Do one thing today – get out of your innovation rut!

by Jim Carroll

Innovation is a mindset. Do you have what it takes?

BabyEinstein“Don’t expect them to subscribe to the same old beliefs as to structure and rules, working hours, and corporate culture, or business models. You won’t survive in their future if you don’t take the time to understand what they are doing, talking about, and thinking.”

Here’s a few simple thoughts on how to get out of your innovation rut!

Reward failure, and tone down the “I told-you-so’s”

Too many people think when times are volatile, that it’s not a good time to focus on big ideas. Not true! Consider history: many people stuck their neck out in the 1990’s and tried out new ways of doing business, new technologies, and innovative methods of dealing with markets and customers. Yet many of those efforts collapsed in spectacular fashion due to the dot.com/technology meltdown, and a dangerous sense of complacency set in. Back then, innovators had to hang their head in shame, and the nervous nellies who dared not innovate reigned supreme! Yet those who took risk excelled — they invented Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram…. When times are volatile and fear reigns, that’s the best time to make big bold moves.

Listen up!

We live in a time of unprecedented feedback and communication – and yet few organizations are prepared to listen! Customers are telling you, loudly, what they want. Young people are defining a future that is different from anything we’ve dealt with before. Competitive intelligence capabilities abound. And yet most or- ganizations ignore these signals, or don’t know how to listen – or even where to look. Organizations should reconsider the many effective ways of building effective digital feedback systems, in order that they can stay on top of fast-changing events, rediscover markets, and define opportunity – which will help them understand how and where they need to innovate.

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Trend: My thoughts on the future of ‘specialty foods’

by Jim Carroll

I was recently interviewed by the folks at the Specialty Foods Association, for my thoughts on what is happening in their sector.

How a Futurist Deciphers Trends
By Brandon Fox, January 2016

RD2008Food1.jpgFads have a shorter lifespan, trends have a shorter lifespan, consumers have a shorter attention span.

Author, speaker, and consultant Jim Carroll offers global trend analysis and strategies for change to companies as varied as Johnson & Johnson, the Walt Disney Corporation, and Yum! Brands. Here, he discusses why trends are more complicated than “what’s hot or what’s not,” the lightning speed of consumer influencers, and why experimentation is necessary to build shopper relationships.

WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING IN THE FOOD INDUSTRY?

Boy, where do we start? I take a different approach—it’s not “what’s hot or what’s not,” but how are things changing and how quickly can specialty food come to market

People are influenced faster than say, five or 10 years ago—or even a year ago—and a lot of that has to do with social networks, but also with just the way new concepts and new ideas are put in front of them.

I spoke to a group of beverage executives a couple of years ago about what was happening with food and alcohol. I told them to think about “Mad Men.” All of sudden, 1960s retro drinks were all the rage. It happened quickly because people are influenced in new and different ways. It’s not, “what are the new taste sensations?” but “where are those new taste sensations coming from?”

[As for what’s emerging now,] consider how hummus grew as a trend—and then consider what comes next: more quinoa, buckwheat, and rice [products] as people seek similar healthy snack and meal options. And there are fascinating new developments like fruit sushi, chocolate-flavored soda, and even bacon-flavored vodka.”

WHERE DO YOU SEE INFLUENCES COMING FROM SPECIFICALLY?

One example I use all the time is bacon. I traced it back from an article that appeared in the Associated Press newswire in March 2011. The article was called “How Bacon Sizzled and People Got Sweet on Cupcakes.” [The author] followed the trend back to a wine distributor in Southern California who, about six years ago, paired a Syrah with peppered bacon at a tasting. That somehow got out onto the blogs of the time and all of a sudden, boom! Bacon became hot. Everyone talks about Facebook and Twitter all the time, but it’s a new kind of connectivity in terms of how we eat and drink and how we share and talk about it.

DO YOU THINK CELEBRITY CHEFS’ INFLUENCE HAS BEEN STRONG ENOUGH TO DRIVE THIS INDUSTRY?

Huge impact. It used to take a new taste trend from a high-end restaurant five years [to filter down] and now it takes six months or three months or less because there is so much exposure. And another thing is food trucks. People can’t meet the high capital cost of a new restaurant, so they roll out a truck. They’re everywhere. You have people with obvious skills. They can now do what they want and get in front of an audience. And with television shows like the Cooking Channel’s “Eat Street,” it’s a supernova that’s moving faster than ever before.

