room44 innovates

In 2023 we’ve seen seismic shifts in attitude responding to the many mega and macro events around the world.

It’s possible we’ll look back and wonder what all the fuss was about when our worlds have tilted a bit more in 2024.

The adage, if not now, when, used to be a great way of persuading innovation workshops to be bold and creative. The truth is that, whatever walk of life you look at, if not now, when is actually, if not now, soon.

In fact, it’s might be more accurate to say that change will hit you, if not now, it’s already in the wind.

The next decade is so primed to change everything we know about real and virtual relationships, political norms, financial stability, democracy across medical science and so many other fundamental structures that underpin societies, that factors are, actually, too many to count – or even point at.

Just one thing

Looking at these issues from the UK informs a perspective that we, as future-gazers, try to avoid.

Yet, one of the factors that we’ll take into 2024 is that two thirds (+66%) of countries currently recognised as democratic will go to the polls in the same year (UK, EU, US and more).

This is the first time it has happened since anyone started counting in the 1960s. It could be quite a moment.

Left or right?

Forecasts suggest that the UK will swing to a left leaning government.

Other places (US and big chunks of the EU) are heading further to the right than they already are.

Populist leaders have had a good run and some may survive the opportunity to change. Some won’t.

Protectionism is on the rise in the US and UK, amongst others, and history tells us that this rarely ends well but may prevail for a while. It’s hard to unravel a shit show when you first come into power.

Longer term

Looking out slightly further we see more change-inducing trends to impact us.

Nigeria has a population today around 219 million of which 50% is under 19 years old. 70% is under 30.

The Nigerian population growth curve is set for it to reach 377 million by 2025 and 733 million by 2100.

Think about that; a new +400 million workers under 30 from one country.

If China and India are your sources for products now, start looking for this to affect you.

Nigeria’s population will equal the US as joint third most populous country sometime soon. Those people need food and work. It is possible to think that China and India may find their GDP hard to maintain with this kind of disruption in the world manufacturing order.

What does it matter?

All manner of manufactured goods could be differently sourced with new supply opportunities.

All kinds of manufacturing could be differently located with a different attitude to access to labour.

Some enlightened nations are actively developing inward migration opportunities.

If ‘growth’ is still the driving target behind our, broadly, capitalistic objectives, more people equals more output and it’s possible to see this translating into more success for Nigeria than the UK, for example.

How do you read it?

No one is ever going to accuse me of being prudent

I’ve never saved enough or made enough AVC payments and doubt that my pension will amount to a comfortable retirement.

I’m the complacent child of the lucky generation who have had comfortable retirements from final salary, index-linked pensions and who, to my mind have largely spent too much time, managing cash they didn’t actually earn.

If you aren’t over 45 or studied economics, this might not make much sense and I’m not going to get into the rights and wrongs of it.

What I can claim is a certain caution in sensing when things aren’t quite right.

We built room44 on this tendency and created a business that looks at converging and emerging trends to see where opportunities and threats lie.

Grab an emerging trend

You may have done very well out of COVID. Some companies did. In honesty, room44 didn’t. A consultancy, that works in a notional future, found it hard to gain client confidence when no-one knew if Boris was blowing hot or cold on any given day.

Happily, a couple of years beforehand we’d taken trend insight into our own hands and created a plan that resulted in us opening an electric bike business too. When one thing fell off a cliff, the other one climbed it and things balanced out.

What we did was the effect of seeing a change in a market, taking definite action and trusting our own skill and judgement.

Today, both businesses work which is why this is timely.

There’s another pinch point right around the corner

Already we know business costs are going to get a lot higher this year and into next. You may be carrying bounce-back loans as an extra debt and that nice Mr. Sunak has already told us that he’s increasing corporation tax by 6% in April 2023 – your corporation tax.

It won’t hurt immediately but it’s on the books.

Inflation is nudging 10% and we can cite any number of price increase stories – from wood to micro-chips – that far exceed 10%.

The good news is that there is more than enough time to get creative and look at new ideas to generate diverse revenues.

Your choices are to sell more, sell for more or get creative and trust your own skill and judgement.

If you want a bit of help to see where the opportunities lie, let’s talk. Book some time with me here.

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

The last few months may have been tough for some of you because of the limitations on work and communication, but for others it has been a period of blessed relief.

