Innovation : think big, start small, scale fast!

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A report from T. Rowe Price on my recent keynote for the 2011 Investment Symposium follows, where I was one of three keynote speakers (the other two being Colin Powell and Charlie Cook). You can find some blog links to each of the three key themes in the article at the end of the article below.

""We thought Jim was amazing - just the positive message we wanted to leave folks with"

It was a fabulous event, and a great opportunity to get a pretty impressive audience — investment managers for a broad range of investment managers for a broad range of Fortune 1000 organizations, pension funds and government agencies.

Summary:

Futurist Jim Carroll, one of the world’s leading experts in global trends and innovation, described how advances in technology and human innovation will combine to create positive change in the future. He explained how businesses can be held back by what he calls “aggressive indecision”— postponing action because they are constantly waiting for economic conditions to improve. Carroll noted that as the pace of change accelerates, the companies that prosper will be those that can adapt and innovate most quickly.

Key Points

  • Long-term trends that will lead us into the future. Silicon Valley is redefining everything—industries that get involved with Silicon Valley will be brought up to their speed. One powerful trend is pervasive interconnectivity—the fact that electronic devices are connected and can communicate with each other—as a driving force. For example, a staid industry such as air conditioning and heating benefits when people can control their entire home environment remotely through a cell phone. On the health care front, sensors can monitor the activities of seniors and report any changes in behavior, allowing people to live independently longer. On a more dramatic note, he believes advances in exploring the human genome will change medicine’s focus from reactively treating disease to proactively searching for potential health problems before they occur.
  • The paradox of pessimism and reality. While many business people are pessimistic about the future and believe economic recovery is at least two years away, technological advances are creating the potential for greater productivity and efficiency. For example, the auto industry now has the flexibility to produce in response to demand instead of building huge inventories that may go unsold. Products can also be brought to market much faster to take advantage of changes in consumer tastes.
  • The next generation. The next generation has grown up with rapid advances in technology, so they are at home with change. This familiarity means young people will greatly increase the rate of innovation as they enter the workforce. This group is not afraid to take independent action—50% believe self employment offers more job security than working for a company. The next generation will receive $12 billion to $18 billion in intergenerational wealth transfers in the next 12 years alone, which could help fund their ambition.

  • Major 10 year trend: The future of every industry to be controlled by Silicon Valley Innovation  
  • The new face of manufacturing: agility, insight and execution 
  • Creativity and the new workforce 

 

2010Faster.jpgWhat should innovative organizations do? When everything is faster still, focus on these things:

  • build up experiential capital – think big, start small, scale fast. The experiential projects are the “start small” part of the equation. Know what you don’t know, and set out to learn those things
  • master collaboration and share: the world is changing too fast, and things are too complex, to do it all on your own. Innovators have mastered the skill of learning from others
  • focus on tactical to strategic transitions: innovators don’t have staff who perform a lot of routine tasks. Each and every single person helps to achieve the core strategic goals of the organization, even if just in a small way
  • monitor global idea cycles: your future is being invented all around you, and you success comes from your ability to plug in, tune in, and turn on
  • fuse generational insight: we’ve got really disparate viewpoints, capabilities and levels of patience amongst generations. Innovators bring these differences together in order to get the best from each generation.
  • take on anticipatory projects: one thing is certain: tomorrow won’t be like today. Innovators look at what might happen tomorrow, and try those things out, in order to be better prepared for when the future arrives.
  • be a farmer: it’s all about growth, and learning how to relentless focus on that mission
  • displace indecision: it’s simply unacceptable to waver, wait, and pause. Innovators get things done.
  • implement quicker: there’s not a lot of time to get things done when markets, customers, expectations, competitors and business models all change at a furious pace. Innovators are religious on agility and speed.
  • think bold: this isn’t a time for small visions and small ideas. We’re witnessing the birth of transformative new industries, companies, careers and ideas. Jump on board and go for the big win, not just the small stuff.

If five years, your business, markets, products, customers, industry and structure will look nothing like they do today. What are you going to do about it?

Some months ago, Cisco and MSN engaged me to provide a series of short videos, with issues that small business might be thinking about from a strategic perspective. We filmed 16 short clips; 9 of them can be found here. I’ll add more as additional items are posted with their online campaign.

I also wrote, in addition to the video clips, a series of articles concerning innovation; I’ll link these to this blog post as well when the articles are posted.

Rethinking Innovation
Rethinking Innovation
The Future of Small Business
The Future of Small Business
Connectivity
Connectivity

 

Small business organizations often think that “innovation” is some deep, mysterious capability best left to big organizations. That’s not true — as the engines of the economy, there is plenty of opportunity for smaller organizations to change what they do and how they do it to accelerate their opportunities!

makeithappen

There are a number of reasons why there is unprecedented opportunity for innovation within the small / medium enterprise sector:

  • the emergence of the contingent workforce: there has never been a better time for professionals and individuals with specialized knowledge to set up shop, and provide their services to a vast global client base.
  • complexity drives partnership: as the high velocity economy evolves, organizations are finding an increased need for solutions to very complex problems; often, the only solution might be a very unique company or individual that is focused on that one particular issue.
  • opportunity is endless: countless new markets, products, and new business models are merging on a continuous basis. Who will sell, support and service the new line of intelligent highway cones?
  • flexibility is easy: one of the video clips will tell the story of a wood mouldings manufacturer I spent some time with; their innovation story, involving how they turned the tables on Home Depot through a logistics innovation, is truly inspiring. You don’t have to be a big organization to succeed with innovation: you simply need an open mind and a will to change.
  • lifestyle drives decisions: I bailed out of the corporate sector, and have been working out of a home office for 18 years. I have never regretted a moment, and now see a massive trend of people making the same lifestyle decision.
  • rapid emergence of new markets: I identified the outdoor living room trend in 2003 — and today, already, the outdoor living product market is now estimated at $15.7 billion, or 37% of total lawn and garden spending. There are a vast number of small and medium organizations who saw the trend unfold, and jumped in. Those types of rapid opportunities will continue to emerge in the future.
  • lower cost to innovate: the cost of sophisticated technology continues to drop. SME’s today can do things that were the domain of Fortune 500’s five years ago; tomorrow, they’ll be the most sophisticated operators on the planet, able to suddenly shift their skills and resources; marketing strategies and campaigns; operating methodology and structure. If they innovate correctly, they can do the things that big business does — but do it better.
  • new careers are emerging: think location intelligence professionals, hospitalists and manure managers (yes, seriously.) These are all some of the new careers unfolding before our very eyes: they’ve been covered in this blog, and are featured in the new book. Many new careers can emerge within the structure of the SME economy.
  • it fits the fundamental transformation of business: there is a new workforce emerging, and SME’s are a big part of it. There is plenty of opportunity for skills provision on a global basis as we transition from a 20th century organizational model to the flexible, adaptable, scalable structure of the 21st.
  • the barriers to innovation are fewer: my experience has taught me that small and medium sized organizations have little of the “organizational sclerosis” that clogs up the structure of their larger, Fortune 5000 cousins. They can adapt and react quickly, and often don’t get bogged down in the deadly process of killing innovation with attitudes such as, “you can’t do that because we’ve always done it this way.

Watch this space, and I’ll post a link when the first video/ article goes live, possibly within the next two weeks.

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