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The global economy is changing rapidly, and increasingly involves significant structural change based on an acceleration of business cycles. Jim excels at putting into perspective the significant, long term transformative trends that will reshape the global economy through the next 10 to 20 years.



You know you are doing something right when an organization brings you back for the 3rd time!

The International Asset Management Council is an organization relentlessly focused on economic trends, and represent two distinct groups – economic development representatives from government organizations, including states, provinces and cities, as well as individuals in many Fortune 1000 organizations responsible for future site locations for manufacturing plants, R&D facilities or other corporate locations. The content of my talk? Look at this picture. Now read this post.

IAMC had me in for a keynote in 2003 to put into perspective how the Internet and technology would continue to change the global economy, and again in 2010 to paint a picture as to why we would continue to see massive economic growth after the economic downturn of 2008. My predictions in both keynotes were bang on.

Fast forward to 2017: they just had me in to open their fall 2017 economic outlook conference in Richmond, Virginia, with a keynote focused on the trends that are providing for future opportunity in the manufacturing sector. That was easy for me to do – I’ve done dozens of keynotes in the world of manufacturing sector over the last decade, both for manufacturing associations as well as Fortune 500 companies.

The undercurrent of my talk, though, in putting manufacturing trends into perspective, was the broader theme : we live in a transformational period of time, in which people and organizations are making big bold decisions related to major trends, in order to discover and establish success in the next economic wave. Obviously, folks like Elon Must.

So what should someone in economic development do to discover the next wave of economic opportunity? Here’s a good list to start thinking about the question!