Coming out of lockdown and back into a regular work pattern will fill some people with dread.

Uncertainty around what kinds of business will succeed, fed by commentary across all media, isn’t helping. If we aren’t reading stories about the amazing growth rate of lockdown start-ups, we’re being told that everything established will fail.

Don’t worry. Things are no more difficult than they always were – but they are different.

How to work it through

Getting serious about the questions is a start. Can you honestly, hand-on-heart, say you’ve interrogated the probability that you can continue as before? 

Challenge yourself

Try listing ideas that you could pivot into right now. You’ve probably got a sense of a latent idea that could be developed to generate sales sometime. Write it down, and work out whether it’s something to consider immediately.

Try this every day for a week. Sit and jot down ten ideas. Do it again tomorrow and the day after, and it may surprise you how often the ideas you like the most will come to the surface.

What’s a scenario?

A scenario is an anticipation of what could happen to your business at any time.

Being brutally honest with yourself and your team is another hard exercise but hugely valuable.

We’d recommend you have a minimum of three scenarios in play all the time: everything stays the same, everything goes wrong, everything goes better than imagined. By thinking this through, you gain a sense of the external factors that are heading your way and start to look further out to see emerging threats and opportunities.

For example: what would the worst day look like? 

When you’ve had that thought, what would you do to:

  1. Avoid it
  2. Use it
  3. Create a product/system/process/service to resolve the issue presented

Acting on #3 might prevent it happening at all.

Similarly, what would the best day look like: for example, what would you do if Google came knocking to make you an offer to buy?

None of this is brain surgery, but business leaders don’t record these thoughts often enough. You may have the thoughts in the shower, but your team can’t contribute unless you share them.

Scenario #1

The customers you supply are changing their behaviours in response to consumer demands more quickly than anyone can keep track of, which means that your value proposition will also need to change.

If you’d like someone to work with your team on this kind of exercise, you know where we are.

Download our free guide to trend identification here.

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

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.

This may be a bit uncomfortable for some of you, so let’s start by talking about something that many people find funny.

I’m from Cornwall, and for many years there’s been a small but vocal movement for Cornish independence from the UK. Funny? It depends who you are and what your perspective is.

When Brexit first became a thing, some Yorkshire folk decided that it too had a claim for independence. ‘YEXIT’ was floated, and the arguments for its ability to stand alone sound pretty good: a population close to that of Denmark, a larger economy than some entire EU nations, and Yorkshire athletes won more medals than Canada in the Rio Olympics. Amusing? Not to Yorkshire. To the rest of us? Maybe, but stranger things have happened.

How we choose to look at issues reflects our perspective.

Here’s another one: according to a Hubbub, UK consumers buy, use and throw away 11 billion pieces of single-use packaging a year, and that’s just for lunch. That’s the equivalent of 276 pieces of plastic for every person in the UK – every year. On average, more than one piece of plastic every working day per person. Which kind of cancels out the argument that individuals can’t make a difference.

Now, as a consumer, I know that none of us wants to be responsible for plastic waste, but we do want to eat. The opportunities to use and refill our own food savers, reusable cups and rented tiffin cans are growing. The opportunities for buying single-use plastics are not yet decreasing, but they will.

Logically, the pressure on consumer behaviour and the financial penalties that will come to bear on the plastics supply chain will squeeze companies whose entire output is of plastic.

Most of these companies are still bullish. They think this is a problem for tomorrow because, today, their customers are supporting them. Phrases I’ve borrowed before are apposite again here:

  1. The difference between animals and humans is our ability to deny reality.
  2. When consumers stop buying crap, they’ll stop making crap.

Plastic manufacturers, on their websites, are still saying things like:

“We’re global specialists in packaging for food and drink, dedicated to making every consumer experience enjoyable, consistent, and safe. Our purpose is to help great products reach more people, more easily.”

“Make food look great.”

“A leading global design and engineering company in plastic products.”

With some simple research, you can see who is working to introduce pulp-based products and where the focus on plastic is still a priority. There remains a lot of ‘selling what we can make’ rather than ‘making what we can sell’ embedded in the psychology of these businesses.

