room44 innovates

In 2023 we’ve seen seismic shifts in attitude responding to the many mega and macro events around the world.

It’s possible we’ll look back and wonder what all the fuss was about when our worlds have tilted a bit more in 2024.

The adage, if not now, when, used to be a great way of persuading innovation workshops to be bold and creative. The truth is that, whatever walk of life you look at, if not now, when is actually, if not now, soon.

In fact, it’s might be more accurate to say that change will hit you, if not now, it’s already in the wind.

The next decade is so primed to change everything we know about real and virtual relationships, political norms, financial stability, democracy across medical science and so many other fundamental structures that underpin societies, that factors are, actually, too many to count – or even point at.

Just one thing

Looking at these issues from the UK informs a perspective that we, as future-gazers, try to avoid.

Yet, one of the factors that we’ll take into 2024 is that two thirds (+66%) of countries currently recognised as democratic will go to the polls in the same year (UK, EU, US and more).

This is the first time it has happened since anyone started counting in the 1960s. It could be quite a moment.

Left or right?

Forecasts suggest that the UK will swing to a left leaning government.

Other places (US and big chunks of the EU) are heading further to the right than they already are.

Populist leaders have had a good run and some may survive the opportunity to change. Some won’t.

Protectionism is on the rise in the US and UK, amongst others, and history tells us that this rarely ends well but may prevail for a while. It’s hard to unravel a shit show when you first come into power.

Longer term

Looking out slightly further we see more change-inducing trends to impact us.

Nigeria has a population today around 219 million of which 50% is under 19 years old. 70% is under 30.

The Nigerian population growth curve is set for it to reach 377 million by 2025 and 733 million by 2100.

Think about that; a new +400 million workers under 30 from one country.

If China and India are your sources for products now, start looking for this to affect you.

Nigeria’s population will equal the US as joint third most populous country sometime soon. Those people need food and work. It is possible to think that China and India may find their GDP hard to maintain with this kind of disruption in the world manufacturing order.

What does it matter?

All manner of manufactured goods could be differently sourced with new supply opportunities.

All kinds of manufacturing could be differently located with a different attitude to access to labour.

Some enlightened nations are actively developing inward migration opportunities.

If ‘growth’ is still the driving target behind our, broadly, capitalistic objectives, more people equals more output and it’s possible to see this translating into more success for Nigeria than the UK, for example.

How do you read it?

How trawling for trends can identify risks and opportunities at the same time.

The people my wife teaches ‘A’ Level to recently had a conversation about the current tranche of dystopian TV shows, exampled by Station 11.

The class showed empathy at how a pandemic can change normal lives but couldn’t begin to imagine that anything would stop the internet. It didn’t compute.

That the internet relies on electricity wasn’t a connection they’d made.

That mobile phones ran on the same stuff also came as a surprise – in a moment of alarming realisation.

The relative problem of the internet may not have occurred to seventeen-year olds and it may not to you either.

This made me think. Our perspectives inform our view of our futures. Logically, we don’t know what we don’t know – or choose to see.

Five generations

In business today there are people who were born this century alongside others who watched England win the World Cup, watched the first moon landing, Vietnam, the Torrey Canyon, Exxon Valdis, the Khmer Rouge, the Falklands… There are five generations working at the same time.

Older generations may find it easier to imagine a wholly different set of predictions than those born into a digital age.

Our common concerns are the same but our attitudes towards them could vary.

The probability of a failure in the UK national power transmission system is estimated at between 1% and 5%. At the upper end this means that there’s a 1 in 20 chance of national power interruption at any one time.

How would you cope?

  • No water supply or sewage services
  • No internet
  • No fuel distribution or logistics
  • No lights or heat…

Who do you trust?

More importantly, how much do you trust the people who control the systems that keep you running to do their jobs? Following the UK Air Traffic Control failure in August 2023 the questions around how small but pernicious data errors could be catastrophic, are very conspicuous.

The thing about viewing emerging trends is that other stuff comes into view at the same time. Being innovative and looking for information that can inform strategy is one side of the coin.

Seeing a better informed reality and being able to assess risks is the other.

Put together, the data set allows us to estimate the probability that your innovation/ product development/ new service will enjoy commercial success.

And it all comes from being interested in what’s going on around you.

This is what we do.

To talk, write to me

You remember that old saying that consultants trot out when they’re there to help develop a long-range strategy: the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, the next best time is now?

It’s a great saying. It tells us where we’ve all gone wrong, and it instils a sense of utter hopelessness – all that time gone and no way back.

