From A to Z
Who takes decision-making responsibility?
Make ROI the driver
Innovation is doing new things
2021 is going to be the best year we’ve ever had and a total shitshow.
The signs are there for radical disruption to every aspect of life and business and, if everyone really believed it, they’d be taking action now.
The idea that change is a diminishment of everything we know is where the problem lies. Innovators have a different view of change. What ‘change’ really means, if approached in the right way, is more opportunity, better prospects and greater enjoyment.
To see the wood for the trees, to step back from the work we do so we can breathe and reflect, we apply a method described in three numbers – 3, 15 and 25.
3 – cups of coffee
Now we meet virtually more than physically, we must make sure we hear both sides of the conversation. Try this. Imagine a cup of coffee takes about ten minutes to drink. For your first cup of coffee, listen to the other person. I mean really listen, take notes and don’t interrupt. Now imagine another cup of coffee and ask the other person to give you the same consideration. For cup number three, discuss what you’ve both heard.
You’ll be amazed how the last cup of coffee benefits from the first two.
15 – minute radius
The idea of a 15-minute village has come alive during lockdown. Using businesses that exist within your immediate locale helps everyone – except Amazon maybe. Shops, doctors, garages, in fact everything you need, including not travelling to work miles away, is available to most of us within a few miles of where we live. The idea that we need to travel for hours to and from work is so last year.
Environmental impact is a personal responsibility and, if we make a conscious decision to reduce our own, the cumulative effect will be vast.
25 – minutes of work
Your Apple watch ( other brands are available) will probably send you a nudge to get up off your butt for five minutes every hour. It’s not enough.
In the noughties, Francesco Cirrilo wrote down how he worked most productively. The Pomodoro Technique was named after a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato. What Francesco found was that, when he planned his day in 25-minute chunks, he worked intensely at a task knowing that he wouldn’t have to keep it up for hours, so making the task more palatable. He also had to take a break every half-hour, preferably to move. Try it. This site makes it easy, but you probably have a timer on your computer/phone/wrist.
These three simple changes in work practices could help make 2021 a bit more enjoyable and reduce the impact you have on the world. Since the latter becomes more urgent with every passing day, it’s got to be worth a try.
Note: Neither I nor room44 have any relationship with Francesco Cirrilo or Pomofocus. These sites are made available to promote the idea that change really is manageable.
Future thinking. Future proofing. It’s what we do.
In social media feeds, almost daily, someone is promoting the transition to electric vehicles. Some responses may be less enthusiastic, but it’s also possible that we’ve forgotten why the change is inevitable.
Reasons for not buying an EV today are usually centred around convenience and range:
“…the main thing stopping me from jumping on the electric car craze is a lack of supporting infrastructure like charging points. I don’t feel like I can go away for the week or a long weekend and ask the hotel/AirBnB host if they’d mind me just plugging in my car…”
The immediate preference to avoid extra cost or an increase in involvement in journey planning is understandable. It’s not something we’re used to and, for full transparency, I haven’t fully switched to an EV yet. I ride an eBike and leave my vehicle behind as often as I can.
Why are we doing this at all?
The focus of the EV conversation has become the individual cost to us as users. What we’ve mostly lost sight of is why we are making the change. Cognitive dissonance that has slipped between what we need to do and why we must do it.
It needs calling out – again and again.
- This week, Sydney, Australia, recorded its highest ever night-time temperature at 25.4ºC.
- Global wildfires hit a record number in 2019. 2020 has beaten that by 13% already.
- Through melt water and expansion, sea levels are rising at the rate of 3.3mm a year. If you don’t understand why it matters, please make it your business to read around the subject. It does.
Listen and learn
The excellent podcast How to Save the Planet asks, how do we adapt to changes that are already inevitable? It’s a great question and it picks up on other madness, such as non-transport related planning policy allowing building development in flood plains, simply because the effect has not been felt yet.
How to Save the Planet cites a study showing that “Miami Beach could be mostly underwater within eighty years, but construction of new beachfront properties is booming.” Miami isn’t alone in this.
We all make our choices based on what’s important to us on that day. COVID has taught us that things change, and quickly. 2020 has given us new versions of normal literally overnight. Suggestions that a return to mass attended events can be looked forward to next year now send a shudder through most of us who look at a concert crowd and wonder how we’ll feel like going to that kind of event again.