In business, the CSuite is where strategic decisions are sanctioned. The Chief Marketing Officer is probably the person who gets to assess the options a company has. Every company needs someone in this position to battle against inherent short-termism that always bubbles to the surface when targets and financial planning are the focus.

Unfortunately, according to Seth Godin, the average tenure of a Chief Marketing Officer is about eighteen months. About the same amount of time a CEO takes to realise that there is no easy fix to the corner her or his plastic producing machines are in. Ironically, the person with the long-term strategic brain is the person your company is most likely to lose the quickest.

Whether you have a desire to change your business attitude to consumers’ and environmental issues, or you simply need to nail a new direction to the wall for everyone to buy into, you may well stumble at the first hurdle – picking exactly what to invest in, out of the noise in your market. Luckily, this is what we do.

Future thinking. Future-proofing.

Get in touch. Time is ticking.

David got a call from his CEO. Having been to an innovation forum, she wants to introduce a programme of innovation. Where to start?

The company’s not short of good ideas. They have people visiting trade shows all the time. David goes to networking meetings at least once a fortnight and has even been to trend presentations himself.

So, why does David have a problem?

It’s not that he doesn’t believe the company can innovate. But which idea should he recommend they invest in?

The Sales Director isn’t that interested in innovation, until it turns into something that can sit in a sales plan. The CFO is reluctant to discuss innovation: it’s a term that means different things to different people and, after all, the budget is assigned for this year. The Marketing team is buried in trade marketing and can’t get involved.

This could go badly for David

David doesn’t want to be the one to make a silly suggestion. Board meetings are already busy and future investment can’t take priority with the way things are: the exchange rate; Brexit; technology racing away; new competitors disrupting trading agreements; the CRM update; the pressure on costs. If they take their eye off the ball, anything could happen.

David looks around and begins to see who is out there that might help. He comes across a company called room44 that publishes blogs every week about all kinds of interesting aspects of innovation. There are hundreds of articles on their website, and they seem well-established. Their client list is impressive too.

David finds trusted support

David calls them up and, suddenly, he feels as if he’s found someone who understands, not only the need for innovation, but also how to choose the best option, now.

Be like David

Call room44 now or click here to speak to Tristan and get onside with an ally.

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

People often refer to innovation as what happens in the future. But, for us, the future means what happens in this budget year.

In 2019, Millennials still hold the top spot in the most important consumer rankings (depending on what you sell). They are, of course, important in today’s market and will be for years to come. If you service Millennials and do it well, keep on doing it for as long as you can.

But bear in mind, things do change.

Things change

According to Courier Media, Generation Z (people born since 1995) will represent 40% of the market by 2020 and will have a spending power that is double that of any previous generation – including Millennials.

Gen. Z is different. These younger, discerning consumers are not impressed by aspirational fluff and bluster made of packaging and clever positioning. They want inspirational values. They don’t want you to align yourself with a worthy cause. They want you to behave in a way that makes them want to align with you. Be found guilty of exploitation, or of not thinking too hard about your materials, and they’ll drop you like a hot stone.

Get to know Gen. Z

Gen. Zs always turn to the internet for peer referral. They’re used to seeking out opinion online, and they take recommendations. These young people have only ever known a world where smartphones and social media are available. Ask a Gen. Z what they think about anything (everything) and they’ll search it up.

Getting to know Gen. Z is something that luxury brands and new brands are tuning into. If you sell consumer products, you need to get with this programme, and fast.

Innovate now

People often refer to innovation as what happens in the future. But, for us, the future means what happens in this budget year.

If you’re not thinking about next year in this way, room44’s Programme for Changemakers is the programme you’ve been looking for.

Future thinking. Future proofing. It’s what we do. Book time to talk here.

It’s been suggested that children are too young to sit in classrooms and that they should come back when they’re old enough to know they need to learn something.

In the Innovation Ecosystem podcast, “Technonomics and why my profits might disappear”, McKinsey advisor John Straw says he won’t invest in anyone under 50 and only in B2B.

One of his reasons is that a 24-year-old may have “lots of energy and creative ideas but a lack of experience.” Under 50s, in his opinion, don’t have the experience to make a start-up work.