The best time to plant a tree to sit under

One of the people we watch, for good reason, is legend amongst wealth generators and head of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffet. I was reminded recently in an article in The New European by Patience Wheatcroft that he put it better; “Someone’s sitting in the shade of a tree today because someone planted a tree a long time ago”.

I’ve previously referred to Prof. Hal Hershfield’s book called Your Future Self where the relationship between our present self is so far removed from our future self that we tend to spend our income now rather than invest it for our future when the latter is more prudent. Something Warren Buffet probably agrees with.

Short termism

Short termism is possibly the most catastrophic human failing that we are seeing affect the future of everything that we know, today.

  • Let’s get through this month and hit the target
  • Let’s try to pay the mortgage
  • Let’s not accept a reduction in tail pipe emissions if it means paying a ULEZ fee
  • Let’s not pick a policy and stick to it when we know that it’s absolutely the right thing to do if it threatens our grip on power and influence today

Like the microcosms that influence your decisions in your businesses, the need to stay ahead supersedes the rationale long-term.

Tail pipe emissions

There are lots of examples of short-termism to point at that will negatively affect a wider cohort over time. The UK Labour party turned on its own member’s (Sadiq Khan) decision to impose the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) policy across wider London to save a bit of influence. The undeniable truth is that tail-pipe emissions are killing some of the same people who voted against the policy. Why? Because the immediate affect is a £12.50 per day charge. No-one needs that right now.

The rationale response could otherwise be, why are we voting down a Labour policy created by Conservatives (namely by Boris Johnson) when we could invest £250 a month in a newer, less damaging car or bikes for the family that will reduce air pollution, reduce asthma and other respiratory related illness, and cost less in fuel consumption.

Influencers know this

Picking out single things we can all do to make a difference is obviously right.

Influencers with a macro view of our conditions know this. Greta Thungberg’s little book of wisdom, No one is too small too make a difference or Alistair Campbell’s But what can I do? are responding to a trend and a craving for individuals to be able to make a difference.

Collectively we can. But it would be easier to reconsider our points of view if we weren’t always chasing down increasing mortgage costs and higher food and fuel prices or that monthly target. These priorities have the effect of keeping our minds in the present.

But, what can I do?

Our first job individually is to decide what is our priority and then who best represents us?

The people who want to represent us need to treat our priorities as the point of having influence and not as a means to getting it.

Macro events and WTF moments

Broadly speaking, the way we are conditioned in the UK is to be capitalistic and to dig in when things get difficult – build your own future and work through obstacles. Take the long view, as long as it’s easy to read.

Being trained to be self-interested lets us off the hook whenever someone stands up and shouts “FFS why can’t you see what’s going on around you?”

Present us with a picture we aren’t familiar with and we’ll distract ourselves with an easier story. Forest fires in Greece or Huw Edwards? Boat people in Europe or Phillip Schofield?

Chelsea wiped out

On a pound for pound basis, the weight of attention the UK press gives ‘celebrity‘ overshadows the real story. Yes, it’s not great when a news reader’s career hits the buffers, but it’s estimated that 61,000 people died in 2022 in Europe from conditions related to excessive heat – 61,000.

That’s Chelsea, Bangor or Stroud lost in one summer.

As I write this in July 2023, swathes of the world are being rendered uninhabitable because of heat. It isn’t going to improve. Affected people are moving to other places where, generally they aren’t welcome. For the sake of calling these people something, let’s call them refugees.

Brexit WTF?

In the UK, since Brexit, our attitude to migration is significantly altered.

We don’t have enough people here to harvest or process food so shortages and higher prices are now things we have got used to.

At the same time, we’ve struck trade deals with countries, literally, on the other side of the world to make it easier to import food, with the attendant hike in carbon consumption.

Will these arrangements last? Read on.

People who need work and places to go aren’t welcome here because we like to trade with countries we can identify with?

The UK economy is in free-fall, inflation rates are climbing steadily (the few people with huge wealth make more money) but we don’t want anyone here to do work we don’t want to do ourselves. We’ll bring our lamb from Australia to fill the gap when it makes more sense to eat less meat.

Another way

More reasonably Canada, for example, has integrated immigration into its growth strategy. It has increased its inward migration targets to overcome their forecasted resource deficit. It knows that its population is ageing and won’t be working forever so needs new blood.

Heat maps

Parts of Europe are under a blanket of heat. Other parts (and across the world) are having flash floods. The yin and yang of global climate change are blindingly obvious signs that our world has changed, and we simply haven’t realised it yet. Our futures are now differently forecast.

Macro systems

The current El Niño forecast predicts that all heat records will be broken again in the last half of 2024, the southern hemisphere summer – the records that are being set today in 2023.

