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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.”

We have seen more change in the last 5 years than we have seen in the last 100 – and yet there is much more yet to come.

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2017 will prove to be a watershed year as trends continue to accelerate. Self-driving cars, the Internet of Things, business model disruption, hyper-competition and hyper-connectivity, collaborative innovation, scientific acceleration, exponential technology, rapid product innovation, faster market change, empowered consumers — are you ready and focused on the trends that will continue to provide opportunity and challenge going forward?

Every year, organizations kick off a new year by bringing me in for a senior executive leadership meeting or corporate offsite strategic planning session, to get a clear and concise overview of what comes next, and what they should do about it.

2017 is almost here — are you prepared, and ready to kick off the year with the powerful insight that you need to know to move forward?

I’ll take you on a tour of the trends which are reshaping our world in a great way. Big transformative trends involving a renaissance in manufacturing enabled by 3D printing, advanced robotics and massive digitization, self-driving cars and the impact of intelligent highway infrastructure, space tourism, asteroid mining, vertical farming, and other fascinating fast paced trends!. Opportunities for the transformation of entire industries such as healthcare, sports and transportation through unprecedented levels of hyper-connectivity. The acceleration of ideas with science that are allowing us to solve some of the biggest challenges of our time in the world of education, healthcare, the environment and education. A generation of millennials who know that it is a great time to think big ideas and do great things with their boundless enthusiasm and global awareness.

It’s time to turn your mind to the future once again, restore a sense of hope and optimism, and link yourself to the fast paced trends which energize your outlook on opportunity! After all, 2017 is almost here! My clients include Disney, the PGA of America, NASA, Johnson & Johnson, the Swiss Innovation Forum and more — join this elite company and re-energize your view into the future.

Interested? Call me!

Is your organization an innovation laggard, a timid warrior without the resolve to try to achieve great things?

A common focus for many of the keynotes I’ve given for senior executive as of late revolves around the theme, ‘what is it that world class innovators do that others don’t do?”

Over a period of time of 20 years, I’ve had the opportunity to observe and learn from many organizations as to what they are doing to deal with a time that involves both massive challenge as well as significant opportunity.

Everyone is being impacted by business model disruption, the emergence of new competitors, the impact of technology, the collapse of product lifecycle, ongoing political volatility and ever-more challenging customers.

In that context, it’s clear that those very things which might worked for them in the past might be the very anchors that could now hold them back in the future. In the era of Uber, Tesla and Amazon, leaders must have the insight into unique opportunities for innovation and change.

That’s why they are booking me, as I am providing them with a customized overview of the key trends impacting them, and invaluable leadership lessons that provide a clear path for going forward.

What are some of these lessons? Here’s a short list:

  • fast beats big: In a time of unprecedented change, those who are prepared to think fast are those who are moving forward. Those who move fast get things done, and keep getting things done. Others wallow in a state of aggressive indecision; inaction breeds decay.
  • bold beats old: all around you right now, there are countless numbers of people and organizations who are out to mess up your business model. Given that, are you the Elon Musk of your industry, prepared to think big and take big bold steps? Or is your organization an innovation laggard, a timid warrior without the resolve to try to achieve great things? Bold thinkers make bold steps, aggressive moves, and big decisions. This is not a time for timidity; it’s a time for BIG ideas and the pursuit of the offbeat.
  • velocity trumps strategy: careful strategic planning can be a critical step in adapting to the future, but in some areas, things are happening so fast that you can’t take the time to strategize: you just need to jump in and go. That’s experiential capital it’s one of the most important investments that you need to be making now. Understand what it is, and why you need to be investing in it NOW.
  • flexibility beats structure: successful innovators have mastered the ability to form fast teams: they know their that their ability to quickly scale resources to tackle fast emerging opportunities or challenges are the only way that they can win in the future. They avoid the organizational sclerosis that bogs too many organizations down
  • disruptors destroy laggards: step into any industry, and there are people who are busy messing about the fundamental business models which have long existed. Start your own disruption before you find yourself disrupted
  • connectivity is the new loyalty: with the forthcoming dominance of mobile technology in everyday lives, everything you know about customer relationships is dead. Right now, it’s all about exploring and building new relationships throughout the mobile data cloud in which the customer lives. If you don’t get that, your brand is dead.
  • location is the new intelligence: with connectivity comes location, which results in new applications, business models, methods of customer interaction, and just about everything. If you don’t have a location strategy for your business, you really don’t understand how quickly your world is changing around you

