room44 innovates

Right through COVID-19 lockdowns, established, proactive business has been morphing into new versions of itself. At the same time, start-ups have been making huge noise. Individuals and groups of entrepreneurs are re-starting, re-surging, re-energising and finding new ways to grab attention and grab business.

And now we have the holidays when everything stops again.

Companies who have struggled to trade, or haven’t found a new way to trade, will have to come out of their imposed exiles with the same job to do again – to restart, re-surge and re-energise.

Culture needs a strategy to feed on

The stop/start nature of many market sectors over the last couple of years has taken a toll. Clearly the logical response is to pick up where we left off as soon as possible.

Maybe, however, there’s another option.

The oft-quoted Peter Drucker is reported to have said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” – and it’s true.

What’s also true is that, for this to be the case, culture needs a strategy to feed on. No-one wants an empty breakfast plate – so the two things go together.

Unfortunately, with vastly reduced incomes, businesses that have been forced to stall some of their creative operations are now being asked to resurge and the inclination (for the money people at least) is to retrench, conserve, trim, cut, slim down…

When you need to push forward, the guys in suits are the people to tell you to survive. Culturally, a battle is being played out in boardrooms where a fourth or fifth COVID wave is being experienced and where, now, we’re getting used to plan for the next re-opening.

Don’t trim too much

In business, it’s hard to avoid the temptation to trim away parts of an organisation when tough times loom. Typically, training gets canned, marketing budgets are an easy target, and even sales resource comes under pressure while the suits play God.

Resist the impulse. Good sense and pragmatism are just as useful in times of trouble as they are during periods of growth.

If you’re trying to get back to a version of your normal, please take another look at your options. You may need to change more than you realise and we’re here to help.

Future thinking. Future proofing. It’s what we do – and have done since 2014.

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.

outside insight

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

At room44 we do three things: we help you to believe the shape of future markets you see; we plan scenarios to help you decide which view to embrace; and then we work collaboratively on a justified innovation strategy – with a line back to where you are today.

Why? Let’s ask Steve Jobs. One of the many wise things he said was: ‘You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking back. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.’

Paraphrased: trust your judgement and shoot for a point in the future. This is what we call a strategic endpoint. Between where you are now, and where you want to go, is your roadmap. The things you do along the way are the baby steps – the granular actions that will get you to the endpoint you’ve identified.

Another oft-quoted modern-day guru is Malcom Gladwell. He contributes to the argument for innovation strategy by saying, ‘One of the mistakes writers make is they spend a lot of time worrying about the start of their story, and not a lot of time thinking about how to end it. Knowing my ending makes the beginning super-easy, right? It’s totally clear what I have to do and totally clear what I shouldn’t.’ I agree, Malcolm Gladwell. You can replace the word ‘writer’ with innovator, product manager, brand manager, category manager, open innovation manager, business development manager…

I’m not drawing comparisons between room44 and Steve or Malcom, so here’s my simple take on strategy: look at it as if you’re booking a holiday. It’s an easy metaphor that I talk about in this two minute video: Plan an innovation strategy like you plan a holiday.

The point is, innovation is a passing phenomenon. Those that are being hugely disruptive today are considered innovative, but this isn’t always quite true. For a long time, Apple didn’t innovate but iterated phones. Amazon is disruptive, but a lot of what it does can’t be called innovation.

We’d like to help you reach your endpoint by seeing it differently. If iteration is what it takes, so be it. If innovation fits the bill, let’s do that.

I received this ‘Dear John’ e-mail today. The sentiment is probably true, but the perspective suggests it won’t stay that way. Let me know if you disagree.

Hi Tristan
We are actually part of ******** so innovation and creativity is something we are world leaders at in our industry. 

Thank you for getting in touch anyway.


Head of Business Development

There may always be a perceived conflict between doing what’s best and doing what’s expedient. This is how business behaves – expediently. There’s nothing wrong with it – if you exclude consumer sentiment in what you do. Do you deliver or delight?

Alternatively, deciding what you want to be known for and setting out to deliver against ambition takes a lot of soul-searching and a resolve to delight, not just deliver…

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

Drop a line to me here to find out how we can help you connect the dots and learn to use future forecasting and scenario planning as your tools of choice for growth.

A piece appeared in LinkedIn last week, entitled ‘Pharma’s broken business model: An industry on the brink of terminal decline.’ The contention is that the pharmaceutical industry is broken beyond repair and will slide into inexorable oblivion. The reasons? Well, reading between the lines to some extent, the problems are that discovery and development simply can’t guarantee the previously enjoyed ROI: too expensive to create new products, lowering payment/value levels, and payer questions about the benefits products actually deliver.

Subsequent comments tended to agree with the suggestion and didn’t really offer any prospects for the 000s of people who work in the industry, beyond the blind hope that pharma companies may combine with non-pharma players to extend their lifecycles.

I don’t claim to have particular credentials in this industry. What I do have is experience of it on the agency side, a naïve perspective and an enquiring attitude verging on WTF.

One thing about the article stood out to me: pharma, and medicine generally, insists on referring to the end-users of its products as patients. Everybody else calls us consumers. This is at the heart of the myopia that will be pharma’s undoing.

The healthcare world is spinning really fast right now and pharma is still cycling on a previous revolution.

As individuals, let’s be honest, we consumers hate the idea of pharma. We have no intention of needing pharma products, and we’ll do whatever we can to stay away from them – including choosing surgery over drugs if we can. Whatever we can do to avoid being ill is worth doing, and our inclination to take proactive steps in this direction is growing.

