room44 innovates

Innovation is more than the MVP. It’s all about where you plan to go, not where you start out.

In the maker and entrepreneurial world right now, there is pressure to ship. If you aren’t shipping, you aren’t creating an audience or a customer base.

The minimal viable product (MVP) is the target. Get it out, so it can be working for you – delivering revenue or feedback from customers telling you how it needs to improve.

Yes, the MVP works as a basic version of what might come, but there is a risk. Without a strong brand and a trusted reputation, a bad MVP could do more harm than good.

If you’re a new company with a new idea, an MVP could really get you noticed. On the other hand, it might appear to sit outside of reason.

Product development theory requires makers to establish the context for their innovation product: to prepare the market. As part of this, it is useful to declare the trajectory your product will follow: we’re launching our new product that does this thing today, and next month we’ll add function X to make it even better.

You may not convert all your customers until version 2 is bought by the New Adopters, but some won’t be able to resist the urge to be first to buy: think of the lines in Apple Stores when the iPhone 8 was launched. Do you think the same buyers won’t reappear later this week for the release of iPhone X?

There have been some notable failures by the big brands recently, but they won’t stop the development of better versions in response to feedback. Here are a couple of examples (drop us a line if you want to see more):

1. Google Glass – all those bugs, and comments about looking like a nerd, will evaporate when Google Glass’s functionality has created a need beyond checking Facebook or taking a video.

We know that Alphabet’s X division is quietly developing Glass Enterprise Edition, and the signs are that Glass will be a far better product when the time is ready for consumer release.

2. Oh, how we love to bitch about Apple and love them at the same time. To supplement my Macbook, iPad, Airpods and my iPhone, I so [need] an Apple Watch Cellular Series 3.

But if I buy it in the US, there isn’t a way of connecting with my UK (EU) roaming service. Why? Well, maybe it has something to do with the need to pay EE £5 a month to use it independently.

This won’t turn me against Apple, but I do wonder why they seem intent on making life harder: new connectors, no connectors and now this. We know user accessibility will improve as networks get signed up, but to have an MVP this far into a product’s lifecycle surely hands straight the ball to Android.

3. Back to Google, this time in collaboration with Levi’s. Their brilliant concept of a Levi Trucker Jacket code-named Jacquard had all the cyclists in the room44 office buzzing. We couldn’t wait to shell out for it, until we realised we can only buy it in the US.

So that’s where I went, had the demo, fell in love again and then…unfortunately for the Innovators and Early Adopters, it ain’t quite what it’s cracked up to be.

First off, the smartphone functionality comes down to a cuff that can respond to five gestures – effectively rendering it a hands-free answering device, plus music start/stop. But only in the US. If you buy in the US to use it in the UK, the app ‘may not’ download to a UK phone, limiting the already narrow range of functionality. And on reflection, we decided that cycling with headphones is actually pretty stupid. There are enough cycle-related deaths, without adding to them taking a phone call in traffic by reaching across to swipe your cuff.

Finally – and here’s the clincher – as much as we crave the idea of wearing technology, in its current iteration the Jacquard jacket will only tolerate ten washes. This is a denim, non-waterproof, non-sweat-resistant commuter jacket.

Sexy, yes. Desirable, absolutely. Less than great MVP, totally.

These are all great products in development. Jeff Bezos said, “I’ve made billions of dollars of failures at Amazon” and Google and Apple will likely make millions of dollars from these ‘failures’ too. But the discerning Innovator may decide to wait for things to get easier and better value for money.

After all, we do have options.

The predictions are that smartphones will be old technology within a few years. Commentators are sceptical. Try telling anyone you talk to and see what they say.

And yet there are developments that may just be tolling the death knell for our favourite device:

Bone conduction implants have been around for a while and used in medical settings but the technology is now creeping into the consumer space after a few false starts. One of the more recent “Zungle’s Panther Bone Conduction speaker transmits sound waves to the skull via vibrations.”

Spectacles by Snap send video straight to your online account. They see what you see. GoogleGlass anyone?

Project Jacquard may be the glue that sticks the emerging tech together. Already available as a Levi jacket: “Project Jacquard makes it possible to weave touch and gesture interactivity into any textile using standard, industrial looms. Everyday objects such as clothes and furniture can be transformed into interactive surfaces.”

With haptic and audio prompts part of the consumer landscape, gesture control and voice control appearing more and more and connected screens increasingly integrated into everyday lives, our need to carry screens is decreasing.

The dichotomy between selling a future market position and selling value now is not easily fixed. The pull of the future is less strong than the imperative of the short term.

We know that policy, regulation, crisis and discovery affect us. We know it explicitly but we choose to overlook the knowledge because we need to get through our critical to-do list. Big may be beautiful but in this context, the big picture is no more than abstractly interesting. The £1 in your pocket now is worth more than the £10 you may get next year.

