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October 22, 2013

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Building A Futureproof Brand? What You’ll Need In 2013

February 28, 2013

by Guest Blogger, Marc Stoiber:

I help clients build futureproof brands, so a predictions article seems a natural fit. And because collaboration with my network of global experts is part of building those brands, I’m blessed to stand on the shoulders of giants when looking ahead.

So without further ado, let’s launch right into it.  My futureproof brand 2013 predictions (with a little help from my very talented friends).

1. The Implosion Of ‘Greed Is Good’ Brands

Futureproof Brand Pillar: Sustainability

I leaned on my friend John Marshall Roberts for this one. John is a best-selling author, behavioral scientist and founder of Worldview Thinking. When I asked him to polish the crystal ball he told me “The individualistic worldview, focused solely on profit, is continuing to decay. Obama’s re-election gave it another kick – expect continued collapse of this worldview, and the brands it represents, in 2013.”

But will we suddenly be inundated with brands that put the humanistic worldview first? Not necessarily. “There is going to be a rise of companies that succeed against all status quo wisdom” Roberts says. Think Tom’s Shoes, with its ‘buy one give one’ philosophy. Or Zappos, selling insane service to build a shoe business in the unlikeliest place – online.

Roberts also sees an incredible number of startups in 2013 – an unfortunate / fortunate result of the implosion of greed is good brands. With those startups will come many failures, and many steep learning curves. So watch out for the rise of brands that teach people how to work in the 21st Century.

2. Hypercollaboration

Futureproof Brand Pillar: Innovation

Catherine Courage is the SVP of Customer Experience at Citrix. One of her big accomplishments has been to usher in radically different workspaces for her company.

“A lot of what we define as ‘work’ is going through culture change. People – especially in tech, are feeling more empowered to reach further.” says Courage. “It used to be about execution and time. Now it’s more about innovation and ideas and inspiration. Incrementalism is out!”

The spaces she helped pioneer – huge areas covered in post-its and whiteboards – have fostered hypercollaborative teams, accelerated ideation – and bigger, bolder ideas.

“Design thinking has allowed us to punch through the incremental innovation rut.” emphasizes Courage. “The more people we bring into the collaborative process, the more walls we (literally) knock down – the greater the innovation we create.”

3. Valuing The Intangible

Futureproof Brand Pillar: Insight

When I asked best-selling author and leading green business expert Andrew Winston what he thought would make the news in 2013, he replied without hesitation “Learning to value the hard to measure, both externalities and intangible benefits.”

Winston is talking about valuing natural resources like air and water, along with outputs like carbon – previously completely dismissed or grossly undervalued by businesses.

Winston believes consumers are waking up to the fact that businesses need to take responsibility for what they use, and create. This is partly due to the growing recognition that we’re fouling our home, the empowerment consumers are feeling through social media, and the growing business case for sustainability.

Look for companies putting their footprint front and centre, and finding new ways to build consumer preference with it.

4. The Rise Of Mobile

Futureproof Brand Pillar: Design

Internet analyst Mary Meeker noted that mobile web traffic as a percentage of all internet usage increased from 4% in 2010 to 13% in 2012. And the Wall Street Journal predicted mobile ad sales to increase threefold in 2013.

What does this mean? Mobile is becoming the ultimate aide – always at our side, always ready with answers. And we’re intuitively turning to it, as we turn away from our desk.

Speaking with Chris Fleck, VP of Mobility Solutions for Citrix, I began to understand that this trend was about much more than simply finding recipes while at the grocery store.

“Far more companies are going to go with a BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, policy.” said Fleck. “With information migrating into the cloud, mobile or pad devices are going to become potent business tools during the day, while they do double duty as social tools at night.”

Fleck is quick to point out that bugbears like security are being designed out of the mobile world. “Mobile device management and mobile app management – these tools are providing a level of protection that IT heads need in order to feel OK about the march of BYOD.”

Long story short – look for 2013 to be the year that people migrate en masse to the more intuitive design of mobile devices.

 5. Privacy

Futureproof Brand Pillar: Insight

Facebook becomes a public company. Shareholders clamor for profit. The result – more user data is sold to advertisers. What ensues?

Social media expert Nicholas Kinports believes we’re about to see a unprecedented privacy backlash as more users realize their data is being used to target, and sell to them.

“You just have to look at what happened at Instagram” says Kinports. When the photo sharing site announced it would be selling user photos, there was an uproar. The result, although it’s still early days, appears to be a tail-between-the-legs retraction.


Futureproof Pilars: Purpose and Insight

Daniel Epstein is the founder of the Unreasonable Group, an irreverent, bold incubator of companies that want to change the world.

Epstein believes 2013 will see the ongoing shift toward corporate vulnerability. “Imagine a company 10 years ago saying they didn’t have all the answers, they couldn’t figure it out. Today, we’re seeing a huge shift to collaboration, sharing pieces of the puzzle, and asking for others to help us along the way.”

Although this is partly a nod to companies declaring their sustainable intentions and admitting they have a long way to go, I believe there’s something much bigger, and more positive at work.

I was working on Proctor when AG Lafley decreed that the consumer-goods giant would aggressively seek innovation from outside the company. This invitation to collaborate revitalized Proctor.

Today, I believe consumers are looking for far more hybrid solutions, and searching for companies that can put their corporate pride aside to accelerate innovation by teaming up with others. The more vulnerability happens, the better for all of us.

7. The Rise Of The Expert

Futureproof Pillar: All Of Them

I firmly believe that 2013 will see the expert class rise from the ashes of generalists like ad agencies. A former creative director myself, I am amazed at the number of experts I can tap for my projects. They are all hyper-connected and comfortable working across time zones. And they are capable of building project teams that put most marketing, ad and design firms to shame. I believe this trend will continue, and amplify in 2013.

The Futureproof Brand Future Is Unwritten

So there you have it.

I would just like to close with a caution. The reason I created a practice around futureproof brands was to help brands survive and thrive in a world of increasing change and chaos. In a world like this, what’s heresy today becomes old hat tomorrow.

Key to building a futureproof brand is to remain nimble, and build in both deep consumer insight and constant feedback mechanisms. Only that way will you know if what you predicted is actually coming to pass. And if it will still be relevant tomorrow.

