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I spend a huge amount of my time dealing with senior executives in global companies; just hit my client list for a sense of what I do. This usually involves a lot of conversations with CEO’s of Fortune 1000’s, startups, and other C-suite executives.

With that, I’m always fascinated by the public promise of a company, and the eventual reality of what is delivered.  With that, I give you the public promise of Sir Richard Branson of Virgin when it comes to his staff:


That’s a good message for a CEO to promise. Treat people as you would like to be treated.

Sir Richard, maybe you should make sure your staff treats potential business partners with the same degree of respect. Just a thought…..

As a global expert on trends and innovation, I often see the dichotomy between the promise of a brand and the reality. So here’s a story for you to ponder. Is the promise above real?

Maybe not, from a recent experience of mine. Listen in: it’s not much a story, but I  find it interesting and want to get this off my chest…. and you might find it to be so too.

It was a thrill for me back in February of this year when I was contacted by the office of Sir Richard Branson to see if I might contribute to a “book”  his office was putting together, specifically:

Virgin is embarking on a project to consider the future of UK work and business 20 years from now. We’re keen to bring together some of the best minds in the country – to form predictions on the most pertinent emerging trends and recommendations for how we best work towards a thriving 2037.”

Their ask  was to see if I could contribute to a section on the future of the workplace, as in:

The How you Work chapter will focus on working environments, communication with colleagues, access to the office, commuting, global vs local, access to support communities”

The idea was that they would deliver this sometime towards the end of this month, with a number of contributors participating. They indicated that given my background with speaking and writing about the future of the workplace, workforce and the organization that I would have some ‘powerful’ insight.

I don’t mind saying that being involved in such a project would certainly be a thrill and probably one of the highlights of my global career, next to such things as doing talks for Disney, NASA and the Swiss Innovation Forum!

With that, an exploratory call was arranged by the folks at Sir Richards office to discuss my potential contribution. I took the call while out on a ski hill, and we kicked ideas back and forth for about 1/2 hour. The call certainly seemed to go well, and they indicated they would get back to me within a week to talk about ‘next steps.’

And then, silence. Nothing. So I followed up with an email. Then another, and then another. And ….nothing. Complete and utter — and baffling — radio silence. Not a simple, single response to several emails asking if the project was moving on. Not even anything telling me, ‘thanks for the exploratory call, but we’ve moved in other directions…..”

To this day, I still don’t even know what happened with the project. Who knows — maybe we’ll see something in the next few weeks, and I will know that I didn’t make the cut.

So what? Well, here’s the thing: what I see from Virgin in this case is complete disrespect from Sir Richards staff. The complete and simple lack of the courtesy of a response to several inquiries, following up on our original conversation. How do you square that with the promise of a CEO to treat his staff with respect? If that very staff can’t treat potential external business partners with similar respect….?

This isn’t sour grapes; it would have been a lot of fun to participate. Heavens knows I’ve got plenty of other things to do….

But what gets me is this: Sir Richard is known for establishing companies, and a culture, that thrives on the utmost of respect and service. Virgin Airlines, for example, can put many other companies to shame for its ability to be relentlessly customer centric. His promise in a quote such as above is to excel in establishing a staff culture based on respect…

Yet that respect doesn’t seem to trickle down from his office….

My question to Sir Richard is this — why can the staff in your office not carry the same attributes? It might be time for you to ask a few questions….

Just wondering.

Obviously, I spend a lot of time thinking about innovation. And given my global client list, I have a unique front-row seat into what organizations are doing to succeed — or, as they case may be, not succeed — with their innovation efforts.

With that, here’s a quick list of 10 more things that smart, innovative companies do to create an overall sense of innovation-purpose.

