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For years, I’ve explained to my global client base that access to skills and talent will been to the key element for success going forward. Two good examples? Fast trends in the world of self-driving cars, and the acceleration of trends in retail.

I was thinking about this today as two articles floated through my news clipping service: an article in Fortune that outlined how “Walmart Is Launching a Tech Incubator in Silicon Valley.” The second involved quite a few articles that spoke about the new partnerships occurring in the world of self-driving car technology, such as one in Sci-Tech: “Intel’s Not the Only Big Company To Find a Self-Driving Partner.

There are two big issues that are in play here that can be summarized quite nicely, which I’ve explained for quite some time:

  •  every industry is becoming a tech industry, and every company is becoming a software company – with the result that companies such as Walmart have to set up in the heart of the tech world in order to get ahead
  • companies are quickly discovering that they don’t have the skills to do what needs to be done – hence, they need to partner up to get things done — which is the key trend occurring in the world of autonomous vehicles right now

This is echoed by some research I presented in several recent meetings with major private equity investors, based on a study by GE, which found that among senior executives:

  • 85% are concerned about the velocity introduced by digitization and are open to idea collaboration
  • 75% indicated they are open to share the revenue stream of an innovation collaboration
  • 85% indicated such initiatives were growing over the last year

Key trend? The race for tech skills is going to accelerate; new forms of partnership will be established faster; lots of money will be made by those who have the requisite skills; and this will be a defining issue for success going forward!

Need a bigger example? This headline: “Ford is putting $1 billion into an AI startup, Detroit’s biggest investment yet in self-driving car tech.” Think about that — essentially, it’s a billion dollar investment to get the right skills, at the right time, for the right purpose.

 

So … last week I was in Miami, and did a talk on business disruption, transformation and innovation for about 30 CEO’s of companies in the healthcare, tech and IT sectors, on behalf of a private equity firm. The meeting also included a wide ranging discussion with a panel of ‘mentor’ CEO’s.

This is one of several events of this type I’ve done; through the years, an increasing number of private wealth, family offices and private equity firms have brought me in for talks, including a keynote in Greece where there was about $1 trillion of value in the room. At the conclusion, I managed to query all of these CEO’s on the biggest perceived challenges they face going forward.

Check out their response! Talent and skills! Speed of change!

The issues in the poll were the ones that they raised as major concerns, during the discussion part of the meeting, and had to do with these issues:

  • how does a CEO establish an appropriate balance between the necessity for leadership and the criticality of strategy time?
  • how to best manage the speed of change
  • how to align their team to emerging trends, challenge and opportunities
  • getting the right talent at the right time for the right purpose
  • establishing an overall organizational culture of speed
  • how to manage the disconnect between needing to change and historical legacy (as well as legacy IT)
  • managing more complex consumer expectations
  • when to jump onto a major trend

This is just so interesting from several perspectives, but first and foremost is this: I’ve long explained to my clients that a key issue for any organization going forward is this: “getting the right skills at the right time for the right purpose.” 

Put this in the context of several recent headlines I’ve used in events : GE hiring more tech talent and purchasing startups than Silicon Valley companies; Ford hiring 27,000 computer tech staff to help it in the race for self-driving cars; and other similar issues.

Clearly talent is a major issue going forward, and workforce and skills innovation is rising to the top!

 

As with anything, the opportunity around the idea of the ‘smart home’, and the reality of what will transpire, varies to a large degree. We are in early days yet!

That was the essence of an exchange I had with a potential client in the home/condo construction market; they were looking at me for an executive offsite concerning their plans in this space, and wanted a senior level executive session that outlined opportunities with smart home construction in the future.

My key goal was to get across to them that a smart home doesn’t just involve throwing in some Internet-connected devices;  it’s not just about the Internet of Things; there is a lot more potential, and the scope of the opportunity is pretty significant in the long term. Given that, they really needed to take a substantive approach that involved not just short term goals but some long term thinking.

Here’s what I outlined:

  1. It”s bigger than you think. The smart home of the future will not only play a role in security and energy, but also also a role in economic development, healthcare virtualization, the reengineering of local energy grids and much, much more
  2. We’ve only just begun. Major organizations, such as appliance and other home device manufacturers, are only just starting to understand where they can go with the smart home. This is outlined in my recent post, The 11 Rules of IoT Architecture – they are coming to understand that just as Tesla is building cars that can be upgradable, they can play a role in smart homes that will be upgradable and changeable over time. That’s a pretty big scope of opportunity.
  3. The energy side is much more than just connected thermostats The real smart home of the future will be designed with major energy implications in mind. This will involve @ home energy generation, as well as sharable energy systems and support for local community micro-grids. Catch my video on this, Will the Energy Industry be Mp3’d?
  4. AI will play a big role, but no one is sure what that means yet. We are in early days with home AI devices such as Amazon Alexa and other intelligent assistants. Alexa and other devices have caught the attention of the innovators; someone out there is busy engineering future solutions that are barely an idea yet. We don’t know where this aspect will take us!
  5.  Virtual healthcare in the home is a bigger component of the smart home than you realize. Bioconnectivity – the virtualization of healthcare, is massive. The hospital is being reengineered to incorporate the monitoring of patients from afar. Big, bold thinking in the seniors care and other industries will lead to transformation of the very essence of what we think a hospital is – because the home becomes a part of the hospital. Look to the MedCottage for guidance on the opportunity with this issue.
  6. Making it work is pretty complex. An API has been built, but people are only just beginning to use it. Head over to the site, If This Then That. It’s at the vanguard of where we can go with this massive form of hyperconnctivity. It involves a series of rules -if this device does this, then do that. Talk to your phone to turn on your thermostat. Use your phone to see where you are and define a rule if your garage door should open. The number of companies joining IFTT is staggering — it is likely the World Wide Web for the Internet of Things!
  7. Existing players aren’t necessarily the major players. Google was big and early into the game with NEST, but don’t expect that big organizations like GE, Whirlpool and others will easily give up the potential market. While big companies aren’t necessarily the best innovators, I’m seeing a lot of deep, substantive thinking in these organizations as to the real nature of a smart home eco-system.
  8. The economic implications are huge. In the 1950’s, the modern suburb defined the future of economic relocation – companies made decisions based upon where the employees might live. In the future, smart communities wired by smart infrastructure, particularly those supporting the nomadic worker, will have an economic leg up. Wild card: self-driving cars and economic success.
  9. Architectural / design issues are only just being explored. If we can build ultra-smart, energy efficient, secure homes, have we yet hit an understanding of the design opportunity? In this area, think about the Jetsons – it really provides guidance!
  10. The skills issues are massive! I had one of the first Internet enabled thermostats about 17 years ago. My HVAC contractor flipped out when he saw it, complaining he didn’t know how to wire Ethernet stuff. I said that’s ok, my teenage son will do it — and he did! Its going to take a lot of knowledge re-skilling for the future of the smart home!