  1. Align to tectonic shifts – While there is only one Tesla Motors and Gigafactory, and but one Elon Musk, there are many other new companies and people reinventing our world. There are a massive number of new disruptive trends (such as detailed in my blog post, Disruption: There’s More to It Than You Think There Is! Each of these trends which can provide for big economic opportunity, massive industry shift, and the establishment of new companies. Watch those disruptive trends, and understand where future growth with occur.
  2. Be relentlessly positive.The trends defining the future are around us now, and are defining future economic growth! Over my 25 years as a futurist, I’ve been through several economic downturns, but have always preached that real opportunities are found in trends: science, technology, knowledge and transformation. When the next inevitable downturn hits (we’ve been on a great 8 year run since 2008), make sure you keep your thinking aligned to future opportunities.
  3. Think trends, not fads.  It’s all too easy for those in economic development areas to focus on the fad of the day: think, for example, of the hysteria around the recent Amazon 2HQ beauty contest. While you probably need to chase opportunities like this, don’t let it make you forget out about other trends that are charging the future forward.
  4. Challenge assumptions on speed. The future is happening faster than you think! Consider, for example, how quickly self driving cars are coming about, and the rush to electric vehicles. Both have profound economic development implications, such as what I suggest in this post, Self-driving Cars and Economic Success. Challenge yourself on velocity: be prepared to accelerate your efforts.
  5. Align to fast science. All trends are based, at their heart, on the result of scientific discovery. Think about the fast pace of evolution of battery technology, and how Nevada hit a home run with the placement of the Gigafactory in Reno. Here’s the thing: batteries are the new plastic, and there is going to be a lot of economic growth, investment and new industry established around this one single aspect of our world of science. 
  6.  Know when to jump. When should a community align to a trend? In the IT world, many of us rely on something called the Gartner HypeCycle. It’s a useful tool to understand when any particular trend might become real and hav major impact. Make the hype-cycle part of your overall process — jump in any get involved with any trend in order to understand
  7. Focus on ‘smart’. There’s a lot of hype about smart cities and the future, and some of it might be overplayed. But clearly, organizations in the future will choose to place facilities in locations that have smart infrastructure, smart highways, fast bandwidth, and all the other attributes of being at the forefront of trends.
  8. Don’t be dumb. I can’t think of a dumber economic initiative than the money that Wisconsin is putting behind the Foxconn plant. Expect to wake up in 5 years to headlines as to how idiotic the structure of the deal was. Don’t jump on board fake trends.
  9. Don’t be afraid to fail. Having said that, be prepared to make some mistakes along the way. Nevada put a lot of money into an initiative by Faraday involving an electric car factory that appears to have failed. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily so, since when it comes to aligning to the future — you win some, and you lose some.
  10. Be like Fiji. Fiji doesn’t have a potato industry, but no matter. They’ll build one. For a great economic development attitude, read this post.
  11. Think skills. Focus on the new job categories that are emerging. For example, in the world of agriculture, we are seeing the emergence of all kinds of new careers, such as vertical farming infrastructure managers, drone helicopter insurance crop risk managers, robotic herd health monitors and cattle ranch drone herder infrastructure managers! Go into any industry, and watch the new careers coming about – and then think about the economic development implications that might come from that.
  12. Go global for ideas. Think big trends. Vertical farming mentioned above? Already there are 800 million ‘city-farmers’ according to UN statistics – including 25% of population of Burkina Faso, 35% in Cameroon, 63% in Kenya, 68% in Tanzania. Fast fact: 90% of the fresh vegetables in Accra, Ghana come from farming within the city. So vertical farming is a major trend, and has implications for your local economy. Assess what it might mean in terms of opportunity, infrastructure, new companies….
  13. Get distributed. Make sure your infrastructure is aligned to the new decentralization. Consider local renewable energy generation, or “distributed energy resources.” It’s growing 3-5x faster than centralized energy — one California utility estimates investments in DER in solar and micro-grid is now growing faster than its own main new-energy & basic grid investment. Distribution is happening in every industry, resulting in fascinating new companies establishing wonderful new companies based on concepts that didn’t exist just a few years ago.
  14. Watch for clues. We live in the era of the ‘grand challenge” — initiative such as the XPrize Foundation, which challenge the global scientific community to solve some of the biggest problems of our time having to do with energy, healthcare, the environment, transpiration. The XPrize led to SpaceX; the Darpa challenge led to the emergence of the self-driving car trend. Other challenges are leading to the birth of other new billion dollar industries.
  15. Ignore those who are playing defence. Doomed business models fight losing battles to try to protect their future, and most often, fail. That’s happening right with automotive dealer associations as they try to protect a dying business model in the face of rapidly changing consumer behaviour, and upstarts like Tesla who dare to do something different with automotive stores in shopping malls. The same holds true for record companies in their battle against Mp3 music — we now live in a music streaming world. Place your bets on the disruptors, not the disrupted.
  16. Align to the bold changes. For example, take a look at how Saudi oil giant Aramco is realigning its business to petrochemicals and away from oil. That parallels other big shifts — from carbon cars to electric vehicles; from coal to renewables; from car-buying to car-sharing. Better to align yourself to those who are making big bold moves as opposed to those who are stuck in the status quo.
  17. Look for exponential trends. WE sequenced 1/10000th fo the human genome in 1990, and 2/10000 in 1991. It was only 1% by 2007 – but 7 years later, it was done. That’s exponential math: 1% is only 7 doublings away from 100%. The same type of trend is driving solar : we are at 2% solar today, but 2% is only 6-doublings away from 100%. We’re doubling solar capacity every 2 years, and so that leaves only 12 years to 100%. Understand exponential industries, and you’ll understand economic growth.
  18. Be like the Jetsons, not the Flintstones. Coal isn’t the future. Get over it.
  19. Think long term. Just like investing. Creativity doesn’t care about economic downturns. Those who invent the future will keep doing so despite any economic uncertainty. Have a long term economic success plan, and stick with it through the ups and downs.
  20. Think global. Look at the picture below which I put up on day as part of my daily motivational posting. Simply put. America isn’t everything.

But wait, there’s more!

    21. Hire me! Seriously. If you want to discover the future of economic opportunity, bring in a futurist like me. We’ll share with you what comes next, infuse you with our optimism, and show you a path forward.

On stage, I have a little bit of fun pointing out that the cartoon below seems to summarize  the state of the political situation in the US today. I used it a few weeks ago when I keynoted the Nevada Economic Development Conference, with a talk that look a look at the opportunities for growth in the state through trends other than gaming and tourism.

“We’re going to get to the 22nd century,” Carroll said. “We’re not going back to the 1950s. There are those who say, let’s focus on coal and wave a magic wand and bring back these manufacturing jobs, which are dead gone and not going to happen. If we look at the world of manufacturing, it’s all about robotics and 3-D printing. It’s all about mass customization and about the ability to design products faster and get them to market faster and highly intelligent connected products.”