If so, must ‘innovation’ – real innovation – only be practised by the vocational, the well-funded or the artist? Not necessarily. Let’s forget ‘innovation’ as a word. It’s misleading. It alludes to something that delivers benefit in the long term when now is more important.

This is where the concept of hyperbolic discounting* comes into play: the overriding need to create value today by taking whatever is on the table, versus the opportunity to find a solution that fits today’s need and will survive into the future.

Most often in real life, the opposite ends of the equation strike a deal and a goal is achieved, while some of the original ambition and opportunity remains nascent. A working compromise. The pragmatic thing to do.

That being the case, what value do we put on competitive insulation?

Being informed about how future markets may develop has huge merit, not just because it’s interesting or because the insight might shape product design someday.

Having a view of future consumer behaviour, competitive activity and regulatory landscapes can significantly assist today by informing tactical decisions. How to promote, how to communicate with the target audience and how to manoeuvre to your next market position.

The idea that products are developed and launched into their intended strategic position is OK. Lots are. But launching MVPs that grow market share over time by way of design iteration and audience advocacy is now the smart methodology in all markets. Look at any new product and see how its consumer proposition develops over time. This isn’t an accident.

Having a strategy based on data specifically analysed to meet your need is a newly accurate science. The suggestion that innovation is futurism, therefore, doesn’t stack up. Innovation may be a badly defined word, but strategy remains vital, now and for the future.

Doing what is necessary and doing what is right aren’t always mutually exclusive. It’s just a matter of timing.

Future thinking; it’s what we do at room44.

Drop us a line at and let’s see how we can help each other. Innovation justified.

*Hyperbolic discounting – the tendency for people to choose a smaller reward sooner over a larger reward later.

A portal on a world of change just opened with Project Jacquard.

And so it begins. A week ago, we wrote of a few innovation drivers that are coming down the road at us at increasing speed. Among them is the prediction that smartphones will be superseded by 2024.

This isn’t our prediction ( but, at the time of writing, there weren’t many overt indications that ‘innovation’ had seen the signals. Sure, wearable technology has seen an upswing in the use of step counters and heart rate monitors and also a downturn after an initial rush of enthusiasm amongst end users, but lasting and cohesive connectivity still sits in the realms of the Beta / VHS wars of the 80s.

So when Google and Levi announced its Project Jacquard is launching a new, enabled jacket at SXSW this week (13th March 2017) we had an eye-sparkle moment.

We’d just reported a seven-year endpoint to a trend that hadn’t really got going and now it most definitely has.

Project Jacquard is presented as an open canvas concept. Here is utilises gesture control and a freedom from carrying around your smartphone brick just as the starting point.

Extrapolate the opportunities to stem from this single but complex development and all manner of viable possibilities appear.

Is this the end of the smartphone? Should we expect to see Chinese phone factories losing volume and Corning without a ready market for Gorilla Glass? Maybe Yorkshire mill towns can expect a revival? Who knows, but all manner of futurists and analysts will get their teeth into this sooner or later.

Where we used to rely on Apple for groundbreaking tech advances, Google now leads the way – today at least.

From the Project Jacquard website:

Connected clothes offer new possibilities for interacting with services, devices, and environments. These interactions can be reconfigured at any time.

Jacquard is a blank canvas for the fashion industry. Designers can use it as they would any fabric, adding new layers of functionality to their designs, without having to learn about electronics. 

Developers will be able to connect existing apps and services to Jacquard-enabled clothes and create new features specifically for the platform.

We are also developing custom connectors, electronic components, communication protocols, and an ecosystem of simple applications and cloud services.

OK, so Google has tried something like this before with Google Glass, but this is different. This trend now signals a truly new vision of the future for everybody, not least of all for App, and all, developers.

No phones? What does an App now need to look like to meet the need of a new consumer? Where’s the screen? Snap Spectacles is a thing, gesture control is working its way into cars already and so why not clothing.

The signs have been there for ages. We knew it was coming. Now enabled clothing is a thing too, with a platform to grow on.

Gen Z will get it straight away. For a new concept so radical the idea has immediate appeal and not just for digital natives. Baby Boomers with the cash to blow on a $350 jacket will want it – now.

Jacket talks to GoogleGlass? Entirely probable. To Alexa? Simple. To Garmin Connect, Moves Count, MyFitnessPal, Evernote? No problem.

It may still take seven years to kill the phone but it’s really feasible that it will happen – sooner than we thought.

Watch this space. A portal on a world of change just opened.

Future thinking; it’s what we do at room44.

Drop us a line at and let’s see how we can help each other. Innovation justified.

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