Innovation: it’s a harsher world with new priorities.


The world of innovation strategy is changing. And it’s changed again since I wrote that. And again. It’s a harsher world with new priorities.

It’s a twisty, turny sort of place with lots of bumps in the road. One minute you’re certain that what you were just told was nailed on fact, and then another opinion changes your mind. It doesn’t matter how much we read, watch and listen to, it’s not often we get the same story twice.

So just pause a moment


Think back.

When did you make the best decisions?

The most robust decisions usually come with knowledge and without much time spent deciding. Did it feel right? That came from somewhere.

An understanding of a subject is otherwise called education. We go to school, college and university. We go on training courses. We learn about things that will make us money and we invest time into learning about things that interest us.

And then we are asked to predict something about our market that we just don’t know yet. It hasn’t happened. We weren’t taught how to predict. We weren’t encouraged to forecast and have a bit of faith in the numbers.

Even in the best and biggest companies, everyday forecasts can be wrong. Every company that launches a product will show you a new performance curve that looks like a hockey stick. They have to – that’s what management wants to see. That level of upswing in a product’s sales is the reason they can say yes to you. Here’s a quote from the market research company IMS that holds true:

“FIRST SIX MONTHS STILL CRITICAL: A key learning from our previous two studies was that the vast majority of launches have only a short window of six months to make their mark. Those that do well in that timeframe continue to do so, and vice versa. Rarely do those that start poorly dramatically improve after six months. Our latest study shows this is still the case: fewer than 20% of launches significantly improve their uptake trajectory between six and 18 months on the market.” (Source: Searching for Global Launch Excellence. Harsher world, new priorities)

So – things we learn are called facts. Things we don’t know as fact yet are simply not reliable.

But, using the constraint of ‘what we know’ limits thinking and ignores ‘what we don’t know we don’t know’, or even looking for answers to the unobvious questions. More elegantly put, in his book ‘The Clock of the Long Now’, Stewart Brand wrote, “This present moment used to be the unimaginable future.” And Arthur C. Clarke said, “If at first the idea is not absurd, then there will be no hope for it.”

I went to an event this week and talked about the methodology of Design Thinking, and how we transform business by using it. No-one in the room had heard of me, Design Thinking, scenario planning or innovation strategy, until I stood up to speak.

I also listened to other people talk about subjects I had never heard of until I arrived. Like the study of impact: cars in collision and the effects on the people in them; the impact of drones striking planes; of bullets on armoured vests. Compelling? Definitely. Useful? Not to me. But some people in the audience were leaning forward.

Another guy explained how he calculates the cost per minute per core of cloud computing time. I honestly didn’t understand very much of what he said. Interesting? Not to me. But that was the longest Q&A of the night.

This is what your CEO hears when you explain why you want to change the company mission. She/he is so locked into what your business does now that the idea that things need to change is not always going to be popular. Maybe one in three things you say will interest her/him.

Why am I saying this? Because you need help and it’s what we do.

Invention has a chance of becoming innovation if we do it for the right reason and with the right help. I fly in planes; I don’t try to fly one. I eat in restaurants, but I don’t pretend to cook like a chef. I live in a house, but I couldn’t begin to build one. It’s a good idea to decide what we can do and what we need help with.

room44 may not know your market or your company. Almost everybody you’ve ever employed started from the same place. But you decided, when you needed help, that one of your candidates could fill the gap. When it comes to innovation strategy development, that’s us.

Think about this: one day, electric vehicles won’t be the only sort of car available, but they will be the most common. Autonomous vehicles won’t be the only option, but they will co-exist alongside human drivers. Believable?

Technology by itself is not the real disruptor.

  • Netflix didn’t ruin Blockbuster: ridiculous late fees did.
  • Uber didn’t hurt the taxi business: limited access and fare control did.
  • Apple did not kill the music industry: being forced to buy full-length albums did.
  • Airbnb didn’t dent the hotel industry: limited availability and pricing options did.
  • Amazon did not destroy other retailers: bad customer service did.

Even with hindsight, our memory of events is skewed by our own beliefs, and this is why our mission to make innovation work in your company is so important.

Let’s have a chat about what you’re struggling to resolve around your business future, and see if we can make the difference.