Appropriately enough, my keynote featured the title: “The Jetsons Arrive 50 Years Early: What Are the Economic Development Implications?” (I love my job!). My talk examined the rapid evolution of science, business models, hyper connectivity, intelligent highways and autonomous vehicles, the future of agriculture and many other accelerating trends.

I guess it went well: the feedback just came in from the individual who booked me: “You were amazing.  Your presentation exceeded our expectations.  Your knowledge and insights were intriguing and inspirational!

After my talk, I had a chance to chat with a reporter for the Las Vegas Business Press, who ran an article about the conference. An excerpt from the article appears below. Obviously, the decision by Amazon to locate a 2nd headquarters somewhere had the attention of everyone in Las Vegas, as in every other jurisdiction in North America.

But the future isn’t just about Amazon! It involves a region aligning itself to the trends of the Jetsons in the 21st century, rather than trying to find hope in the era of the Flintstones of the past!


New Amazon headquarters buzz of Nevada Economic Development Conference
Las Vegas Business Press, September 2017

One of the speakers was Jim Carroll, a futurist and expert on trends and innovation and author of “The Future Belongs to Those Who Are Fast.” He said there’s a massive number of global trends and Amazon and online shopping is one that’s providing jobs and future economic growth. Robotics and artificial intelligence are part of the story line of the future as well.

Carroll said Northern Nevada landing the Tesla electric car gigabattery factory shows there are no limits of what the state can attract.

There’s an opportunity here, and Nevada is waking up to the fact that it’s not about agriculture, gaming and tourism,” Carroll said. “There’s a lot of other big trends going on in the world of which Amazon is just one. Why not get into the mindset that we can pursue all of these things?

Carroll said he speaks at conferences across the country, and there’s going to be a lot of competition to land Amazon and it seems that every state and metropolitan area is going after the headquarters.

“When it comes to Amazon, every jurisdiction in North America wants it,” Carroll said. “It’s going to be a massive competition. It got the attention of every single development group in North America.”

Nobody knows what’s Amazon’s preference is for locating the second headquarters, Carroll said. The company will be looking for skills, incentives and locations. It’s possible executives want a location closer to the center of the country, he said.

I think first and foremost any region shouldn’t get into defeatist mindset,” Carroll said. “We’re never going to get ahead if that’s the way we think. That’s why I encourage people to start with a positive mindset.

Carroll repeated that Amazon is only one of what will be many “big new initiatives” and companies that regions can pursue. He said the future will be about batteries, and it’s not just about Tesla’s electric cars but batteries in drones and for utilities and energy.

Amazon is but one thing of many things happening out there,” Carroll said. “What Nevada needs to do is get the mindset of how do we position ourselves for one of these many things beginning to unfold?

Carroll said the trends are heading toward “the world of “The Jetsons,” citing the 1960s futuristic cartoon. But instead of looking at the 22nd century, many want to stay in the world of “The Flintstones,” Carroll said of the 1960s cartoon depicting the dinosaur age.

We’re going to get to the 22nd century,” Carroll said. “We’re not going back to the 1950s. There are those who say, let’s focus on coal and wave a magic wand and bring back these manufacturing jobs, which are dead gone and not going to happen. If we look at the world of manufacturing, it’s all about robotics and 3-D printing. It’s all about mass customization and about the ability to design products faster and get them to market faster and highly intelligent connected products.”

Nevada is making the right bet focusing on solar and wind energy and microgrids, Carroll said. It’s about the acceleration of energy science rather than coal, he said.
Nevada shouldn’t worry about trying and failing like it did in landing a Faraday Future electric car plant in North Las Vegas, only to have the project stopped before it began, he said.

There’s a lot of angst about the car plant that didn’t go ahead, and my take is you have to try that,” Carroll said. “Some of that stuff works and some of it doesn’t, but you got to make sure you are out there and hitch yourself to a horse. Sometimes you fall off and have to get up again.

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We seem to live in two parallel worlds at this moment: the fanciful, political, “let’s make a wish” or “yell and scream” political world, and the real world. I don’t know about you, but I’m with the real world, and it’s obvious that others are too. To that end, I’m doing an increasing number of economic development talks that take a look at the real trends driving our world forward.

Case in point: I’m headlining the Nevada Economic Development Council conference this September in Las Vegas. We’ll have economic development folks, elected officials, industry representatives — all looking for insight on what comes next in terms of opportunity.


