Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Innovation: There Is No Final Destination

By Jeff DeGraff

Innovations don’t stay innovations. There’s that drawer in all of our houses with the electronics, gadgets, and devices that were the it-thing in their own time and now have outgrown their usefulness and creativity. The challenge is not to become innovative but to stay innovative.

How do you stay competitive and drive growth on a long-term horizon?

Change your mind. In almost all other forms of thinking, consistency is a good thing. But in the unconventional realm of innovation, consistency is overrated. All of these larger forces outside of your control are constantly changing—political climates, economic realities, technological developments, medical discoveries, and countless others. You need to be flexible in adapting to these forces and making them work for you. Keep experimenting and looking for better ways of doing things. Remember that your first idea is almost never your best idea.

Seek out incongruities. Conflicting data and trends can become great inspiration for unexpected innovations, because most people simply ignore these incongruities. For example, even as digital publishing and e-books dominate the literary marketplace, there is still a powerful segment of the population that wants and values print books. Over time, an innovation often reverses into its opposite. Anticipating these incongruities will put you ahead of the game and help you stay innovative.

Look for outliers and wildcards. These are things that others normally don’t look at. A wildcard is something that most people don’t incorporate into their long-term planning even though it actually happens on a regular basis: meteorological disasters, disease outbreaks, work stoppages. Being prepared for wildcards will give you the first-mover’s advantage.

In 2012, IBM conducted a study of over 1,700 CEOs around the world, and found that the biggest quality executives are looking for is creativity. What do these managers and leaders mean by creativity? They’re looking for people who are hungry for change, who can be innovative beyond customer imagination. They want thinkers who are globally integrated in their approaches. They seek out individuals who are genuine; not just generous. And, finally, they want experimenters who are disruptive by nature. We value conformity in so many aspects of our everyday lives, but when it comes to innovation, conformity is something to avoid. Innovation is a form of deviation, and so innovators must be deviants.

In the early twentieth century, William McKnight came up with the now-famous 3M strategy test—a set of three questions to ask about an idea initiative. Now, almost a century later, they are still the best questions: Is it real? Can we win? Is it worth doing?

It’s no longer enough to be innovative. You need to stay innovative in an ever-changing world where innovation has a shelf life. There is no “there” in innovation. If you’ve developed the miracle drug, there’s always another miracle drug to make. If you’ve opened the great restaurant, there’s always a second restaurant. We’ve never fully arrived: whenever we get where we think we wanted to get, there’s a new place to reach. It’s not about the destination—it’s about the destination after the destination.

JEFF DEGRAFF is a professor, author, speaker and advisor to hundreds of the top organizations in the world. He is called the Dean of Innovation because of his influence on the field. You can follow Jeff on Twitter   @JeffDeGraff and LinkedIn. To learn more about Jeff DeGraff or to book him for your next event, follow this link to Jeff DeGraff's bio page at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Preparing U.S. Leadership For The Cultural Demographic Shift

By Glen Llopis

Hispanics along with African Americans and Asian Pacific Islanders surpassed one third of the U.S. population in 2010.  As their numbers continue to rise, they are on track to reach 54% of the population by 2050 – making them the minority-majority.

I have addressed the issue of the cultural demographic shift in many of my articles (e.g., America’s Demographic Shift And 7 Ways Leaders Can Leverage It) and the importance of being culturally intelligent (e.g., The Lack of Cultural Intelligence is Damaging Our Enterprises and Our Economy).

When I do, leaders often ask me:

Where do we start? What is the new conversation that I must start having with leadership to make this a strategic priority for our business and competitive requirements?  How do we prepare for it and “operationalize” it by moving to tangible solutions? 
The days of simply implementing a traditional diversity strategy and calling it a day are over. So is the current employee resource group model with its business case that has historically been mismanaged, misunderstood and not properly defined.  As a result, good intentions have only created more internal employee fragmentation (silos), rather than integration and a deep understanding of the benefits that diverse thought can bring to strengthen business intelligence and know-how.