For more on this thinking, check out the ‘innovation’ tag on my blog.

Do you?

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

hirepeopleyoudontlike

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back in 2003, or maybe it was 2005 …. I was invited by DaimlerChrysler — then the merged entity of Chrysler and Mercedes Benz, a merger which would eventually fail — to participate in a strategic planning session that would look at the future of the auto industry.

And so I travelled to Mercedes HQ in Stuttgart, Germany for a two day session. I came away with the feeling that this was an industry that just didn’t “get it.” I still don’t think they do.

The goal of the meeting was to define what the industry would look like in 2013 … 10 years on. I was the outsider, the futurist, with the job of challenging their notions as to how the future might unfold. It was a small, intimate meeting — 20 very serious auto engineers and marketing types, and me.

At that meeting, I predicted, with some uncanny accuracy, today’s Tesla Model 3 announcement.

At that meeting, I suggested that Google might become a car company. Of course, at the time, these auto engineers laughed at me. What a foolish futurist! The thing is — I had my story right in 2003. I just thought it would be Google, and never thought it would be a new company like Tesla.

Think about what is unfolding today: Google, Tesla, Apple — what’s the difference? — my point back in 2003 was that in the future, Silicon Valley would come to define the pace of innovation, structure, manufacturing, and indeed, the concept of how to bring a car to market.

If you watch a few videos — here’s an event in 2006 for an audience of 3,000 engineers in Florida, in which I spoke about my 2003 experience:

Here is a longer clip, in which I predict the structure of the auto industry that is unfolding before us today:

What is today all about? It’s another sign that the auto industry as we know it is dead. Gone. In the dustbin of history. Everything is changing at a furious pace.

In 2003, I nailed the idea that people would buy a car a year in advance as a beta! So far today, it looks like we have 150,000 orders worldwide as an estimate. People lined up for a car that they are willing to buy only based on a promise of being at the leading edge. A company that has a business model that involves “building to customer demand” as opposed to “building to inventory.” Massive transformation of an industry bound up in 120 years of tradition (give or take a few years…..). And a tweet from @elonmusk that suggests they haven’t nailed the design of the car yet, but will make it up as they go. In other words — it’s a beta!

Every industry is faced with similar transformation and challenge. The future belongs to those who are fast, who are prepared to think big and bold, and are ready to challenge existing norms.

Insurance, banking, finance, travel, healthcare. Folks, what’s your GoogleCar? Do you not get that we live in transformative times, in which the foundation of every industry is being subjected to massive change? Who is redefining your industry? Are you prepared to get aggressively involved, or will you just watch it happen? Are you going to be Tesla’d by someone who is redefining your industry today, yet you laugh at the concept?

I welcome today’s announcement! It’s about time that #tesla and #model3 catch up with what I predicated some 13 years ago.

But if you watch the second video — I only have one question: @elonmusk, will it ship with the “Tesla Car Party in a Box?”

As we wind down 2011, it’s a good time to reflect on some of the events I highlighted this year. It proved to be quite the year year, with many fascinating events where I opened or closed a large scale conference or corporate meeting with a keynote address.

One of Jim's key themes is the opportunities of the future - at one in Las Vegas, one fellow was so inspired by the message that he asked Jim when he might consider running for President of the United States. Click to watch!