In my mind, economic opportunity comes from linking to the fast paced trends that envelop our world today. As the session description notes on my keynote: “He is an authority recognized for his deep insight into the cutting edge trends of our time, including autonomous vehicle technology, sensors and the Internet of Things, 3D printing, virtual reality, alternative energy generation and storage technologies, genomic medicine and healthcare virtualization, advanced robotics and artificial intelligence, blockchain and virtual cash, machine learning and robotics, crowdthinking and next generation R&D.”

Around the world, we are building a giant new machine, and new opportunities abound. They’ll involve new skills, big bold innovators, fast new technologies, and obviously big investments. Nevada woke up to the future when Tesla established the Gigafactory outside Reno, and knows that its’ future will come from aligning itself to other, similar trends.

If only other regions and people could think like Nevada instead of hitching themselves to a failed politician from the land of make believe.

Similar to this event, I’m also headlining (for the 3rd time in 16 years!) the International Asset Management Council annual event in Richmond, Virginia this fall. This is a group that consists of corporate relocation folks for Fortune 500 companies — people who analyze where they might place their next factory or manufacturing facility. They’ve asked me to come in and do a talk around the future of manufacturing, with an eye to better understanding the trends involving the reinvention of this critical sector of this economy.  (Hint: the old jobs aren’t coming back. New jobs are appearing all the time).

As the keynote description outlines: “Collapsing product lifecycles. Mass customization. Digitization, robotics and the cloud. Rapid prototyping, sketch to scale, and agility-based business models … are you ready for the new world of manufacturing? While popular media and opportunistic politicians portray a picture of a sector in crisis, smart manufacturing executives are furiously busy with innovation, reinventing their capabilities, processes and business models using advanced ideas, materials, methodologies and technologies.”

Regions that can align themselves to the reality of future trends, and set the right tone and welcome mat for innovation will discover the future of economic success. I’m pleased to be doing what I can to help people understand the real future — not a fake future dreamed up in someone’s mind.

It’s about time someone starts to talk about the future implications of the new world history that we are now watching unfold.

There are real economic implications in a time in which a nation chooses to turn its back on the rest of the world. The impact likely won’t be apparent for years to come, but clearly decisions are now being made now which will change the global economy in significant ways.

I decided to write this post after reading of Angela’s Merkel recent comments on the fact that Europe needs to go it alone. Quite clearly, she is voicing what many other political, business, science and other leaders worldwide are thinking.

There are real economic implications in a time in which a nation chooses to turn its back on the rest of the world. The impact likely won’t be apparent for years to come, but clearly decisions are now being made now which will change the global economy in significant ways.

In my mind, as a futurist dealing with the facts of trends, here’s a starting list of what we can expect.

