I’m going out on a limb here. I’ll bet that 90% of what appears in your social feeds every morning is less than interesting. Many of the rest, if you’re anything like me, evoke at least one ‘WTF’. I can’t help it. There are some things that seem ludicrous even for someone who trades in future thinking and spends his days exploring the unlikely. A few examples:

Flying trains.

A jumbo jet sized, Lego-like, ‘H’ shaped people carrier that flies just above the ground while tethered to a track. Capacity, speed, controlled flight and barmy. I want to see that encounter a tunnel on the East Coast rail line or make it through the mess of points at any mainline station.

Self-driving motorbikes.

Exactly which problem is that trying to solve? Show me a biker who really wants to be a pillion passenger and I’ll show you a candidate for a bus pass. Yes, technology needs a test bed. Yes, this is novel. Is it useful? It’s not easy to see, is it?

Filter papers

How about something that’s been in the supermarket aisle for years: bleached coffee filters. Consumer-aware own brands have been using unbleached brown paper for years, but the old ways persist in the name of, what – performance, quality, ‘it’s what we do’? Some brands still think that bleaching paper for a single-use filter is necessary to connote value or premium. And the consumer is left to choose between a poorly-positioned legacy product and what’s environmentally sensible.

These are obviously unrelated examples of inventors being allowed to flex their idea muscle and, occasionally, getting the value proposition through their idea stage gates. Clearly something needs to change. Hold that thought.

On to promotion. There are some start-ups and SMEs who think the best way to boost their audience is to get a selfie with Richard Branson. Ooh, look at you sharing the same airspace as the ever-tousled Sir Richard just for a second. Did his business acumen rub off on you? Have you inhaled some magic dust that turned you into a marketing guru worthy of the Virgin name?

I used to know someone whose daughter worked on Necker Island, and another guy whose kid was a masseur on Virgin Atlantic for a while. Does that count?

When we talk about why the number of failing start-ups is so high, try this: they’re focusing on themselves and not on their customer. Customers don’t care if you’ve met Richard Branson. No-one does, except your mum. They do care about the problem they’ve got, and whether you can solve it.

Products that don’t make obvious progress in delivering consumer benefit aren’t innovative. They aren’t even new products most of the time. At this time of year, it’s common to see desperate plans emerging to support desperate products. It’s depressing when these plans make it through the year-end budget planning cycle. It’s even worse when they don’t deliver.

The answer?

See it differently. Step back. Take a critical look at what’s going on around you, and spend a bit of time scrutinising what you really want to be famous for.

A consumer-centric innovation-led strategy starts here: by questioning everything, and by using the insight you gain to make products and services that have a point, with promotion that has a purpose.

Seeing it differently. Future-proofing. It’s what we do.

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