This story first appeared in Sustainable Brands  December 27th, 2012.

Unique Lives with stories of hope and forgiveness

February 26, 2013

Yesterday we celebrated my 20th anniversary here at National Speakers Bureau.  How time flies when you’re having fun and love your work!  Ours is an industry where every day we’re surrounded by greatness & potential and it’s our role to help share the ideas and experiences of incredible Canadians with audiences across the country.

It was a fitting treat then, to see some of that greatness live last night, as our Toronto team attended the Unique Lives presentation by the dynamic environmentalist father-daughter duo of David Suzuki and his daughter Severn Cullis-Suzuki.  They bantered together sharing stories of life in the Suzuki household and incredible trips they took together in efforts to help us better respect our environment and appreciate the air we breathe, the waters we drink, and the creatures with whom we share this earth.  It was lovely to see and feel the pride of the elder Suzuki when his daughter held her own on the stage along with him, captivating the audience.

And I wasn’t the only one feeling that way.  From twitter: @PhilJokes: Met David Suzuki after his speech tonight, he’s a fantastic human being. @SevernSuzuki gave a wonderful speech as well, what a great family.

Here’s a Toronto Star article on the Suzuki’s arrival in Toronto.

ImageAnd just hours later, the remarkable Amanda Lindhout, kidnap survivor and founder of the Global Enrichment Foundation, spoke at Unique Lives in Calgary and earned a passionate outpouring of support via Twitter & Facebook. Sample here, and full list below.

‘Amanda… Tonight was incredible. I can’t stop thinking about your story and your unbelievable ability to forgive. You inspire me and make ME want to change the world, too!’
@StyleistaBH: Overheard post the @AmandaLindhout @UniqueLives talk in #yyctonight “wow, that was as good as @Oprah” Agreed! Both inspirational women!

These are just three of the incredible Canadians we’re proud to represent, on the subjects of human nature, forgiveness, the future of our planet, and hope. And along with our amazing team, they’re part of the reason I come to work every day…for 20 years and counting.

13 Trends for 2013 by futurist Richard Worzel

February 13, 2013

13 Trends for 2013 – by guest blogger futurist Richard Worzel, C.F.A.

A new year is a time when everyone thinks and wonders about the future, and I’m no different, except for me it’s also my job. With that in mind, let me identify some of the trends and new developments that are likely to emerge, or intensify, during 2013. Some of these are well-established, but not highly visible. Some are new, and will burst on our consciousness. All will be important in different ways.

1) The emergence of women – This is a trend I’ve written about before and which has been emerging for some time, but which is now pushing its way into the general consciousness. I suspect that 2013 will give it a profile that has generally been lacking, particularly if Hillary Clinton decides to run for the presidency.

First, women are in the ascendant in our society, to the point where I believe they will become the leaders of our society and economy within a generation. This is happening for several reasons. The least important of these is that young women now have role models for virtually anything they would like to do, up to, but not yet including, President of the United States. This inspires them, and encourages them to choose careers that interest them rather than ones that are traditionally “approved” for women. Next, more businesses are being started by women than are being started by men, and the businesses started by women are more likely to survive. As a result, there are more executives and owner/operators who are women than ever before, and their numbers are growing. But perhaps the biggest future indicator is that women outnumber men in post-secondary education. At the undergraduate level, there are almost 50% more women than men, a 60-40 split. At the graduate level in most disciplines, this figure is even higher, approaching 90% in some medical fields. All of this means that the leaders of the future are more likely to be women than men.

2) The decline of men – A separate issue is the decline of men. This is not just a relative decline, brought on by the rise of women, but is an absolute decline. Much of this is physical, but some of it is social and emotional. The physical side stems from evidence which seems to indicate that men are more greatly affected by poisons in the biosphere than are women. The number of boys who experience attention-deficit disorders and hyperactivity is two- to four times the number of girls who are affected. Sperm counts are down in men in many places around the world, from Columbia to France to Britain, or, indeed, most places where researchers have troubled to make the comparison. Is this a critical issue in a world where population growth is an environmental problem? Probably not, but as an indicator of male health, it doesn’t seem like a good sign. Other studies also show a widespread decline in testosterone levels in American men – again, probably not a life-or-death issue today, but not a positive indicator. And Canadian men showed a big jump in testicular cancer from 1983 to 2005.

None of these indicators are definitive. Indeed, in some ways, because they are disconnected, they are almost anecdotal in nature. Yet they all point in the same direction: males are in trouble as a sex. Then add the social dimension: men today are viewed, through popular culture, as silly, stupid, overgrown boys. This is illustrated in movies (“The Hangover”), TV programs (Homer Simpson), popular sayings (“The difference between the men and the boys is the size of their toys”), and even jokes. Indeed, the only minority it is now safe to make fun of is men, notably white men.

There are probably several possible interpretations for these facts, but my interpretation is simple: Men are in trouble, and women are emerging as the dominant sex, and will lead the world before the end of the 21st century.

3) The waning of work – Just over 20 years ago I wrote about how we were moving towards a world where permanent work would be much harder to come by, casual labor at lower wages would be widespread, and there would be a significant, and growing, group of people who wanted to work, but couldn’t find a job. We are now seeing the clear outlines of this world. It’s a continuing trend, not something new to 2013, produced by inexpensive labor in developing countries, coupled with rapidly expanding automation here at home. The two are combining to eliminate most kinds of repetitive work, regardless of whether it’s blue collar assembly-line jobs, white collar clerical work, professional medical assessments, or executive oversight. Any job that involves doing more or less the same thing over and over is a candidate for being eliminated.

The result is that it will be progressively harder and harder for people of all ages to find full-time employment. And, as I also anticipated in 1993, more and more people will work casually, and on a project-by-project basis, more like a production crew for a movie than a traditional business. Everyone will be responsible for managing their own careers, no matter who pays them, and many people will become involuntary entrepreneurs because they can’t find work any other way.