For each of these areas, I’ve spent a lot of time in the last 20 years. By way of examples:

  •  I’ve spent time with many of the companies in the home energy sector; all of Honeywell, Trane, and Lennox have had me in for CEO level events or dealer meetings
  • with the era of smart appliances, I just keynoted a session at Whirlpool/Maytag on the implications and opportunities of the Internet of Things.
  • in the energy field, I’ve spoken about the future of micro-grids and shared energy for the CEO of PG&E, as well as many global energy conferences
  • I’ve done multiple keynotes around the future of virtualized, community oriented healthcare, most recently, for several thousand folks in the seniors care industry
  • on the economic implications , lots of talks — I’ve just been booked by the Western Nevada Economic Development Association for a keynote around this theme, by way of example
  • on the architectural / design issues, I recently had a keynote in St. Louis for Alberici Construction…. and others
  • and on the skills issues, a lot of time, including talking about the future challenges for HVAC contractors and others at the WorldSkills conference in Sao Paolo, Brazil!

One of my favourite future phases is from Bill Gates: Most people tend to overstate the rate of change that will occur on a two year basis, and underestimate the rate of change on a 10 year basis. So it is with the smart, connected home. We’re going to be in a different space 10 years from now, but we are only just starting to define that!

Closing comment? Back in the late 90’s, I wrote a monthly column for one of the world’s leading airlines — Canadian Airlines! One of my columns had to do with the smart home of the future. It’s a fun read today – and I was pretty right about the trends going forward! Have a read!

Soon you’ll be programming the drapes
September 1999 – Canadian Magazine
by Jim Carroll PDF

The last few decades have been marked by promised of innovative new technology for the home. The presumption, of course, is that more technology is good for us and that, in the process, our homes will become “smart.” Yet today, as we consider the number of people whose VCRs still flash 12:00, we wonder just how smart our homes have become.

YESTERDAY

Ever since the 1930s, many industries have predicated a variety of fanciful technologies that would find their way into our homes and make our lives much easier. Most predictions are, in retrospect, hilarious.

Perhaps one of the earliest examples was the introduction of the automatic dishwasher at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. Westinghouse presented a dishwashing contest between Mrs. Modern (using a Westinghouse dishwasher) and Mrs. Drudge (cleaning her dishes by hand). At the close of the contest (you know who won), the moderator commented that in addition to losing, Mrs. Drudge was not nearly as “neat and refreshed as when she started.” Yes, technology would make us feel better!

Washing dishes seemed to be a favourite theme of the World’s Fair: some 25 years later, the 1964 Fair featured the Norge Dish Maker. The appliance washed and dried plastic dishes – and then ground them up into tiny pellets, which it would then mould them into new plates, cups and saucers!

Walter Cronkite got in on the act, appearing on March 12, 1967 in At Home 2001, a half-hour show about the nature of the home at the dawn of the new millennium. He explained, for example, the duties of the host: “When a guest arrives, he just pulls out his inflatable chair – a small pressurized air capsule would inflate it and it would be ready for use. At the end of the evening he’d just pull out the plug and put the deflated chair back into his little bag.” Need to cook for the guests? Simply reach for the ultimate in convenience food. “A meal might be stored for years and then cooked in seconds,” he said, without a trace of scepticism.

Optimism continued to reign. In 1977, the Vancouver Sun reported on a “domestic android” manufactured by Quasar Industries, which could “serve your dinner, vacuum your rugs, baby-sit your kids and insult your enemies.”

There was a common undercurrent to many of the predictions about the “smart home.” We would have push-button control over everything, a “remote control for the home,” that would allow us to draw the drapes, water the plants, turn down the thermostat, and control virtually every other aspect of the house simply by punching a few buttons.

TODAY

Of course, few of us today have such capabilities – and we wonder if we’d be able to use it even if it were available. After all, how many of us could manage that “remote control for the home” when we find ourselves stymied by the typical 50-button VCR remote control?

The industry is certainly trying to deal with the problem. There is no shortage of ‘smart-home” technology available and apparently some people are buying this stuff – the U.S.-based National Association of Home Builders estimates that, worldwide, some $2 to $4 billion is spent each year on smart-home devices that link security systems, lighting, and entertainment communication systems.

Who buys them? John and Missy Butcher of Chicago, for example. They have spent $100,000 on a home automation system, which means that (if they are in the mood), they can click the “Romance” button on their home automation controller and watch as the curtains are drawn and the lights dim, while listening to music designed to get them in the mood. “Our lives are much easier,” they note.

Of course, we might think, anyone who can spend $100,000 on a home automation system already has an easy life.

TOMORROW

Will the smart home remain largely a concept, an expensive curiosity available only to the richest and most gadget-hungry among us? Likely not. This is one technology that is set to explode in terms of the number of customers it will gain and the practical role it will play in our daily lives. There are several reasons for this.

First, many people now have more than one computer in the home. The computer industry recognizes that linking them together into a home-based local area network is going to be one of the biggest opportunities of the next three years.