  1. Science and R&D relocates. For long time, the US has been the engine of the global R&D machine; but that is no longer the case. The trend began long before the current era of political discourse – I documented it in a post back in 2008, Revisiting the Hollowing out of Global R&D Trends. But the current anti-science  mindset that is percolating throughout the US will only accelerate a trend that is already underway. A good chunk of the pure science research that drives future economic growth won’t occur in the US. That has massive implications for the countries that choose to take advantage of this realignment.
  2. Energy and green industries invest where it matters. There can’t be a more exciting industry — next to advanced manufacturing — than what is happening with wind, solar and other forms of energy generation. Exponential science is driving exponential change. Yet if you make a decision not to align yourself to the fast innovation trends which are unfolding, you miss out on the jobs, growth and new companies which are appearing in this space. I expect that many companies in this sector will make economic development decisions that are influenced by an attitude that welcomes their innovation.
  3. Travels shift. Immigration bans, an increasing climate of hatred, the degradation of a climate of diversity, laptop bans. Quite simply, a greater percentage of the world’s population will choose to visit other parts of the world. The laptop ban itself causes the mind to boggle. Why would anyone encourage people to spend hours travelling in an environment that is massively unproductive, when they could choose to go elsewhere?
  4. Meetings and events relocate. The global meeting industry generates billions of dollars in economic activity. Quite simply, countless scientific and other conferences and events will choose to host future events in a more tolerant, idea-diverse location than the US. Meeting professionals understand this, but few are willing to listen.
  5. Sporting events move. I have a friend who has just been appointed to take a senior role at the Canadian Soccer Association, who has an initiative to pursue the hosting of a future World Cup event with a combined bid involving Canada, the US and Mexico. Think about the chances of that happening in the current climate. Like, it won’t.
  6. Minds that matter move. If I were a PhD candidate, where might I choose to place the efforts of my mind today? Into an environment in which ideas matter! We are living in a modern day era of Atlas Shrugged. Who is John Galt? He and she are out there, and they are making their decision.
  7. Skills training evaporates. Economies move forward by enhancing the skills of their participants. The world of manufacturing provides the perfect example: dead-end brute force manufacturing jobs are gone, and they aren’t coming back. Robotics, digitization, 3D printing and more define the future, all of which involve higher-level skills and education. Countries worldwide are racing to enhance the skills of their workforce. Clearly this will slow down in the US given the current environment. The eventual winners embrace new skills; the losers cling to old, outdated irrelevant skills.
  8. Silicon Valley loses its dominance. This morning, I came across a really interesting Tweet which mentioned a Greek engineer who chose to move to Eindhoven in the Netherlands, considered to be one of Europe’s “Silicon Valley’s.” In years past, that fellow might have moved to the US, turned on his mind, and created the future, growth, and jobs. That era is coming to an end. The implications are profound. For the last 50 years, the California IT engine has dominated the accelerated innovation that comes from technology. That’s now changing quickly: the new growth engines are “Silicon Wadi” in Israel, the Shenzhen Hi-Tech Industrial Park in China, Canada’s Technology Triangle centred on Kitchener. They are set to take momentum and innovation away from Silicon Valley as America loses its dominance in one of the key drivers of innovation success, technology innovation.
  9. New multinationals become the corporate model. The US Fortune 500 has dominated the global economy for a long time, but if you take all of these trends, growth will occur elsewhere. Companies will choose to realign themselves to growth. The new Fortune 500’s will be headquartered in Germany, Singapore, China, and elsewhere. As corporate office power shifts, so too goes economic growth.
  10. Political discourse matures elsewhere. Long the beacon of democracy, it really seems we are witnessing its decline. Advanced economies are having discussions about the reality of climate change, skills retraining and more. Temper tantrums don’t define future success; mature discussions do.

What is happening today matters. The implications are pretty profound.

You should be thinking about this.

A few weeks ago, I was in Washington, and filmed a little clip about the need to innovate despite massive uncertainty.

Last week, I was in the UK, and filmed a version for folks trying to think about the future in the context of Brexit. You need to watch it!

And we’re off! A key client just confirmed that for the start of 2017, they need one of my key messages …. right now, in an era of massive uncertainty, they want to kick off the year by shaking off aggressive indecision, and by aligning themselves to fast paced trends. So I wrote them a keynote description that will help them to navigate this complex new world.

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In the face of new challenges, organizations have three choices: they can panic; they can freeze and do nothing; or they can respond with a relentless focus on innovation. In this keynote, Jim outlines the key strategies that align an organization to opportunity in a new era of volatility and uncertainty.

Keynote: Innovating in The Era of Accelerated Uncertainty: How to Adapt to the New World of Volatility

2017 is being marked by the return of higher levels of economic uncertainty, much of it driven by new political realities. Business hates uncertainty — and many react by turning off their innovation engines, waiting to see what happens next in a world in which volatility is the new normal. Yet in the face of new challenges, organizations have three essential choices: they can panic, making rash decisions on structure, markets, investments; they can freeze and do nothing; or they can respond to rapid change through innovation, particularly with respect to strategies, structure, capabilities, markets, products, and activities.

Jim Carroll, one of the world’s leading futurists, trends & innovation experts, shares his insight on the strategies that leading edge organizations are pursuing to stay ahead in a new world of uncertainty. It’s timely and critical insight! Many CEO’s and senior executives understand that in addition to managing existing challenges, now is the time to focus on trends and the future — they must act quickly to establish an innovative mindset before aggressive indecision settles in. Jim provides his unique insight on staying ahead in volatile times, through his signature keynote addresses, discussions at small intimate management/Board meetings, or by speaking and participating in large scale senior management and leadership meetings.

In this keynote, Jim offers his insight into how to innovate in perilous times. History has taught us, over and over again, that those who are aggressive with innovation, and who align themselves to future trends in times of uncertainty, are those who win in the long run. His keynote is loaded with powerful guidance, research and key lessons from the breakthrough performers of the past. Insight from those who have managed to accomplish great things because of a decision to focus on innovation right in the middle of an economic challenge or an era of uncertainty, rather than waiting for future clarity.