The logical end result of this trend is either a society that has become full of entrepreneurial, creative people, with training and education aimed towards that end, or a world where we are divided into aristocrats that own businesses, those few creative souls who work for them, and the large majority of peons who struggle to get by on charity and crumbs. And the critical question is whether our education system is preparing people for the first scenario, or the second?

4) Three-dimensional printing – Management guru Peter Drucker once said that an entirely new technology went through two major stages, which correspond to the classic “S” curve of development. In the first stage, developments are slow and incremental, while the potential is hyped far more than performance can justify. In the second stage, people have written the technology off as a bust – just in time for it to explode. Three-D printing is about to move from the first stage to the second, and the effects will be profound. This technology has been in development for more than 20 years, during which time it has been improving incrementally. Now, it is maturing as a technology, and may be as disruptive to many industries as the Internet has been.

The fundamental idea behind 3D printing is that it is like a laser printer, but instead of ink, it uses a material or series of materials to print one thin slice of an object. Then the printer bed drops down very slightly, and it prints the next slice, and the next, and the next, until the entire object has been produced. What it means is that manufacturing can be done where something is needed, instead of in a distant factory.

It will ultimately be disruptive to many industries, from widgets to cars, but could be particularly important in fields like electronics, pharmaceuticals, and human organ replacement. These, and related, fields are ones where the cost of materials is low relative to the information or design involved. For more on this, see my earlier blog, [Star Trek].

5) The emergence of Big Data & Analytics – When I first heard these terms, I thought it was just another new management buzzword. I was wrong, for these represent a fundamentally new way of looking and thinking about the world, and they have wide potential applications.

Big Data is the idea of co-opting information overload, and putting it to work by taking incredibly large masses of data, and using non-traditional analytic tools to identify previously unsuspected or unidentified patterns. (That’s the “Analytics” part.) Examples of Big Data sources might be the traffic patterns of the entire Internet, the sum of all human genomic data, the data produced by all or a large part of the weather observations made around the world, or all the trading data for all securities traded in stock markets around the world. Mining such huge data sources would be impossible were it not for new techniques that are very different from traditional forms of examination like statistical analysis, which are limited and time consuming. Instead, new forms of pattern- or solution-seeking software, such as evolutionary algorithms, are able to plunge into the multivariate data worlds, and gradually identify patterns.

Applications in the short- to medium-term include allowing banks or credit unions to better assess the creditworthiness of their customers, retailers to identify which customers are more likely to buy which products, and multinational corporations to identify new product trends before they become obvious. Longer term, Analytics will significantly improve our ability to predict weather, and to understand and anticipate climate change; help money management groups get a jump on their competitors; and, perhaps most exciting, create the single greatest medical tool in human history: the ability to identify the causes of diseases and health threatening conditions, and emerging health and sickness trends in both individuals, and humanity as a whole.

6) Quantum computers and entanglement – I first studied quantum mechanics when I was 16 years old, and I still don’t understand it. The laws of physics that rule the quantum world, at the subatomic level of existence, bear no resemblance to our world, and everyday common sense doesn’t apply at all. So it’s odd that I’ve been seeing the term “quantum entanglement” more and more often in accounts of scientific and technical developments.

Technology has been making use of quantum effects since the deployment of the transistor in the 1950s, but harnessing quantum mechanics to serve us now seems poised to go into overdrive. Some of this will come through the (gradual) development of quantum computers, which promise to be massively, omverwhelmingly more powerful than the digital computers of today, but some will come through the emergence of the use of quantum entanglement.

Entanglement, like all quantum effects, is very difficult to explain, but may provide a way for us to send messages at speeds faster than light – indeed, instantaneously, regardless of the distance. This seems to contradict Einstein’s work on Relativity, to which quantum physicists just shrug. All of these developments are in the first stage of Drucker’s S-curve of development, so what you hear will sound like hype, but may make big differences in your life in the years ahead.

7) Awareness of Global Crime, Inc. – Organized crime has gone global, and now resides in most cities near you. Hopping from jurisdiction to jurisdiction is a proven way to slow up law enforcement agencies, and the mobs behind organized crime have only one organizing principle: make money any way they can. The primary engine of growth is illegal drugs, which throw off money at a prodigious rate, and finance expansion into other areas. And many newer areas of crime, like identity theft, are virtually risk-free, with piddly penalties even if police can find and catch the thieves. Moreover, such invisible crimes don’t frighten people, the way that a rash of bank robberies would, and so fit with the idea of keeping a low profile.

As a result, there is little outcry, few new laws to dodge, and police departments in the developed world find it easy to deny that they’re not doing their jobs.

Yet, the costs of these parasites is growing, and I expect to hear a lot more about global, organized crime in 2013, possibly even causing the average citizen-on-the-street to pay attention. The real question is whether there is enough concern and anger to inspire action. If so, the place to start is to strike at the heart of the mobs by legalizing most recreational drugs. This won’t be simple, partly because of political ideologues who refuse to see the sense in legalization, despite the lessons of the Prohibition Era, and partly because I suspect that the biggest lobbyists in favor of keeping drugs illegal are funded by organized crime itself. Why would they want to share their monopoly with governments?

8) The return of the Big Lie – The rise of voter cynicism has many effects, which tend to move in a downward spiral, shifting us away from democracy, and towards populism and demagoguery. One such effect is that power-hungry governing parties exploit voter disinterest to mislead – or more bluntly, to lie – because they know most voters can’t be bothered to check up on what they’re saying.

This was quite evident in the 2012 presidential election, when many in the Republican party, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney, seemingly abandoned any pretense of telling the truth, and flatly made things up in an effort to win votes. This has been ably described by bloggers like Dan Froomkin in “How the Mainstream Press Bungled the Single Biggest Story of the 2012 Campaign” on the Huffington Post website. And of course, such blogs have also been attacked as nakedly partisan – which allows opponents to dismiss them without actually answering them. And lest Canadians feel too smug about this, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper shows an unfortunate tendency in that direction as well. In Harper’s case, he has taken the issue a step further by cutting funding for scientific research, and limiting the scope of the Canadian census in order to deny his opponents inconvenient facts with which to fight his unsupported assertions.

Such untruths (which Stephen Colbert once described as “truthiness”, meaning “having the sound of truth without actually being true”) erode the foundations of democracy. They increase voter disaffection and indifference, which further encourages the power-hungry of all political persuasions to lie even more boldly.

