’s a lot of innovative thinking going on with energy, the environment and health care. Most of the organizations that have had me in for a keynote on the trends that are providing for growth opportunities have a razor sharp focus on these three areas, anticipating the rapid emergence of big opportunities at a very rapid pace.
  • pursue big math: quite a few financial clients are looking at the opportunities for innovation that come from “competing with analytics,” which offers new ways of examining risk, understanding markets, and drilling down into customer opportunity in new and different ways.
  • focus on big loyalty: one client stated their key strategic goal during the downturn this way: “we’re going to nail the issue of customer retention, by visiting every single one in the next three months to make sure that they are happy and that their needs are being met.” Being big on loyalty means working hard to ensure that existing revenue streams stay intact, and are continually enhanced.
  • focus on big innovation: one client stated their innovation plan in a simple yet highly motivating phrase: “think big, start small, scale fast.” Their key goal is to build up their experiential capital in new areas by working on more innovation projects than ever before. They want to identify big business opportunities, test their potential, and then learn how to roll out new solutions on a tighter, more compact schedule than ever before.
  • thinking big change in scope. One client became obsessed with the innovation strategy of going “upside down” when it came to product development. Rather than pursuing all ideas in house, they opened up their innovation engine to outsiders, looking for more partnership oriented innovation (with suppliers and retailers, for example); open innovation opportunities, and customer-sourced innovation. This lit a fuse under both their speed for innovation as well as their creativity engine
  • innovate in a big way locally: we’re in a big, global world, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t innovate locally. One client in the retail space pursues an innovation strategy that allows for national, coordinated efforts in terms of logistics, merchandising and operations, yet also allows a big degree of freedom when it comes to local advertising, marketing and branding.
  • share big ideas. One association client pursued an innovation that was relentless on community knowledge sharing. They knew if they could build an association culture in which people shared and swapped insight on a regular basis on how to deal with fast changing markets and customers, that they could ensure their members had a leg up and could stay ahead of trends. Collaborative knowledge is a key asset going forward into the future, and there’s a lot of opportunity for creative, innovative thinking here.
  • be big on solving customers problems. Several clients have adopted an innovation strategy that is based on the theme, “we’re busy solving customers problems before they know they have a problem,” or conversely, “we’re providing the customer with a key solution, before the customer knows that they need such a solution.” That’s anticipatory innovation, and it’s a great strategy to pursue.
  • align strategies to the big bets. There’s a lot of organizations out there who are making “big bets” and link innovation strategies to those bets. WalMart has bold goals for the elimination of all packaging by a certain date; this is forcing a stunning amount of innovation within the packaging sector. Some restaurants aim to reduce food and packaging waste by a factor of dozens; this is requiring stunning levels of creativity in the kitchen.

These are but a few examples and the list could go on; the essence of the thinking is that we are in a period of big change, and big opportunity comes from bold thinking and big creativity!

 

In August, I had the pleasure of attended the WorldSkills 2015 competition in Sao Paolo Brazil, and opening the associated leadership forum with senior executives, educators and government officials from around the world.

WorldSkills? You haven’t heard of it? I came away convinced that it is one of the most important, and yet ‘under-the-radar’ global initiatives that  provides future opportunity to the next generation of student, industries and nations. I will be blogging more on my observations in the weeks to come.

For now, read this article which summarized my keynote, and catch a clip where I spoke about the challenges that come from the acceleration of the  knowledge required in the area of skilled trades.

Think Big, Start Small, Scale Fast: Futurist Jim Carroll Speaks At Worldskills Leaders Forum
(Article from the WorldSkills Web site)

On 13 August, at the WorldSkills Leaders Forum, as part of the WorldSkills Conference Programme, Jim Carroll, one of the world’s leading experts on international trends and innovation spoke on the rapid changes facing the world.

“65% of children in preschool today will work in a job that does not exist now,” announced Carroll to the approximately 450 international leaders of technical and vocational education within governments, industry, education, and unions gathered at WorldSkills São Paulo 2015 to build the global skills movement.