Incubators and accelerators

If you visit any of the new breed of business incubators and accelerators, you’ll notice a healthy percentage of older-preneurs in among the mix. Empty-nesters, perhaps, taking advantage of access to their pension pots to invest in themselves. James Altucher is among those writing about this phenomenon – ‘Choose yourself’. #jamesaltucher

So here we are: start-ups are both young and old, and investors recognise a segmentation depending on their particular view of risk, plus a market selling advice to age-related entrepreneurs. But who advises the start-up that’s not looking for VC investment and just wants to sell product quickly? To be precise: who be the advisor or mentor who hasn’t retired already?

Another Business Model Canvas?

Many mentors who generously offer services to accelerators have already retired from a successful business. Is this the skill set you need to succeed in markets that are changing as quickly as they are now? Is another Business Model Canvas session what you need to push past the huge number of start-ups you’re competing with?

In a topsy-turvey realignment of appropriate skills meeting consumer need, if investees are attractive at 50+, maybe mentors should be under 30. Personally, I think that strategy can be set by experience, but execution needs a new attitude that is based in omni-channel success. This means that ‘digital’ must feature in the mentor CV. By definition, this excludes many Gen X. In a flip of the old norms, teachers need to do and doers need to teach. 

Maybe the business advice market is looking down the barrel of its own gun. Disruption disrupting innovation. That’s got a ring about it.

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

To ensure you aren’t disrupted, click here and we’ll help you get started.

We’ve just had a public holiday in the UK. An extra day off gives us the chance to visit friends and family too far away to get to in a normal weekend.

Take a child along on this trip and invariably they’ll hear, “ooh, haven’t you grown?”

Children do grow. If you see them every day it might not be noticeable. See them occasionally and it’s obvious.

As a repeating trend, this is a good example of being too close to the phenomenon (parent) or simply forgetting that it’s a cycle that hasn’t been broken yet (grandparent/uncle/godparent).

Things change, whether we see it happening or not. Disruption lives here.

And when stuff changes, if we don’t make the effort to take note, it’s easy to be lured by the siren song of what we know: expected, normal, traditional.

Things change

Sheffield’s Lord Mayor is coming to the end of his tenure and plans to become a Green Party MEP. Magid Magid is a Somali immigrant who became the youngest ever mayor when he was elected in 2018. A social media-savvy zoology graduate, his unconventional approach could not have been more different to the city’s first mayor, wealthy businessman William Jeffcock, in 1843.

Things change, we know that. But we don’t necessarily plan for it, or like it when it happens – even though the signals of that change may have been clear for some time. The siren song of what we know is really strong.

As the Lord Mayor of Sheffield, #magicmagid, says:

“People are suckers for tradition. What is tradition? It’s peer pressure from dead people.”

5G signals 

If you see a change coming but aren’t sure what the signals mean, you have a choice: ignore it or try to understand it. Allow it to become a threat, or get a grip on it and create an opportunity.

For example: as with AI, facial recognition and mobility autonomy, 5G is around the corner, but few people know what it might mean for them in real terms. By the time Alpha Gens are in university, 5G will have expanded so that every one of us will be permanently connected to a network. Not like now, by choice. Permanently.

Even today, you give off a digital dust every 18 seconds if you have a phone or a wearable on you.

Super-analysed data

Inside ten years, your car will predict your routes based on your diary; your house will know your routine and replenish your grocery shopping based on a meal plan for your personal dietary needs; your running shoes and bike will both be connected, so you won’t need the AppleWatch/Garmin Polar/Suunto on your wrist – and will anticipate caloric intake to order enough groceries. Every purchase you make will be super-analysed.

Some of this happens now. To see how closely your habits are tracked, experiment for yourself. Try buying (or searching for) products out of habit. Someone in an extra-marital relationship might start behaving unexpectedly (flowers, tattoos, motorbikes, midweek breaks). Make a few of these searches and see how quickly you start seeing adverts for divorce lawyers and single bedroom apartments. Other examples are available.

Feeding spinach to the kids

Helping your staff to see disruptive trends and act on them is a bit like getting your kids to eat their greens.

Your team knows things are changing out there – they are consumers, after all – but they typically aren’t paid to disrupt your efficiency, so it’s hard for them to see it as a good idea. Your company has taken a long time to get good at what it does, so ‘change’ and ‘disruption’ are unwelcome at the operational level.

The question is whether you ask your staff to keep doing what they want to do, or what you know they should do.

