Times are tough and nothing is as it was, so it’s understandable that brands are taking a long, hard look at what they do next. We get that.
But when you write to us, or occasionally call, to say, ‘We’re planning an ideation session/hackathon/creative competition and are inviting proposals to explain how room44 would run such a process and what outcomes we can expect’ – we know you’re struggling, want ideas for nothing – and more importantly – may not actually know what you want. There it is.
Let’s get down to what’s going on here.
We don’t really mind that you ask for ideas and we know that you’ll get a response from some companies. But, be honest; if you wrote to us because you found us through a keyword match in LinkedIn, we’ll probably never talk regardless of how much time we invest in your problem.
Practically, we can’t begin to write your proposal until we know what your problem is, so why not just call (Zoom/Teams/Facetime/Skype/WhatsApp) first. Let’s get the first conversation done, so you’ve had a chance to explain who you want to work with, what is needed and why we’re being asked to pitch.
Make it meaningful.
To write a meaningful proposal takes time. If all you get back from your generic ‘we want’ email is a templated process chart with your company name dropped in, then be aware – that agency knows as much about you as you do about them.
Because a proposal takes time to create and will be followed by at least two more conversations and one more iteration of the detail, we’re going to ask you to pay us for that time.
What? How dare we?! Who does that?
Anybody with any self-respect is who.
Do you honestly think we’re going to lay out our process and study your issues to make our project plan meaningful for nothing? Sorry, but no.
This is what happens too often.
- Client tells us broadly the questions they want answers to.
- We pitch.
- Client takes our process and try to run it themselves.
- It doesn’t work.
- Client Management questions the value of an agency.
- Nothing changes.
See the problem? To apply a creative process that we have learnt over years, is our job.
To match the process to a unique treatment that we have developed and to lead your team through a work plan that will result in creative options for you to pursue is the most important part of the work we do.
This is our speciality and we don’t expect it to be yours. Nor should your boss.
When room44 sends out a proposal, it is tailored to your need and includes examples of innovation from business segments that you could transpose straight in. We show our working out and we demonstrate how the project will run, who you need to commit to it, what the time investment will be and why the outcomes demand more than just a PO to move you to the position you want to get to.
- Will we send you a templated process chart? No.
- Will we pitch without talking? No.
- Will we spend time making your proposal very precise? Yes.
- Will we do it for nothing? Well, maybe, but if we pitch at all we’ll have had that conversation first too.
I’m not being unreasonable here. I’m happy to send a case study that describes previous successes. We’ve got loads of those and you can ring the clients for references if you want to. But we won’t commit time to you until you’ve offered some commitment to us.
If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, it means we don’t know each other well enough and that comes down to talking. So please, let’s talk. That part is free.
Here’s my number. Any time works. +44 208 123 9018.
When nothing in the data indicates what your future holds, you must work out what will keep your product relevant to its market. This is what innovation consulting takes care of.
Clients can be contrary. What they say they want and what they actually want aren’t always the same. Here’s an example:
Expressed goal: Can you research markets to show us what works in other segments, that we could do in ours?
Actual goal: Can you tell us what we should do next?
Answer: Probably – but if we do, why does your company need you?
Innovation Managers have one thing in common. You all got where you are by being the most creative of people. As soon as you got this job, though, you were asked to operate in a manner that your company could recognise as new product development, but not always as innovation.
In the past, you would have filled your diary with trips to trade shows and exhibitions – essentially shopping trips with like-minded people. You may have defined this as innovation. None of us now knows when, or even if, the next trade show will happen, and this uncertainty gives you a huge opportunity to change your approach.
Research is only useful if you use it.
Here’s a scenario: a client asks us to research across markets and countries. We plan to work with the client to develop a ‘relevance’ rating for new ideas, so we can create a decisioning method for them – and, in the process, instil a system that makes innovation possible.
Then the client realises they have to read what we send them. What they actually want is for us to tell them what is relevant and break the insight down to a level that doesn’t require much input from them.
What’s wrong with this scenario isn’t that we are making judgements about the client’s future direction – it’s that, when they have to discuss a concept with their senior management, they won’t know enough about it to present the case effectively. Sure, they’ll understand that this idea could work, but they won’t be aware of who else is working in the space (it’s not just the usual suspects who are the most vigorous disruptors), or if the nominated concept is a good strategic fit.
Aren’t the answers in the data?
Sometimes but, in innovation, not always.
Data is historical. It tells you what has happened. It won’t tell you what will happen, or what might happen, or what could happen with some help. Data can be extrapolated to provide a forecast that assumes circumstances don’t change.
This is the part of the equation that we insist clients take responsibility for – because things do change, and today they change more quickly and in more unexpected ways.
Avoid the allure of easy.
It’s not always easy. Showing your business some nicely visualised data about market movements will be attractive for a while. Sooner or later though, you’ll need to work out what will keep your product relevant to its market when nothing in the data matters anymore. That’s what an innovation process takes care of.
Can we research markets to show you what works in other segments that you could do in yours?
Actual goal: Can we tell you what you should do next?
Answer: Probably – but we’d rather work together. Together, we make a fantastic team- but you must commit to a process that has a start, a middle and an end.
If your management has a history of losing patience with new initiatives, please don’t start an innovation process. It’ll end in disappointment.
The purpose of a process is to get to the end. The end of a process is where the magic happens. It’s where we pull together all the insight gathered and create innovative opportunities. It’s where we design a rationale that your management can see potential in. It’s where all the work culminates, leading to a final strategic output with practical actions described..
Future thinking. Future-proofing. It’s what we do.
Innovation comes in many shapes and sizes but even when it’s done well, the problem of resistance to change rears its head. A proven process will help to make innovation stick.