Following Obama’s re-election, and the trouncing of this stratagem, it will be interesting to see if The Big Lie continues to flourish in modern politics.

9) Private weather – One of the consequences of governments’ need to trim spending is that weather services are being forced to cut back at a time when awareness of extreme weather is becoming more critical. At the same time, private forecasting services are flourishing, in part to serve the needs of corporations, such as those involved in food production, or property and casualty insurers, with better intelligence. This is not a high-profile development, but is one that will, sooner or later, catch us by surprise. Imagine how much worse the devastation would have been, for instance, if super-storm Sandy’s famous “left turn” had not been forecast, and the New York area had not been as prepared.

10) The Internet of Things – While I feel quite confident that we will hear a lot more about the Internet of Things (or “IOT”), I’m nowhere near as confident that it will live up to its hype.

The idea of IOT is that devices will start exchanging information, presumably for our benefit. The classic illustration (and one that also convinces me that this is overhyped) is for your refrigerator to inform your smartphone that you need milk, and for your smartphone to remind you when you’re on your way home. The problem is not in the technical feasibility, but in whether people want this kind of thing done. I first encountered this when I was working with a network hardware provider in the late 1990s, and was asked about this specific example. I pooh-poohed the idea, only to find the client had already committed chunky money to working on it. I proved to be right, although it did make life uncomfortable at the time. The bigger question is: What do humans want things to do for us outside of our awareness? So far, I haven’t heard many convincing answers. I suspect that this is a technology that is in Drucker’s first stage of technological development, which means we’ll hear the hype, but won’t see much in the way of results.

11) Games invade reality – In a relatively small number of years, we have see computer games rise from being something that computer nerds created for their own amusement, to a rinky-dink industry populated and catering to a wider audience of more general nerds, to an industry that now dominates some aspects of the entertainment business. Movies are now made with the video game in mind, and the computer gaming industry’s revenues now overshadow those of the film industry.

But games and gamers aren’t done yet, because it turns out that computer gaming is a very effective way for people to learn new skills, and improve old ones. The corporate world has taken notice, and there are now computer games being developed to become part of corporate training regimens. Ironically, though, for once the corporate world trails governments – or at least the military – which has been using computer games to train combat troops for almost two decades.

Yet, the place where games might have the most visible effect, and be most enthusiastically embraced, is in primary and secondary education. Unfortunately, with a few exceptions, most educational games are feeble attempts at prettying up “drill-and-kill” programs without changing their largely brain-dead intent.

So 2013 will continue to see computer gaming encroaching on ever-larger chunks of turf – except where they might do the most good.

12) The world’s most boring disasters – Is there anyone who isn’t bored to tears with the twin economic/financial crises, one in Washington, and the other in Europe? Yet, these could have more impact on your life in 2013 than any of the other trends I’ve mentioned so far. As I’ve written on several occasions before, there are lots of ways that the U.S. could go over the so-called fiscal cliff, and it only takes one of them to transpire for the U.S. economy to be knocked back into recession, and drag Canada, Europe, and the world with it.

Likewise, the European crisis could bring on economic and financial disasters that could trigger financial panics and global recession or even depression. Yet, everyone is just so tired of hearing about it that we’ve all pretty much tuned it out. Indeed, the only reason I’ve even bothered to mention it is because either of these slow-motion disasters could become the biggest story of 2013.

13) Likewise, there is the usual drum-beat of geopolitical disasters lurking out there, any one of which could blow up at any time.

North Korea seems marginally less insane, but only marginally, but could take out most of South Korea in an afternoon, and without nuclear weapons. How China and America responded to that would determine whether we would need to bundle up for nuclear winter or not.

The Middle East seems, once again, to be simmering towards a boil, but what will finally set it off? Will it be the deliberately provocative building of new settlements by Israel, in violation of international law? Will Iran finally get the bomb – and decide to use it on Israel? Will Syria’s Assad appeal to Iran for help, and thus trigger a much wider conflict in the region, with or without nukes?

And then there’s China, and its pretensions to own all of the South China Sea, with all its islands, flyspecks, undersea oil, and resources, over the opposition of its neighbors. As one high profile example, with Japan changing governments again (for the 5th time in 4 ½ years), and the new government needing to show that it can stand up to China; and with China going through it’s 10 year change of government, and with the new leader of China needing to demonstrate the size of his, uh, commitment to China’s “legitimate” claims, there is a crisis waiting to happen over the Senkaku (according to Japan) or Diaoyu (according to China) Islands. Nobody wants this to blow up, but nobody wants to back down, either – a classic prescription for trouble.

© Copyright, IF Research, December 2012.

Resolutions you must make for your greatest business success in 2013 by master storyteller Peter Guber

February 7, 2013

Peter Guber – Tell to Win

Business Success in 2013 – by Guest blogger Peter Guber, CEO of Mandalay Entertainment and author of Tell to Win:

To propel your sustained competitive advantage in these tough and highly uncertain times, commit yourself to these 10 New Year’s resolutions for unparalleled business success and joy.

1 – Embrace flying in the red zone – this is where the greatest risk, but also the greatest opportunity awaits.

2 – In gathering collaborators and support, focus on “what’s in it for them” – this will garner their attention and intention to respond to your call to action.

3- Be authentic and have your feet, tongue, heart and wallet all going in the same direction – this creates a trusted and respected relationship which precedes transactions.

4 – Be interactive – engage social media to change yesterday’s sales monologue into today’s dialog. Today, everyone wants to be participants, not just passengers.

5 – Share success – emotional and open acknowledgement for work well done is critical to sustaining a motivational workforce.

6 – Be generous– your scarcest resource is your time and when you spend it helping other people, you reward yourself, others and your organization.

7- Be a challenger to your own incumbency – sustaining your success requires constant reinvention. If you don’t, it can mean extinction.

8 – Use the emotional resonance of purposeful story telling with the facts and information embedded inside, as your secret sauce to create memorable and actionable results –for success in business you’re always in the emotional transportation business.