  • Heighten the importance of innovation. One major client with several billons in revenue has 8 senior VP’s who are responsible for innovation. And the fact is, they don’t just walk the talk — they do it. The message to the rest of the company? Innovation is critical — get involved.
  • Create a compelling sense of urgency. With product lifecycles compressing and markets witnessing fierce competition, now is not the time for studies, committee meetings and reports. It’s time for action. Simply do things. Now. Get it done. Analyze it later to figure out how to do it better next time.
  • Ignite each spark. Innovative leaders know that everyone in the organization has some type of unique creativity and talent. They know how to find it, harness it, and use it to advantage.
  • Re-evaluate the mission. You might have been selling widgets five years ago, but the market doesn’t want widgets anymore. If the world has moved on, and you haven’t, it is time to re-evaluate your purpose, goals and strategies. Rethink the fundamentals in light of changing circumstances.
  • Build up experiential capital. Innovation comes from risk, and risk comes from experience. The most important asset today isn’t found on your balance sheet — it is found in the accumulated wisdom from the many risks that you’ve taken. The more experiential capital you have, the more you’ll succeed.
  • Shift from threat to opportunity. Innovative organizations don’t have management and staff who quiver from the fear at what might be coming next. Instead, they’re alive from breathing the oxygen of opportunity.
  • Banish complacency and skepticism. It’s all too easy for an organization, bound by a history of inaction, to develop a defeatist culture. Innovative leaders turn this around by motivating everyone to realize that in an era of rapid change, anything is possible..
  • Innovation osmosis. If you don’t have it, get it — that’s a good rule of thumb for innovation culture. One client lit a fuse in their innovation culture by buying up small, aggressive, young innovative companies in their industry. They then spent the time to carefully nurture their ideas and harness their creativity.
  • Stop selling product, and sell results. The word solution is overused and overdone, but let’s face it — in a world in which everything is becoming a commodity and everyone is focused on price, change the rules of the game. Refuse to play — by thinking about how to play in a completely new game.
  • Create excitement. I don’t know how many surveys I saw this year which indicated that the majority of most people in most jobs are bored, unhappy, and ready to bolt. Not at innovative companies! The opportunity for creativity, initiative and purpose results in a different attitude. Where might your organization be on a “corporate happiness index?” If it’s low, then you don’t have the right environment. Fix that problem — and fix it quick.

I’ll admit, I’ve become a relentless golf nut, and I’ve even got a fairly decent handicap, often breaking 90 (which is less than what 1% of golfers can do.) I’ve got a son with a 1 handicap, which makes for  rather interesting rounds!

One of biggest career thrills as a futurist who focuses on the concept of innovation is found in the fact that the PGA of America has had me in to keynote their organization not once, but twice. The first time was for their annual general meeting, and then last year, to open the annual PGA Merchandise Show — where I was on stage after Lee Trevino and followed by Bubba Watson!

Both of these events have involved a focus on the idea of innovation, and what the industry and sport needs to do to continue to drive innovation, growth and interest in the game.

The common buzz ‘out there’ is that golf is a sport in decline. You’d certainly think that by reading the media. I beg to differ, and believe that the reality is far more positive. Much of this is due to the fact that there are a whole bunch of people in the game who are doing fascinating things to drive interest in what golf is all about.  Much of it involves reaching young people, using social media, to draw interest into the game.

With that, here’s my list of I think are the most important initiatives and people today in growing interest in the game.

Topgolf

Essentially, a driving range with technology, GPS golf balls, beer and chicken wings. If you check out the Instagram feed, you’ll see posts of young kids exploring whats involved in swinging a club. View social media postings around #topgolf, though, and you’ll see that it can be crazy busy on Friday and Saturday nights. I had the chance to interview the CIO on stage in Orlando at the PGA Merchandise show, and he has some wonderful insights on the impact of TopGolf on game growth. Watch the video clip here.

Essentially, TopGolf is getting people to try out a golf swing in a fun social environment. Statistics show that 1 out of 3 go on to try out golf in a real golf course. That’s a huge driving factor for growth!