Will those countries be able to meet demands of new trade agreements when crops are affected by temperature?

Respiratory problems, pulmonary stress and other heat-related health conditions will drive the death toll higher and higher with every heat episode – where you live.

The problem is not a remote one.

Some estimates have it that the world can support a human population between 3 and 4 billion. Right now, it’s heading for 9 billion.

By 2025, one in ten new births will be in Nigeria, on a continent that produces just 4% of global pollution. Stick that Post-It on the wall next to the one that lists the countries with falling birth rates and high pollution producer figures.

China is the world leader in producing solar and wind generation technology and the highest consumer of coal for power generation.

Water – it’s a problem

While we’re talking ‘pollution producers’, the UK privatised its water system and ever since water leakage is up, profit from sales and dividends to shareholders are up and quality is down.

Beneficiaries from the UK Thames Water privatisation report over £70 billion paid out in salaries and dividends leaving the business with an accumulated debt of £60 billion+ today and more water lost from the system than ever before.

Sewage treatment capability can’t meet demand, so raw sewage is regularly dumped into water ways that feed to the sea.

The same sea where seaweed accounts for 54% of global oxygen production. We all need a few more ‘WTF?’ moments to anticipate where macro factors like these may take us.

Too late?

All this stuff may feel like it’s too big to deal with. In reality, I’m afraid to say, you’re right. Some of the effect on global systems we have caused is now irreversible.

Some aren’t.

This is where you come in

People are melting and drowning while we fixate on Huw and Phil. Go and see what’s really going on.

Macro-conversations that could influence your business trajectory are always available. Just drop me a line

To all those gathered here, I give you Hal Hershfield and his new book ’Your Future self: How to make tomorrow better today’.

Read this book

When I started room44 as an agency back in 2014, the ambition was to help anyone in an established business the opportunity to envisage the changes their consumers, customers and markets would likely experience over time.

It’s not a precise science and the very act of anticipating the end of something good is not completely intuitive for any of us.

But, it happens to everyone.

room44 adopted human centred design (design thinking) as our core MO and yet, business has a reluctance to plan beyond where evidence is available.

There is no evidence In the future yet and so, selling the future can be a tough gig.

The result is often that innovators, without the encumbrance of trading history, come along and shake up markets with bright new ideas while established brands plough a proven furrow making adjustments to their VPs to extend the life cycle of products – until they die off.

Both things work and …we know from endless conversation that ideas exist within companies that could have been the innovation if they had been mapped into a realistic and believable vision of what’s to come.

We get frustrated by what can be read as a lack of imagination. This could probably be better described as pragmatism focused on delivering a plan.

‘Your Future Self’ is ground breaking

This book explains and describes everything we come up against. You may too within your company structure – and life.

It illustrates the human traits and the counter strategies necessary to help break through.

I have a quote in my notes (from I can’t remember who) “Thought leadership is a lonely position. Get there first and let the rest catch up”

…alongside another from Larry Page “We’ve long believed that over time companies tend to get comfortable doing the same thing, just making incremental changes …where revolutionary ideas drive the next big growth areas, you need to be a bit uncomfortable to stay relevant.”

Hal Hershfield’s book shines a light on the disconnect between now and what’s to come. 

Oh, and it may even help your waistline and bank balance.

Highly recommended.

Most Mondays we try to publish a short list of thought-provoking facts that bear some relevance to the time of year and current events.

It’s not a science project, rather a list of things that catch our eye during the week from reading, viewing and absorbing by osmosis.

If anything grabs your attention, please get in touch. It’ll be a pleasure to talk;


Music streams in the US broke one trillion streams this year, up 11.9 billion on 2021.

  • Blackrock

Natural future

Tortoises living to 150 years old do so in the same youthful state as when they were 50. 

Future of work

“…employees working from home could be “socially disconnected from their organization.” Their work could be less inspired, …, and companies could experience higher turnover.”

  • Malcolmn Gladwell,

Wework reimagined – watch the growing trend for redundant retail space. Failed (and failing) department stores are being regenerated as retail units combined with food courts and shared work space.


UK inflation examples, in the last year:

Cheddar cheese +26%

Dog food +31%

Butter +27%

Milk +36%

Brussel Sprouts -2%

  • Kanter

Eggs +50%

  • The Grocer

In 2019, three years after the ‘BREXIT’ referendum, Jacob Rees-Mogg  is quoted as having said “I can see the opportunities of cheaper food, clothing and footwear, helping most of all the incomes of the least well-off in our society.”

Most Mondays we try to publish a short list of thought-provoking facts that bear some relevance to the time of year and current events.