We won’t simply be linking the computers in our home. The technology will link all of our devices based on the computer chip into a central control panel, bringing us one step closer to the remote control concept of earlier decades. Three years from now, you may be buying a set of drapes with a microchip. Plug them in, program them – and forget about them.

Second, the emergence of the Internet plays a significant role. Though we think of it as a tool to surf the Web and read e-mail, it is also a technology that will one day link our refrigerator to its manufacturer, notifying the company when the appliance is about to break down – and, in the process, taking us through the next step in home automation.

And finally, there is the ever-decreasing cost of technology. The smart home has always been held back by the fact that the minimum investment was at least $2,000, but that figure is dropping quickly.

And, most significant of all, we’ll barely notice the technology as it sneaks into our home! We’ll be buying appliances, garage door openers, alarm systems and other things for our home, unaware that they contain the necessary intelligence to plug into our home network.

It’s not that we’ll choose to have a smart home – one day, we’ll discover that it’s already smart.

Not quite convinced? Let me quote Walter Cronkite, from that 1967 program. “Sounds preposterous,” he told his audience, with a bit of a smile, “but some people are convinced it will happen.”

Earlier this week, I spoke to several hundred executives from the trucking industry at a keynote for the Omnitracs customer conference in Phoenix. My keynote focused on the trends which are sweeping the industry, including prognostic diagnostics, the connectivity impact of the Internet of Things (#IoT), the rapid evolution of autonomous trucks and self-driving technologies, drones and the impact of bio-monitoring devices. I’ll have a full blog post on that in the next few days.

It’s a topic that I’ve been doing all over — Keynote: Accelerating the Auto & Trucking Industry in the Era of Self-Driving Vehicles

In the meantime, the trucking industry provides a good example of how the new workplace is being transformed by technology.

Here’s what you need to know: first, do you think of trucking as a kind of unsophisticated, low-tech industry, full of a bunch of guys and gals performing boring tasks while moving down the road? Forget that — here are some simple facts:

  • the typical truck today is putting off some 3 gigabytes of data per month, and that number is increasing at a furious pace
  • the typical truck cabin contains more technology than a typical small airplane
  • in the race to self-driving vehicles, trucks will be the first to cross the finish line

A few years ago, Volvo/Mack Trucks had me in for a series of leadership and dealer meetings, where I noted that “in the world of trucking, connectivity is the new horsepower.” Given those stats above, that much is true!

And here’s a key thing: with those trends, the process of innovating in the industry has gone hi-tech. The result is that the workspace in the world of trucking is less like a grimy, dirty garage, and more like an airline control tower, at the same time that the truck cabin has come to be more like an airline cockpit.

To emphasize that point, I spoke about the folks at Bison Transport, based in Winnipeg, Canada. I’ve used them in a few talks on the future of the workplace and on the future of trucking:

“It’s not how one might envision the head office of a trucking company. Youth abound in 20- and 30-somethings tracking payloads in the operations room — think of a flat airplane control tower — or working in the IT department (which in the last 15 years has grown to 15 from two). There’s the “quiet room” for breaks. The fully stocked fitness room, the laundry room, the cafeteria.” Taking Trucking into the Future, Winnipeg Free Press, June 2014

Well, freak me out with a fork! It turns out that unknown to me, the folks from Bison Trasnport were in the room, and came up to me after my keynote. I think they were a little freaked out too!

Trevor Fridfinnson, Chief Operating Officer, Bison Transport with Keynote Speaker Jim Carroll at Omintracs 2017

Their office is at the forefront of the connectivity and technology revolution accelerating the world of trucking and transportation into the future. The folks at Trucking News covered this trend from my keynote in an article, detailed below.

Clearly, in trucking, the office space, culture and fast innovation speeds of Silicon Valley are coming in, and they are coming fast!

 


Carroll on the future during opening of Omnitracs Outlook 2017
TruckingNews.com

Futurist, trends and innovations expert Jim Carroll advised attendees to ‘think big, start small, scale fast,’ when it came to embracing technology.

Carroll said automated trucks were one of the trends that were changing the face of trucking, and questioned what would happen to the traditional driver once that occurs.

Carroll’s overall theme was that the world changes fast, has been for some time, and the trucking industry cannot get left behind.

Several factors contribute to the ever-changing world, Carroll said, including what he called the ‘era of big transformation.’

Autonomous trucks is part of that ear, according to Carroll, who declared that trucking would be the first to move to fully autonomous vehicles because it made financial sense to do so since drivers account for one third of the operational costs pie.

Servicification, the intensifying of skills training, acceleration of innovation and the impact of future generations were also factors Carroll said would contribute to how quickly the world would continue to change.

As an example of this, Carroll pointed to statistics showing that the vast majority of children aged five to six would one day have a job that today does not even exist.

Carroll said today’s truck manufactures worry not only about putting out a quality product, but also about how to best maintain that product through diagnostics and other predictive technologies.

“We are in a world in which we can determine when parts and components in a truck are going to break down,” Carroll said. “And we can bring it in for maintenance and thereby avoid the problem in advance of a truck breaking down on remote Arizona highway somewhere and thereby reduce downtime and costs.”

To further illustrate how the world and traditional workplace have experience a facelift over the years, and how the next generation will continue that trend, Carroll posted a quote from Manitoba’s Bison Transport on the screen that read: “It’s not how one might envision the head office of a trucking company. Youth abound in 20- and 30-something tracking payloads in the operations room – think of a flat airplane control tower – or working in the IT department (which in the last 15 years had grown to 15 from two). There’s the ‘quiet room’ for breaks. The fully stocked fitness room, the laundry room, the cafeteria.”

My job as a futurist has me doing an increasing number of CEO level events for Fortune 500 companies around the world, helping at leadership meetings which are focused on the massive transformations and disruption occurring in every single industry.

Disruption is real, it’s big, and it’s happening faster than you think.