Women with Drive

TopGolf uses social media to drive the game forward — and so much growth in the game today is being driven in the same way. With that, check out Women with Drive, another social media initiative. In this case, a number of young ladies  are using the power and reach of Instagram, Facebook and other tools to encourage women to discover the game. Their tag line is “Inspiring women to connect and play more golf“. The posts encourage those to find fellow women partners to come out for a round and either learn about or share their love for the game.

On Instagram, you’ll find many posts around new individuals getting involved in the game. Just this morning, they had a group in San Diego, doing what they do. It’s a national effort to get young women to come out for a round, and learn and love the game. Golf can be intimidating — it can be tough to break into, and there is a massive learning curve until you feel comfortable in getting out there and joining in for a round with people you don’t know. Women with Drive seems to be eager to break down those barriers, and I’ve got to give them credit for their passion and purpose.

(I will admit that golf has become the driving factor for many of my own Instagram activities – I follow a lot of golf pros and other folks. And if you follow #teamwwd, you can’t help but discovering the #golfbabes hashtag. I only follow that for the insight into innovation and the game, and not for the pictures!)

Rickie Fowler’s Snapchat / Instagram feed

While Women with Drive often shows a more sophisticated, feminine approach to growing the game of golf, the younger male generation also takes to social media to share their interest in the game. And no doubt, you’ve seen posts around Rickie Fowler’s annual trek to the Bahamas with fellow golf pros.

You get to see rising stars, normally found on the quaint, organized PGA tour, letting loose with a round of golf and other activities. They’re out golfing shirtless, beer in hand, behaviour bordering on the outrageous — which is what a lot of weekend hackers do. It provides the perfect connection between the average weekend golfer and the multi-million dollar golf pro, and gets out the message that the sport can be fun and inspiring at the same time!

Doug Lawrie & Michelle Holmes –  PGA Professionals

Most people, when they hear the phrase “PGA Pro”, think of folks like Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler. Those are the ‘touring Pros’ — but there are also PGA Professionals, folks who are the teaching professionals, helping others to master the complexities of the swing and they game grow.

Perhaps the most important PGA instructors out there today are those who dedicate their lives into getting young people into the game. Hence, I give you Doug Lawrie and Michelle Holmes!

Doug I know well — he’s the head teaching pro at my home golf club, Credit Valley. Michelle I have never met, but I’d love to meet her!

Doug regularly uses social media to tell the story and share the insight of the young people that he coaches. He’s tremendously successful – one of his proteges, a 10 year old girl, went on to win her category in last years world championship. Doug also has attention deficit disorder  – hence, his teaching company name, “Focus Golf Group”. Just the other day, I met him on the range and he was teaching a young girl a lesson; she’s deaf! He seems to take delight in taking on challenging cases, and turning these challenges into big opportunities.

Michelle Holmes I discovered through my connection with Rich Smith (below). Her feed on Instagram and Facebook is filled with fascinating photos and stories of her work with young people around golf lessons, summer golf camps and more.  Check this post, in which she notes, “Golf is a journey of a lifetime.”

Her passion for everything in getting young people into the game is infectious, and is another role model for what we can do to get the next generation involved in this wonderful sport.

Suzy Whaley

This passion for growing the game with young people flourishes out in the grassroots with Doug and Michelle — but it s also infused throughout the top leadership of the game. Case in point: Suzy Whaley, soon to be head of the PGA of America.

When I keynoted the 2010 PGA annual general meeting, little did I know that one of the most dynamic individuals in the world of golf was in the room – Suzy Whaley. She’s currently the Vice President of the PGA of America, and if all goes to plan, she’ll assume the leading role soon. Although we’ve never met in person — our paths have crossed — I’ve had the opportunity to learn from her insight.

What strikes me about Suzy is this : while she’s very busy with her responsibilities with the PGA, it’s also obvious that she is doing what she loves: helping young people to get involved in the game, or as a mom, cheering on her college age daughters, both of whom compete for their colleges!