HOW DO YOU DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN SOMETHING THAT’S GOING TO BE SUSTAINED VERSUS A BLIP ON THE RADAR? YOU’VE TALKED ABOUT BEING NIMBLE, BUT IS THERE A DANGER TO JUMPING TOO QUICKLY?

Too fast or too slow? When the low-fat and low-carb trends came along, by the time [companies] got a product to market, the trend had come and gone. One fascinating experience was when I was doing a talk for Reader’s Digest’s food and entertainment magazines on the same day Lehman Brothers went down and the stock market crashed. The focus of the conference quickly became the economic downturn, comfort food, and the fact that people would focus on more grocery shopping and less time in restaurants. That was the day that Campbell’s Soup was the only stock that went up in value. The buzz around the room was that we, as a food industry, are not very fast or agile to respond to these fast-paced trends.

THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN IN 2008—HOW HAVE YOU SEEN THINGS CHANGE SINCE THEN?

I still worry. How far has the industry come along? Well, a little bit. To a large degree, many consumer food companies still have not made much progress. Fads have a shorter lifespan, trends have a shorter lifespan, consumers have a shorter attention span. While you might have had longevity of three to six to 12 months with a particular type of food, is that collapsing now? We’re no longer in a world in which we can sit back and have a one-year planning cycle.

YOU TALK A LOT ABOUT MOBILE TECHNOLOGY. EVERYONE SEEMS TO BE DOING EVERYTHING WITH THEIR PHONES, BUT HOW CAN A COMPANY REALLY LEVERAGE MOBILE?

Think big, start small, scale fast. If you think big and look five years out—you’re, say, an olive oil company—the bottle is going to be intelligent. It’s probably going to have a chip built into it. You’ll 
probably have some type of relationship, either direct or indirect, with the consumer. That’s a given.

HOW WILL A CHIP ON A LABEL OR BOTTLE HELP THE 
COMPANY GET TO KNOW THE CONSUMER?

The consumer might have liked the company on Facebook—maybe there was a very effective ad on Facebook and they have agreed to share their information. That establishes the relationship. When [the consumer] walks into the store, their mobile device has that 
relationship embedded in it and the product with the active 
packaging chip in it recognizes that they’re near and starts running a commercial on an LED screen while they’re walking into the store. It might say something such as, “You’ve liked this before, so here’s a coupon that we’ll zip to your mobile device.”

That kind of freaks me out.

I’m 56 and that kind of freaks me out, too. My son—he’s 20—is in a different world. He views contractual relationships in a very 
different way. Five years, 10 years from now, he’s going to have more of a budget for spending, and will he accept that idea of zipping a coupon to him? I think he will.

There’s a stat I dragged out years ago—the average consumer scans 12 feet of shelf space per second. Think about that. You have very little time to grab their attention, so you’ve got to experiment quickly with new ways of putting [your product] in front of them.

Brandon Fox is the food and drink editor of Style Weekly in Richmond, Virginia. Her work has also appeared in The Local Palate and the Washington Post.

“Whoah, dude, what happened?” How to avoid failing at the future….

by Jim Carroll

Jim Carroll-today

Ask yourself this question: do you work in an organization that just simply doesn’t get it? Who is oblivious, blind, completely unaware of just how much business model change is occurring out there?

Here’s the thing — there are three types of people in the world:

  • those who make things happen
  • those who watch things happen
  • and those who say, “what happened?”

I’ve often pointed this out on stage, and have emphasized the point, by suggesting that the folks who find themselves last on the list sit back and say, “whoah, dude, what happened? Where’d that come from?”

In other words, they’ve been completely blind to the trend which would cause massive upheaval within their industry, or refuse to accept the significant business model disruptions which are already occurring.

Guess what — it’s happening right now as a lot of financial institutions don’t realize just how quickly mobile technology is going to change everything in the consumer financial services industry! Or in countless other industries where the blindness of current market leaders is leading them to their own “whoah, dude” moment.

So let’s make it simple: when it comes to innovation, make sure that you are in the first camp!

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Is the Auto Industry Ready for the World of 2030?