Efforts to date have proven to be inconsistent and insufficient to say the least. Leveraging the cultural demographic shift calls for a business model and full-scale strategy that fully prepares an organization to leverage today’s reality of a rapidly growing diverse workforce and diverse consumer groups – and the previously unseen opportunities associated with them.

As such, it’s no longer just about “diversity” per se and it’s no longer just a numbers/representation game.  It’s about a tidal demographic shift – with Hispanics at the forefront as the fastest growing minority group – that will impact business strategies and enable growth, innovation and opportunities as companies across all industries strengthen their talent and consumer engagement.

As Marian Salzman, CEO of Havas PR North America – and a fellow Forbes contributor – recently noted, “Some 52 million Americans today identify as Hispanic, and 50,000 of them will turn 18 each month for the next two decades. These millennials have real clout, both for their spending power now and for their ability to influence what comes next. Marketers especially should start paying attention.”
The fact that most businesses have been slow to act on this demographic shift has made a huge opportunity even greater. Those that take the lead now will find themselves with an unprecedented competitive advantage and a highly loyal consumer base – particularly with Hispanics – that others will find difficult if not impossible to dislodge.

But first, change management efforts demand intelligence of the demographic shift at its core. Those that keep it at a distance and do not prepare themselves rightly will remain vulnerable to the continuously changing marketplace and their unique and growing needs. Preparing leadership rightly for the demographic shift means embracing all of its strategic implications, whether you are talking about cultural intelligence, marketing strategies, global competition, or the new requirements for talent acquisition, innovative team building and consumer engagement.

There’s no denying that the demographic shift puts today’s business leaders at a crossroads. They can continue on their current path of least resistance, one full of traps being set as they unknowingly create more tension points with the talent and the consumers on which their businesses depend. Or they can forge a new path by adopting a forward-thinking mindset that allows them to connect with and earn relationships with their diverse workforce and consumer groups.

This is what happened in Houston, where 20% of the citizenry was born outside the United States. Yet this city was the first and most successful in many ways to rebound from the 2008 recession, according to a report on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS: “Where America Works.” As Houston Mayor Annise Parker explains, jobs were created and filled by attracting “some of the best and the brightest from around the world.”

So what role does the cultural demographic shift play in your own successful change management strategy? It’s not a wholesale change but a required enhancement layered on top of existing strategies to ensure that the demographic shift plays a key role in all change management requirements.

Where once it was thought that hiring diverse talent was enough, companies now must ask: how do we engage and mobilize our diversity of talent to build strong relationships with these new and diverse consumer groups?  The situation demands that all companies rethink how they communicate both internally and externally, how they operate across departments and functional areas, where they fit in their industry and how they can be leaders in growth, innovation and opportunity.

This is a paradigm shift where it’s becoming less about the business defining the individual and more about the individual defining the business.

An EY article titled, Demographic shifts transform the global workforce, described what this paradigm shift means to business: “as the market turns, skilled employees will want a better understanding of their employment options and a greater say in how work is assigned, assessed and rewarded. The employer will no longer define the workplace; rather, employees’ priorities and preferences will dictate what the future workplace will look like.”

It went on to say that: “Companies will have to craft methods to engage or re-engage the experienced base of talent. Companies that fail to respond to this change and do not succeed in redefining their employee value proposition will fail to attract, retain or develop talent effectively.”

This means that the way a business operates – its processes and systems and best practices – must integrate the growing diverse population and understand how these operations impact them. The demographic shift requires it as it affects business on all fronts – the people that work for companies and are responsible for their brands; the owners of other businesses (vendors/suppliers) that companies work with externally; and the different consumer groups they must serve if they want to grow and compete.

If you know where to look for it, most companies will find that significant intellectual capital already exists in-house – but it’s disconnected when most departments and functional areas operate in silos. Harnessing it means stitching all of that intellectual capital into one strategy that interconnects each functional area together, which in turn will enable the combined intellectual capital of the business to support a business model that can best serve the shift, strengthen each functional area and  produce better outcomes all around.