Borrowed from the same podcast, and included as an essay on the subject of climate change and the Miami construction paradox, Heaven or High Water, by Sarah Miller, contains the line, “I’m afraid of dying, sure, but so far it hasn’t been an issue.” Cognitive dissonance in all its glory.
Back to you and your next car
Like selling a future scenario that means a company must change how it operates, selling a thus far unexperienced event isn’t easy. As a consultancy, room44 faces this all the time.
The reason we’re heading down a road that will see lives lived differently, very soon, is not because it’s good for our pocket. It’s because we must all make an individual effort to reduce our own impact on the environment, to slow down the rate at which the world is warming.
Buying an EV is a bit like changing your unhealthy diet to a better one. If you don’t do it, you just have to live in hope that nothing bad happens.
The switch away from internal combustion engines is inevitable. And if it’s inevitable in 2030, it’s necessary now. Like a lot of things in life, we are all good at putting off what we know needs to happen in favour of a short-term convenience.
Future thinking. Future proofing. It’s what we do.
#howtosavetheplanet #allwecansave #sarahmiller #alexblumberg #ayanaelizabethjohnson #trends #environment #climatechange #electricvehicles #ecargobikes
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.
At the start of 2020, room44 had made the decision to diversify into a business segment that our trend analysis identified as growing. As things turned out, we were right for more reasons that we could have imagined.
room44 is delighted to be able to develop ideas for our clients using similar techniques, but for now, we’re thrilled to present the outcome of a project.
Working with our London-based partners, Fully Charged Ltd, Milton Keynes Council and the Energy Saving Trust we are supplying a new generation of urban mobility users with eCargo bikes. This will take cars and vans off our roads, reduce carbon emissions, provide an alternative to public transport and allow residents to try new ways of moving people and products.
Fully Charging towards a greener future for Milton Keynes
Fully Charged Silverstone has been awarded the contract to provide Milton Keynes Council with 21 eCargo bikes.
The Council, which has received funding from Energy Saving Trust, will take delivery of 16 Riese & Müller, two Urban Arrow and three Tern eCargo bikes over the coming weeks.
Ben Jaconelli, CEO of Fully Charged, welcomed the order: “The new age of transport is here. eCargo bikes are a truly viable alternative to cars and delivery vans in cities. The growth of enthusiasm for eBikes in the last couple of years has been phenomenal: once people try them, they’re hooked.”
Milton Keynes Council is committed to reducing the city’s carbon footprint. Its new eCargo bike fleet will provide three bikes for food distribution charity The Hubbub Foundation, which runs a nationwide network of Community Fridges, including four in Milton Keynes, and the Council will create a small rental fleet for use by local businesses for last-mile delivery. The eCargo bikes will help make council business travel more sustainable; the Council’s highway and tree inspectors will use the bikes as a greener way of getting around the borough for their investigations.
Cllr Lauren Townsend, Milton Keynes Cabinet Member for Sustainability said, “We are committed to new and innovative ways of achieving our ambition of being carbon neutral by 2030. eCargo bikes are a fantastic way to help us achieve this, enabling the council staff, social enterprises and local businesses to all play a part in reducing our impact on the environment. I think electric bikes are the future, and I’m really proud that yet again Milton Keynes is leading the way.”
Tim Anderson, Head of Transport at Energy Saving Trust, said: “The Department for Transport eCargo Bike Grant Fund attracted a significant number of applications. The 18 local authorities who have successfully secured funding will purchase a total of 273 eCargo bikes and nine eCargo bike trailers, enabling more businesses to benefit from access. eCargo bikes are an attractive low carbon transport solution which offer important benefits – most impressively, fuel cost savings and contributing to improved local air quality. Last-mile delivery is an important area for consideration in our drive to reduce transport emissions to net zero by 2050.”
Fully Charged Silverstone has a test-ride centre on Silverstone Park, next to the iconic racing circuit. Tristan Allen, director of the regional partnership with Fully Charged, said, “We are thrilled to have won the tender to supply MKC’s eCargo bike fleet. These bikes are extraordinarily high-quality machines, with superior build quality, industry-leading Bosch batteries and low-maintenance running. They’ll certainly be in demand.”
The eCargo Bike Grant Fund scheme is funded by the Department for Transport and delivered by Energy Saving Trust.