As we approach the end of the year, everyone turns their attention to 2012 — and begins to wonder “what comes next?” All of my clients are focused on that theme when they engage me for a keynote or corporate workshop — and so a sense of what they were thinking about in 2011 gives you a good sense of what’s going to be important in 2012!

Some of the highlights from this year includes these events:

  • CSC Executive Exchange 2011, St. Andrews, Scotland. A small, intimate, invitation only event where I shared keynote duties with Jimmy Wales, the Founder of WikiPedia. I had CEO’s, CIO’s and CFO’s of some pretty major global organizations. Key theme: “The Next Wave of Digital Game-Changers” – I took a look at how every industry is soon to be caught up in Silicon Valley velocity, as technological comes to change every industry at lightening speed.
  • McKesson IdeaShare 2011, San Francisco, California. Changing roles, changing opportunities. I open this annual event with a message for 4,500 pharmacist / owners that with significant challenges and change in the world of healthcare and retail, the time is ripe for them to innovate with their role and their methods because their has never provided a bigger time for opportunity. The big theme: “Healthcare 2020: The Transformative Trends That Will REALLY Define Our Future.” This proved to be a huge topic for this year, and continues into 2012, as people come to seek insight on what will really happen in the world of healthcare beyond the current political rhetoric.
  • Multi-Unit Franchising Conference 2011, Las Vegas. I share the stage with Sean Tuohy, subject of the Blind Side, who owns quite a few franchise operations on his own. The focus in my keynote is on the fast changes occurring in the world of retail with consumers, technology, advertising and branding, social networking – you name it all!
  • US Air Force Research Laboratory, Dayton, Ohio: This group, which controls the entire research budget for the Air Force, brings me in to open a conference in which they examine new opportunities and methodologies for innovative thinking. Fascinating audience, and indicative of the fact that every organization realizes that the world is changing so fast that a lot of traditional assumptions about innovation and R&D are changing at lightening speed!
  • Consumer Goods Technology Magazine 2011 , Orlando, Florida. The pre-eminent conference for packaged goods, food and consumer products companies, with a huge number of Fortune 500 executives. My theme focuses on ‘what world class innovators do that others don’t do‘, particularly to keep up with changing consumers, mobile technologies, social networks and a variety of other trends. It leads to a blog post by one fellow, “Some mind blowing stats from Jim Carroll ….” Big themes: “Mobile, Social, Location!
  • Maple Leaf Foods, Toronto, Canada. A blog post, “Food industry trends 2011; Report from a keynote” was based on this talk. This blog post is now one of the first search results for anyone searching for anything having to do with food trends — and is now easily the most trafficked Web page on my site. After health care, food trends is probably the second busiest topic area for the year.
  • T. Rowe Price 2011 Investment Symposium. 600 investment managers, senior executives and CEO’s. The other keynotes are Colin Powell and Charlie Cook. My job is to close this two day event with an inspirational, motivational message based on the theme “When Do We Get to Normal? Why Thinking BIG Will Help You Seize The Opportunities of the 21st Century.”