9 –Embrace failure – if you’re not failing on occasion, you’re not taking enough chances testing the real quality of your talents and will unlikely achieve your greatest success.

10 –Habituate yourself to success – review your resolutions quarterly and remember good habits create great results

Creating a groundswell & Idle No More #idlenomore

January 21, 2013

We believe the power of speech can help make the world a better place.  The Idle No More movement is certainly giving a voice to the needs of our Aboriginal Canadians to help define a new relationship in our country.

We recently  had a chance to meetup with aboriginal leader Wab Kinew, and hear his take on the Idle No More movement.  Have a read at our Storify feature or watch this NSB minute with Wab Kinew taped January 2013:

Trending in 2013: What’s to Come In The Year To Come?

January 2, 2013

by Guest Blogger Futurist Jim Carroll:

Here’s some of the key trends that Jim Carroll sees unfolding through 2013 and beyond.

2013My unique job allows me the opportunity to see and hear what a lot of CEO’s and senior executives in a lot of organizations are thinking about. The  nature of my keynotes and small board / leadership meetings allows me to understand what folks are focused on. The research I do, whether for a major manufacturing conference in Las Vegas or a small corporate meeting with an ice cream company allows me to see the key trends that are unfolding right now.

And so given this unique perch, here’s some of the most important trends which will play out in the year to come.

1. Moore’s law – everywhere!

Going forward, every single industry, from health care to agriculture to insurance and banking, will find out that change will start to come at the speed of Moore’s law — a speed of change that is MUCH faster than they are used too. (Remember, Moore’s law explains that roughly, the processing power of a computer chip doubles every 18 months while its cost cuts in half. It provides for the pretty extreme exponential growth curve we see with a lot of consumer and computer technology today.)

Consider health care. Genomic medicine is moving us from a world in which we fix people after they are sick – to one where we know what they will likely become sick with as a result of DNA testing. And that’s where Moore’s law kicks in, as Silicon Valley takes over the pace of development of the genomic sequencing machines. It took $3 billion to sequence the first genome, which by 2009 had dropped to $100,000. It’s said that by mid-summer, the cost had dropped to under $10,000, and by the end of the year, $1,000. In just a few years, you’ll be able to go to a local Source by Circuit City and buy a little $5 genomic sequencer – and one day, such a device will cost just a few pennies.

The collapsing cost and increasing sophistication of these machines portends a revolution in the world of health care. Similar trends are occurring elsewhere – in every single industry, we know one thing: that Moore’s law rules! Hence, my catchphrase — the future belongs to those who are  fast!

2. Loss of the control of the pace of innovation

What happens when Moore’s law appears in every industry? Accelerating change, and massive business model disruption as staid, slow moving organizations struggle to keep up with faster paced technology upstarts.

Consider the world of car insurance — where we soon will see a flood of GPS based driver monitoring technologies that will measure your speed, acceleration and whether you are stopping at all the stop signs. Show good driving behavior, and you’ll get a rebate on your insurance. It’s happening in banking, with the the imminent emergence of the digital wallet and the trend in which your cell phone becomes a credit card.

In both cases, large, stodgy, slow insurance companies and banks that move like molasses will have to struggle to fine tune their ability to innovate and keep up : they’re not used to working at the same fast pace as technology companies. Not only that, while they work to get their innovation agenda on track, they’ll realize with horror that its really hard to compete with companies like Google, PayPal, Facebook, and Apple — all of whom compete at the speed of light.

It should make for lots of fun!

3.  ”Follow the leader” business methodologies

We’re also witnessing the more rapid emergence of new ways of doing business, and it’s leading us to a time in which companies have to instantly be able to copy any move by their competition – or risk falling behind.

For example, think about what is going on in retail, with one major trend defining the future: the Apple checkout process. Given what they’ve done, it seems to be all of a sudden, cash registers seem to be obsolete. And if you take a look around, you’ll notice a trend in which a lot of other retailers are scrambling to duplicate the process, trying to link themselves to the cool Apple cachet.

That’s the new reality in the world of business — pacesetters today can swiftly and suddenly change the pace and structure of an industry, and other competitors have to scramble to keep up.  Consider this scenario: Amazon announces a same day delivery in some major centers. Google and Walmart almost immediately jump on board. And in just a short time, retailers in every major city are going to have be able to play the same game!

Fast format change, instant business model implementation, rapid fire strategic moves. That’s the new reality for business, and it’s the innovators who will adapt.

4. All interaction — all the time!

If there is one other major trend that is defining the world of retail and shopping, take a look at all the big television screens scattered all over the store! We’re entering the era of constant video bombardment in the retail space. How fast is the trend towards constant interaction evolving? Consider the comments by Ron Boire, the new Chief Marketing Officer for Sears in the US (and former chief executive of Brookstone Inc.): ”My focus will really be on creating more and better theater in the stores.

We are going to see a linking of this ‘in-store theater’ with our mobile devices and our social networking relationships. Our Facebook app for a store brand (or the fact we’ve ‘liked’ the brand) will know we’re in the store, causing a a customized commercial to run, offering us a personalized product promotion with a  hefty discount. This type of scenario will be here faster than you think!

5. Products reinvented

Smart entrepreneurs have long realized something that few others have clued into : the future of products is all about enhancement through intelligence and connectivity. Nail those two aspects, and you suddenly sell an old product at significantly higher new prices.

Consider the NEST Learning Thermostat. It’s design is uber-cutting edge, and was in fact dreamed up by one of the key designers of the iPad. It looks cool, it’s smart, connected, and there’s an App for that! Then there is a Phillips Hue Smart LED Lightbulb, a $69 light bulb that is uber-smart, connected, and can be controlled from your mobile device. Both are sold at the Apple store!

Or take a look at the Withings Wi-Fi Body Scale – I’ve got one at home. Splash a bit of design onto the concept of a home weigh scale, build it with connectivity, link it to some cool online graohis and you’ve got a device that will take your daily weight, BMI and body-fat-mass tracking into a real motivational tool.  Where is it sold? Why, at the Apple store too!

Do you notice a trend here?