Here’s what you need to think about today, as the pace of change picks up:

1. Multiple trends merge. At no other time in the world of business have we seen so many trends come together all at once. Computers, exponentiating bandwidth, connectivity, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, robotics, neural networks, deep analytics, autonomous vehicles, self-learning systems. All of these trends and more are merging together,  leading to a massively new, connected, intelligent machine that will transform, change, challenge and disrupt every industry. As this happens….

2 Every company becomes a software company. From healthcare, home appliances to automotive, manufacturing to packaging, retail to sports & fitness, energy to agriculture: every industry is seeing massive change as it becomes enabled, challenged and transformed by technology and connectivity. From precision agriculture to self-driving cars, smart clothing to connected microwaves, remote medical monitoring devices to active packaging  — every company in every industry is becoming a computer company, with software and technology at its heart and soul. What this means is that …..

3. Velocity accelerates and speed defines success. Moore’s law — the rule that defines that the processing power of a computer chip constantly increases while the cost collapses at an exponential rate — is coming to drive the speed of innovation in every single industry. Companies are having to innovate and transform at a pace never seen before. Some can do it, and others can’t, which leads to the new rule in the economy that….

4. Small beats big. Agility and speed are the new metrics for success. Big organizations are often encumbered by legacy, and are suffering from the disease of  organizational sclerosis. New, aggressive upstarts can move faster, with the result that they can make decisions that provide for big disruption and challenge. In their world….

5. Edge thinking dominates. These small upstarts don’t follow long-established ‘rules’ for changing the future. To move faster, they source ideas and inspiration through crowd-thinking, raise their funds through crowd-funding, and prototype products through 3D printing and other fast-to-market methodologies. Global R&D has moved from massive labs to globally dispersed idea factories. The result of this trend is that ….

6. Ideas accelerate. In every field, the pace of innovation and discovery is speeding up to an unprecedented level. What use to seem like science fiction just a few years ago is todays’ reality. In such an environment …

7. Big, bold thinking predominates. We are seeing the emergence of an entire world of big dreamers and doers, individuals who dare to challenge the orthodox, and abandon routines. The concept of the ‘moonshot’ is no longer restricted to those with deep pockets — but is oxygen for those with big ideas. To get their fast, they realize that….

8. Skills access is the new gold. Did you notice Ford paid $1 billion to get access to some experts in self-driving car technology? Enough said. Those who can access the skills in trend #1 above win. We’re in a global war for niche talent, and that pretty much defines a critical strategy for the future. If it is all about skills, then success involves a strategy in which ….

9. Experience is oxygen. There’s no time to learn, to study, to plan. It’s time to figure out what you don’t know, and do the things that are necessary to begin to know about it. Experiential capital is the new capital for the 21st century. To get there, you need to know that….

10. Action is the best reaction. If you don’t disrupt, you will be disrupted. It’s your ability to quickly act, react and do that will allow for future success. There’s not a lot of time for debate, studying; inertia is abhorred. Simply DO. That should be you.

Remember that song by the Who? “I hope I die before I get old!”

You better change before you can’t.

You might be obsolete before you know it.

Quit talking about disruption.

Do something about it.

I was interviewed the other day by the National Association of Colleges and Employers; this group is heavily involved in supporting career opportunities for college graduates. The focus of the interview was on generational diferences, and what happens in the workforce in the future.

Read the PDF! “Don’t mess with my powder, dude.” Such was the rather flippant response by an engineering graduate to a job offer from a leading architectural/engineering company. The CEO of the organization was explaining this story to me while we discussed the global trends that I should address during my upcoming presentation to staff of the organization. “What’s with these kids?” he asked.

Certainly there has been a lot of focus on how different the Millennial generation when it comes to the future of careers; I’ve been speaking about this issue for more than 20 years!

The article is below…… but read my article, ‘Don’t Mess with my Powder, Dude” for more insight on the work/life thoughts of the next generation. 

Also have a look at this video from an education conference, in which I speak about how video is the knowledge ingestion tool for the next generation.

Video: The Acceleration of Knowledge


Technology the Catalyst for Generational Differences
Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals
January 11, 2017

When we talk about generational differences, we no longer can just identify differences between generations, but we can identify differences within generations as well, according to Jim Carroll.

Carroll, a futurist and trends expert, says technology is the catalyst for the rapidity with which generations now evolve.

“It’s not politics or sociology, because they don’t move fast enough,” Carroll says. “The speed with which technology has come into their lives has made the differences within Generation Z that are amplified when compared to the Millennials.”

For example, Carroll says that there are definitely differences between a 30-year-old Millennial and a 25-year-old Millennial.

“There was a lot of technology coming at them as they grew up, but it wasn’t a huge amount,” he says. “But if you take an 18-year-old and a 23-year-old today—both members of Generation Z—it’s almost like they grew up in entirely different periods of time because they would have been exposed to different sets of technology.”

This carries over into the workplace. Carroll says Generation Z shares common traits with Millennials.

“They have very short attention spans,” he says. “They need multiple different things to do. These are all traits that were common with Millennials, but they are much more pronounced with the generation entering the work force.”

He says that a realization many organizations have not come to grips with yet is that this is the video generation.

“These young employees consume video like it’s oxygen,” Carroll says. “When it comes to training or any type of education or professional development, the use of video is paramount. These employees have never known a world without YouTube, so if you’re doing anything to engage them, it has to be video based. They are not going to sit and read policy and procedure manuals. Nor are they going to spend their time dealing with complex reports.”

They also have little time for what they consider unnecessary or unwieldy tasks or formats.

“They don’t subscribe to the idea of performance reviews or long, laborious processes in stages to move up the ladder,” Carroll says. “They don’t have a lot of patience for complexity and rules and structure. They get frustrated with antiquated practices. It has been a command and control workplace. Instead, they want to get in and get their work done without a lot of talking about it.”

Carroll explains that, with members of Generation Z, organizations also have a powerful source of collaborative powers that they need to harness.

