room44 innovates

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?

Every time a driverless vehicle sets out it needs to be certain of one thing: that everything it expects to encounter is in the right place. White lines, bollards, pedestrian crossings. The things we normally navigate around using our eyes.

But take Australia, for example. It just can’t be relied upon to be in the same place year on year. Australia moves closer to Asia every year by about 7cms. Since the last GPS calibration in 1994 the continent has moved by 1.6m. GPS is accurate but it doesn’t track changes like continental drift.

Because the landscape moves, the macro factor has real impact at the micro level. The risk to people in and around driverless cars presents a bit of a problem. Imagine driving down the road and the corner of the street is now where the white line used to be but you can’t see it. Safety systems and human intervention will save the day but it’s still a problem.

The latest GPS correction in 2017 anticipates the system being accurate in 2020. For the next three years it’s known still to be wrong.

In Australia, there’s a harbour called Port Hedland. The ships that collect hundreds of thousands of tonnes of iron ore are vast. At certain times, the draft clearance between the ship and the sea bed is no more than 25cm. GPS accuracy here is critical. In this context 7cm is a lot. 1.6 metres is huge.

Here’s the analogy.

Even the most accurate GPS system can only use machines to get close to a target destination. When we get to the fine detail, humans need to intervene.

Planning business strategy is the same.

Lots of us simply don’t plan the journey. Proactive companies use data that can get close to the broadest strategic destination. Individually we adjust the plans to ensure the accuracy of our product positioning is precise.

If you haven’t started your journey yet, drop us a line or pick up the phone. A call costs nothing and may even signpost a new way.

Future thinking: it’s what we do at room44.

Drop us a line at and let’s see how we can help each other. Innovation justified.

As we get older, we change. Attitudes, hair colour, viewing preferences, liking for cabbage, beer, chocolate…

Every day we work through the things that seem important and nothing really changes. Except when we look back and everything has. In fact, everything has changed so much we wonder how we didn’t notice.

Of course, hindsight is perfect. 20:20 every time. But how would we behave in 5, 10, 20 years’ time if we were asked the questions being posed today? Would we be a bit more thoughtful about how we choose to meet our targets? Might we take a longer view of the effect our decisions will have?

A fascinating study at UCLA has looked at how we react to the need to make decisions, depending on our circumstances. We’ve already blogged about hyperbolic discounting*, but this study has shown that, if presented with a vision of ourselves in later life, our tendency to invest in that person changes substantially.

Prof. Hal Hershfield at UCLA has been studying responses to visual avatars, designed to represent older versions of us. The data reveals that, when faced with these images, we have to work hard to recognise ourselves. It’s only when we actually see ourselves as we might be in the future, that we become interested in investing in that future self now. The research found that people’s attitudes changed: that the emotional connection they made with their future self meant they were more prepared to invest or save money now for that person’s future wellbeing than if they continued to see themselves as they are today.

Start-ups and some funders think along similar lines. Why would you hamper your business development by putting up barriers that simply satisfy a randomly selected time-based reporting need? This is where it can help to create scenarios of future states that you can work towards. We paint pictures of the future, informed by evidence of consumer responses to emerging technology and competitor activity. With this information, the strategic decisions you make today take on a whole different complexion.

This is a concept that reflects real life. Investments usually pay a higher dividend later than if you take the benefit now. Usually, this makes hyperbolic discounting unattractive – unless, of course, it helps you hit a target that pays out within this incentive cycle.

SME thinking. Start-up thinking. Boot-strap thinking. Call it what you will, but the idea that real innovation and short term-ism can share the same space is one to consider.

Future thinking: it’s what we do at room44.

Drop us a line at and let’s see how we can help each other. Innovation justified.

*Hyperbolic discounting – the tendency for people to choose a smaller reward sooner over a larger reward later.

The dichotomy between selling a future market position and selling value now is not easily fixed. The pull of the future is less strong than the imperative of the short term.

We know that policy, regulation, crisis and discovery affect us. We know it explicitly but we choose to overlook the knowledge because we need to get through our critical to-do list. Big may be beautiful but in this context, the big picture is no more than abstractly interesting. The £1 in your pocket now is worth more than the £10 you may get next year.

If so, must ‘innovation’ – real innovation – only be practised by the vocational, the well-funded or the artist? Not necessarily. Let’s forget ‘innovation’ as a word. It’s misleading. It alludes to something that delivers benefit in the long term when now is more important.

This is where the concept of hyperbolic discounting* comes into play: the overriding need to create value today by taking whatever is on the table, versus the opportunity to find a solution that fits today’s need and will survive into the future.

Most often in real life, the opposite ends of the equation strike a deal and a goal is achieved, while some of the original ambition and opportunity remains nascent. A working compromise. The pragmatic thing to do.

That being the case, what value do we put on competitive insulation?

Being informed about how future markets may develop has huge merit, not just because it’s interesting or because the insight might shape product design someday.

Having a view of future consumer behaviour, competitive activity and regulatory landscapes can significantly assist today by informing tactical decisions. How to promote, how to communicate with the target audience and how to manoeuvre to your next market position.

The idea that products are developed and launched into their intended strategic position is OK. Lots are. But launching MVPs that grow market share over time by way of design iteration and audience advocacy is now the smart methodology in all markets. Look at any new product and see how its consumer proposition develops over time. This isn’t an accident.

Having a strategy based on data specifically analysed to meet your need is a newly accurate science. The suggestion that innovation is futurism, therefore, doesn’t stack up. Innovation may be a badly defined word, but strategy remains vital, now and for the future.

Doing what is necessary and doing what is right aren’t always mutually exclusive. It’s just a matter of timing.

Future thinking; it’s what we do at room44.

Drop us a line at and let’s see how we can help each other. Innovation justified.

*Hyperbolic discounting – the tendency for people to choose a smaller reward sooner over a larger reward later.

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