Future Trends: Futurist, Trends, and Innovation Expert to Keynote Multi-Unit Conference

Jim Carroll loves to predict where the world is going. As such, he has become one of the world's leading international futurists, trends, and innovation experts. His analysis digs deep into topics such as technology, business model change, fast paced innovation, and global challenges and growth. He's been in demand with such clients as Northrop Grumman, Visa, Rockwell Collins, Lincoln Financial, and the Walt Disney organization. He was featured as an innovation expert on the global CNBC show, the Business of Innovation, and was named one of four leading sources for insight into innovation by Business Week magazine.

He'll be bringing his latest insight to the Multi-Unit Franchising Conference this April at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas where he'll be a keynote speaker.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Carroll and posed some franchise-specific questions. Here's what he shared with us.

In terms of the future, what do franchisees have to fear?

Well, there's nothing to fear really, if you view future trends as being full of opportunities rather than as a threat. I find that many of my clients think about future trends and think, "oh, this can't be good, it's going to be pretty difficult to deal with." The first step with getting into an innovative frame of mind is to think of every trend as an opportunity, not a threat.

So let's think about a few of them. Consider social networks, there are huge impacts on how consumers perceive, interact, and provide feedback on brands. Obviously, if you don't pay attention to the trend, it can turn into a big negative for you. But if you get involved, engage the new consumer, and continually experiment with new ways of taking advantage of this new form of interaction, then you are doing the right thing.

What kinds of things do multi-unit franchisees have to look forward to?

Oh, there are just so many opportunities to grow the business. We've got all kind of new location-intelligence oriented opportunities - people walking around with devices that have GPS capabilities built in. Think about instant couponing apps that might encourage customers to drop in and purchase something. There are new methods of getting the brand image out there - we've seen so many franchise groups with successful viral videos. For franchisees, there's the rapid emergence of the new health-conscious consumer and opportunities to reshape the menu to take advantage of that. I look around and I just see a countless number of methods by which a franchisee can run the business better, grow, and transform their business. And that's what innovation is all about!

What kinds of things do multi-unit franchisees need to be doing in their businesses right now?

Investing in experiential capital. Look, there's so much new stuff happening out there, and markets are changing so quickly, that the only way to get ahead is to try out a lot of new ideas. In a world in which Apple generates 60 percent of its revenue from products that didn't exist four years ago, it's critically important that an organization constantly enhance the skill, capabilities, and insight of their people. They do this by constantly working on projects that might have an uncertain return and payback - but which will provide in-depth experience and insight into change. It's by understanding change that opportunity is defined, and that's what experiential capital happens to be. In the future, it will be one of the most important assets you can possess.

What kinds of things should multi-unit franchisees stop doing?

Making excuses. Look, it's all too easy to avoid the future and not do the tough things. Stop using what I call the "innovation killers," phrases like:

"We've always done it this way"
"It won't work"
"That's the dumbest thing I ever heard"
"That's not my problem"
"You can't do that"
"I don't know how"
"I don't think I can"
"I didn't know that"
"The boss won't go for it"
"Why should I care?"

What can multi-unit franchisees do better right now and how?

Change their attitude to try new things. Innovation is critical. Innovative companies act differently. In these organizations ideas flow freely throughout, subversion is a virtue and success and failure are championed. There are many, many leaders who encourage innovative thinking, rather than managers who run a bureaucracy. There are creative champions throughout the organization - people who thrive on thinking about how to do things differently. Ideas get approval and endorsement rather than stating "it can't be done," people ask, "how could we do this?" People know that in addition to R&D, innovation is also about ideas to "run the business better, grow the business, and transform the business." The word "innovation" is found in most job descriptions as a primary area of responsibility, and a percentage of annual remuneration is based upon achievement of explicitly defined innovation goals The fact is, every organization should be able to develop innovation as a core virtue -- if they aren't, they certainly won't survive the rapid rate of change that envelopes us today.

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