Similarly, the same intelligence and data that exists out in the marketplace with respect to the cultural demographic shift is adrift because no one is operationalizing it. Few are taking advantage of this intelligence to improve how they lead and manage their functional areas of responsibility.

Instead, it’s business as usual – unknowingly creating tension points, not culturally connecting with the demographic shift, not authentically communicating with these groups or capturing the intelligence embedded within them. Yet it’s this intelligence that businesses need for successful change management – to change everything from the way they operate, manage supply chain activities, design their strategies, brand their products, develop their leadership and their talent pool of future leaders, and enter into external vendor relationships and strategic alliances. In other words, it impacts every aspect of how a business is run.

But if you don’t have the intelligence about the demographic shift and can’t articulate how the unique qualities of say, the Hispanic culture, impacts business, it will be very difficult to get buy-in to the opportunity. This is why so many companies continue to try – and inevitably fail to authentically engage and sustain a two-way dialogue with their employees and consumers/clients to feed the right kind of cultural intelligence into the business model –   instead lumping the demographic shift into their total market strategy.

And this is why companies are so at risk of losing top diverse talent and consumers/clients, especially to emerging small businesses and mid-market companies owned by Hispanics, Asians, African-Americans and other groups that have the innate cultural know-how to more easily foster relationships with their counterparts among the demographic shift. With a value proposition based on intelligence derived from the demographic shift, companies could instead be serving these diverse business owners with a platform to help them build their businesses – partnering with them instead of losing business to them.

Partnership implies coming together as equals; it means the end of assimilation that perceives culture as a barrier to advancement, instead of a natural source of strength when one is free to express their authentic identity. Through the acceptance of our differences and knowing how these differences can solve problems and create new types of opportunities, we will also solve the economic chaos and identity crisis that exists across America.

A new enlightened form of leadership must emerge that rewards individuality and has the wisdom and cultural acumen and insight to most effectively leverage our differences so that together we can support common goals and values.  The 21st century leader knows that assimilation is being replaced with accountability to understand the impact culture plays in strengthening human capital and business strategy.  The right kind of thought-leadership will position brands to leverage diversity of thought as a tangible enabler of opportunities previously unseen.   The cultural demographic shift must be translated into intelligence and resources to create new revenue streams, strengthen an organization’s overall value proposition, and elevate engagement to secure top talent and earn trust and loyalty from emerging consumer groups that will commit to a brand   once the brand commits to them.

Like many opportunities sitting right in front of us previously unseen, this is one that can no longer be ignored. Start preparing your leadership for the demographic shift with a full-scale cultural intelligence strategy with the mindset of the operational and marketplace value and competitive advantage it can bring – and with a change management approach that no longer settles for losing top talent and ignoring new market opportunities.

Glen LlopisGlenn Llopis is the Founder of the Center for Hispanic Leadership, a nationally recognized thought-leader and author who develops talent and leadership that create sustainable business outcomes through his Immigrant Perspective Framework. To learn more about Glenn or to book him for your next event, follow this link to Glenn Llopis' bio page at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

We’re heading into a jobless future, no matter what the government does

In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers revived a debate I’d had with futurist Ray Kurzweil in 2012 about the jobless future.

He echoed the words of Peter Diamandis, who says that we are moving from a history of scarcity to an era of abundance. Then he noted that the technologies that make such abundance possible are allowing production of far more output using far fewer people.

On all this, Summers is right. Within two decades, we will have almost unlimited energy, food, and clean water; advances in medicine will allow us to live longer and healthier lives; robots will drive our cars, manufacture our goods, and do our chores.

There won’t be much work for human beings. Self-driving cars will be commercially available by the end of this decade and will eventually displace human drivers—just as automobiles displaced the horse and buggy—and will eliminate the jobs of taxi, bus, and truck drivers. Drones will take the jobs of postmen and delivery people.