Article for UK based Automotive Megatrends magazine, a special report for subscribers by Jim Carroll

Jim Carroll on the automotive world of 2030

What’s coming in the next 15 years could be mind-boggling, says futurist Jim Carroll. As told to Martin Kahl:

To paraphrase Bill Gates, most people tend to overestimate the rate of change that will occur on a two-year basis, and underestimate how much change will occur on a ten-year basis. Let’s put that in perspective: Think about the change that has occurred in the last ten years and then consider what might come in the next ten to 15 years: it could be mind boggling. Ten years ago, we only just had YouTube and FaceBook, but we didn’t have Twitter, and we didn’t have the iPhone.

One of the biggest trends that is unfolding, and one that will have a huge impact on transportation, is what I call hyper connectivity, or what people are referring to as the Internet of Things. Everything that is a part of our daily lives will be connected to the Internet – and that has massive implications.

As for how cars and trucks fit into this, there are two paths. One is full vehicle autonomy, the Google self-driving car trend. The other is the development of intelligent highway and intelligent road infrastructure that interacts with everything else via a variety of methodologies that will help the car to drive in a safe manner with a human inside. I don’t think it’s a discussion of whether we will all be either in autonomous cars or human-driven cars – I think there’s going to be a mixture of both.

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What Will Golf Do with the Arrival of the Drones?

by Jim Carroll

Sometime in the next few years, someone is going to arrive at a golf course, and have their entire round filmed by a drone up in the air overhead. It will follow them around via a GPS link ; their fellow players might be annoyed at first, but with the ultra silent motor, they’ll soon barely notice.

A drone flies over Pebble Beach, providing some unique views of one of the world's most famous golf courses.

Later, that someone will edit the highlights of their round to share it with friends; they might sent it to the their PGA Pro to help analyze it for training purposes; or they put it some other unimaginable use.

Right now, drone technology is where the Internet was in about 1993, and in the next 5-10 years we are going to see explosive growth in both the number of drones as well the sophistication of the feature set they support.

I was thinking about this while out for my latest golf round yesterday; I’m pretty wired up already, and maybe I just need a drone to complete my wired golf-self.

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Innovators Aren’t Afraid to Ask Tough Questions

by Jim Carroll

In fact, the realities are that not only are innovative people unafraid to ask questions, they aren’t afraid to:

 

  • ask the tough questions
  • act on the answers to those tough questions!
  • ask questions that make people uncomfortable
  • challenge others to ask tough questions
  • ask why it has become acceptable to not ask questions!
  • ask questions that challenge fundamental assumptions
  • ask questions that show their complete lack of knowledge about something — which is ok
  • ask questions that might make their boss unhappy
  • indicate that while they don’t know the answer to the tough questions, they’re prepared to find out
  • suggest that maybe there have now been too many questions, and now something simply must be done in order to move forward

What’s the key to this line of thinking?

Organizations can become too comfortable with routine, and unless this is challenged on a regular basis, complacency becomes a killer.

By constantly putting a whole bunch of tough questions on the table, innovators can ensure that innovation paralysis does not set in.

Revisiting the Hollowing Out of R&D – Global R&D Trends

Revisiting the Hollowing Out of R&D – Global R&D Trends
Jim Carroll

Two years ago, I was the opening keynote speaker for the 14th Annual Portfolio Management for New Products & Services Conference in Fort Lauderdale, an event sponsored by the Product Development and Management Association.

In the blog entry I wrote at the time (The Hollowing Out of Big Corporate R&D), I noted that “I spoke to the broad theme of  ‘innovating faster,’ but also challenged the crowd to think about how the “source of innovative ideas” has changed.”

It was a pretty interesting conference — it was right after the financial crisis of 2008, and there were quite a few folks in the room — long time R&D professionals — who had just been let go. Others were seeing their budgets cutback; many more were in a state of absolute shock and uncertainty as the economy was still contracting. It seemed as if the entire room was in a state of shock. I spent a good part of my time working to help them understand there were deep, transformative changes occurring in how “big” R&D was conducted, and if they were to survive, they would have to adapt to these realities. Those point are covered in the blog post.

While undertaking some research in the last few weeks for upcoming keynotes, I’ve come across a few interesting articles that have an R&D spin, and which can help to put into perspective the many ways in which R&D is evolving:
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