I just filmed this today in front of the White House.

You need to watch it.

 

 

We live in interesting times, to say the least. It’s a time in which some people see the future, and see despair.

I see the future and see nothing but opportunity. And that’s the message I am carrying on stage at every event — including the industry that seems to be defining the gloom of the US election cycle – manufacturing.

philadelphiamanufacturing

The reaction to my keynotes in the manufacturing sector in the last 3 weeks has been staggering. What I’m witnessing is an industry that is seeking a message of hope, a dose of optimism, and specific guidance on how to align themselves to a future of opportunity.

What’s the reality of this industry? We live in transformative times — there is so much opportunity around us today it is staggering!

The acceleration of ideas is leading to new discoveries at a pace that rivals anything in the past: such as the rapid emergence of sophisticated new manufacturing methodologies. 3d printing or additive manufacturing, the Internet of things, process reinvention, the opportunity that comes from rapid prototyping. The massiveness that is the global maker community! The list goes on.

In the last 3 weeks, I’ve done keynotes on the future opportintities in the world of manufacturing events in Napa Valley, Minneapolis, and in Philadelphia. Folks in the industry are feeling battered and bruised, and have been convinced that the North American manufacturing sector continues in a state of decline.

What I’m witnessing from the reaction and feedback on my talks is an industry that is seeking a message of hope, a dose of optimism, and specific guidance on how to align an organization to a future of opportunity.

If you do anything in this industry today, open up your mind to the opportunity that surrounds you. Don’t succumb to the negativity that surrounds you! Those who embrace the future in this industry today are those who will own the future. If that is your mindset — give me a call!

We certainly live in interesting times!

Here’s what I’ve noticed in this new era of hyper-turmoil and uncertainty — many organizations are turning off their innovation engines, waiting to see what happens next in a world in which volatility is the new normal.

bigbolddecisions

The New Yorker had a great article in 2009 after the financial meltdown, “Hanging tough,” that outlined  how some companies choose to ensure that they stay innovative in recessionary times – while others did not. In the context of the uncertainty of today, it’s worth a read. For example, they contrast two cereal companies: one that chose to focus on innovation despite uncertainty, while another did not.

“You’d think that everyone would want to emulate Kellogg’s success, but, when hard times hit, most companies end up behaving more like Post. They hunker down, cut spending, and wait for good times to return. They make fewer acquisitions, even though prices are cheaper. They cut advertising budgets. And often they invest less in research and development. They do all this to preserve what they have.”

My recent discussions with Fortune 1000 CEOs and senior executives in both UK and the US certainly indicate that this is happening again. Post-Brexit, uncertainty and aggressive indecision is roiling the C-suite in the UK — deferring decisions has become the norm. In the US, the never-ending election has placed a pause on most big decisions — inaction has settled in like a wet-sponge!

Big question – in this context, is the UK done? Can America innovate again, or is this a cultural and leadership ‘new normal?’ Here’s what I know – the winners and losers of the future are being determined right now!

Yet history has taught us, over and over again, that those who are aggressive with innovation, and who align themselves to future trends in times of uncertainty, are those who win in the long run. For years, I’ve talked on stage and in my leadership meetings of the key observation by GE’s Chief Innovation Consultant. Simple, powerful guidance: breakthrough performers manage to accomplish great things because of a decision to focus on innovation right in the middle of an economic challenge or an era of uncertainty– rather than waiting till they came into a recovery phase.

The research found that during the oil shock of 70’s, 80’s and 90’s recession, and the 2000 dot com bust, of those companies surveyed, 70% of companies barely survived, 30% died, but 10% became breakthrough performers. Noted the GE head of innovation: it was explicitly “…because of choices they made in the recession.”

So it really comes down to this: when do you innovate? Are you going to wait until you are comfortable that an era of uncertainty is over? Bad decision — because economic and political volatility is the new normal!

Everything we have learned has taught us that the winners were those who decided that it was an important thing to keep moving ahead despite massive amounts of uncertainty. Get out of your future-funk! Try this clip from a keynote I undertook on stage after the meltdown of 2008-2009. “Innovators get out in front of the recession“.