Carroll established that today is the era of major transformation and supremacy of big ideas. Organizations not only need to consider what their current competition will be doing in the future, but also need to assume that new entrants to their profession will reinvent the approach of businesses that operate as they have always done.

“Learning is what most adults will do for a living in the 21st century,” noted Carroll. Technology will change every element of our lives at such a rapid pace that half of what vocational students learn in their first year will be replaced with new technology knowledge in three years.

To be successful in a fast paced environment, Carroll recommended people “think big, start small, and scale fast.”

His advice to the WorldSkills community was to constantly question how the hyper connectivity offered by technology will impact the skilled careers. Carroll encouraged participants to look at the future with optimism not fear. Carroll is recognized as a thought-leader and author of “The Future Belongs to Those Who Are Fast” and “Ready, Set, Done: How to Innovate When Faster is the New Fast”.

The WorldSkills Leaders Forum is a global event on the most topical themes – based on input from WorldSkills Delegates and Members. The WorldSkills Leaders Forum event itself serves to kick-start dialogue among attendees – individuals and organizations striving to exploit and develop the power of the global network of WorldSkills to meet the needs of industry, commerce, and those who educate and train the next generation professional – to the mutual benefit of all concerned.

 

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!

 

On Monday, I was the opening keynote speaker in St. Louis for an event for the National Rural and Electrical cooperative, and spoke about a variety of energy trends.

directors-confernece-futurist-jim-carroll-240x180

Trends analyst Jim Carroll gives a glimpse into the future for electric cooperative directors at the 2014 Directors Conference in St. Louis (Photo By: Steven Johnson)

And, as always, I had some fun with the audience while doing so!

The folks over at Electric Co-Op Today reported on my keynote. A fun, concise little read!


It’s time to take George Jetson seriously, says trends expert Jim Carroll.

After all, the ‘60s carton icon communicated with his boss on a video screen and read the daily news on a wall-mounted monitor. Nowadays, we call that using Skype and Face Time, and surfing the Web.

Therein lies a lesson, Carroll said, as he urged more than 600 electric cooperative directors to embrace the rapid pace of changing technologies and member expectations. The Canadian-based author of The Future Belongs To Those Who Are Fast spoke March 24 at the 2014 NRECA Directors Conference at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis Riverfront.

“If you go back and watch The Jetsons and look at a lot of the things they were talking about in the science-fiction cartoon show, a lot of these things have become true,” he said of the show which debuted in 1962. “The period of time between when science-fiction predictions are made and when they become reality is collapsing.”

Business as usual in the energy sector is a thing of the past, he said.

The electric grid, for example, is bound to become less centralized as residential ratepayers print three-dimensional solar cells from their home computers or run their heating and cooling systems from their cell phones.

“What’s going on in the world of energy with backyard production and the reduction in costs of solar and wind and biomass is where we’re going to see the emergence of local energy networks,” Carroll said.

That could lead to private grids, where small-scale generators share energy in a way that upends the traditional utility-customer business model, he cautioned.

On the plus side, Carroll said co-ops can capitalize on those changes because of the unique relationship they enjoy with their members, as long as they bring those discussions into the board room.

“You need to think about your passion, your purpose and what you need to accomplish,” he said. “Your role is to bring the future to your community.”

 

I was the keynote speaker for the 14th Annual KIRA Technology Innovation Awards Show in New Brunswick, Canada last week.

I think it went well, based on this article.

———————————————
KIRA – Looking to the future
By Colin McPhail
The Daily Gleaner, Fredericton & Region, Friday, May 4, 2012

The spotlight was on Jim Carroll as he aggressively paced the stage at the Fredericton Convention Centre, gesturing emphatically while citing statistics and quotes in a dazzling manner. The renowned futurist, however, spun the metaphorical spotlight on the audience.

“You need to think bigger,” he said.

There was no rest for the weary in a night that celebrated innovators from New Brunswick’s information technology sector. The best minds in the industry were challenged to continue to build on their success in a world where the rapid pace of change can’t be overstated. There’s no stopping or you’ll be left behind.