Consider the magic in this post: here you have one of the most senior executives in the world of golf today, and what is she doing in any extra time she might have? Getting young people involved!

Cathy Butler, A Mom, and Peter Butler, a Dad

Suzy Whaley is one aspect of the world of golf at a career level. Then there are the moms and the dads, and parents who get their children out to the range, to the course, and to the lessons.

So I bring you Cathy and Peter Butler, good personal friends. Cathy has been golfing as long as she can remember, and carries a mean handicap. (She’s also the only person who has invited me out for a round, only to see me leave for a complex reason on the 13th hole. I will never live it down.) Peter, her husband, took it up later once he met Cathy….

Cathy and Peter are also the parents of 25 year old Thomas Butler, a marvellous year old fellow who has Downs Syndrome.

Thomas golfs.He skis. He does things that bring other people joy as they watch him and see his joy in doing wonderful things.

And he’s got a wicked drive which would put many other people to shame! Check it out! 220 yards straight down the middle!

Cathy and her husband Peter have done everything they can to provide their son with an enriching life full of powerful experiences. Cathy founded Events for Life, the charity for special needs young adults, for which I am now the Webmaster and on which my wife Christa sits on the Board of Directors. I am in awe of Cathy and Peter, and think they provide an important pathway to bring special needs children into the game.

Rich Smith, Executive Director, North Florida PGA

I got to know Rich through my keynote for the PGA. Aside from his unhealthy fascination for anything Star Wars related, he is one of many individuals in the PGA who has taken on a leading role in moving the Drive, Chip and Putt initiative forward.

That’s the national program which allows young people to progress through a series of regional competitions, the winners of which get to participate in an annual event at Augusta, days before the Masters.

Rich is putting a tremendous amount of effort into this initiative, and his passion shows in every single post and activity. That is, when he’s not obsessing about Star Wars!

Lexi Thompson and the LPGA

Last but not least — if you have any interest in golf, you’ll know of the boneheaded move by the LPGA to assess professional women’s golfer Lexi Thompson an additional, bonus-point penalty a day later, after someone watched something on TV. (With that, the LPGA became the most destructive force in the world of golf today!)

If anything, Lexi has taught her young fans everywhere that above all, sportsmanlike behaviour, decency and values are important attributes to bring to the game. Like the others, Lexi is a huge inspiration to young girls, and as a new type of role model, is helping to bring the game forward.

The 9th hero! (aka The people who support we who are golf nuts)

Oh, but wait, there’s more! Behind every golf nut, there’s an unsung hero. In this case, my wife!

She’s had to take up the game, schlepping her golf bag through airports, putting up with my relentless drive to tee it off at many of the fabulous golf resorts I get to visit as a leading global keynote speaker! To all the unsung heroes in our golf lives — we are grateful!

And the 10th hero!? Tom Carroll! (aka The people who drive our interest in the game)

The challenge with a list like this is that it keeps on growing!

I just came back from the range with my son, Tom — he’s the one with the 1-handicap. (Although, he’s just graduating from college, and will start full time work with an investment firm in a month, so his handicap is bound to go up.)  Tom is one of the main reason for my passion for the game — he took it up at a young age, and as a dad, I wanted to do whatever I could to be a part of his life as he got older.

While hitting some balls, I realized he really needed to be on the list. In everyone’s life, there is a kid name Tom — the driving reason why someone else develops an interest in the sport. So this recognition is for all the “Tom’s” out there – the other people who help to get others involved in the game.

Tom has competed in golf events, has worked for a golf pro teaching little kids, and has developed a reputation as a young man around our home club who people just like to golf with. He’s been tremendously patient with my erratic game, often offering me swing tips when needed, but backing off when he knows it will be a thankless exercise. The coolest thing? He’s still willing to go out for rounds with his dad on a regular basis.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

The most fun, perhaps, came from the day that he met Vice President Joe Biden on a golf course!

