room44 innovates

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.”

Target trust

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.

If your metric of ‘ideation’ success is to fill a wall with coloured squares, you will probably never miss your target at an innovation workshop. Sticky notes are the friend of the unskilled moderator.

Of course, sticky notes are a great thing, functionally. The problem is, after the meeting, most of them get thrown away, and the few that are kept as The Next Big Ideas are also thrown away, eventually. Here’s why:

1 What goes on tour stays on tour

In ideation terms, this translates to ‘what’s said in the room doesn’t work in the real world.’

Take your top three ideas from your last innovation session to the CSuite and they will probably bomb. Without context to support them, most often the argument is ‘so, where does this sit in the budget?’

Easy not to hug. Easy to discount. Easy to kill.

2 Show me the data, then show me the money

There is no data. This is future opportunity. The only data available is for what happened in the past and the problem with that is, it’s in the past.

The internal innovation process MUST be led by new information, new insight, new attitudes and a willingness to explore your company’s survival. There are many businesses here today who won’t be around for ever (or for long, in some cases) and the reason is that their markets are changing, and they aren’t.

Innovation is about survival as much as growth, but current budgets are measured in profitability. The mis-match is clear to see.

3 Not all ideas are equal

You only need to look under the right stone to find the winning idea. On that wall of sticky notes, there probably is one idea that will underpin your business into the next era. The trick is to recognise it.

Designing a process that specifies how concepts should be assessed must happen before you ideate. The process has to be informed by somebody determining what good looks like.

If you haven’t got these ducks lined up, leave the stickies in the drawer.

4 Perfection isn’t the objective. Good enough is

I’m not saying, launch crap. I’m saying, launch fast. Iterate fast. Develop fast. And importantly, start fast.

Pick the idea that meets your need and get on with it. Consumers will tell you if your Minimal Viable Product (MVP) works or not. The only thing they need is access to it.

What you launch is inevitably not what you will end up selling in time. Look at every design icon out there for examples. The VW Golf is a good one. The Wright Brothers’ plane is another. Great things do evolve, but they start quickly and develop as uses and attitudes are reflected in design.

5 Close the process off

Innovation is talked about as being one of those nebulous, unspecific functions that might deliver great things but most often doesn’t.

The money pumped into ‘innovation’ is probably matched by the frustration everybody else in the company feels towards its lack of impact. Why? Because the timeline is vague. Give a target a date to hit and the pressure is on.

Allow innovation to wander off and you’ve lost already. An innovation process needs to be more than S.M.A.R.T.

An innovation process should have:

  1. A start date – on this date, that thing will happen.
  2. A finish date – by this date, we will have done that thing.
  3. Metrics – this is how we will decide what to do, this is how we will decide which candidate wins, and this is how we will measure success.
  4. A team – collaboration is the most powerful tool you have and it won’t cost you any more than you’re paying already.

Think of it like this: put ten of your people in a room for half a day and you’ve just amassed five days’ work in four hours. See if your CFO can argue with that.

Finally, to avoid any doubt about your intention to ‘innovate’, announce when this work starts, describe how it will be done and what it will achieve – in advance. Give people notice. Get them clamouring to be involved. Give them time to train for the event – they will.

When you start them off, watch them fly. Your innovation process can be the most pivotal moment in your company’s history, if you get it right.

Guess what?

Future thinking. Future-proofing. It’s what we do. Call now. 020 7193 8838

You can download an infographic of this checklist here.

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