room44 innovates

Enforced or voluntary migration puts people into survival mode and catalyses market disruption and growth in the places they go to. The job losses due to COVID-19 present an opportunity for those who have been forced to move on. Your ex-staff are your new competitors.

Companies are closing

Last week, Milton Keynes lost a significant employer. A company servicing the convenience foods market closed with the loss of 2,000 jobs across two sites, 615 of them in MK. These 2,000 people now have to hustle to maintain the wellbeing of their families. 2,000 people with skills that can be taken to a new venture, and with interests they’ve never before had the time to pursue. And if you’re in business in Milton Keynes, whether in the convenience foods market or not, there are now 615 potential new competitors.

New competition

This is representative of a trend you should be aware of and have a plan to mitigate against.

A good number of those 2,000 currently jobless people will find a niche in which to thrive, and to do that, they’ll disrupt anyone that gets in their way. They will undercut you, offer more than you, engage one-to-one with your customers (without a CRM subscription) and take money from your business, because theirs is a battle for survival at the micro level. 

Your ex-staff are your new competitors

COVID-19 has accelerated trends that were already gaining momentum: distrust of corporate reliability; growth in self-reliance; trust in the gig economy; pop-up culture; short-term business planning; rapid start-up and pivot support – these are just a few factors that are prevalent in market sectors right across the industry spectrum, from astrology to wound care.

A trend we’ve seen before

This trend isn’t new. Enforced or voluntary migration puts people into survival mode and catalyses market disruption and growth in the places they go to.

The job losses due to COVID-19 present a similar situation: an opportunity for those who have been forced to move on, and a new potential threat to you. Your ex-staff are your new competitors.

One person with one idea

New market players who can see the potential for new technology before anyone else can control a segment for a time. Look at the beginnings of the world’s biggest companies: Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Tesla. They all started with an idea. HP famously started in a garage, Spanx on a kitchen table…one idea, one or two people and the rest is history.

Established business may be able to ride out this new dynamic, but would you bet against disruption in your market? Drop me a line at

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

As you sit down to write your 2020 budget plan, ask yourself this question: how different will this plan make us look by this time next year?

It’s likely, in many cases, that the answer is, ‘it won’t.’

This is something we can help to change. Here’s why and here’s how.


Today’s marketplace is dominated by brands looking for a cause to align themselves with: a purpose to adopt and work into their brand messaging to show they are sufficiently aware of environmental, societal and technological forces to know where their own values intersect. In most cases, this is nothing more than marketing.

marketing (noun)

  1. the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.

The most trusted brands today are those focused on their central beliefs and who present their message most efficiently. This is not something an established brand is going to do successfully in a single budget cycle, but if your brand is to have any chance of growing, it is something to consider.

Don’t confuse growth with doing business as usual.

Planning a 2020 budget without making any changes to what you do only maintains the status quo and, while it may work for a year or two, it won’t work for ever. A well-deigned marketing plan will make it possible to sell more than last year, until the marketing stops working. As we all know, marketing always stops working, and a new plan is always needed.

For evidence of this, look at the size of your marketing budget versus your ‘innovation’ budget. See what I mean?


Having a core purpose to your business is more than, for example, changing from virgin plastic to post-consumer waste in your supply chain, or removing some packaging from a product, or working up a VR social media advert.

Having a core purpose is what new positionings are based on. Without a purpose, you will not be seen as actively engaged in the issues that matter to newly influential consumers: Gens Y, Z and Alpha. Without an embedded and ingrained purpose, you are actually sliding out of relevance, whether you know it yet or not.


Taking a stance inside a business, that doesn’t speak to the norm of what it does today, is hard for anyone. The route of least resistance is to keep your head down and get on with what you are paid to do. If you are doing work that no-one is noticing, you’re running with the crowd and there used to be nothing wrong with that. But we believe that, today, it’s not a sustainable position for anyone to adopt. Workforces need to be mobilised as innovators.

To be the agent of change in your company, you must be the nucleator; the grit in the shell; the person that stands out for suggesting ideas that immediately attract resistance.