  • World Pharma Innovation Congress, London, UK. I’m honored to open this renowned global conference on innovation within their crucial sector – most of the global heavy hitters from the world of pharma and bio-science are in the room. Opportunities for growth and innovation are coming from hyper-science, opportunities for externally sourced innovation insight, and the big global ‘idea machine’ that is revolutionizing opportunities for innovative thinking.
  • Interactive Manufacturing Exchange, Las Vegas, Nevada. A massive highlight from September — with a dinner keynote for 600 major manufacturing executives, and a morning keynote for 1,000 more. My keynote focus is that there is plenty of room for growth in the North American manufacturing sector, given the tremendous advances that have occurred with methodology and technology. My message must have resonated — after my talk, one fellow got up during the Q&A and asked if I would consider running for President of the US!
  • DSSI Forum, San Antonio, Texas. One of the largest seniors care conferences in the US. I spoke at length and with passion about the big opportunities for innovative thinking in the sector, particularly in light of the big challenges that society faces. This was a very personal event; those who know me well know that we have learned quite a bit about the challenges society faces with Alzheimer’s as a close family member has suffered from the disease.
  • Lockheed Martin, Washington, DC. I’m asked to speak at their 2011 global HR conference. The organization is aligning itself to deal with fast paced change in ever sector of its operations: my theme is what companies are doing o achieve “skills agility”, and why the issue of “deploying the right skills at the right time for the right purpose” is an increasingly important model for the future.
  • Pearson 2011. The future of education. A talk that linked key future trends to the need for massive, transformation thinking in the world of knowledge delivery. Noted one attendee: “Jim Carroll gave a particularly poignant keynote address about the need for true, innovative thinking.  (Think of a 5 year mission on steroids…)”
  • Bombardier Global Operators Conference. The future of corporate and leisure travel. Manufacturing innovation. Consumer change, and the impact of mobility. A wide ranging talk that challenges global airline operators to think about innovation in every aspect of their operations.
  • Fairmont / Raffles Hotels International. A corporate event, focused on the future of the global meetings and events industry. Key theme: organizations will increasingly require short, sharp shocks of knowledge delivery — corporate meetings and events are a big part of this trend, and are a key part of the short term strategic planning cycles that organizations are focused upon.
  • Texas CattleFeeders Association, Amarillo, Texas. The 2nd of two major talks for the cattle/beef industry in the US. Earlier in the year, I opened a private event that had in the room the top 100 cattle ranchers from across the country – representing a  multi-billion dollar investment. My keynotes focus on the significant opportunities for growth in the agricultural industry.
  • International Foundation 57th annual Employee Benefits Congress, New Orleans, LA. A morning keynote for 4,500 people at 730AM in New Orleans — and they all show up, confirming that description that “what I do for a living is go out and talk to large groups of hungover people.” It’s a rousing talk on the theme of Healthcare 2020: Today’s Trends, Tomorrow’s Opportunities
  • Linde Health Group, Munich, Germany. Global opportunities in the world of healthcare – how do we link future trends to opportunities for growth.