“By growing up with mobile devices and social networks, the skills they bring into the workplace for collaborative capabilities is profound compared to what we saw with Millennials just 10 years prior,” he says. “Employers have to support that and take advantage of these collaborative capabilities.”

While technology allows employees of all generations to work remotely, Carroll believes Generation Z still will value connecting in person.

“The common prediction is that the new generation of employees is going to unplug, work remotely, and not congregate in offices,” Carroll notes. “I might be proven dead wrong on this, but I think that’s going to flip around so we’ll see a trend back to the workplace and increased human interaction.

“The employees entering the work force have untapped tools and skills for the workplace. We have to give them more credit than we do. They have surprised us in the past and I’m certain that they will continue to surprise us in the future.”

17 Trends for 2017
December 19th, 2016

What are the trends I’m watching as we head into 2017?

In 2017, low-tech innovation will gain increasing attention as the marvel of ‘smart things’ begins to wear off, and people realize that many smart things are really ‘dumb things.

Far too many; indeed, the list is almost too long to consider. I’ve got keynotes, leadership or Board meetings in almost every sector in the coming months: transportation, construction, healthcare, retail, automotive, advanced materials and manufacturing, agriculture, insurance … the list goes on and on.

And that’s just with the confirmed bookings for the early part of the year!

This means that at any one time, I’ve got big stacks of research material on my desk as I delve into key trends and issues impacting my clients. I’m often engaged by CEO’s or association leaders to come into their organizations with concise, detailed research on the key issues that will come to impact them in the coming year. I don’t just show up and do a canned keynote: I provide some pretty detailed insight.

Given that, it’s always difficult to prepare a comprehensive trends overview – there is just so much going on! But to give you a sense of what is happening here’s a fun little list of “17 trends for 2017!”

Some of the things I am watching include the following:

1. 4D Printing:  3D printing is already so yesterday. In fact, while it’s getting a lot of attention, it’s actually 30 years old. And yes, it’s got a long way to go in terms of its real adoption and impact; it’s barely scratched the surface in the world of manufacturing.  But the newest buzz is around 4D printing, or what we might call ‘customizable’ smart materials.‘ It’s the printing of an item that can change shape depending on particular conditions: a good example is a pipe that might change its size depending on the volume of water or other liquid flowing through it. It’s pretty new, involves a lot of advanced science, and has caught the imagination and attention of innovators worldwide. It’s a real game changer.

2. Amazonification of Industries: Amazon has everyone in its crosshairs as it moves beyond the sale of hard products. This include the home repair/renovation business, to optometrists or heading specialists, to automotive repair. Amazon isn’t just about selling goods — increasingly, it’s about selling the services that go with those goods. And if your industry is targeted by Amazon, you’re faced with the stark choice of a race to the bottom, forced to compete on price — or figuring out some other business model. I’m being retained by an increasing number of CEO’s or other senior executives in a wide variety of industries to come in for a talk on innovation strategies to deal with the realty of what to do when Amazon chooses to compete with you. Amazonification is real, and will pick up speed throughout 2017.

3. The Impact of Generational Time Shifting. Baby boomers are living longer and retiring later. Millennials are marrying later, having kids later, and buying houses later. The next generation moves out of their parents homes later.  Take a look around, and whatever the case may be, people are doing things later in life than they used to! The implications throughout the economy and on every single industry are pretty profound: this time-shift challenges business assumptions, brand messaging, and in some cases, the very nature of the product or service being sold. If you don’t understand the impact on your business, you better take some time to do so.

4. The expectation gap: This is a huge issue for 2017, obviously, but people aren’t really thinking about what to do with it. Quite simply, people have developed expectations that won’t be met. The gap has always been there, but it is evident that it is growing! For examples, consider the perception that people have with respect to the payout that their pension plans will provide them in their retirement years, and the likely payout that they will actually receive. People expect a cleaner environment, and  yet seem to continue to insist on driving large, gas guzzling SUV’s and high performance cars. People want smaller “big government” but don’t want to see any of their sacred government spending programs to be touched. They want top-notch healthcare, but don’t want to have to pay for it. They expect to be able to ‘live large,’ but don’t think that they will be impacted by the resultant lifestyle dieseases of diabetes, hypertension and more. The expectation gap will become more profound throughout 2017 as the political juggernaut of 2016 continues to play out in the US, the UK and elsewhere.

5. Ransomware of things. If you thought Internet-of-Things denial of service attacks were bad, wait until you start seeing the impact of this trend. We’ll see the emergence of fascinating new hack attacks in which someone will be able to take control of an entire range of Internet connected devices from one manufacturer — home thermostats, house alarms or other smart devices – and prevent them from operating until some type of ransomware fee is paid. Oh, the lawyers are going to make a lot of negligence-money from this trend!

6. Prognostic diagnostics takes centre stage: While autonomous and self-driving vehicles are all the rage, an equally important transformation is underway. That’s the fact that hyper connectivity (aka the Internet of Things) brings companies the ability to diagnose things from afar. It means that transportation, utility, appliance, and other companies can understand and determine when particular products are going to break down or require maintenance. That changes business models, since they are no longer restricted to selling just a physical ‘thing’, but a service. Guaranteed uptime becomes a major selling feature; skills retraining is necessary; marketing/branding messages undergo change.

7. Gadgets get dumb: In 2017, low-tech innovation will gain increasing attention as the marvel of ‘smart things’ begins to wear off. People are beginning to realize that many smart things are really ‘dumb things’ because of bad design. They’ll  begin to rebel or lose interest in many aspects of the Internet of Things, and all the complexities that comes from making devices connect, work, sync and generally, behave. In addition, the trend will be driven by a desire to come up with simple solutions to the complex problems of the third world, where simplicity, low cost, and un-connectedness are the driving factors for design. This means that we can expect innovations with water, small scale energy production, and other areas, which will flow back into the Western world. Combine both of these issues, and maybe the era of hi-tech gadgetry will begin to slow or be supplanted by simple, dumb things.