Who are your golf heroes? Share your stories with me, and with others — and let’s grow the game!

Half of the events I do as a futurist and innovation expert are spent at corporate leadership events. I’m frequently engaged by a CEO or other senior executive for a global Fortune 1000 company to come in and challenge their team as to how to align to a fast paced, disruptive future. After all, the reality is that speed is a new success metric.

There’s a lot of work and customization that goes into each and every talk — just last week, I met with 20 executives in the nuclear industry, and spent a lot of time updating myself as to trends in the energy and nuclear sector so that I could guide and challenge their thinking in a powerful way.

While researching and preparing, or while delivering my insight, I’ve noticed an increasing number of organizations are seeking to set their innovation energies on fire by encouraging their younger, interactive generation to explore opportunities for the digital, disruptive future through what I’ve come to call an Xbox room!

Why? Because this generation gets-it, knows how to innovate, and is the most powerful force for change in our world today. Consider the reality:

  • half of the global population is under the age of 25
  • we know they are globally wired, entrepreneurial, collaborative, and change oriented
  • and they are now now driving rapid business model change, and industry transformation as they move into executive positions

With that reality, organizations are realizing they should allow this generation to light their creative energies on fire, even if they aren’t sure as to what they might do or where their efforts might go!

The idea is to set them up with an innovation facility by which they can explore and accelerate the adoption of leading digital tools throughout the organization that can accelerate innovation efforts, provide for better collaboration and so much more.

Case in point: I spent some time in St. Louis with Amsted Rail: they manufacture the ‘bogies’ which are the wheel-undercarriage assemblies found on railcars. It was a thrill for my wife and I to have a tour of their manufacturing facility before my talk to see what they are doing to realign themselves to opportunities for innovation in manufacturing.

And the tour included what they call their iLab — or, what I would call for the fun of it, an Xbox room! In this facility, they are continually examining a variety of ideas as to how to continue to move the organization forward. This includes exploring a variety of ideas and technologies, including:

  • state of the art brainstorming centres to facilitate ideas colliding from all corners of our company
  • real-time employee collaboration tools across geographically diverse sites (to promote “a collision of ideas”)
  • how to use connected SMART Boards to simultaneously write/draw/share over any application using “digital ink”
  • 3D scanning/modelling systems to enhance product R&D and quality capabilities
  • advanced tensile testing techniques for enhanced product strength & durability

I had a chance to chat with the young fellows in the Xbox room — and listen to their ideas. It’s obvious its a rocket engine for innovative thinking!

That’s but one example: the more I witness what organizations are doing to accelerate innovation, the more I discover some sort of ‘Xbox room.’ I recently keynoted a major conference on the future of trucking in Phoenix.

While on stage, I spoke about a company in Winnipeg, Canada — Bison Trucking. They’ve set up a facility to encourage younger staff to explore how to align the fast pace of technological change in trucking to opportunities for digital technologies — read an extensive blog post about their efforts in the post Trend: In Trucking, Aircraft Control Towers Are the New Offices.

There’s plenty of others – Xbox rooms seem to be springing up everywhere!

Here’s what you need to think about:

  • you should set up a digital facility with all kinds of ‘toys’ relevant to your industry, and set the creative energies of a group of young staff free to explore
  • don’t set any specific goals, objectives or deliverables on the project — simply set it free to explore!
  • explain the purpose and mission of the group to the rest of the organization, and encourage them to bring unique problems to the group

Go ahead – make an Xbox room!

 

 

IBM’s Think Marketing blog found my site, and interviewed me on some of my thoughts around innovation and culture. Give it a read!

 

Hatching your next great idea: 5 ways to set the stage
by Jennifer Goforth Gregory, IBM Think Marketing Blog

Sometimes, you wake up and it feels like it became spring overnight. But when you stop to think about it, the change of seasons happened gradually over the course of a few weeks, and you missed the subtle signs. The daffodils started blooming last month. You started leaving the house without a coat. And, last week, you noticed a few trees sporting light green leaves.