Given the choice, kids will eat chocolate, slumped in front of TV programmes they’ve seen before, but we know they need to eat their greens and expand their knowledge, so we send them to school and slip spinach into their smoothies.

room44 makes the idea of disruption less scary. Like kids who won’t eat the spinach, we have to get clever about introducing ‘innovation’ into company culture in a way that makes it palatable.


Start here by assessing your true condition, or wait until Grandma says ‘ooh, hasn’t that problem that was tiny last time we saw you grown.”

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

To stay relevant to your customers over the next couple of years you’ll need to be aware of mega trends: the very biggest macro factors.

Mega trends are those irreversible, slow-to-grow changes that we tend not to recognise as quickly as we might. It’s a bit like seeing a child (puppy, kitten) after a period of time: you notice their growth much more than if you see them every day.

Who do mega trends affect?

Mega trends affect us all. They offer opportunity and threat to business in equal measure. The opportunities presented by mega trends are visible to companies who actively look for ideas to grow. The threats that mega trends present are also clear to companies looking for ideas to grow. The message is this – if you’re not looking at trends, you aren’t seeing either growth opportunity or risk of disruption.

Here in the UK many brands, especially SMEs, are wrapped up in Brexit, and it’s become really easy not to look too far into the future. While Brexit is definitely a macro factor, it’s also been difficult to plan for.

True mega trends are usually easier to read than Brexit, and definitely more likely to open up an opportunity. These are some mega trends you might like to take a look at…

The sharing economy – this may be a hard one to get to grips with if you sell consumer products. As things are developing, your newest customers are making fewer capital purchases – but there are two sides to this.

If you sell sofas, you can rent out sofas. If you sell bikes, hire out bikes. The transition to a subscription model is not hard unless you just don’t see the need.

Personal Mobility – while governments around the world are pumping billions into the electrification of cars, there is an undercurrent of radical change that still has a long way to go.

Not only are cars and other vehicles subject to changes in fuel systems, with all the knock-on impact that will have on the automotive supply chain, but even this emerging market is under pressure from the sharing economy. This trend is going to run and run, and electricity won’t be the only fuel solution explored. This blog talks about this more:

Emotional intelligence – Human Resource departments are great at building systems to recruit team members who ‘fit’ with each other.

They have known for decades that IQ isn’t the only measure of probable effectiveness. Emotional Quotient (EQ) is now better understood and it’s being managed and exploited. EQ describes the way you monitor your emotions and the emotions of your colleagues, as well as how customers react in response to your brand messages. EQ extends through your recruitment, staff management and how you are able to manage consumer loyalty.

To build a sustainable brand position, your launch planning must be part of the innovation process and persona development at the earliest possible time.

The room44 Innovation Process takes EQ into account. Let’s talk about this complex part of your plan. You can book some time here to talk.

Ages of population – here’s how the ages of the various generations are described.

Your customer personas need to anticipate how the ages of your shoppers are shifting. It’s thought that 75% of the workforce in 2025 could be Millennials.

People who sit in Gen Z and Alpha will live well beyond 100 and have plenty of time for several discrete careers. What does this mean? Well, one theory is that Gen Zs are already approaching an age when their first business sectors are changing enough that they need to retrain.

Law – the legal systems we abide by have been developed over hundreds of years. Prevailing laws are the compound product of ideas and reactions to societal developments that have taken place over time.

History tells us that legislators are slow to evolve laws to meet a new situation, and yet the forecasted rate of change in many areas of our lives means that the legal system must accelerate to keep up. Laws rely on precedent to direct us, but technology is applying pressure here. Financial management, online business, digital fraud, autonomous vehicles, geographic and geo-fenced boundaries, artificial and human intelligence are a few examples of the areas where the law is evolving, but may need to anticipate what’s coming rather than react to what has happened.

These mega trends are just some of those that sit on the horizon. They’re already in play and will cascade to affect your customers’ choices, your brand positioning and your relationship with your buyers.

room44 watches trends, builds systems for our clients to watch for themselves and trains teams to innovate by being aware and informed about the way their markets are changing – before the change arrives.

 We can help with that. Call us to find out more: +44 208 144 9800 or click through to see how our outside insight service works. Don’t worry, there isn’t another form to fill in.

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

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