You don’t have to be difficult or contrary or deliberately confrontational. But you do need to push against something to know that your idea has made a bump in the road and that, now it’s out there, it has a chance of forcing a change from within.

We’re not suggesting revolution

…only that you take it upon yourself to create an atmosphere within which change can occur.

Being controversial is hard. Happily, today may be the absolute best time to be controversial, because this is where disruption starts. And if you’ve read anything about business in the last five years, disruption is the word of the day, every day.

Some examples

George Soros is controversial. His money supports activities that some people would prefer not to happen. He isn’t always popular but, anyone that has ever read reports about his ventures, knows what he stands for (George Soros interview at The Guardian).

Ben and Jerry’s is an ice cream brand with purpose beyond their product. As long ago as 2009 their Marriage Equality policy was written into their core values and reflects in product marketing.

Patagonia has only ever said what it says. Its uncompromising stance on environmental impact has never changed. This is a core value instilled by Yvon Chouinard when the business was founded and remains firm.

When you realise that these core purposes are so long held and so deeply embedded, it’s easier to understand why they attract such a lot of support from their social media communities. People who know that some brands represent more than making money, making ice cream or making T-shirts reward them with consumer trust.

When you sit down to write your 2020 budget, please have a think on what the right thing to do next year is:

purpose (noun)

noun: purpose; plural noun: purposes

  1. the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.
  2. a person’s sense of resolve or determination.

Our answer to starting this process is called 10, 20-30 and you can download the outline here.

Since the banking crisis changed (or in some cases, confirmed) the general perception of bankers (think rhyming slang), there’s been a need for visible change in the financial industry.

Eventually it did arrive. Technology improved enough to create products that customers had been requesting for ages…

The new wave of disruptor banks was in full flight and nothing could touch them. Until it did.

The fast follower position is a strong one.

The MO is to see what the upstarts try and do it better.

Apple has always been good at that. So, it stuck with what it knew and launched Apple Card. This offered everything we love about Apple and more: pay by phone, carry a shiny metal card – all hail the great and the good – but hold on…suddenly the all-powerful Mr. Zuckerberg stepped up.

Enter Facebook Libra. A digital currency, PayPal challenger, that you can use to make transactions on FB platforms as easily as sending a private message. Bitcoin might have seemed a bumpy ride, with its value fluctuations, but here we are with a new concept: a stable platform and a captive audience using a tested idea.

To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway (to be honest, I’ve done this so many times now that you’d think it gets old, but it doesn’t): asked how he went bankrupt, Ernie said “gradually, then suddenly.” As an epithet for innovation, it’s worth remembering. Even when you think everything is different, everything changes.  

The mega trend

Since Fannie and Freddie (keep an eye on this), RBS, and all the rest was always going to be an upheaval in the banking market. It didn’t happen immediately. It started slowly and then it hit with a vengeance. Now banks are going to scramble again because innovation, to them, means what it’s always meant: a new name for an account, a couple of tweaks and a bit of cashback.

Apple and Facebook will make a dent in world banking and who gave them the time to do it? The guys who decided that innovation was more of the same with a different label.

Who created the products consumers will use? Innovators.

If you don’t know how to be one, get in touch. We do, and you have nothing to lose. Click here.

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

Meet Soda. She’s going to show you how disruption happens.

Talking to client companies often starts the same way. We see a trend that could be a threat and/or an opportunity and take it to them. The client is too busy with work to worry about a problem they haven’t got yet.

So, we talk over a few things that have happened recently that might have knocked them off-course, and we show how those things started as signals. Recently, the trends that we saw early (because we were looking), which looked like they’d take market share in about five years, have made it to market in eighteen months.

That’s the beauty of looking ahead: you see stuff sooner. If you’re not looking, things take you by surprise. To borrow a line from Ernest Hemingway about how he went bankrupt: “Gradually, then suddenly.”

Now Soda will show you how disruption looks when you’re not keeping an eye on the future.

To learn how Soda and the rest of the room44 team will help you to see and make the most of trends, click here for details of our Programme for Changemakers.

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

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