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I work with many of the world’s leading bureaus, one of who is the Washington Speakers Bureau. They represent such people as Condoleeza Rice, George W. Bush, Tony Blair, John Kerry, Magic Johnson, Terry Bradshaw — global political, sports and other leaders. They’ve just run a blog post that I wrote on trends in the speaking industry. (Many of the worlds leading bureaus book me ; not only Washington Speakers, but also National Speakers Bureau / Global Speakers; Gail Davis & Associates; Leading Authorities; the Harry Walker Agency; Keppler Speakers ; Executive Speakers and many more!)


You can’t open a newspaper without seeing an article on the impact of ‘disruption.’  We now live in a period of unprecedented change in which your business model and the assumptions by which you operate are set to be forever disrupted.

In my own case, I spend a tremendous amount of time with different organizations in a vast range of different industries and professions, helping executives to understand and respond to the disruptive forces around them. And in the last several years, I’ve noticed some pretty significant changes in the speaking industry as organizations struggle with disruption.

If you are someone on your team responsible for organizing corporate or association meetings, you need to think about and react to the trends and forces at work. Quite simply, change is occurring several ways: with the speed with which speakers and topic experts are being booked, the topic areas that insight is being sought for, and the short time frames that everyone is working within.

As a speaker who focuses on how to link trends and innovation, my tag-line has become ‘the future belongs to those who are fast.”

The world is speeding up – and organizations need to respond faster

Consider the changes that everyone is impacted by today. Business model disruption. The rapid emergence of new competitors. The challenging impact of social media. Products that are almost out of date by the time they are brought to market. The digitization of everything and the impact of the Internet of Things.  All of these trends — and more — require that organizations pick up the pace when it comes to their strategies, actions and innovation efforts.

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Over the last 25 years as a speaker on future trends and innovation, I’ve seen many cases where companies have jumped onto a trend simply because everyone else. Or, they’ve suddenly decided that ‘innovation’ is important, without really defining a purpose or goal behind such a focus.

Rather than by just jumping on a bandwagon and doing what others are doing , try asking better questions as to why you should or should not be doing something!

Innovation that is based on “jumping on the bandwagon” is doomed to fail, for many, many reasons:

  • it’s lazy: true innovation takes hard work. It involves massive cultural, organizational, structural change. It involves an organization and leadership team that is willing to try all kinds of radical and new ideas to deal with rapid change. An innovative organization can’t innovate simply by jumping on a trend. Trying to do so is just trying to find an easy solution to deep, complex problems.
  • it involves little new creativity: by linking a new approach to doing things with a “hot topic” or trend means that people end up shutting their brains down. Creativity is immediately doomed through commonality.
  • it’s just a bandaid: bandwagon based innovation causes people to look for instant solutions and a quick fix, rather than trying to really figure out how to do something differently.
  • it’s misfocused: it involves putting in a solution is sought without identifying a problem. It’s backward in terms of approach.
  • it encourages mediocrity: it reduces innovation to an “idea of the week,” and does nothing to encourage people to really look at their world in a different way.
  • it reduces innovation to sloganeering: truly creative people within organizations are tried of slogan-based management. They’ve seen far too many ‘radical right turns’ and ‘new beginnings’ — and when they realize that their management team has jumped onto the latest hot trend, their faith and motivation goes out the window.
  • it destroys innovation: after the bandwagon effect ultimately fails (as they always do for the reasons above), people end up feeling burned out, cynical, demotivated — and they’ll be prepared to do little when the “next big thing” comes along.

 

It’s more important — and more difficult — than that.

Supertramp — a band from the 80’s — had a minor hit with the song “On the Long Way Home,” which featured the memorable line, the line, “when you’re up on the stage, it’s so unbelievable.” It is, quite. And when you’re up there, you realize how lucky you are to be able to share with the audience the wisdom you’ve picked up by observing some of the world’s top innovators. When the PGA of America had me in for the 2nd time, one of my key goals was to lay a foundation for the fact that growth in the game will come from innovation!