It’s not a science project, rather a list of things that catch our eye during the week from reading, viewing and absorbing by osmosis.

Usually we publish on LinkedIn. From now on, we’ll publish here and will share widely.

If anything grabs your attention, please get in touch. It’ll be a pleasure to talk;

Monday thoughts

47% of Gen Z prefer to shop in stores versus online

Traffic can increase by more than 50%, from a new store’s surrounding area, to a retailer’s web site within six weeks of opening a new store

  • British Land

37% of shoppers research online and buy in-store

  • Uberall 2021

The majority of Apple’s customers are reported to research in-store and buy online

How can you shift your paradigm without designing the paradigm to shift to?

  • Thomas Kuhn

When I’m successful in persuading a previously closed mind of the value in looking to the future for inspiration and idea stimulus, it’s always a moment to celebrate.

Having the energy and tenacity is our part of the deal: to keep looking forward, to keep seeing value in things that don’t immediately appear promising – to see the future that other people can’t yet see. Clients just have to turn up and be willing to drop their barriers to entry – the practical matters that mire a company in the here and now.

It takes time. Clients need time to trust me and I need to keep them interested long enough to make a breakthrough.

Now and then we get lucky quickly and an idea meets a moment when eyes sparkle and everyone says “hell, yeah.” 

Are you the project?

The part in this that we don’t sell, but which occurs as a by-product of being open to new ideas, is that our client always develops a new perspective. 

‘What are you working on?’ is a line I stole (like an artist) from a book called ’Show your work’ ?

It’s one of a few books I return to when I’m looking for another way to explain what we’re here for.

Innovation is a process, not a workshop.

Regularly turning up to hear, explore and consider external suggestions is not something that enough business leaders do. In fact, it’s not something enough of us do generally.

Whenever I get a fancy to start a new thing I’m accused of having another mid-life crisis. In reality my decisions to open an eBike shop and start a sustainable clothing brand were both the outcomes of years watching things develop around me until I felt the time was right to step up.

Again, from a book – “Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.” (John Cleese)

So, ‘what are you working on?’ is my adopted mantra for myself.

This screen grab from Austin Kleon’s book explains why it is so much fun to take time to consider the unnavigable journey into the future. It can be exciting, thought-provoking and sometimes terrifying but it’s a journey I believe we all need to take.

My role is to make it possible over a different path than you may choose for yourself.

Let me know if you fancy trying it out.

Check us out here.

The data you need to see aren’t always where you want them to be. There’s a value to inviting an outside party with an enquiring mind to look at your condition.

Here’s an example.

Cardiff’s housing market is sinking without trace – maybe.

In The Guardian’s Audio Long Read podcast of 29th August (The century of climate migration: why we need to plan for the great upheaval), Gaia Vince presents many arguments in favour of the title of the article. It all makes perfect sense, to me.

During this period of change, it’s high on the list of important things to understand that migration of populations and climate change are inextricably linked. One of the ironies is that we (the UK) are working hard, as an independent nation, to smooth and ease the flow of goods and services in and out of the country while making it ever harder for people to travel in and out without friction. It’s people who make stuff we want to export and yet we currently appear not to want people?

I strongly recommend you have a listen, or read it here. It’s full of insight and data you should know. One particular nugget is that “the Welsh capital, Cardiff, is projected to be two-thirds underwater by 2050.”

Pause while this sinks in.

Cardiff? Really?

If this is accurate, it means if you’re buying a house in Cardiff now, by the time you reach the end of your 25-year mortgage, assuming you don’t live on a hill, your investment may not be looking that great.

Estate agencies in Cardiff may or may not have cottoned on to this yet. But it proves the point that, from a personal and due diligence perspective, trends and threads of thinking like this are massively important when planning how to act in the short term to protect and thrive in the long term.

Future thinking. Future-proofing. It’s what we do.

Disclaimer: room44 looks for data points that need examination. This one hasn’t been examined by us so make your own decision based on your own research – at least it’s on your radar now.

Everything that happens has a wider effect. We all know this.

But, to confront it puts us in an uncomfortable place.

There is a better way than to only dwell on the inevitable – Actionable, sustainable strategy.

What we do is to help companies to envisage the short, medium and long term futures they will be working in and reveal hidden trends and explore new market opportunities so you can launch, diversify, and extend the lifecycle of your products.


Future-thinking. Future-proofing. It’s what we do because when things change, things change.
room44 divider


room44 divider

case studies

room44 divider

We’re collaborators – so we can’t do it alone

Tell us what your company needs.


Call us

+44 (0)20 8123 9018

Book a call

Check my calendar

Find us

Silverstone Park, NN12 8GX