6. Careers reinvented

For those who think that the economy in North America sucks, here’s an open secret: there’s been an economic recovery underway for quite some time, as companies in every sector ranging from manufacturing to agriculture work hard to reinvent themselves. It just doesn’t involve a lot of new jobs, because the knowledge required to do a new job in today’s economy is pretty complex. We’ve moved quickly from the economy of menial, brute force jobs to new careers that require a lot of high level skill. The trend has been underway for a long, long time.

Consider the North American manufacturing sector, a true renaissance industry if there ever was one! Smart engineers at a wide variety of manufacturing organizations have transformed process to such a degree, and involved the use of such sophisticated robotic technology, that the economic recovery in this sector involves workers who have to master a lot of new knowledge. One client observed of their manufacturing staff: “The education level of our workforce has increased so much….The machinists in this industry do trigonometry in their heads.”

Similar skills transitions are underway in a wide variety of other industries….

7. The Rise of the Small over Incumbents

You’ve likely see the commercials for Square, the small little device that lets your iPhone become a credit card. Once again, small little upstarts are causing turmoil, disruption and competitive challenge in larger industries — and often times, the incumbents are too slow to react.

Anyone who has ever tried to get a Merchant Account from Visa, MasterCard or American Express in order to accept credit cards knows that it is likely trying to pull teeth from a pen – many folks just give up in exasperation. Square, on the other hand, will send you this little device for free (or you can pick one up at the Apple Store.) Link it to your bank account, and you’re in business.

So while credit card companies have been trying to figure out the complexities of the future of their industry, a small little company comes along and just does something magical! No complexities, no challenges, no problems.

8. The Energy-Driven Economic Rebirth!

What is occurring in the US right now in terms of advanced energy discovery techniques – whether with shale gas, horizontal drilling, new subsea mapping technologies or other new discovery, exploration and production techniques — is probably one of the most significant trends of this decade. And in North America, the next economic recovery  is happening now because of of this. We are going to witness a resurgence of industry in North America.

Consider this :  PriceWaterhouseCoopers has suggested that high rates of shale gas recovery could result in a million new manufacturing jobs by 2025 in the US, and the fact that revived natural gas industry “has the potential to spark a manufacturing renaissance in the U.S., including billions in cost savings, a significant number of new jobs and a greater investment in U.S. plants.

9. The revolution that is mobile health and fitness.

Every industry in the world today finds itself in the midst of dramatic change, as mobile smartphone technology comes to change business models, consumer behaviour, and entire professions. No where is this more evident today than what is happening in the world of health care, wellness and fitness, as a flood of new apps and technologies emerge that will forever change this world. There is an absolute revolution going on involving the “consumerization of fitness and wellness.”  At this moment in time, we are witnessing the perfect confluence of several major trends:

  • the first signs of the reality of the massive scope of the health care crisis (both disease, lifestyle and funding related) as baby boomers begin to flood the health care system with requirements for extra care
  • a renewed and significant focus on “preventative” health care concepts” ;
  • structural change aimed at wellness programs so that people work harder to avoid or reduce the impact of lifestyle disease;
  • and the rapid emergence of new technologies — many involving the smart-phones that have become a ubiquitous part of our lifestyle – that can motivate consumers to do so much more with their personal fitness and wellness.

Companies are recognizing there is a big opportunity to be innovative with managing health care costs through a proactive approach that involves wellness. It’s a good example of the deep, transformative thinking that is occurring with many organizations in the health care system worldwide . Organizations are moving beyond the endless political debate, and are instead, putting in place practical, innovative programs that can help organizations manage health care costs, and employees can actively work at improving their overall health and fitness.

10. Thinking big means winning big!

There are people who are making big bold bets, big bold decisions, we are going to change the world and we are going to do things differently.” That phrase was from my opening keynote for the 2012 Accenture International Utilities and Energy Conference last week in San Francisco.

It’s a good sentiment, and a good video clip to close out this post!

Read the rest of this entry »

NSB Engage 2012 Vancouver – Learn. Connect. Be Inspired.

November 22, 2012

Our second Engage event kicked off in Vancouver featuring more great NSB speakers doing what they do best – engaging audiences.

“Lend me your ears”, quotes our Engage host, Christopher Gaze, who shared the many Shakespearean remarks we constantly use unknowingly on a daily basis. The infamous Bard on the Beach founder and Engage host touched on the many ways Shakespeare influences our lives and what we can learn from that. “If you think that your life has nothing to do with Shakespeare, I’m here to convince you otherwise.” Gaze proclaimed, breaking up each presentation with witty banter and candid humour in his distinctive yet dignified English accent.

Here’s a sampling from the day:

Frank Warren The PostSecret Project   “Free your secrets and become who you really are.”

The first speaker in this year’s engaging line up has over 450 million blog hits and is known as the most trusted stranger in North America. Frank Warren is the creator of The PostSecret Project, a collection of highly personal and artfully decorated anonymous postcards mailed from around the world, displaying the soulful secrets we never voice. Warren spoke about how he started the project by handing out cards to people asking for their secrets. He would often give cards to people and they would say they don’t have any secrets – but these people often turned out to have the best secrets of all! Warren’s talk speaks to the search for intimacy and the search for people we can tell our secrets to. A strong bearing on human relationships, secrets remind us of drama, heroism & frailty. The thing people don’t realize is that secrets have the transformative power of exposing vulnerability and that courage can change who we are. Warren’s presentation served as a great reminder to us all: “Free your secrets and become who you really are.”

Dave Meslin – Community Catalyst – “The whole city is our living room.”

Advocate for positive change, Dave Meslin speaks on how everyday people can make a difference in the world. Meslin spoke about the collective ownership of public space and democracy, explaining why it is important to use our voices and the impact that each of us can have. One example Meslin shared was the effort we put into maintaining our homes and gardens, but how this stops as soon as we reach the property line. It seems that society as a whole doesn’t take ownership over the larger, shared spaces. Examining this theory, Meslin suggests: “the whole city is our living room.” In sharing this mentality, people can relish in the physical sensation of changing something each of us ‘owns.’ Municipal politics affect our everyday experience – and we do care: “if you care how long you wait for the bus, you care about municipal politics”. The final point in his talk was that apathy doesn’t exist. People must learn to see politics, our communities and the world around us as malleable space – we all have the ability to have an impact and create change. At the end of the day, the best resource you have is you.

