room44 innovates

At room44 we have to maintain an agnostic view of every client’s business. To deliver landscaping strategies that present our customers with perspectives they couldn’t see for themselves, by themselves, and to be able to extrapolate an idea into a product concept that their competitors haven’t seen: that’s where we earn our bread and butter.

There are a few tenets we hold dear and we’ve developed a manifesto that we’d like to share with you. However, we’re also aware that, as world politics and environmental issues continue to dominate our news, and market responses to mega trends go on evolving, these tenets may change.  We recommend that every CEO is able to change her, or his, mind in the face of new information, so why wouldn’t we?

1. Question everything

The constant in all our lives is change. The question that we must all ask isn’t ‘what’s going to change?’ but ‘what won’t change?’

This is where room44 starts in all our work. The probability of change and disruption occurring correlates directly to the probability of your new idea being successful, so it’s an important first step.

2. The way you do anything is the way you do everything

To look for insight where you’ve always looked, or where you know your competitors look, isn’t going to provide you with any business insulation. The recent eruption of new business start-ups and the resultant increase in business failures makes the chance of existing business faltering higher than ever before.

Adjacent opportunities must be sought and grasped. Longer term scenarios must be mapped and reviewed. Persistent and tenacious interrogation of your market dynamics and consumer behaviours is imperative.

The way you do anything is the way you do everything. If you are taking care of business today with only an occasional look at immediate threats, the way you will react is ‘occasional’.

Regularly working in your future makes your opportunities appear regularly.

3. Choose yourself

Waiting for market approval is commercially limiting and puts you into a competed position before it’s necessary. Being first to market may not always be the best position, unless you can sink countless £/$/€ into support – but waiting isn’t the answer either.

When you ‘know’ you’re right, have a little faith in yourself and launch. The worst that can happen is that you don’t make the money you need. But even in this, there is an experience to sell and benefit from later on.  Choose yourself every time.

4. It’s never too big to ignore

Overwhelmingly huge issues are a challenge that individuals cannot ignore. Big issues require a big vision and baby steps.  As Greta Thunberg has written; “no-one is too small to make a difference”.

5. It’s never too small to launch

Everything starts at the beginning. A step starts a marathon, an acorn starts the oak tree, a flake starts a blizzard… When we have the germ of an idea, we start it and feed it and water it, and we see where it goes.

An ideas that you feel is right should be nurtured even if the data isn’t available to support it. In fact, if the data is there the idea has already been seen by somebody else.

As we say in number 3, choose yourself.

Our own room44 initiatives

At room44, we see the danger that exists if commerce, industry and consumers continue to crave growth in all things. We buy-in to the need for us all to make less individual impact on our local environments, and we’re trying to offer others options too. It’s all very well for a consultancy to preach a message, but we believe that we should make it easy for people to access better alternatives. In 2019 we have been working on new ’small’ ideas and invite you to take a look.

room44 does more than talk about change

In 2019, we have kicked off two new businesses. One is a sustainable start-up focusing on artisan clothing.

The other is a partnership with an established eBike retailer to become their first brand licensee. Micro-mobility is starting to affect how towns are designed and how residents view their travel options. We see eBikes as democratised personal transport for the 14 to 140 age group.  In time, we’ll introduce bike-sharing in our area but for now, we’ve started small and we’re thrilled to have found great partners who we can work with to promote a less polluting way to get around. 

More to follow on this one.

Future thinking. Future-proofing. It’s what we do, in theory and in practice.

Apple was innovative. Now it launches no new ideas and has fallen behind in the AI stakes.

Mid-term, what will Apple do to pull it back?

While it was the first $trillion company, and makes more profit than any of its key rivals, it hasn’t invested in gathering data in the way that Google, Amazon and Facebook have done. As AI’s place in our lives is cemented, Apple may have to find a new way to compete.

Or maybe they don’t plan to compete. After all, when Apple took the market with the iPhone, the world was a different place.

Napster had just died.

Blockbuster was still on the streets.

Woolworths was a thing.

Blackberrys were the favourite phone of the corporate IT manager. IT managers were a thing too.

Nokia and Siemens had good market share.

EVs were a lifetime away from being viable.

Now, everything has changed

You can buy barefoot shoes.

It’s OK for people to eat a vegan diet and wear leather.

Lazy workaholics are a demographic and…internal influencers are becoming more trusted than external and celebrity ones.

It’s the same for you

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

If this kind of thinking can be helpful to you, let’s talk.

Here’s my diary. Book some time.

Innovation, ‘new’ product development and creative strategy all have one thing in common; they are forward thinking concepts. Ideas that you have today will launch in the future, into a future market landscape and meet a need for a future consumer.

Nothing about the future has happened yet

Yes, straight line extrapolations of data will predict what might happen based on what went before but data isn’t able to anticipate anything new.


I was brought up watching movies that my dad liked to watch and he loved Westerns. Stories of outlaws and Marshalls. Almost every story involved a bank robbery so my impression of America was that banks got robbed a lot.

The assumed accuracy of this information conflicts with the reality. When Westerns were set, in roughly the second half of the 19th century, banks rarely got robbed. It’s reported that between 1850 and 1900 there were less than 10 bank robberies across all fifteen states of the US.