Recently, after a presentation to an audience of 3,000 people, I was approached by a CEO who was quite inspired by my remarks. He then asked me a fascinating question: “what would you do if you took over the leadership of my company right now?” We chatted for a while and I believe I provided some pretty succinct insight; but since then, I’ve been thinking about that question. Here’s a part of my answer.

  • maximize your best revenue opportunities. I’d make sure that any existing revenue relationships remain intact, and then some. I’d work on having my team obsess on growing existing high value customer relationships through service excellence. Let’s make sure that we meet their needs. It will likely be easier to keep existing revenue flowing rather than finding new ones, particularly through a time of economic challenge.
  • obsess over time to market. I’d work hard to accelerate product innovation; market life-cycles are collapsing, and I’d make sure every member of the team reoriented themselves to that reality. I’d focus on getting R&D to think in terms of faster cycles; I’d ramp up sales force education so that they were better aware of what’s coming next. I’d have the team thinking in terms of 3-6-9-12 : here’s what will be doing in the marketplace 3, 6, 9 and 12 months from now. I’d layer on top of that some insight into 1-2-5-10: what we might be doing 1, 2, 5 and 10 years from now.
  • reduce product costs through process improvement and better project execution: there is no shortage of innovative ideas, structures and concepts involving process and production methodologies. I’d make sure we were looking at finding those who are doing leading edge work in this area, inside or outside our industry, and learn from them.
  • align to customer oriented innovation: go upside-down, in fact. Take a look around and you will probably discover that your customers are inventing your future faster than you are. View their ideas, strategies and actions not as a threat, but as an opportunity for ideas!
  • reduce structural costs through collaboration: at this point in time, in a global world that allows for instant, smart collaboration among teams, there is no reason for massive duplication of skills and talent throughout an organization. I’d start a rethink those silos, and restructure for a new skills deployment approach. Right off the bat, I’d encourage a few cross-organizational collaboration efforts, to get people used to the idea of tackling fast new problems rather than arguing about structure and hierarchy.
  • focus on the pipeline of talent innovation: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The depth the bench strength is critical to future success. I’d have everyone take a good look at our pipeline, to see if it will meet upcoming needs. If not, I’d get a program in place to fix that fast.
  • relentlessly and aggressively chase costs: I’m not talking about spontaneous slash and burn spending cuts: I’d refocus on transitioning the role of staff from tactical efforts to a strategic role. I’ve spent time with the CIO’s and CFO’s of some pretty major organizations: Hunt Oil, Adobe, J Crew, Under Armor. All of them have provided in-depth insight onstage during customer panels that have focused on the role of IT in the business to run the business better, grow the business and transform the business. There remain countless opportunities for IT oriented innovation to rip unnecessary costs out of the business, and it involves this tactical to strategic transition.
  • enhance quality and reliability of product: Last year, I spoke to 2,500 global quality professionals on the challenges that the high velocity economy presents to the concept of quality. The fact is, new issues hit us in the marketplace faster than ever before. And the global idea loop means that quality challenges can become a sudden, massive worldwide PR nightmare faster than we’ve ever been prepared for. That’s why avoiding quality problems remains a critical focus. I’d take a look at how well we’re dealing with quality issues, and whether we’ve got the agility to respond in this new world of heightened PR challenges. I’d also have a group prepare an immediate outline of challenges and problems with customer service and satisfaction.
  • partner up: no one company can do everything on its own anymore. Take a look t the world of self-driving cars — every single auto company is partnering at a furious pace, because they know that access to specialized skills is the defining success factor for the future!
  • capture new emerging growth markets faster: I’d begin to orient the team so that we knew about which market opportunities might come next, and then spend time aligning ourselves to innovate faster in such markets. I recently spent some time with one client, and the focus of our discussion was how a new market was set to unfold in the next three months. Expectations were that the market — for a unique consumer product, with potential sales in the billions of dollars — might last for a period of eighteen months, before being eclipsed by the next stage of development. Essentially, the CEO was looking at a situation where they had to figure out how to jump into this new fast market, and make the most of it in an extremely short period of time. That’s a new skill structure to wrap an organization around, and one that every organization must learn to master.