Jeff Rubin Economist & Author, 2012’s The End of Growth… But Is That All Bad?

When it comes down to it, it’s really all about the oil! Just ask economist and best-selling author, Jeff Rubin. The cost of oil jumped from $30 to $147/barrel in a matter of just a few years. This rapid increase resulted in a massive spike in our inflation rates, the US sub-prime mortgage crisis and a global economic slowdown.  But did you know that it also shifted thinking on how we import and export goods globally?  Today you’re far more likely to find locally grown produce in your grocery store in part to the expenses incurred transporting them. Canada is welcoming back manufacturing jobs for resource-based products as a result of these transportation costs. And the housing market is predicted to sustain itself and even rise in value according to Rubin. So ‘even though we are seeing an end to growth, is it really all that bad?!’

Colin & Julie Angus – Adventurers – “You don’t need to be someone extraordinary to go out and do something different, something unusual.”

The Angus’ met while waiting for a bus in 2003, and combined their passion of exploration and adventure travelling around the world using human-powered modes of transportation. The National Geographic Adventurer of the Year award-winners share the trials and pursuits of their big expedition by breaking it down in a series of five small steps.

These five steps include: maintaining perspective, celebrating successes, bringing enough food, scheduling communication and not looking for things you don’t want to see.

Working as a team the Angus’ message centralizes on risk management and prioritization – looking at the big picture while focusing on the big problems in small, manageable steps. Sharing their journey, the couple discusses preparation, dealing with situations productively, all while learning from the experience as you go along. When people ask “what is the most important thing that you’ve brought out of this journey?” they agree that “undoubtedly it’s the importance of baby steps… Eventually all those steps added up, and (as a result) we achieved our dream.”

Lee-Anne McAlearInnovation Expert – “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you will never do anything original.”

According to Lee-Anne McAlear, an innovation expert from the Schulich Centre of Innovation, every strategy eventually fails. Our job is to find new ways to deal with the problems we face. The question then becomes… how do we apply the creativity we have to deliver business value? And where are we going to innovate? Although most innovation centralizes around product innovation, which does in fact account for 75% of innovation activity, only 10% of that is perceived as value. Therefore, 90% of innovation value is achieved in other areas. Some of these other areas cover business models, policy & society, business process as well as products and services. “We need to expand our minds and move away from simple product innovation. It’s not where the value lives.” Depending on how large the challenge your business faces, there may be more transformational innovation required to drive success. Relying on a continuum, innovation is incremental to transformational; as it moves along the scale, more resources, more risk and more complexity ensues. McAlear provides tools and techniques using both incremental and transformational innovation to aid in strategy formations that increase productivity and ROI.

Simon WhitfieldOlympic gold medalist and 2012 Canadian flag bearer“Love what you do and get about doing it.”

Whitfield has discovered the key to passion and success in his sport. Whitfield became the first athlete ever to win the triathlon, an individual event recognized as the most demanding of all sports. A three-time Olympian, Whitfield uses his personal victories and losses to help us enjoy our personal journeys, face our challenges, deal with our losses and most importantly, “Take it one step at a time”. This is one Olympian whose motto to “never fear failure” is in tandem with his method of “fully immersing yourself in the process and the results will come.”

Loved the speakers and ideas from Engage Vancouver?  Read our Toronto Engage blog.

With yet another successful Engage on the books, NSB has already started planning for the next. For more information on Engage, or to register in advance for next year’s event, email us at

NSB ENGAGE 2012 TORONTO – Learn. Connect. Be Inspired.

November 5, 2012

From philanthropy and international business, to sky-rocketing oil prices, to the general health care crisis and how to be an internet maven, NSB’s third annual speaker series left attendees with a better understanding of the world around us and takeaway’s that could be applied immediately.

Our incredible host for the day, Cabral “Cabbie” Richards was fun, well paced, energetic and spontaneous. Cabbie infused his introductions with humour and wit, and kept the audience engaged and inspired along the way.

Here’s a sampling from the day:

“Put people in the right place and they’ll succeed,” says Damon Allen as he passes a signed football to an audience member standing in the aisle. Pro football’s most prolific quarterback shared his key takeaways on how to prepare before the big game, and how to use signals to set people up for success. Allen gets audiences moving, warmed up and engaged – a perfect start to the day.

Dr. Brian Goldman knows the importance of getting ‘real’ about healthcare – and the steps we must take to get there. Goldman, one of Canada’s most trusted and well-respected medical journalists, is addressing the issue eloquently.  “When it comes to medical errors,” says Goldman for example, “health care providers need to break through the culture of shame surrounding mistakes.”

Nazanin Afshin-Jam is committed to serve as a voice for the voiceless. At Engage Toronto, the former Miss World Canada and Stop Childhood Executions founder shared the story of an afternoon in 2006 when she received an email about Nazanin Fatehi, a girl who was facing execution in Iran for stabbing the man who had tried to rape her. This was the beginning of a long and hard-fought battle to save her namesake, and create a path of resistance to those countries who violate the charter of human rights. Afshin-Jam, a native to Canada from a young age has refused to take our freedoms for granted. To the activist in all of us, she asks: “If not now, then when? If not you, then who?”

Our audience was moved byNobel Prize nominee Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, who shared his powerful message of humanity, hope and how loss unites humanity. According to Dr. Abuelaish, we are all so similar: similar in our power to act, and similar in how we are weakened and when we harbour hate.  “I will not be a victim of hate… [it] is the biggest weapon of mass destruction.”  These words come modestly from “the Gaza doctor” who lost three daughters and a niece to Israeli shells. Instead of seeking revenge or sinking into hatred, Dr. Abuelaish is instead calling for the people to start talking to each other.

Business journalist Danielle Bochove asks the important questions facing Canadians today and answers them with clear, captivating and brilliantly polished responses. How secure is my job? How can I prepare for retirement? How does the European sovereign debt affect Canada? How does China’s massive growth rate affect Canada? Are we really better placed to avoid economic catastrophe? Bochove demonstrates her articulate flair, while urging us to prepare and stay competitive. “The global winds are changing,” says she. “We have to adjust our financial sails accordingly.”