Following that logic I may have straight line projected and come up with a number for the 2000’s but probably would have missed what has happened and what will happen. According to FBI published data there were 2,451 bank robberies in the US in 2016.

But, this figure is now thought to be reducing

A significant reduction in cash being held by clerks in banks means that holding one up is less lucrative than it once was. It’s also easier to illegally extract money from many, many individuals directly through their bank accounts, online, with the right skill-set.

Don’t just trust the data

To innovate successfully it is essential to apply creativity, intuition and to start believing the signals you see by reading market landscapes. As you make product design decisions it’s really important to see the world through the eyes of your consumers. Through a different lens, if you like.

Sometimes you need help.

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

If this kind of thinking can be helpful to you, let’s talk.

Here’s my diary. Book some time.

And by the way, Tumbleweed isn’t something an American cowboy or bank robber would have seen too often either. It came from the Ukraine. Go figure.

I started room44 as an innovation consultancy with a vision that we could train teams to plan for their future success by seeing changes in their markets through the eyes of consumers. That we could teach them to look proactively at world trends for signals that would be useful in product development planning.

We called this ‘innovation consulting’ and we’ve just had our fifth anniversary. Happy birthday us.

What happened five years ago?

Have a look at Google and remind yourself of the news in 2014. David Cameron was starting to talk about Brexit. Barack Obama was criticised left and right for Obamacare. Drug companies were facing tougher price-based patient benefit scrutiny. Zoella was 14, and had just published her first book. Plastics pollution was in the press – but less so.

If your teenager was doing A-levels, they’re out of university now. If your baby was going into primary school, they’re going to big school in September. It was three years after the App Store opened and RBS collapsed, so you can begin to see where this is going.

Since then, digital technology has gained speed and complexity of development. ‘Algorithm’ has become the new buzz word across news channels, 5G is about to unleash another acceleration in digital development. The baby boomers are about to head for the golf course to make way for Gen Ys at a board table near you.

Banking has seen disruption with apps taking chunks of business away from Personal and Business Bankers, and there’s more upheaval to come. Monzo launched in 2015 and Starling has since taken off; other new disrupters are established. Some will succeed, some won’t. New brand offerings will build on these innovators.

Pharma faces exponential disruption as consumers find new ways of accessing treatment and even undertaking self-diagnosis. Take this idea into a drug brand’s head office and see how 99% of the people react. It won’t be a long meeting. 

We know of teenagers performing their own dentistry and orthodontics after watching YouTube videos. Dangerous? The standard professional view is, ‘of course’. But trying alignment correction and getting it wrong only puts someone into a dentist’s chair later.

Macro is dead.

These are small examples of consumers being offered, and seeking out, new ways of consuming products and services. Trends that used to fall into buckets labelled Mega, Macro and Micro now fall into just two.

Mega trends are those things happening at a global scale and that you won’t change. These are developments that used to be thought of as happening over longer time periods, whereas macro trends were seen as the multiple children of Mega parents and more easily dealt with.

Right now, I am convinced that the rate of change is so rapid that the things we traditionally imagine will be market and consumer factors in five years, are happening in eighteen months (except Brexit, of course).

There simply isn’t time for macro to be a thing anymore. What we are left with are mega trends and your micro response.

Future proofing

room44 specialises in seeing trends and company need in this way. We train teams to be aware and to respond to their changing environment. We train you to fish because giving you a fish is not the answer.

If you want to be in business in five years’ time, you must work on it now. Why not get in touch? Click here to book some time to explore your options.

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

In helping clients to see their business from the perspective of their customers, we hit a challenge: what to call this work? It’s easy to be confused by innovation.

After years of calling it Design Thinking, but having to explain what that means every time we say it, some bright spark came up with Human-Centred Design. Is that different, or the same thing?

At about the time this happened, your Human Resources department probably started saying things like ‘solutionise’ and talked about being in ‘human capital management’ or ‘human relations’. What’s with the ‘human’ fixation at the moment?

Here’s the crux of the issue

People who run businesses are beginning to realise that they don’t sell a product in isolation. They now know that they solve a problem for somebody else.

Want some software? Buy it as a service. Want a car? Lease it. Want accommodation in a city? Short-term rent it.

In a really short period of time, these solutions have become the drivers of product and service usage, because we no longer want to buy software, buy cars, or rent in six-month blocks of time. Product solutions now make it easier for customers to access services and products without taking on the responsibility of ownership or paying a premium over and above the value.

Innovation as a service

These new ways of engaging with brands are not exclusive yet. There are still many brands out there who don’t subscribe to the idea that they exist to serve you. Some brands still think it’s OK to sell you a subscription and hope you forget about it, so they can keep charging your debit card every month for a service you don’t use. Try booking onto a class at your membership gym in January and see how many times you get to go. See how far you get asking for a refund on that month’s payment. Just saying.

About being ‘human-centred’

Frankly, you can call your departments whatever you like. It doesn’t matter to your customers. What they want is to see that you have taken time to understand their issue and have designed a solution – for them. Walk into a room with the answer your client is looking for and you can call yourself King Pooba of Love if you want to.

So, is innovation confusing? Yes – but only until you work out what it is and who it’s for. And only until you realise that if you aren’t doing it for your clients right now, somebody else is about to.

Future thinking. Future-proofing. It’s what we do. Write to me now. Let’s talk.

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