There were quite a few other keynotes for associations, government and corporations. In addition to these high profile engagements, which featured audiences of up to 6,000, I also hosted a number of small CEO level events. In one case in Washington, I spent the morning with a small group of 15 CEO’s/CIO’s/CFO’s in a boardroom style setting, where we explored the opportunities for growth that coming from linking future trends to innovative thinking.

Advance bookings for 2012 are exceedingly strong — so far, I know I’ll be in Palm Springs, Tampa, Orlando, Phoenix, Aspen, New Orleans (x2), San Antonio and many other locations.

Think growth. Think opportunity. Think trends. Think positive!

10 Enemies of Innovation!
November 22nd, 2011

I had a conference call with a client yesterday with respect to an upcoming leadership meeting; I’ll be helping the organization think about some of the barriers they have towards innovation, and what they need to do to overcome these challenges.

As we were talking, I scribbled down a short list of some of the issues that I was identifying with them.

  •  tradition. Some organizations are too caught up with the past, which causes them to lose sight of opportunities for the future.
  • culture. Often corporate culture can stifling, if not deadening. Some build up an organizational sclerosis which eventually clogs up their ability to try to do anything new.
  • organizational memory. It causes people to focus on the past instead of the future.
  • bureaucrats. Their job is simply to shut down ideas, get people to fill out forms, and reduce the everyday work experience to a series of mind-numbing tasks.
  • stock markets. They cause too many senior executives to spend their time thinking about short term hits that can keep the stock price up, rather than working on the big bets that can provide for transformative opportunities. No wonder so many organizations are going private!
  • job descriptions. They reduce the role of people to a narrowly defined set of activities and small goals. I’ve encountered few organizations where innovation success is actually enshrined into the job description, let alone the HR reward system.
  • mission statements. They can be a great thing to give everyone an overall sense of purpose. On the other hand, most organizations don’t update and refresh them, which means that in many cases, the mission statement has nothing to do with what the organization actually needs to be doing.
  • strategic planning. Some organizations get so caught up in the process of strategic planning that they never get beyond the planing statge. Where do you think the phrases “analysis paralysis” comes from — organizations who are busy analyzing things as part of their planning process!
  • lone wolves. They’re often folks who can lead innovation, since they can have the brilliant ideas that are the spark for greatness. On the other hand, they can become so blinded by their belief that they refuse to accept the ideas and insight of anyone else, forgetting that collaboration is often at the root of all great innovations
  • history and legacy. What made you successful in the past won’t work for you in the future.

That’s a short list of some of the enemies of innovation – there are lots more!

Enhance your balance sheet!

In the 20th century, financial capital was the resource of choice. That’s doesn’t cut it anymore. Today, it’s all about skills, experience, creativity and more. Do you have what it takes?

In the 21st century, given the high velocity economy and the need for agility, organizations will need many different, nontraditional types of capital:

  • Experiential Capital. In a world in which Apple generates 60% of its revenue from products that didn’t exist four years ago, it’s critically important that an organization constantly enhance the skill, capabilities and insight of their people. They do this by constantly working on projects that might have an uncertain return and payback – but which will provide in-depth experience and insight into change. It’s by understanding change that opportunity is defined, and that’s what experiential capital happens to be. In the future, it will be one of the most important assets you can possess.
  • Skills Accessibility Capital. Talent, not money, is the new corporate resource for the battlefrontSimply put, there is so much happening that no one person or organization can know everything there is to know. With ongoing rapid knowledge growth, instant market change, fast-paced scientific discovery and constant skills evolution, getting the right people at the right time for the right purpose will be the key to successful change.
  • Creativity Capital. It is the ability to see the world differently, and the skill to imagine how to do things differently, that will be more important than any other skill. This will bring the needed forward oriented depth that organizations require. When product lifecycles are disappearing, and market longevity is measured in weeks and months, the ability to think, adapt, and imagine will be the foundation to provide for necessary change.
  • Generational Capital. We are set to see the emergence of the most unique workforce in history, with the widest age-span ever. Boomers won’t retire, and kids won’t want to get hired. The result will be a workforce that is transient, temporary, shifting and flexible. It will be those organizations who can match up the experience and wisdom of the aging baby boomers with the insight, enthusiasm and change-adept younger generation who will find the most powerful force to be found in business – an organization that is fuelled by the pure energy of change-oxygen.
  • Collaborative Capital. Forget the idea of having a strategic planning department, and think collaborative culture instead. Take a look around you, and ask yourself, who is succeeding today? It is those organizations who are plugged into the infinite idea loop that surrounds us. They’ve dropped any pretense that they can create the future, and instead realize that the future is being devel-oped by everyone all around them. They have come to learn that their role isn’t to plan for that future, but simply to listen to it, plug into it, and plug their growth-engine into it.
  • Complexity Partnership Capital. In the 20th century, organizations focused on hiring the skills that they needed to get the job done. You simply can’t do that today – skills are too fragmented and too specialized. That’s why successful organizations have mastered the art of complexity supply and demand. They provide their own unique complex skills to those of their partners who need such skills. And when they are short on other skills, they tap into the skills bank of their partners. By selling and buying skills with a broad partnership base, they’ve managed to become complexity partners – organizations that spend most of their time focusing on their core mission, and spend less time worrying about how they are going to do what they need to do.
  • Innovation Capital. Companies that understand that all future innovation comes from the ability to tap into the global innovation loop will thrive; those that follow traditional innovation models, self-centered and insular, will find that their creativity and uniqueness has been smothered.

Enhancing your real world balance sheet with these new elements of capital will prove to increase your innovation capability to a great degree.