That’s a good starting point. The key issue: I’d begin by aligning the organization to the concept of “thriving in the high velocity economy.”

Oh, and one of the first things I’d do? I would immediately convene a senior management/leadership meeting, and bring in a futurist and innovation expert to wake my people up to the potential that can come from energizing ourselves towards future opportunities.

My youngest son Tom turns 22 today. Time flies!

Both of my sons have been a huge inspiration to me on my approach to life, innovation, the future and trends — I know they live in a world that is completely different than my own, as they’ve grown up in a world of fast, relentless technology. This is caught, for example, in a stage story I often tell about Things from the Olden Days.

For many years, I told the story on stage of Tom and his hockey blocker. You see, when he was 3, he wanted one (a goalie blocker glove). We explained to him that we wouldn’t just go and buy one at the spur of a moment…

So he made his own. Out of a cereal box. What an inspiration! He kept and used it for two years, until it was absolutely falling apart.

Around that time, I often used Tom and the story of his hockey blocker as part of my “What I Learned from Frogs in Texas” story — which eventually became a book of the same title. His part in the story was the power of initiative, determination and action. It remains for me a powerful lesson.

 You can watch a short form of the video clip in which I talk about Tom and his hockey blocker here:

Happy birthday Tom! Always make sure that you construct the hockey blockers in your life – and always take the initiative!

One of my key themes through the years has been that “faster is the new fast” — that the biggest challenge that organizations must face is how to keep up with the high-velocity economy.

I’m now observing that in many markets and industries, the pace of change is so fast that we need to put in place a senior executive whose sole area of responsibility is ensuring that the organization can keep up with ever-increasing rates of change. Let’s say — a Chief Momentum Officer.

Organizations need to adapt to all kinds of different issues when it comes to the velocity of change: rapidly changing business models, the emergence of new competitors, ever shrinking product life-cylces, a faster pace of new product development, furious rates of technological innovation, furiously fast new trends in terms of customer interaction, the decreasing shelf-life of knowledge and the more rapid emergence of specialized skills: the list could go on!

Hence, a need for someone who aligns all of the moving parts of the organization to high velocity change! This individual will carry a number of responsibilities, such as:

  • managing the product innovation pipeline, so that the organization has a constant supply of new, innovative products, as existing products become obsolete, marginalized, or unprofitable
  • managing the talent pipeline, so that the organization has the ability to quickly ingest all kinds of specialized new skills
  • managing the technology pipeline, so that the organization can adapt itself to constantly improving and ever-more sophisticated IT tools that will help to better manage, run, grow and transform the business
  • maintain and continually enhance brand and corporate image; as I’ve written here many times before, brands can become “tired” and irrelevant if they aren’t continually freshened and refreshed
  • ensuring that the organization is continuing to explore new areas for opportunity, and that it has the right degrees of innovation momentum
  • that the business processes and structure of the organization are fine-tuned on a continuous basis so that it can keep up with all the fast-change swirling around it
  • ensuring that a sufficient number of “experiential” programs are underway with respect to product, branding, markets, and other areas so that the overall expertise level of the organization is continually enhanced

In other words, the CMO has two key responsibilities:

  • keeping a fine tuned eye on the trends which will impact the organization in the future, and which will serve to increase the velocity that the organization is subjected to and;
  • keeping their hands on the appropriate levers throughout the organization such that it can keep evolving at the pace that these future trends will demand.

I don’t know if that makes perfect sense, but I think its a good issue to think about.

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