Notes to Editors The eligibility criteria and code of practice are available at: www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/transport/ecargo-bike-grant-fund
For further details, contact:
Tristan Allen, Fully Charged Silverstone T: 01865 522122 E:firstname.lastname@example.org
Hayley Roche, Milton Keynes Council Hayley.email@example.com
The next few months are impossible to predict and therefore difficult to plan, so think different. Blend specialism with generalism.
When I got my first job, the first thing my bank did was send me a credit card: instant debt. So I started to run my finances like many FDs run those of their company: manage borrowings by cutting the cost line and growing the top line.
It took me a long time to realise that I didn’t have to chase after every sales incentive I could see. All I had to do was stop using the card. In other words, see the blindingly obvious – work out a budget and follow it through.
What had made things difficult for me were the unexpected expenses, not least of which was a 15% mortgage rate. But this is what passes for financial control in more businesses than perhaps we all realise.
Q4 2020 – Q1 2021
The next few months are impossible to predict. We’re told that the world is falling apart and yet we’re still expected to keep businesses alive and kicking. Some sectors will inevitably find this easier than others; many are already feeling the squeeze.
So, are the unexpected things that could throw your plan off-course really unexpected?
Let’s have a look at that.
COVID-19 is expected to flare up again as the weather gets cooler. This will have consequences: international travel will dry up again, domestic travel will be harder as public transport has reduced capacity, online shopping will continue to grow – high street visits can’t recover when we can’t go out.
Don’t forget the flu either. The NHS always sees a winter spike in demand. This year could be exceptional.
These are real and present dangers facing most business sectors. Although we might assume that service industries such as accountancy and law might escape, no-one is immune. If contracts aren’t being signed or deals done, accountants don’t win clients. If courts aren’t open, solicitors can’t act for clients. And a similar story will play out elsewhere.
The massive shift to homeworking has shown us that commuting isn’t essential. As a result, people working at home have begun to move away from cities and into towns and villages. Rental values in cities are already dropping in commercial and residential sectors, while rental values and house prices in less populated areas are doing OK. These sorts of connections can be made across many industries.
How about some other big factors?
In November the US goes to the polls. In December the UK leaves the EU. Both of these events have direct impact on the UK’s trading future. Brexit is a turning point in the UK’s economic history that few are prepared to look upon as a good idea and, whatever the eventual outcome, this winter looks like supply chains are going to be stretched. Don’t forget, the Chinese New Year happens in February. Another bump in the road.
Then there’s the weather. More floods are forecast this winter than we saw at the beginning of 2020. Rising water levels have been a known phenomenon for years, but many flood defences still aren’t adequate and planners haven’t stopped granting development permission on flood plains.
The blindingly obvious is a bit uncomfortable to consider, and I know this is a list of possible doom and gloom, but the fact is that many of us choose to keep doing what we’ve become used to doing despite what common sense tells us.
What to do
Think different. Blend specialism with generalism.
Your specialism is what you do. Ours is what we do. What we do is everything you don’t.
If you want to explore why house rents and the numbers of commuters might affect you, as just one example, please pick up the phone or email to book an initial conversation.
It’ll cost you nothing and it may lead to a great partnership and a new strategic view.
Working together, you’ll benefit from ideas and insight that we will deliver in a way that helps your team plan a radical response to disruption.
The plan that will follow our process will not only make the radical completely reasonable, it will give you options to switch to if the unexpected events written into your strategy actually come to pass.
It’s a big promise and it’s a big job. Are you prepared to take it on? We are. Book a call now.
Future thinking. Future proofing. It’s what we do.
Plan for normality and keep a focus on the future, whenever and whatever that might be. The highly unusual situation we’re in isn’t forever.
It’d be foolish to underestimate the effect that COVID-19 is having and will continue to have on our day-to-day lives, but if we can keep some sense of perspective, we may hold onto the belief that it isn’t for ever. Panicking about what we cannot control is detrimental not only to our mental health, but also to our potential for recovery from this situation – be it physical, social or financial.
It’s hard to write this and not appear dismissive of what’s happening and what’s to come. I’m not. I don’t know anyone who is. The situation is frightening and changing so rapidly that news is old as soon as it’s out.
But we must believe that it isn’t for ever.
It’s for now and it’s for some time to come, but room44’s strategy is always to look forward, look up and look out to a different horizon. The journey may be bumpy but the destination is up to you.
If you’ve been in business for a while and have overhead and COE to think about, if you’ve just taken on a loan, or if you’re starting out and need money to subsist, you have the same bottom line.
