room44 innovates

In January 2017, I wrote an article ( Missing the point of innovation ) about mega trends, including Peak Water and drought, that could have an effect on the way you do business. Some of these trends, unimaginable twelve short months ago, are now very real.

In response to this list, we had some conversations along the lines of – “Well, that’s interesting, but how am I supposed to use the insight?”

Today Capetown is running out of water. And it’s only the start of things to come.

Did you even know about the probability that whole cities are facing no mains water supply inside three months from today? Capetown’s problems may not be of direct concern to you if you live in London but the news still has immense consequence.

This list was in that blog:

The following insights are just a very few of the things we heard this week. They underline the need to look up and look long.

  • Peak oil production has probably already occurred. From here it’s all downhill.
  • For every calorie of food that is produced, 10 calories of fossil fuel energy are put into the system to grow that food.
  • Peak water has been and gone. According to, well, lots of people, useable water availability from sustainable sources will put 30% of the world’s population into water scarcity by 2025 and the rest of us will face water stress.
  • Artificial intelligence is influencing our behaviours now and augmenting our potential to function efficiently, creatively and effectively.
  • Robotic process automation is reducing the amount of repetitive work but also replacing the need for people numbers in the workplace. It is predicted that 3 million jobs will be replaced by RPA in the UK by 2020 and this is affecting the decisions students are making at GCSE Options selection in schools now.

Development of AI is so newsworthy and potentially transformational that the more significant trend is often ignored. Maybe the problem is just too big to consider, so let’s focus on water. It has always been true that looking as far as you can into the future usually means trying to make sense of improbable-sounding insight. In this regard, ‘Peak water has been and gone‘ was thought of as less than helpful.

Now Google ‘Water shortage Capetown’ and see what you get. Your results will return articles like this.

“In 10 weeks engineers will turn off water for a million homes as this South African city reacts to one-in-384-year drought. The rich are digging boreholes, more are panic-buying bottled water, and the army is on standby.”

Looking for trends in your market takes a wider view of things than you may have been able to get away with in the past. Preparing for a market in which things are changing so quickly, and so radically, hasn’t previously been necessary in quite the way it is today. Whole product sectors are being side-swiped and losing ground to emerging products designed for a new unmet need.

There will be winners in a situation like in Capetown today: companies who can drill boreholes are drilling the city like Swiss cheese and dry shampoo sales are through the roof, but broadly this mega factor presents millions of consumers with a new list of priorities. Companies who sell products that rely on water in their utility are gong to see a dip in sales for – well, how long?

This is why we maintain that every company needs an innovation strategy at the core of what it does. We can’t make it rain, but we can help with that.

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

In March 2017, an endurance event took place in Australia. Not so new in concept but new to the current era, it combined the old-world charm of a challenge undertaken by Australian ancestors and new age technology.

The challenge was to ride a bike, completely self-supported across Australia, as close to non-stop as possible. It’s 5,500 kms. It’s a long way.

All accommodation, food, water, first aid and maintenance are self-organised.

Water and food were available on the course but only at certain times. Miss the aid station time slot and you could wait ten hours for access to supplies, or get back on your bike and ride 150 miles to the next service stop and try again.

The irony is that, although water wasn’t readily available, 4G was. Along the entire route, whatever their condition, riders could share their discomfort with the world on social media. Videos appeared on YouTube from riders and followers, and yet water remained harder to find.

Some believe this may be a peek into the actual future. At a time when wi-fi is getting closer to 100% coverage, peak water is a phenomenon not often discussed. It’s predicted that almost a third of the world’s population will struggle to find access to water by 2025 and the rest of us will experience water stress.

As a predictor of future consumer need, this is a good example of a mega-trend with a direct link back to you. What will it mean for consumer need and necessary product design? Bottled water is already cost comparable to petrol and more expensive than carbonated soft drinks in many cases. Can this continue or will we see a revaluing of water across consumer brands and in population supply?

To put the water issue into context: if your kids are just reaching school age, by the time they are doing exams the environmental outlook will be very different to the one we see today.

Future proofing certainly relies on taking note of trends reported in accessible media but there are more useful underlying trends available as insight, if we look.

To help you to see a different future for your conpany drop me a line to

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

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