How to innovate in 2018 and beyond? From vegan fundamentalists thru endurance sport to straightforward start-up centric podcasts and blogs, the advice is to work out what value you are trying to deliver to your newly-described niche. Who are you? What are you? Who will you be? Who do you want to be?

In our blog (SMEs may need templates for innovation) we did something similar by supplying templates to capture the core purpose of your intended innovation.

Innovators may not find it hard to generate ideas, but they often struggle choosing which idea to propose as investment-worthy. Get this wrong and the result can be career-limiting in the extreme.

One of our favourite ice-breakers, when running a workshop, is to challenge teams to describe their lives 20 years out. Everyone looks uncertain. Very few 35-year-olds can imagine themselves as 55. Or 55-year-olds as 75.

Just thinking about a teenager being an independent adult is a bit sobering for anyone whose kids only just started at senior school, for example.

Repeat the exercise, looking at 10 years’ time. 10 years isn’t long. Children going into school will be out the other end of university. Parents start to calculate how many more family holidays they can get in before university fees hit.

At five years, it’s all getting very real. That’s two mobile phone contracts or two car leases away.

How about 2½ years? Those plans you have at 20 years – you’d better be working in that direction already. Investments, property, finance succession and tax planning all hove into view a bit more sharply.

What about a year? A year is your next work incentive cycle. You’ll be on your way to another Christmas break before this year’s is even paid off.

And then, of course, a month. Next month is Q1 2018 anyway and heading to the financial year end that will set the trajectory for 2018/19.

In the context of innovation, we like this kind of directed thinking. It’s a way of juxtaposing what matters now with what may matter tomorrow or next year. We want to know, what is it that your customers will value about your product or service in the future market? Download our free guide to See Your Data Differently.

The whole answer is not simple to unpick. It takes a degree of scrutiny of available data, and for this a framework like Design Thinking is useful. Here’s what Kevin Ashton, the consumer sensor expert who coined the phrase ‘the Internet of Things’, said about innovation:

“I’d been lied to all my life: great innovation didn’t come from geniuses having moments of inspiration. It was about putting in the work; finding a way through and messing up and figuring out why you messed-up, and then trying something different. And this incremental, step-by-step approach to innovation was just how everybody else was doing it around me, too.”

Future thinking. Future Proofing. Innovation justified. It’s what we do.

Get in touch – tristan@room44.co.uk

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