However speculative, hospitality, events and entertainment organisers are rebooking dates for September and October. We all need to believe to survive and these guys are planning for a more definite medium term.
Even in ‘normal’ circumstances, businesses today can’t easily predict demand for their services. room44 has an order book but it never extends beyond six months, and our eBike business is still a fledgling enterprise. We feel your pain.
Focus on your future.
What we can all do, though, is plan for the day when our situation has stabilised again. By keeping a focus on what we would like to happen, we can press pause on thinking about what can’t be controlled. In itself, this offers stress relief and other psychological benefits. Here’s a blog that might strike a chord – When the long term is the hardest thing to focus on, that’s when it’s most important to retain that focus.
Focus on what you want.
Yesterday, Paul Freedman posted a video about the Stockdale Paradox, which says that in challenging times we all need to believe the situation is temporary, even while dealing with it. As Jack Reacher would put it, hope for the best and plan for the worst.
The last time I found myself in a position where things were going badly wrong, a close friend asked what my plan was. While I was looking around for someone to bail me out, the answer had to come from me. Work it out and execute the plan.
Be kind and stay healthy.
My plan has always included writing to promote my business. If you’ve read to this point, thank you and I hope it helps.
If a chat would help some more, let’s do that. Here’s my diary. Book some time, no charge. Be kind and stay healthy.
Future thinking. Future proofing. It’s what we do.
but it depends on how you see it.
Perspective comes in many shapes and sizes.
Here’s an example:
‘“…I’m overdue for a Donald.”
“Trump,” she explained.
Thank God for that, I thought she meant Duck.’*
Two people, two interpretations, one misunderstanding.
This is what happens when you’re made aware of a trend and you only see it from your perspective.
Here’s another example:
At the Consumer Electronics Show (#CES) this year, digital flexible screens were causing a buzz in many different product areas. I heard an exhibition stand manufacturer comment that these could offer some interesting visitor display experiences.
Well – yes, that’s true. But this is reducing the extent of his imagination to the work he does today, which is commercially limiting and demonstrates a very silo-based attitude. And let’s face it, armed with news of this emerging technology at an early stage, to restrict his product development thinking to a B2B market is to ignore the true potential the flexible screen has to offer.
You too have this choice. You can see an emerging trend as an opportunity to exploit, or as a reason to do nothing and wait.
Time plays a part
In 2017, I wrote that mobile phones would slide out of use within five years. The people I know who make apps for mobiles disagreed.
This year, at #CES, the trend is more obvious. Developments in haptics and screen texture sensations mean we’ll soon be sending texts without needing to look at a screen. In fact, this has been on the cards for some time, but it’s now winning awards as a product and not just as an idea.
In 2017, this information didn’t offer much of an opportunity to app developers, but what if they’d started building a consumer value proposition then?
Seeing the opportunity
To add to the demise of the smart phone, #CES also showcases smart glasses. Cloud-connectivity and heads-up displays combine with voice activation to seriously reduce our reliance on mobile phones.
Since 2014, when Google launched its first glasses, attitudes have changed. VR is now a part of everyday life for many people, and Google just released an Enterprise version of the Glass product, moving it from its R&D stream into its product portfolio. This is more than a trend – it’s a nailed-on certainty that the technology is coming. Carrying a phone will seem archaic when you can wear the functionality.
And don’t think this is limited to your phone…
The way you choose to see these concepts is entirely down to your attitude to your business. If you’re happy to manage innovation as it is and without considering a different future, you can do so.
If you see emerging trends as an opportunity to develop new products and future-proof the business, that’s your choice too. All it takes is your willingness to embrace the potential that new ideas may deliver, and then rank those ideas on a scale of probability.
We see the developments that will lead to less reliance on mobile phones as transformational. If you are in the mobile phone market, the camera business, the telematics services sector – in fact, any market where you deploy lenses and screens today, we think it’s time to take note.
Duck or Trump? It’s your choice.
Future-proofing. Future-thinking. It’s what we do.
*Taken from London Rules by Mike Herron
Perspective is a funny thing. We all think we have it, but are often caught out by somebody else’s view.
Her: Dad, can I go to Reading Festival in the summer?
Me: But you’ll just be sixteen and it makes me a bit sad to see you grow up so fast.
Her: I know, Dad, it makes me sad too – if I can’t go.
Practical tests of perspective
Stand on a beach, and if you’re about 2m or 6 feet tall, the horizon is 5km away.
