Not a day passes without artificial intelligence making the news. The data collected from the constant and endless monitoring of our behaviours is mostly seen as a threat, not terribly well-defined, that the machines will use against us.

It’s obviously true that information is being gathered. Your smart watch, smart phone, laptop and iPad are all emitting data dust that is being sucked into a cloud somewhere and aggregated into a cognitive system that is learning your behaviours.

Every app, GPS device, traffic surveillance camera, parking space sensor, medical device, red-light camera and website you use is recording your habits, predispositions, predilections and preferences.

Every retailer you use a card with can draw conclusions about you from its look-a-like groupings. Every social media channel you use knows your fears and thoughts and everyone else you know. Your banks can describe you as accurately as your DNA profile, if asked.

But information is ephemeral. Only when it is stored and valued does it become data that can be analysed, and you gave up caring about who gathers information as soon as you signed up for any digital service.

Business and innovation today craves to be new, newer, newest. Be the first and corner the white space (if that’s even still possible). While the media are fixated on the far future as a problem, brand managers and open-innovators get on with making things we can buy today and tomorrow. The two ends of the timeline are connected in some companies and not in others. Lots of others.

As consultants, of course, we offer new opportunities, new sources of information, unique insight, the most creative and previously unseen product strategy. It’s our stock in trade. BUT, almost without exception, the magic in every project comes when we talk to you. There can’t be an ‘Ah Ha’ moment unless we are in the same room.

Selecting the best data source for you is a real conundrum, unless, as my mum used to say, you “look home before you look away.” Releasing value from what you know is a bit like climbing the proverbial rope and ringing the bell: really simple and really hard. So, this is our top tip for seeing what your product could look like next: look back.

In your hard drives, there is market and client information that would be of such high value and specificity that to commission it anew would cost far too much. Your earlier market reports, consumer profiles, product ideation notes, team meeting minutes, even the pitch documents you’ve got on file from prospective vendors are tailored to you.

So, while we certainly remain focused on the 20-year horizon (and trying to work out whether robots will run the world or cut the grass), we also see the value in looking over our shoulders and seeing what the past can tell us. Old-fashioned, old values or old school?

Old-fashioned, old values or old school? What do you think?

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