Consider this: the New Yorker article is pretty blunt with it’s findings on innovation-losers:

  • “numerous studies have shown that companies that keep spending on acquisition, advertising, and R. & D. during recessions do significantly better than those which make big cuts”
  • “a McKinsey study of the 1990-91 recession found that companies that remained market leaders or became serious challengers during the downturn had increased their acquisition, R. & D., and ad budgets, while companies at the bottom of the pile had reduced them”
  • “Uncertainty is always a part of business, but in a recession it dominates everything else: no one’s sure how long the downturn will last, how shoppers will react, whether we’ll go back to the way things were before or see permanent changes in consumer behavior. So it’s natural to focus on what you can control: minimizing losses and improving short-term results.”

Innovation winners?

  • “Kraft introduced Miracle Whip in 1933 and saw it become America’s best-selling dressing in six months; Texas Instruments brought out the transistor radio in the 1954 recession; Apple launched the iPod in 2001.”

Read the article. It’s powerful stuff!

Given that, what do you do? Change your culture and set out to achieve breakthrough results despite uncertainty!


Here is some more innovation-soup for your innovation-soul!

I spend my time providing guidance on future trends & innovation to some of the most fascinating companies and organizations in the world, such as Disney, NASA, BASF and IBM.

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Often these are in the form of offsite senior executive leadership meetings …. where a team gets together to examine the deep, substantive changes that must be made in order to move forward. I lend my insight in terms of highly customized talks that focus on future trends affecting the industry in the room, and deep insight into innovation ideas and methodologies that move us forward.

It’s a proven model that has a track record of 20+ years — and I can see many organizations where I’ve made a meaningful impact….

Over those 20 years, I’ve noticed that at times, companies tend to go into an innovation funk. They defer decisions; they lose their focus on the future; they drop their innovation spark. It usually happens during economic downturns and recessions. Fair enough – they’ve got other things to worry about!

But today, we aren’t in a recession. The global economy, although uncertain, is doing ok. And yet this seems to be one of those times. I’m seeing the resurrection of aggressive indecision  (That’s a phrase that I coined years ago ; see below for articles and video on the topic…) — yet this it seems to be driven by a culture of inaction at the top! The CEO has, it appears, gone into a state of inaction!

Example: I’ve had a number of situations where I’ve had extensive exploratory calls with clients about coming in for such a session. They’ve expressed to me that they need to deal with business model disruption; the impact of technology on their industry; the rapid emergence of new competitors; or other countless challenging issues.

And then it has gone to the CEO for approval, and word comes down — “it’s not the right time to do this.”

Really?

Why is this happening? I think that it relates to the current uncertainty with the upcoming US election – and the uncertainty that has brought to many an organization.

Which makes me wonder — if now is not the right time to focus on the future, and what you need to do as organization to align yourself to fast-paced trends, when  is the right time?

History bears out the lesson that those who focus on big ideas and big opportunities during times of uncertainty are those who win in the long run. The head of innovation at GE did a study years that looked at the history of innovation in times of concern — particularly, during previous economic downturns. He found that real innovation breakthroughs came from those who stayed relentlessly focused on ideas and the future, despite that uncertainty. I often tell this story on stage to spur people into action.

The fact is, there are countless examples where history has shown us that it is those organizations who focused on ensuring that they were still actively pursuing innovation — whether through product development, the exploration of new business models, external partnerships, the pursuit of new markets and customer groups — were those who managed to achieve the greatest success in the long run.

The fact is, in todays fast-moving world, the greatest mistake any organization can make right now is to do nothing.” If you don’t do something today, you can be sure that others in your industry are!

So what do companies need to do to make the most of this period of election-driven uncertainty? First, accept reality and uncertainty, but make a determined effort to move along. Those unable to move past shock, denial and anger through to acceptance will be innovation laggards a. Unfortunately, that may be too late.

Be prepared to keep your idea factories running (perhaps not at full tilt, but running nevertheless) in the face of uncertainty. Know that there is still a place for innovative thinking despite what is really a bizarre state of affairs.

Inertia — real or implied — establishes a culture of inaction, and that can lead to another slippery slope.

Today, innovation isn’t simply an option — it’s critical because it is the best way to gain traction.

#brexit #uselection #economic meltdownWhat should you do? Here’s some video guidance for your innovation soul!

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