The debates of the next decade will be about whether we should allow human beings to drive at all on public roads. The pesky humans crash into each other, suffer from road rage, rush headlong into traffic jams, and need to be monitored by traffic police. Yes, we won’t need traffic cops either.

Robots are already replacing manufacturing workers. Industrial robots have advanced to the point at which they can do the same physical work as human beings. The operating cost of some robots is now less than the salary of an average Chinese worker. And, unlike human beings, robots don’t complain, join labor unions, or get distracted. They readily work 24 hours a day and require minimal maintenance. Robots will also take the jobs of farmers, pharmacists, and grocery clerks.

Medical sensors in our smartphones, clothing, and bathrooms will soon be monitoring our health on a minute-to-minute basis. Combined with electronic medical records and genetic and lifestyle data, these will provide enough information for physicians to focus on preventing disease rather than on curing it.

If medications are needed, they can be prescribed based on a person’s genome rather than a one-size-fits-all basis as they are today. The problem is that there is now so much information that humans cannot effectively analyze it. But artificial intelligence–based physicians such as IBM Watson can. The role of the doctor becomes to provide comfort and compassion—not to diagnose disease or to prescribe medications. In other words, computers will be also taking over some of the jobs of our doctors, and we won’t need as many human doctors as we have today.

It will be like the future that Autodesk CEO Carl Bass once described to me: “The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.”

Summers is wrong, however, in his belief that governments can do as they did in the industrial age: create “enough work for all who need work for income, purchasing power and dignity.” They can barely keep up with the advances that are happening in technology, let alone develop economic policies for employment. Even the courts are struggling to understand the legal and ethical issues of advancing technologies.

Neither they nor our policy makers have come to grips with how to protect our data and personal information, control cable and Internet monopolies, regulate advances in genetics and medicine, and tax the sharing economy that companies such as Uber and AirBnb inhabit. How are policy makers going to grapple with entire industries’ disruptions in periods that are shorter than election cycles? The industrial age lasted a century, and its consequent changes have happened over generations. Now we have startups in Silicon Valley shaking up bedrock industries such as cable and broadcasting, hotels, and transportation.

The writing is clearly on the wall about what lies ahead. Yet even the most brilliant economists—and futurists—don’t know what to do about it.

In his debate with me, Kurzweil said: “Automation always eliminates more jobs than it creates if you only look at the circumstances narrowly surrounding the automation. That’s what the Luddites saw in the early 19th century in the textile industry in England. The new jobs came from increased prosperity and new industries that were not seen.” Kurzweil’s key argument was that just as we could not predict that types of jobs that were created, we can’t predict what is to come.

Kurzweil is right, but the problem is that no matter what the jobs of the future are, they will surely require greater skill and education—robots can do all the grunt work. Manufacturers who want to bring production back already complain that they can’t find enough skilled workers in the U.S. for their automated factories. Technology companies that write the software also complain about shortages of workers with the skills that they need. We won’t be able to retrain the majority of the workforce fast enough to take the new jobs in emerging industries. During the industrial revolution, it was the younger generations who were trained—not the older workers.

The only solution that I see is a shrinking work week. We may perhaps be working for 10 to 20 hours a week instead of the 40 for which we do today. And with the prices of necessities and of what we today consider luxury goods dropping exponentially, we may not need the entire population to be working. There is surely a possibility for social unrest because of this; but we could also create the utopian future we have long dreamed of, with a large part of humanity focused on creativity and enlightenment.

Regardless, at best we have another 10 to 15 years in which there is a role for humans. The number of available jobs will actually increase in the U.S. and Europe before it decreases. China is out of time because it has a manufacturing-based economy, and those jobs are already disappearing. Ironically, China is accelerating this demise by embracing robotics and 3D printing. As manufacturing comes back to the U.S., new factories need to be built, robots need to be programmed, and new infrastructure needs to be developed. To install new hardware and software on existing cars to make them self-driving, we will need many new auto mechanics. We need to manufacture the new medical sensors, install increasingly efficient solar panels, and write new automation software.