8. Micro-personalization. We’ll witness the acceleration of the trend to the world of ‘you.’ One size solutions that don’t ‘fit-all’, but fit you. Think, for example, about advances in genomic medicine that allow for engineering of medical treatments for particular genetic profiles – a trend that is closer to reality as a result of the ongoing reduction in cost of genomic sequencing. Retail stores will speed up their adoption of location and in-store technology that will deliver a highly personalized shopping experience.  Personal concierge service will become all the rage as the elite-service concepts of the airline industry become mainstream in health care and other industries. In 2017, smart companies will realize ‘it’s all about you, and discover significant business opportunity in doing so.

9. “Exercise is medicine” is the new medicine: in which physical therapy becomes a formalized part of medical treatment programs. This will include prescriptions written by doctors that provide for treatment by fitness professionals. The goal of EIM is to slow, stop or reverse the progression of chronic diseases: and as those diseases and the resultant cost accelerates, innovative programs around EiM will pick up speed.

10. Collaborative careers take over. With ongoing specialization of knowledge, organizations will find that they will have to spend more time simply coordinating access to knowledge. The trend is already playing out in health care: one study found that physicians believe they will send more time on leading teams and coordinating care, than on the delivery of care directly by themselves! This trend will pick up speed for many reasons, not the least of which is digitization, as tech comes to accelerate the complexity of many industries.

11. Green China: in 2017, the environment will be under siege: the new political reality will likely result in a pushback against anything environmental in the US. A new of uncertainty  will drive away investment. The result? Many of the next wave innovations with wind, solar, tidal and other alternative forms of energy will come from a most unsurprising source: China!

12. UI Supremacy. As dumb-devices take centre stage, innovators will work to reverse the trend through better design. User interface design will be HOT, and one of the most in-demand skills going forward! Think about it: in many industries, the first efforts into the world of smart things resulted in some pretty stupid devices! Have you ever tried to use a smart-TV? Infuriating, isn’t it – since there is nothing smart about their ease-of-use at all. Consider this too: most car companies have failed in developing simple, easy to use dashboard systems, but Tesla has not. Result? The iPad design concept will increasingly dominate automotive and other forms of product design. NEST-style thermostat thinking will come to drive the design of residential, commercial and industrial appliances. In store kiosks, self-checkouts and other systems will be rebuilt from the ground up by innovative companies that recognize that good UI is the new winning formula for success. Easy, clean interfaces are in; clunky retrofits are out. Related trend? Upgradability defines future success!

13. The Yottabit era. It’s said that a self-driving car is capturing and processing 7 terabytes of data per hour !That’s a huge amount of information, and is indicative of the fact that the big shift in transportation is that cars are essentially just becoming computers on wheels. The typical truck today contains more technology than a Cessna airplane, and generates massive amounts of logistics, maintenance and other data. It’s not just self-driving cars or connected trucks — as every device becomes a computer device, volumes of data grow at a furious pace. We’re entering yottabit territory, a phrase that I wrote about way back in 1999. (Check out who owns yottabits.com). The exponentiation of data generation doesn’t just mean big data : companies will be dealing with massive data sets, and have to figure out what to do with it. Data-farming will be the new form of analytical insight!

14IoIT takes over from IOT – Connected intelligence is the new AI, as the Intelligent-Internet-of-Things takes over from boring old Internet-of-Things devices. Quite simply, smart devices become smarter by talking to other smart devices. As they do so, insight gained from connectivity comes to redefine the future of the product. Consider this simple idea: a Cadillac CTS sports sedan can share information with other vehicles about  weather, speed, accidents, as well as their own status (breaking, accelerating, etc). That changes the very nature of what the vehicle is, and provides big opportunities for innovation. In the auto-sector, we can expect a lot of advances in this field, known as V2V (or Vehicle to Vehicle communication) . That’s but one industry — what happens when thermostats in a region can talk to other thermostats and online weather sensors, and come to figure out what they should be doing in terms of heating or cooling activities? Or when health care monitoring technologies can determine the emergence of a flu outbreak, and network with other devices to build a predictive analytical healthcare dashboard?

15. Chief Robotics Officers / Chief Automation Officers . According to IDC, 30% of tech and companies in the automation space will fill such a position in the coming year. Automation is all the rage, with many dire predictions on the impact on jobs and careers. But there is more to it than that, with the result that as robotics and automation continues to be deployed after in manufacturing, travel, transportation, retail and elsewhere, companies will come to discover that they will need a senior executive position to strategize, manage and deploy such technologies.

16. Same Day Infrastructure Hubs: As ‘same day’ becomes a regular part of our daily lives, more companies will invest in the infrastructure required to support it. It won’t involve just the same day shipping of goods. For example, the trend for same food delivery is leading to the emergence of commercial kitchens being created in low-rent, low-cost facilities, strictly for the purpose of home delivery. Expect big developments  in the world of commercial real estate and related industries as we see the mergence of these supportive hubs in retail, food, grocery, fashion and elsewhere.

17. Complexity partnerships drive innovation. AS things become more complex, companies realize they can’t do it all on their own. More JV’s, skills partnerships, and other forms of talent access become critical. Consider a GE study: 85% of senior executives are concerned about the velocity introduced by digitization and are open to idea collaboration; 75% indicated they are open to share the revenue stream of an innovation collaboration; and 85% indicated such initiatives were growing over the last year. Partnership is the new bedrock for innovation!

A fun little list. There’s lots more! Here’s looking forward to 2017!

 

We live in terrifying times! Terrifying headlines! We’re all going to lose our jobs! The juggernaut of automation has us all in its sights!

Everywhere we turn, there’s terror in the news. Is it real, is it fake? I don’t know, but it sure seems that 2017 is the year of the big job automation disruption!

