room44 innovates

The Internet of Everything is a misnomer. It suggests that everything innovative should be plugged in, and implies that if it isn’t, it’s not worth our time. Digital is everything.

Is it really?

Solicitors are switched on, but not necessarily plugged in. Can you do without them? Yes, right up to the moment you need them. Accountants are switched on. Plugged in? Sometimes. Not always; it depends if they need to be. Whether they service your domestic law and conveyance needs, or work in corporate taxation, professionals like these deliver a service designed to your need. Consumer-centricity by another name.

Textile design gets better by the day: generally and specifically. Think about how Spandex became Lycra and how your Lycra has improved over time. And how good your knitwear is now, compared to when your mum used to knit school sweaters. Digital? Well, the manufacturing process may have a dose of it, but the product itself? Nope.

Street food is loved the way it always has been: it’s cheap, convenient, local, authentic and available. ‘Slow food’ is valued more highly still. The skill of artisan producers is both acknowledged and prized. By contrast, fast food is remorselessly promoted, digitally, and still it’s the measure of last resort: and not valued at all.

Slow fashion is a trend that reflects times past. Accessorise beautifully and buy clothes selectively. Stop buying disposable fashion and make-and-mend where it’s viable. Re-use, re-style and renovate over cheap and cheerful. It’s the circular way.

T-shirts are produced by the bale and designed by computers. Thermal transfers are pin-sharp and multi-coloured. They’ve been used for decades to send a message. And by the second wash, the transfer has cracked and the slogan is a bit tarnished – so we see a trend back to proper, old-fashioned screen-prints that fade with the shirt and become old friends over years. How many Supreme shirts will last as long as Grateful Dead ones?

Once upon a time, I developed a process for making kitchen foil non-stick, using an atomic gauge coating. It worked well and would run at 300m/minute through a Gravure machine. My company decided on a different method of application that used annealing ovens the way they had been used for centuries. It worked. Nothing new was needed and that product is still available today. Both things would have stopped cheese from sticking to the foil. The easier solution worked better.

Even the medical, insurance and pharmaceutical fraternities now agree that some of the health and disease issues we face today stem from lifestyle and diet factors and can be remedied by – guess what? – lifestyle and diet.

The point of all these examples is that digital isn’t the only way of innovating, even today.

If a consumer need changes, solutions are available and if you haven’t heard this before, you heard it here first: simple sells.

If you happen to be in a business incubator or acceleration programme, ‘simple’ is called the MVP. But take it from me: if it sells, stop trying. You may have done enough. You may have satisfied a consumer need and it may make you famous.

If doing the right thing is what you want to be known for – good job.

If your CEO is fixated on going digital or on the EBITDA, enjoy the journey.

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

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