Carroll spoke to a crowd of more than 300 Thursday night during a keynote address at the 14th annual KIRA awards. He offered three simple words to help demonstrate the current climate of innovation: speed, scope, opportunity.

Waiting for the right time to move forward could be fatal, he said, adding the market demands creativity at a level never seen before.

“The future belongs to those who are fast,” Carroll said.

“The time to be focused on innovation is right now.”

Emphasizing the need for speed, Carroll said that 60 per cent of Apple’s revenue comes from products that weren’t in production four years ago. Half of what is taught in the first year of any science degree will be obsolete when the student graduates, while 65 per cent of young children will grow up and get jobs that don’t exist today. The list goes on, and IT is at the forefront.

“Silicon Valley controls the speed of innovation,” he said.

“The speed in which this is evolving is staggering.”

Seemingly timeless industries are already being revolutionized, he said, and the pace in which it occurs will only increase.

Fresh from my keynote in Orlando this week, I’ve come across a blog post from someone who attended, and saw my early-Monday keynote – “‘Breakthrough performers’ and ‘pervasive connectivity’: Notes from the CGT Business & Technology Leadership Conference.”

"Leading international author and “futurist,” Jim Carroll, delivered the keynote address, capturing the audience’s attention with some mind-blowing stats on the rapid pace of change and innovation in the technology space."

You can read the full post by Sean Rollings, Vice President, Product Marketing over at the E2open blog, or read an extract below.

In the room were senior executives from many of the largest consumer product and food companies in the world; indeed, I was dazzled from the presentation of a senior executive from PepsiCo who took to the stage right after me with his observations on what is happening in the consumer space.

The essence of my message in Orlando was modelled on the themes found in these two blog posts:

  • “What do world class innovators do that others don’t do?” 
  • “Food industry trends 2011: Report from a keynote” 

I can tell you that these two pages are among the top-10 most heavily trafficked on my Web site, and so obviously there are a lot of senior executives in the food and consumer products sector who realize that when it comes to innovation, one of their key goals must be, how do we speed things up to deal with the reality of fast-paced consumer, technological, market, product, and global change.

“Breakthrough performers” and “pervasive connectivity”: Notes from the CGT Business & Technology Leadership Conference
Sean Rollings, Vice President, Product Marketing, E2open

 I made my way to the Sunshine State this week for the Consumer Goods Business & Technology Leadership Conference in Orlando. The turnout is impressive, with technology and supply chain professionals from all the major players in the CPG space (plus a number of up-and-comers). And while the keynote sessions and panel discussions cover a gamut of topics, everyone is really here for the same thing: learning and collaborating on the “what’s next” for technology and the consumer goods business.

Leading international author and “futurist,” Jim Carroll, delivered the keynote address, capturing the audience’s attention with some mind-blowing stats on the rapid pace of change and innovation in the technology space. According to Carroll, recent research indicates that 65 percent of current preschool students will work in a job that does not yet exist. Along the same lines, 50 percent of the information taught to first-year Science undergraduates will be obsolete by the time they graduate.

The business-related statistics were no less shocking. For example, roughly 60 percent of Apple’s revenue is currently generated by products that are less than four years old. The rate of innovation is accelerating, big time. And from Carroll’s perspective (and the evidence is convincing), the only way to stay competitive in today’s marketplace is to embrace the current onslaught of change and innovation—and run with it!

In keeping with this theme, Carroll shared a compelling piece of research from GE innovation consultants: Of those companies in existence during the economic recessions of the 70s, 80s, 90s, and our most recent “Great Recession”—on average—60 percent survived, 30 percent died, and 10 percent became breakthrough performers. How did this top-10 percent do it? According to Carroll, these companies succeeded because they invested in world-class innovation while everyone else was retrenching. For the “breakthrough performers” of our most recent recession, this innovation has been largely focused on pervasive connectivity—everyone connected to everyone, regardless of geographic location or technical sophistication.

The GE study that I refer is a theme that I use in many presentations — you can catch a glimpse of how I put the reality of innovating despite economic uncertainty in this video clip from a keynote in San Antonio, Texas, earlier this year.

 

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