Climb up the cliff, and things look very different at a hundred feet above sea level. The horizon is 20km away and it’s wider too. More sea to see. More things to see on the sea.
Back to the question: why do companies do what they do, sometimes without changing, for so long? Because that’s what the people in those companies were trained to do.
It might seem obvious, but it’s why we recommend taking advantage of ‘innovation’ and inviting in external, non-biased assistance.
Here’s an industry example of where perspective is causing some concern.
One in every five American newsroom journalists lives in one of three cities: New York, Washington DC and LA. Can this possibly give the average US voter a balanced view of news and politics?
Similarly, do you read trade journals, visit trade shows and meet industry reps? That’s all well and good, but we’d ask you, ‘when do you see anything else?’
Social media is having a significant impact on the way we all see the world and how we perceive influences in it. On the whole, people tend to believe what they see, and we consume a lot: in fact, over 300,000 words a day – that’s a novel a day, even for the self-proclaimed non-readers amongst you.
This all adds up to a lot of processing and opinion-forming that may have almost nothing to do with reality.
The Washington Daily Post has compiled a count of Donald Trump’s daily falsehoods since he was elected, and it currently stands at over 13,000*. Most of these have gone broadly unchallenged or, at least, unresolved. In the face of this volume of potential misinformation, it’s understandable that many people believe the spin.
After all, this is how marketing works: the more times you see a message, the more inclined you are to tip from awareness of a brand to putting your trust in it.
So, if you restrict the data your innovation process consumes to the industry you are in, it can only limit the potential for new ideas. Far better, we believe, to be open to a wide spectrum of influences.
At room44 we claim one thing: to be completely naive about your business while being expert in innovation. You don’t need more of the expertise you already have. What you need is different expertise and moderation. We will always approach your business from an angle that you don’t, and we’ll always see potential in the ideas you may have had but not acted on.
If this sounds interesting, please drop half an hour into my diary and let’s have a chat.
Future-thinking. Future-proofing. It’s what we do.
*Ed Pilkington, The Guardian.
When a business gets to a certain size, the next step is, usually, to grow it. This is a critical point in a company’s lifecycle when the real question is ‘do we grow or do we scale?’
Founders go through this pain when they find themselves struggling to keep up with demand and paperwork.
The cycle is usually
- Start a business with a purpose – to meet a need
- Get busy
- Employ help
- Manage the help
- Realise you are managing and not doing what you started out to do yourself
Problem: scaling is not the same as growing
There is a point in every business’s lifecycle when ambition overrides purpose:
- Why did you start doing this? Because we saw a need in other people’s lives.
- How can you grow your client base? Go digital.
- Why are you going digital? To reach more people.
See the shift? Purpose has been pushed aside and scaling back to profit has become the incentive.
Take a training company, for example. Training of any sort is delivered best by someone who has experienced a process, seen the transformation for themselves, learnt how to be brilliant at delivering the method and who inspires trust, enthusiasm and purpose. And changes the way you work for the better.
A training company, however, is only able to reach as many people as they can stand in front of. So, they bring in more trainers who are also brilliant and do a great job.
Next step is that overheads grow and the training company needs more work, so they invest in a portal. They go digital.
The digital version of their training product is interactive, responsive, easy to access, can be delivered while you’re in the bath and doesn’t encroach on your life too much.
This is scaling. The only thing this grows is the training company’s top line. It certainly isn’t going to turn the brilliance the training company once delivered into ‘change’ in your daily life.
Scaling ≠ growing
The digital system may be the best there can be today but the brilliance has gone from the process. Digital may deliver a process efficiently but sometimes it genuinely gets in the way of delivering what a client needs.
Digital isn’t clever enough, yet, to listen to the room, turn the problems that get discussed into nuanced case studies and help a specific client to improve their business.
It may do this in time. It doesn’t do it now.
The answer, we believe, is to stay true to ourselves and only work with clients face-to-face or one-to-one.
The programmes room44 delivers are only available from a core team or by email with the same people.
The objective we aim at is to create a sense of purpose in you and provide you with the tools you need to change your company’s prospects.
We strive to create an environment in which change can occur and we prepare you to be the nucleator.
Our website says “Product innovation strategies for revenue and growth. It doesn’t say ’strategies to help you scale and distance yourself from your client need’.
Future thinking. Future proofing. It’s what we do.
Here’s one way we do it. Click to download the 10, 20-30 programme outline, new for 2020.