What’s the depth of all the different types of capital outlined above? Do you have the depth of investment necessary to get you through the future? If not, start to think about how you can start to get some major investment happening!

“We really don’t understand it all, and so we aren’t going to do anything!”

A few years ago, when I was the closing speaker for the Swiss Innovation Forum in Zurich, I made the observation that many  “organizations fail, because their have failure engrained in their corporate culture!”

Do you?

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

One of the most typical situations today in which we are seeing innovation-dead-in-its-tracks involves the many initiatives that people are pursuing with social networks and/or mobile applications. They know that we live in transformative times in which major changes are occurring with branding, production promotion, customer relationships and just about everything else!

So they set off to build a sophisticated customer-oriented Facebook initiative; they roll out a prototype mobile iPhone app; or they simply get a very basic Twitter feed happening that includes a stream of useful news updates that customers might actually appreciate.

Enthusiastic as heck, they take their project to the senior management team — and its’ rejected, with a litany of reasons as to why the organization just isn’t ready to deal with their new ideas right now.

Any number of reasons can be given; each and every one of them is indicative of the fact that a sort of organizational sclerosis has set in, that clogs up the ability of the organization to deal with anything new. Consider the attitudes that you might encounter if you are trying to get something happening:

  • we don’t understand it, so we don’t think we need to do it
  • it’s too easy to not confront the tough issues
  • we are too busy fighting fires right now!
  • we don’t have the skill sets to deal with this. That’s a weak excuse
  • we haven’t thought about this in our strategic planning process
  • we have really spent a lot of time thinking about what comes next
  • we don’t have a budget for that!
  • what we’ve been doing all along is perfectly ok, isn’t it?
  • there’s so much going on, and we don’t know where it might fit in terms of priorities!
  • it’s too far ahead of its time!

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

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

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

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

In light of some recent criticism of criticism I’ve made of media companies, I thought it best to roll this posting from last December forward.

In the 20th century, financial resources were the primary capital of choice, allowing organizations to enter, dominate and evolve in their marketplace over time.

Today, financial depth doesn’t cut it — it’s the abiliy to respond to rapid change that is the primary asset. And sadly, there are many organizations who don’t have a good balance sheet.

Simply look at Sony with the recent “root-kit” debacle, and you realize that while a company can have all the money it needs, it won’t survive if it doesn’t evolve at the fast pace the world demands today. If Sony is guilty of anything, it is the fact that it has seized up with an organizatlonal sclerosis that has clogged it’s ability to respond to change. The customers have moved on to a different world — and Sony just doesn’t seem to understand that.

Sony has been spending money trying to protect old markets, rather than inventing new ones. It’s been busy trying to build on past glories rather than fighting new battles. It has spent its energy in fighting a war with its customers, rather than building them great things. It has sought to grow by buying, rather than expanding through creativity. It has done just about anything wrong that you could ever do.

It is dying.

Will it recover? Can other organizations suffering from similar degrees of corporate clotting survive?

Perhaps — if they refocus their energy by using the only form of capital that is important. Capital that isn’t monetary by nature, but which provides an organization with the resources to focus on change as the key success factor.

What are those attributes? There are ten of them:

  • experiential capital: In a world in which Apple can toss out a $1/2 billion market overnight in order to enter a new one (with the move from the iPod Mini to the iPod Nano) — it’s critically important that an organization constantly enhance the skill, capabilities and insight of their people. They do this by constantly working on projects that might have an uncertain return and payback — but which will provide in-depth experience and insight into change. It’s by understanding change that opportunity is defined, and that’s what experiential capital happens to be. In the future, it is one of the most important assets that you can possess.
  • a strong agility index: Slow paced organizations simply won’t survive. Those organizations that have a high-agility index — that is, the ability to suddenly and dramatically shift course — will be those who will thrive in the years to come.
  • strong skills accessibility capability: Talent, not money, will be the new corporate battlefront. Simply put, there is so much happening that no one person or organization can know everything there is to know. With ongoing rapid knowledge growth, instant market change, fast-paced scientific discovery and constant skills evolution, getting the right people at the right time for the right purpose will be the key to succesful change.
  • massive creativity capability: in my Masters of Business Imagination Manifesto, I suggest that it is the ability to see the world differently, and the skill to imagine how to do things differently, that will be more important than any other career skill. When product lifecycles are disappearing, and market longevity is mattered in weeks, not years, the ability to think, adapt, and imagine will be the foundation to provide for necessary change.
  • generational insight: We are set to see the emergence of the most unique workforce in history, with the longest age-span to have ever occurred. Boomers won’t retire, and kids won’t want to get hired. The result will be a workforce that is transient, temporary, shifting and flexible. And it will be those organizations who can match up the experience and wisdom of the aging baby boomers with the insight, enthusiasm and change-adept younger generation who will find the most powerful force to be found in business — an organization that is fuelled by the pure energy of change-oxygen.
  • collaborative intelligence: Forget the idea of having a strategic planning department, and think collaborative culture instead. Take a look around you, and ask yourself, who is succeeding today? It is those organizations who are plugged in to the global mind that surrounds us. They’ve dropped any pretense that they can create the future, and instead realize that it the future is being developed by everyone all around them. They have come to learn that their role isn’t to plan for that future, but simply to listen to it, plug into it, and plug their growth-engine into it.
  • complexity partnerships: in the 20th century, organizations focused on hiring the skills that they needed to get the job done. You simply can’t do that today — skills are too fragmented and too specialized. That’s why successful organizations have mastered the art of complexity supply and demand. They provide their own unique complex skills to those of their partners who need such skills. And when they are short other skills, they tap into the skills bank of their partners. By selling and buying skills with a broad partnership base, they’ve managed to become complexity partners — organizations that spend most of their time focusing on their core mission, and spend less time worrying about how they are going to do what they need to do.
  • global innovation traps: a recent blog post featured a clip from a keynote where I spoke about the “infinite idea loop.” Companies that understand that all future innovation comes from the ability to tap into the loop will thrive; those that follow traditional innovation models, self-centered and insular, will find that their creativity and uniqueness has been smothered
  • forward oriented intelligence: The key premise of my book, What I Learned from Frogs in Texas, is that too many organizatons have lost their orientation to the future. They are too busy complying, restructuring, administering and reorganizing to realize that their world is dropping out from underneath them. The frogs learned out the hard way that if you don’t have good insight into what comes next, there is going to be a big problem and it’s going to be ugly.
  • depth of mission: We’ve all known for years what has been wrong with Sony — too much inter-company squabbling, turf-wars, and inward focused turmoil. Along the way, Sony lost sight of its mission to build great stuff for people who wanted great stuff. If you can have a company that has a simple mission, a clearly stated goal, and a passion and purpose to achieve it, you’ll be able to put in place the most critically needed asset — a team that is oriented towards success.

It’s clear that Sony does not possess many of these assets. It doesn’t realize that it no longer controls its future — its’customers do. It isn’t plugged into the global innovation loop — instead, its’ efforts are spent on trying to define the future that it would like to have. It’s got a bunch of middle-aged baby boomers in charge who don’t have a clue as to how the world is unfolding. (And I’m a middle-aged baby boomer). And I can only imagine that the recent experience has destroyed any sense of mission among its staff — its people are dispirited, disenthused, angry and full of recrimination for a future that they think has gone wrong. (Well, it has, because it has done all the wrong things.)

I find it really depressing that a company as big and creative as Sony could have lost its way. On the other hand, I continue to encounter too many people and companies who are busy sleepwalking into the future, just like Sony.

Remember — it ain’t the money, it’s the ability to change that is most imporatnt asset for the future.

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