Don’t do that
What you can’t do is expect brilliance from an ideation session without preparation.
It helps to include people in the process of deciding what the change is going to be. Make designing an innovation plan the responsibility of your team, with your endorsement, and it will pay back in many ways – not least in signalling that change is on the way. This helps to make your innovation ideas stick.
Make innovation sticky – step 1
Spotting trends and signals: seeing things differently
It starts with knowing how to interpret signals from the market, and how to join the dots to inform your own developed strategy.
Make innovation sticky – step 2
Design Thinking – focus on transformation
Experience and logic tells you that you should be acting differently as your markets change, and yet you probably commit over 90% of your resource to doing the same things you did last year.
This is the break you’ve been looking for: to step away from your everyday responsibilities and invest some of your week into a new way of working.
Make innovation sticky – step 3
Making innovation stick: a culture of change
How you present innovation impacts directly on how your colleagues receive it.
Take a step towards achieving this by bringing your colleagues into the process. There are some simple ways to prepare them for the task ahead.
Successful innovation launches depend entirely on the processes you engage to make them happen.
Put these steps together and you’re equipped to innovate successfully.
Future-thinking. Future-proofing. It’s what we do.
Our passive drift towards a world where sensors, monitors and machine learning pose a real challenge to innovating companies.
Trust is a testimonial
The signals from our research on future trends tell us that commerce for new brands is going to get tougher. While shopping for consumer products is easier in many ways than it was a few years ago, it’s still a complex operation. We can all research online, visit stores and compare prices across media to get the best deal. You may resist a visit to the shops if you’re buying clothes, but Apple says that 80% of people who buy online have been into store first.
We read seller recommendations and take notice of peer testimonials. This might be the single thing that influences our final buying decision. Without buyer endorsements, we have learnt not to trust brand promises and to be wary of positioning statements that promise too much.
Trust is what everyone else does
So, we don’t trust things until someone else validates our decision. As James Clear says in his book, Atomic Habits, “we’d rather be wrong with others than right by ourselves” and this describes the problem facing innovators today.
Unless shoppers make independent judgements, we will all end up making the same decision and the biggest promoter will win out.
The industry that has evolved around these issues makes our lives harder still. We’ve all received advertising from brands who don’t mind where their address list came from. Scraped data is big business. Similarly, our passive drift towards a world where sensors, monitors, facial recognition, sat nav and machine learning push us into actions, is a real issue for innovating companies.
Trust in technology
Wearable technology is a relatively easy thing to spot. Phones, watches and tablets are part of the fabric of everyday life. As we use them, our behaviours are captured by some of the biggest data harvesters the world has ever seen: Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple to name only the big few. These data-centric platforms have one objective: to advertise to you. Every feed you access is sending you adverts that respond to your search activity. You are being inexorably nudged towards a buying decision. You are sensing little acts of influence every minute of every day that you spend on a device.
Trust is a nudge in the right direction
If you are a brand and aren’t nudging your customer towards you, you are being nudged out of the market. If you’re a new brand, you have choices: stay local and grow organically, trade local and get ‘found’, or secure investment and dilute. It’s a tough one.
But all is not lost. Consumer inbuilt scepticism allows for some push-back. Why is your most frequently seen advert in your feed? Where does that email come from that reminds you it’s your friend’s birthday? Who knows that your car lease is due for renewal?
Our filters for advertising are as highly tuned today as they were when all we had to worry about were leaflets through the door and posters on the bus. But the volume of media we consume (estimated at @300,000 words per day, the same length as an average novel) makes it hard to resist buying something just to satisfy the pressure.
So, how do new brands break into a market?
There are many answers but the truth is, it’s going to take time. Tenacity, energy, creativity and bloody-mindedness will help. There are a lucky few who may gallop through this cycle and X Factor-esque quick wins may happen. Pragmatically, though, the best advice might come from the most unexpected philosopher of our time, Jack Reacher: “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.”
Play the long game and build customer trust over awareness. Target trust over availability. In fact, target trust as your marketing collateral. It’s where ‘organic’ growth comes from and it doesn’t rely on digital endorsement, peer approval or huge media spend.
Future thinking. Future-proofing. It’s what we do.
When it’s done effectively, innovation defines a roadmap, sets explicit objectives, and provides a guide for everyone in your organisation to follow.
There are two issues that innovation must resolve to succeed:
- The need for change must be owned right across an organisation.
- There must be someone to do the work after the training team has departed.
Let’s deal with #1 today…
Because the ‘need’ for change is the hardest.
Companies evolve to be super-efficient at delivering their product or service. Their systems and processes develop to avoid waste, and every aspect of production and client service is streamlined for profitability.
Kaisen, Lean, J.I.T. and all the other Toyota Business System-inspired processes help to do this. While everything within the company’s control stays the same, it’s all good – operationally.
So, why worry?
Well, the need for change has a habit of sneaking up on you – not necessarily because you don’t see it coming, but because there isn’t a process to decide what should change, or a system to manage that change.
Knowing that a trend will, unavoidably, hit your top and bottom line isn’t enough. Once you’ve acknowledged that probability, the hardest part is convincing your peers and your management that they should take note of it too.
One of the ways that room44 tackles this challenge is to deliver innovation training in the most democratic and agnostic manner: across the workforce and from top to bottom.
If we can’t gain the support of your directors before we kick off, we won’t start. Resistance to the need for innovation must be resolved before a project gets underway.
It’s been suggested that company directors only ever see 4% of the problems that affect their business. If we start from there, alert the right people to what is coming down the line, and change some perspectives, we can have a significant impact on a company’s chances of survival as its market changes.
We’ve become very good at opening the eyes of management to the reality of their situation. To talk about your management team/ leadership team/ board of directors, please get in touch.
Here’s how Click here.