Simplistically, and using a bit of future forecasting, the more we learn about our tendencies towards disease, the more we look for information about how to stop it.

The data to feed an effective scenarios planning exercise would include that generations X and Y are buying into the idea of their genomic profiles telling them their health predispositions; that allowing health services to access our profiles will allow them to help us too; that dietetics is helping us to know how to eat to mitigate specific risks; that diet supplementation is getting sophisticated; that AI will augment our ability to interpret information in any way we choose; and that the traditional supply chain has broken links all the way along it.

Medicine and pharma decry claims like this, but the evidence in support of using foods to mitigate disease over long-term regimens, for example, is strong. New consumers to the market are questioning old advice, and FMCG product development is responding to market demand. Overall, we’re getting better at finding personalised and optimal nutrition, and consumer-centric solutions are appearing. From our position, this is great and talks to the power of Design Thinking as a way of helping develop innovation strategies.

You might expect the pharma industry to be completely consumer-centric (or patient-centric) and it may have been. But the cynical view is that it’s now more concerned with fiduciary matters. It’s true that the way pharma is forced to interact with us requires it to make hugely expensive safety trials and its permissible claims are highly controlled, but consumers are an inventive lot.

The supply chain for licensed drugs is under threat and consumers are finding ways to access them without consulting traditional prescribers. As our lives become more directed by artificial intelligence and our access to useful databases improves, the information that we need to treat ourselves is easier to find and understand. There may be no substitute for expert intervention in some cases, but the necessity for PCP input is increasingly being avoided.

Hand-in-hand with this is the language of pharma. By knowing what we need to do to minimise our individual health risks, we also look for a newly framed argument.

For years, industries have battled with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) when preparing products for market. EFSA, with the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), forms a formidable, if overworked, body of enforcement. But suddenly the claims that they do permit have relevance. Broadly speaking, claims for food-based products that seek to sell into a pseudo-medical and health-oriented market can only claim to ‘support the normal health’ of a person. And this is exactly what consumers now want. We’re not looking for therapy and remedy. We want support, maintenance, and even performance enhancement.

Pharma can’t cope with this. The idea that people don’t seek solutions through traditional routes to health diagnosis is unthinkable.

In one of my roles, I assess applications for grants to pay for development work in medical and surgical disciplines. Applications can range from the ridiculous to the inspired, and these also lend credence to the problem that pharma faces. With access to the work that visionaries are doing in surgical disciplines such as orthopaedics, it is easy (really easy) to envisage a time when the structure, plumbing and some of the wiring in the human body can be replaced, modified and enhanced better than today. This too represents a challenge for pharma.

Finally, there are two age-based issues conspiring to drive pharma into a corner: life expectancy is increasing and new market entrants are digitally native.

With life expectancy extending to 100 years+ and the active working lifespan estimated at over 80 years, the age of peak incidence goes out too. This means that conditions developing at, say, 60 years of age, will soon occur later in a life that lasts longer overall.

For new pharmaceutical products in development now, with a limited patent protection period (typically 20 years), there is a predictable drop in usage. As these new-age consumers access better genomic information, with AI-derived advice and with personal monitoring permanently augmented, not only will they see their own health issues developing, they’ll get closer to a diagnosis themselves, and know how to handle it.

Last week’s blog looked at innovation not happening by accident. For pharma, this is absolutely key. Until it realises that its commercial model is seriously threatened, it simply can’t develop the objectivity it needs to recreate itself.

The room44 proposition is simple. We help you to see your potential differently.

If you’re interested in talking or want to know when we are next running a training session, please get in touch with me here. First calls are always fun, and we offer a free diagnostic session too.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

I look forward to talking.

Future thinking. Future proofing. It’s what we do. #room44innovates

Carl Jung, the father of analytical psychology, defined two types of thinking – directed and non-directed.

Directed thinking is, as the name suggests, a process where thoughts are directed using pre-prepared stimuli. Ideation applied to business-based tasks can benefit from this method, because it can arrive at a palatable output from a session relatively quickly. The outcome is, of course, influenced by the stimuli used.

Non-directed thinking, on the other hand, is where ideas are allowed to develop by free association. This is the process most often thought to produce creative ideas and lateral solutions: blue sky, outside the box and radical. Without context, though, non-directed thinking can result in people with functional responsibility focusing on their problems. A kind of self-imposed direction. So ideation sessions are usually more productive when guided.

Non-directed thinking does have its place. Ideation is often the best part of an innovation project: when all the data are in, we can let the creative juices flow. Throw the net wide and all kinds of good stuff can be caught. But how many times have you been ultra-creative, only to have the least radical options selected by management at the end of the session?

To help overcome such disappointments, we apply a dose of both methodologies.

From researching a client’s business, any creative group (like room44) will develop an external perspective. We apply this naivety to the task of direction. It’d be going a bit far to tell you how we do this here, but let’s just say our ideation sessions deliver an outcome that meets the business need, and reward participants by ensuring their creativity is focused to achieve that outcome. Satisfaction all-round, treating non-directed and directed thinking with equal importance.

Creative ideas generally fall into buckets of: ‘we can do this now’; ‘we need a bit longer on this one’; and ‘this is where we want to end up, but we don’t know how yet.’ And that’s your innovation portfolio right there. A list of actionable outcomes, linked by the thread of directed thinking to arrive at a vision of your future, with a line right back to where you are today.

Don’t forget, though – the way that direction is informed depends on the quality of insight you feed in. It’s a skill we often coach clients in, so they can go on developing it as their innovation strategy comes to life.

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

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