 

What should we do! Let’s come up with some sort of plan to help all these displaced workers! A big dialog is necessary. Plans. Guaranteed income strategies. Things like that.

 

 

OMG! It’s pretty clear that mankind is doomed by the era of automation! Doomed by the machine age!

 

 

After all, machines are destroying jobs! There are photos! Pictures even!

It’s even the end of jobs for musicians!

Not only that, but robot brains are even coming up with story plots, having a dreadful impact on creative industries!

 

And hey, maybe we shouldn’t worry — we can all just enjoy all the extra leisure time that we are going to have.

Look maybe everybody should calm down some.

The older images in this post are from Modern Mechanix and Popular Science, from the 1930’s.

I’m sorry, I don’t want to seem insensitive or anything, but can every body just calm down with all the hysteria about this issue?

Yes, there are serious issues at work here. And yes, the future happens. But as I wrote in my other blog post, Things That Won’t Happen in 2017: and What it Means,:

  • AI and robots aren’t going to make a lot of jobs disappear in 2017. People are freaking out about this one everywhere! This idea is perhaps one of the defining trends observations of 2016: that sweeping technological change – parituclarly AI and robotics — is going to render countless jobs, professions and skills obsolete. It’s certainly going to become real, and this is a pretty significant and profound trend. But like these other trends, it  isn’t something that is going to happen with split-second instantaneity. Also, missing in this conversation is the reality at the same time that existing jobs and careers disappear, we are seeing the emergence of all kinds of new jobs and careers.

Consider that last bit of that phrase:  the reality at the same time that existing jobs and careers disappear, we are seeing the emergence of all kinds of new jobs and careers.

Yes, automation has destroyed jobs in manufacturing and countless other industries. And yet, there are many new jobs in manufacturing and elsewhere. New jobs and careers being created, right before our very eyes.

That’s always been the case in the past. Will be in the future.

Can there be some rational discussion around this stuff?

And maybe, just maybe, it might be a good time for some tools to test the intellect of many of those at the forefront of the hysteria. There’s a tool for that. Click to enlarge….

In my keynotes, I often talk about how the rate of change — whether with business models, product life cycles, the rapid emergence of new competitors, business model disruption, skills and knowledge and more!  — is speeding up. With such change, there’s a lot of uncertainty within many industries as to what to do next: a senior executive of one client commented to me from his perspective, “….entities are engaged in survival tactics because they don’t know what to do next ….”

volvo-givemeyourmind550

Here’s a simple reality: Innovation is all about adapting to the future — and if the future is coming at you faster, then you need to innovate faster.

Given that, innovation shouldn’t be about trying to survive the future — it should be about thriving.

At a recent keynote to senior executives, I outlined some truths as to the future:

  • It’s incredibly fast: Product life cycles are collapsing. It’s said that half of what students learn in their freshman year about science and technology is obsolete or revised by their senior year. There are furious rates of new scientific discovery. Time is being compressed.
  • It involves a huge adaptability gap: Earlier generations — boomers — have had participated in countless “change management workshops,” reflecting the reality that many of them have long struggled with change. Gen-Connect — today’s 35 and under — will never think of change management issue. They just change.
  • It has a huge instantaneity: The average consumer scans 12 feet of shelf space per second. Most news becomes old hat within 36 hours of emerging. Rapid prototyping, 3D printing and the maker community mean that a product can go from conception to reality in a matter of weeks – if not days. We live in the era of the rapid idea-cycle.
  • It hits you most when you don’t expect it: Every organization must deal with two realities: the rapid emergence of new technologies, and the sudden adoption of old-hat ideas. If you want to understand what comes next, study Gartner’s concept of “hype-cycles”
  • It’s being defined by renegades and rebels: Increasingly, the future of many an industry is being defined by industry expatriates. When a real innovator can’t innovate within a company, they step outside, form a startup, and spark massive industry change on their own. Before you know, they’ve reinvented you, whether you like it or not
  • It involves partnership: Old business models involved asking, “what can we do to run our business better?” The new business model is this: “What can we do to run our customers, suppliers and partners business better?
  • It involves intensity: 80% of the revenue from the typical video game is earned within 4 to 5 days of release. That’s becoming the norm in many industries — although not in days, but perhaps months. Companies are discovering their new reality involves short, sharp shocks of revenue, followed by a need to constantly re-asses and reinvent. We must learn to run our business at video-game intensity: in fast paced markets, we need fast paced business capabilities!
  • It’s bigger than you think: I used to joke, back in 2003,  about a futuristic GoogleCar, and an era in which Silicon Valley would become the new centre of the automotive universe. With self-driving cars and other efforts, its not a joke anymore. Every industry is witnessing similar levels of disruption and acceleration. Complacency is a dangerous thing, particular when every organization is faced with constant, relentless external innovation from unexpected competitors.
  • It involves innovation intensity: With rapid change, everyone in an organization must innovate. Some years ago, I appeared on a the CNBC Business of Innovation show. It featured a lot of “innovation elitists” who seemed to indicate that only special people can “do” innovation. Wrong : thriving in the future has a leadership that involves everyone in innovation. No idea is too dumb, no opportunity is too small. In an era of fast change, organizations must be relentlessly innovative, and that requires drawing on the skills and creativity of everyone
  • It comes from experiential capital: With a fast future, you must learn and relearn. Corporate equity isn’t just money: it’s the cumulative experience and knowledge of the team. Yeas ago, Verizon took a lot of abuse from analysts for its’ big fiber optic bet, yet here’s what I see: the CEO stating that the cost of installing fiber dropped 30% in 2005, and that there was a further reduction of 15-20% by  2006. By the end of end of 2006, they expected it to cost 1/2 that of 2005. The more they do, the better they get. That’s experiential capital, and that’s an invaluable asset.

The future is going to hit you whether you like it or not; it’s your approach to it, and how you innovate with it, that defines your future success.