When it comes down to it, it’s really all about the oil! Just ask economist and best-selling author, Jeff Rubin. The cost of oil jumped from $30 to $147/barrel in a matter of just a few years. This rapid increase resulted in a massive spike in our inflation rates, the US sub-prime mortgage crisis and a global economic slowdown.  But did you know that it also shifted thinking on how we import and export goods globally?  Today you’re far more likely to find locally grown produce in your grocery store in part to the expenses incurred transporting them. Canada is welcoming back manufacturing jobs for resource-based products as a result of these transportation costs. And the housing market is predicted to sustain itself and even rise in value according to Rubin. So ‘even though we are seeing an end to growth, is it really all that bad?!’

The future can be startling. Who has authority? Are they legitimate and who do you trust? Has celebrity has become the new aristocracy? Internet strategist Jesse Hirsh works on the forefront of today’s most demanding cyberspace inquiries. Using language and examples that are meaningful and relevant, Hirsh uses prevalent web platforms such as Twitter as an example of how Web 2.0 is constantly evolving (highly customized, no pretenses, almost a game, a mesh of authority …) He suggests that having a Facebook account will become mandatory over the next decade and that cyber bullying is a mental health issue; the internet is simply another medium. Collectively we contribute to the rise of the semantic web and artificial intelligence. ‘Now that the iPhone has become the new pacifier of the 21st century, our culture and communication is changing’ and Hirsh is passionate about explaining the potential benefits and perils of where we are headed.

National Speakers Bureau organizes Engage twice annually with events taking place in Toronto and Vancouver. As a thank you to our clients who book speakers all year long, the event is the ideal way to experience NSB’s top speaking talent.  Complimentary or by suggested donation, the event supports Yonge Street Mission in Toronto, and First United Church in Vancouver, providing socks for the needy in support of our in house NSB SOCKS campaign. More information on the NSB SOCKS campaign is right here.

NSB’s Engage Vancouver event happens on November 8 with more great speakers and informative messages.  To catch our exciting Vancouver line up, read our what’s new story: NSB Annual Speaker Series – Engage with us in Vancouver on Thursday, November 8, 2012  and RSVP or watch online in real time.

Toronto Engage 2012 Speakers and the NSB Toronto Team

Understanding and Improving your Sleep

August 13, 2012

By Greg Wells PhD and Fiona Callender

Sleep is an imperative part of any person’s life; we can’t live without it. hormones have powerful effects on the human body. But did you know they are responsible for that drowsy feeling you get
in the evening? A hormone called melatonin is closely involved in the sleep process. It is secreted from the pineal gland, a tiny organ in the middle of your brain right behind the eyes. The production of melatonin is increased 50-fold at night. Levels of melatonin released from the brain increase during the course of the evening, peak during the night and then decrease during the day. Production during the day is decreased because the pineal gland is sensitive to bright light. There are direct nerve connections from the optic nerve to the pineal gland. This is why it is so important to keep your room dark at night, and why, if possible, you should avoid turning on lights during the night—for instance, when you’re going to the bathroom at 2 a.m. The light stimulus can turn off melatonin production and disrupt the quality of your sleep.

Sleep isn’t a reduction in neural activity; it is a change in neural activity. A widely accepted idea is that sleep allows the brain to restore biochemical or physiological processes that progressively degraded in wakefulness. Many hormonal processes take place while you are sleeping. The majority of growth hormone (GH) release occurs during sleep. Growth hormone is responsible for increasing glucose uptake in muscle, enhancing protein synthesis in the liver and muscle, and causing the breakdown of fat. Growth hormone also strengthens and increases mineralization of bone, increases skeletal muscle mass, reduces liver uptake of glucose, promotes glucose formation by liver, stimulates the immune system and contributes to the maintenance and function of the pancreatic islets. Simply put – when we sleep growth hormone is released, and growth hormone helps your body repair and heal itself.

Leptin secretion and regulation is also highly dependent on sleep duration. Leptin is a hormone released by fat cells that signals the feeling of “fullness” to the brain and therefore suppresses appetite. Low leptin levels make a person feel hungry even when they are full, leading to overeating and weight gain. This is how getting a good sleep can help people control their weight – if you get a good night sleep you won’t be as hungry during the day.

Here are some tips for getting a better night sleep:

Allow your body some down time before falling asleep. Prepare for bed 30 minutes before you plan to fall asleep and do something relaxing like reading a book.

Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday so that you get yourself in a good, constant sleep-wake rhythm. Having a consistent wake-up time will also help create a consistent sleeping pattern that will improve the quality of your sleep.

Avoid electronics right before bed and in the bedroom when you are trying to sleep. Screens on things like cell phones and televisions produce a constant high speed flashing of light and make it difficult to sleep. This artificial light reduces the production of the hormone melatonin, which as we discussed, promotes sleep.

Write down your to-do list for the next day so you don’t have to think about it as you are trying to fall asleep. Concentration or strong emotions, such as anxiety, can a keep you aroused and therefore awake. It is much easier to stay awake when you are sleepy than to fall asleep when you are wide-awake. Keep a note pad beside your bed to write things down so that you won’t forget them but you can not worry about them while you’re getting ready to sleep or if you wake up at night with an active mind.

Avoid caffeine for at least 6 hours before sleep (try not to have it after lunchtime). Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors in the brain, blocking adenosine’s inhibitory actions on your brain’s arousal centers. Adenosine concentrations rise the longer you are awake and help you fall asleep – but caffeine blocks their effects.

Have a small snack containing a small amount of protein with some carbohydrate. A good idea is some cereal and milk. Milk contains the amino acid tryptophan, which is used in the brain to make serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that causes you to become sleepy. Eating carbs along with tryptophan containing foods raises insulin levels and makes it easier for the tryptophan to enter the brain.

Greg Wells PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology at the University of Toronto where he directs the Human Physiology Research Unit. He is also the author of Superbodies: Peak Performance Secrets from the Worlds Best Athletes. Fiona Callender is a nationally ranked track and field athlete who is currently studying Kinesiology at the University of Toronto.

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