So the future is very bright for some countries in the short term, and in the long term is uncertain for all. The only certainty is that much change lies ahead that no one really knows how to prepare for.

BigSpeak Speaker, Vivek Wadhwa is a fellow at Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University, director of research at Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke, and distinguished fellow at Singularity University. His past appointments include Harvard Law School, University of California Berkeley, and Emory University. To learn more about Vivek or to book him for your next event, follow this link to Vivek Wadhwa's bio page at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Make a Big Impact at Your Next Meeeting

Innovation Strategist and Design Thinker Lisa Kay Solomon Changes Mundane Meetings into Moments of Impact


Lisa Kay Solomon
Lisa Kay Solomon
BigSpeak's newest exclusive, Lisa Kay Solomon, is dedicated to creating better meetings and ultimately, better business, by design.  Lisa teaches innovation and strategic foresight in the ground-breaking MBA Design Strategy program at the California College of the Arts and Lead by Design Fellows Program. An innovation strategist and leadership coach, she helps leaders develop the ability to build more expansive and creative futures through design-led tools, skills and behaviors, specifically in regards to what she terms "strategic conversations."
Moments of Impact

According to Lisa, "Strategic conversations are not just a typical meeting with a fancy name, they are intentionally designed for exploration and discovery of new possibilities, not just updates on existing projects. They allow us to step outside of our normal headspace to rattle our creative ideas loose by combining different ideas and perspectives. And, most importantly, they never follow the traditional meeting format and often focus on full attendee participation."
Lisa Kay Solomon
The co-author (with Chris Ertel) of the Wall Street Journal Bestseller, Moments of Impact: How to Design Strategic Conversations that Accelerate Change, Lisa's work has been covered by Inc., Forbes, The Huffington Post, Business Week, and more. In the book and through keynote presentations and workshops, Lisa unveils a simple, creative process that leaders and their teams can use to unlock solutions.
Utilizing design-thinking and strategy, she shows business leaders and executive teams how to:

Lisa Kay Solomon

  • Design real-world conversations that ignite engagement and drive change.
  • Create exceptional collaboration.
  • Bring innovation into everyday work and team behaviors.
Strategic conversations help take those open brainstorming meetings, give them structure, direction, get results and have greater impact.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Big Blessings

There's a New Sheriff in Town at the Vatican Finance Dept. and It's Not His First Showdown.

Saint Peter's Square
Juan Zarate
Juan Zarate

 Juan Zarate is no stranger to facing international strife and threats head-on. Zarate was responsible for developing and overseeing the implementation of the U.S. government's counter-terrorism strategy in his role as deputy national security advisor for combating terrorism under the George W. Bush administration from 2005 to 2009.

During that time, Zarate served as the deputy assistant to the president and was also responsible for overseeing all policies related to transnational security threats, including counter-narcotics, maritime security, hostages, international organized crime, money laundering, and energy infrastructure protection - all of which prepared him perfectly for a higher calling - literally.

Vatican Coin
Earlier this month, according to Bloomberg, Pope Francis appointed Zarate to a newly formed four-person board at the Financial Intelligence Authority, following a multi-million-dollar money laundering scandal within the Vatican.

The five year term teams Zarate with an international cadre of directors from Italy, Switzerland and Singapore with experience spanning business, philanthropy, public policy and academia (Zarate currently serves as a visiting lecturer at Harvard Law School).

You don't need pontiff status to bring the unparalleled experience of Juan Zarate to your organization (in fact, we recently booked him to speak at the annual conference for a leading cloud-based treasury management technology firm). The financial warfare innovator, senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Senior National Security analyst for CBS News, and national security and financial integrity consultant is available through BigSpeak.