Office Products International Magazine contacted me for an article about the future of the workplace, for their 25 anniversary issue.

opi
Obviously this is an industry that has a keen interest in the issue — after all, if your target market is the office, and that office is changing, you need to know! Here’s what I wrote!


What’s the future of the office workplace? People love trying to figure out that question. Futurist Jim Carroll is one of them…

When trying to imagine the workplace of the future, a good start is to look back at the cartoon show The Jetsons, which was first aired in the US in 1962 and purported to show what the world would look like in 2062 – 100 years on.

Watch The Jetsons today and it would seem most of its predictions have actually come true: autonomous, self-driving cars (although their vehicles could fly); video calling apps such as Skype or FaceTime (George Jetson used to communicate with his boss at Spacely Sprockets like this). He also views his news and other information on a flat screen TV – let’s say, using a version of our internet. In addition, Rosie the robot maid scurries about doing all kinds of things for the people that are a part of her ‘life’.

jetsons

Taking note of science fiction, back-to-the-future scenarios, and even cartoons such as The Jetsons can provide glimpses into what the workplace might look like in the coming decades.

But let’s think in more practical terms, by aligning the office of the future to the careers and workforce that will be our reality.

In 1997, I coined the phrase ‘nomadic workers’ while writing Surviving the Information Age, and made the following predictions:

  • The number of full-time jobs will begin to dramatically shrink. Yet, we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg in the change of the relationship between employer and employee as the nomadic worker becomes the dominant form of corporate resource.
  • Companies will hire the best talent, regardless of where that person might be. A new form of career competitiveness will emerge with extreme rivalry for this group of nomadic workers – highly skilled individuals who call the shots.
  • Where people work from won’t matter – a trend that has implications for the future of both rural and urban economies.
  • Lifestyle choice will come to dominate career decisions. Nomadic workers have different attitudes towards life and work, and reject many of the currently accepted ‘norms’ of the corporate environment. Their attitudes will revolutionise the world of work.
  • Office walls won’t determine the shape of tomorrow’s company – the reach of its computerised knowledge network, and its ability to tap into the skills and capabilities of nomadic workers, wherever they might be, will define it.

I was pretty much bang on with those trends – certainly much of it has already become true. More people work from home than ever before (in my case, I’ve had a home office for 25 years; my kids grew up in a world in which their parents have always worked at home).

A global war for the best talent means that there is an entire economy of highly-skilled nomadic workers. And in my own case, I joke that I work really hard to not have to go and get a job – instead, I hire out my future-forecasting skills to organisations worldwide.

Those trends will continue to play out in the future. But what else will happen? In my view, there are three key trends that will define the future of the office and the workplace: the rapid emergence of new careers, the continued rapid evolution of technology, and the impact of the next generation.

1. Future vocations

First, consider what is happening with skills, jobs and careers. Last year, I was the opening keynote speaker for the global WorldSkills challenge in São Paolo, Brazil, and spoke about the fact that we are now witnessing the rapid emergence of all kinds of new careers.

I’m talking about vocations such as robotic pharmaceutical therapy monitors, water footprint analysts, vertical farming infrastructure managers, drone helicopter insurance crop risk managers, and – not forgetting – manure managers!

The key point here is that many of these new careers involve the processing of information which can be done from anywhere. An insurance risk manager that relies on drone technology doesn’t have to be on location, they can simply do their work from wherever they are.

The result of this is an even greater dispersion of highly skilled jobs around the world.

Organisations in the future will continue to hollow out, hiring skills and talent on an as-needed, short-term contract rather than permanent basis. Centralised offices will become smaller, with a core group focused on strategic goals that simply link to needed talent as and when required.

2. Connecting the workplace

The second trend is the Internet of Things (IoT) which will provide some of the most fascinating changes in the workplace and office of the future. What is it really all about? Simply put, every device that is a part of our daily lives is going to become connected and we will be aware of its status and its location.

I often joke on stage that this could get a bit out of hand: I might get on my weighing scales one day, and it will send an email to my fridge, blocking access for the day because I’m not living up to the terms of my wellness contract.

The IoT will lead to some of the The Jetsons-type forecasts of the past. It’s quite likely that self-driving cars will result in mobile offices on wheels – the car does the navigation, so we’ll have more time to get some work done on the way to the office.

Massive hyperconnectivity will keep employees aware of where fellow workers are, when office supplies are running low, or will link them to a specific location on a manufacturing assembly line that requires instant maintenance.

We will live and work in a world that is hyper-aware of the status of everything around us and that will lead to some fascinating workplace changes that I don’t think we can even yet comprehend.

3. The virtual workforce

It is perhaps the third trend that will have the most profound impact. Consider this fact: 10-15 years from now, most baby boomers will have retired or will be set to soon retire. This technology-adverse generation grew up with mainframes, COBOL and MS-DOS, and as a result, never really adapted to a workplace of videoconferencing, video whiteboards and other methods of collaboration.

Conversely, my sons, aged 21 and 23, grew up with the Xbox and PlayStation, Skype and text messages. This generation will soon take over the workforce, and most certainly take advantage of every opportunity to continue to virtualise the world of work. They will use Google Glass-type devices to embed live video into their everyday work routine. Virtual reality will become common enabling them to live and work in a world of massive augmented reality. They will be able to teleport their minds to far-flung locations where their virtual avatar will participate, interact and collaborate with others.

They are going to live in a world of technology acceleration unlike anything we have known, and rather than battling it as older generations have so often done, they will embrace it with open arms and open minds.

Does this all mean that the traditional office of today – a meeting place where individuals gather to share efforts on projects, ideas and opportunities – will disappear? I don’t think so. I believe that we are social creatures, and we crave opportunities for interaction. It will just be a very different form of interaction.

Brace yourself. The future will be here faster than you think.

Jim Carroll is one of the world’s leading futurists, trends and innovation experts, with a client list that includes NASA, The Walt Disney Company, Johnson & Johnson and the Swiss Innovation Forum. Follow him on Twitter @jimcarroll or visit www.jimcarroll.com