Big Issues

Big Issues

The world is changing. Rapidly. One need only witness the recent upheaval in Iraq and Syria with the rise and surge of ISIS militants, as well as the Russia/Ukraine conflict, fluctuations in the Chinese economy, and the status of the Euro. While demographic shifts are turning long-held assumptions about global and national economies inside-out and shale energy undoes decades of dependencies, the immutable rules of geography are breaking down established global free trade systems. The forces of change are even being felt on the soccer pitches of Brazil, as the world witnesses once-dominant, long-standing futbol dynasties being upended.

And it is all happening at the same time.
How do we get a handle on all of this and frame it in a practical perspective? What will this new world-in-flux ultimately look like?

Peter Zeihan

Peter Zeihan is a renowned speaker, expert and consultant on geopolitics. He studies the impacts of financial, economic, cultural, political and military developments across the globe and presents customized executive briefings to a wide array of audiences encompassing financial professionals, Fortune 500 firms, energy investors, and a mix of industrial, power, agricultural and consulting associations and corporations.

The Accidental Super Power
With a mix of analysis and wit, coupled with an engaging and accessible style, Peter shows what this new world looks like from any number of angles - government, corporate, financial, domestic and foreign - so audiences can understand what's coming, and plan ahead.

In his upcoming book THE ACCIDENTAL SUPERPOWER (hitting shelves in November), Zeihan examines how geography, combined with demography and energy independence, will pave the way for one of the great turning points in history - one in which, he posits - America will reassert its global dominance.

He argues that no other country has a greater network of internal waterways, a greater command of deep-water navigation, or a firmer hold on industrialization technologies than America, and that the U.S. faces a promising future as the only country with enough young adults to fill the capital-generating void that will be left behind by 2030.

Featured in, and cited by, numerous news publications and outlets including The Wall Street Journal , Forbes, AP, Bloomberg, CNN, ABC, The New York Times, and MarketWatch, Peter breaks down today's geopolitical issues and more, with unparalleled insight and expert analysis to forecast the impact on your industry, regardless of geography.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Big Risk


Santa Barbara Fire

Here in Santa Barbara, with its confluence of clear skies, warm temperatures and unmatched spectacular vistas from the Santa Ynez Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, we're reminded daily of how blessed we are to call this amazing place home. We are also acutely aware that these very elements we celebrate are also the ones that make ours, a precarious paradise. This was especially evident over the past few weeks as our neighbors to the south endured horrific wildfires - fueled by hot, dry winds and a dearth of seasonal rainfall - that raged through San Diego County from Rancho Bernardo to Carlsbad.
Santa Barbara Fire
Many of our speakers and colleagues reside in the region and our thoughts, concerns and empathy are with them in such trying times. Our thoughts also turn to one speaker in particular, (and not just because she's difficult to book during scenarios like these) who tends to stand out in extreme crisis situations. When she's not competing in adventure races, triathlons, world-record paddling attempts or motivating, leading change and building teams on stage, Robyn Benincasa is a full-time San Diego firefighter.

Robyn Benincasa

And she literally walks the walk on leading change. After being diagnosed with osteoarthritis Robyn now continues her blistering life pace on a pair of titanium hip replacements without missing a beat. In fact, two weeks ago, she was named a "CNN Hero" for her work with Project Athena, which helps women who have survived medical setbacks achieve athletic goals.

Robyn Benincasa
Robyn Benincasa
In light of the recent shooting tragedy that has befallen our own community, we realize the unique mindset a first responder must possess to motivate teams, overcome adversity and make crucial leadership decisions amidst chaos and crisis.

Whether she's on the front lines of a raging wildfire or racing through the jungles of Borneo, it is through these harrowing, life affirming and occasionally hilarious experiences in the world's most grueling challenges, that Robyn has emerged with a refreshing and unique perspective on what it takes to build the kind of world class teams that succeed against all odds, triumphant in the face of adversity and winning as one in times of great challenge and change.