Tristan Allen room44
Interviewer: Tell us about room44…
Tristan: room44 coaches businesses in developing innovation and product development strategies. We add particular value when helping CEOs allocate time and resource to product innovation – too often they get caught up managing the business day-to-day, and ignore the need to innovate.
With our input, they can ensure that what they make and sell stays relevant to customers as their market changes. It’s about designing products from the consumer’s perspective, and ensuring an ‘unmet need’ is at the centre of product innovation.
Interviewer: What are the benefits of creating a strategy for innovation and product development?
Tristan: You must know where you’re going before you can choose the right steps to get there. Change happens so quickly these days, and it can be a challenge to decide which products to invest in for the future. It’s our role to help clients manage their internal process of product design.
Take electric vehicles, for example. If you make exhaust pipes, your market is in decline – you need to change. To look at this from another angle, an electric vehicle driver may never visit a petrol station again, so snack manufacturers should be considering a shift in their distribution outlets.
Interviewer: Can you give us an example of a product or service you’ve helped bring to market, and give us some insight into the type of journey a customer may go on with you?
Tristan: The process we employ is called Design Thinking, though it’s sometimes referred to as Human-centred Design. The important thing is that it is driven by the consumer’s perspective. A business must understand what its consumer’s need will be, and include the consumer in its design strategy.
So, we will gather information. We’ll research adjacent markets; we’ll look at trends, including emerging, technological, and behavioural trends; we’ll talk to the client’s internal teams.
And then the fun starts: the ideation process, which involves the client, lots of Post-it notes, and plenty of weird and wonderful ideas.
The next stage is to shortlist the best ideas. We’ll apply our own selection process to help the project manager drop the selected products into a timeline. Often the easiest get done first, but sometimes, a product seems harder to achieve simply because it’s not what the company does now. By highlighting what must happen first, these ‘harder’ products can often also be a part of the next step.
One client wanted to launch a new brand of food supplements. We needed the brand to stand out in a very regulated and sophisticated market.
In this case, we looked at air pollution, currently very topical. We matched up the formulation and media activity to present a unique proposition that linked the brand to preventing illness from air pollution, with the message that it helps the consumer not get ill in the first place.
Interviewer: What does room44 do tounderstand future supply and demand?
Tristan: It’s a complex issue. People are living longer, and predictions for consumer behaviour are going to change significantly. We must look into the future and try to make sense of the emerging trends.
If we look at electric cars again, they’re going to take over the market over a period of time, during which the petrol car market is diminishing, and electric car sales are growing. Knowing this means we can begin to make decisions for product ranges in the future.
Interviewer: At what point should someone come to room44?
Tristan: Before they realise they need to! Often, people speak to us when they’ve already seen a decline in revenue because the market has changed.
It’s never too early to start working on a future strategy. We encourage CEOs to spend 70% of their time doing what they’re doing now; 20% on what they’re doing next; and 10% mapping out what the future looks like. That’s half a day a week dedicated to future strategy.
Interviewer: Do you have any tips for people who are considering bringing a new product or service to market?
Tristan: First, don’t think you’re on your own. Get external help. Second, take a forward view. Knowing where you’re going on holiday helps you pack a case. Thirdly, don’t be afraid to change your mind. As new data becomes available, you must respond quickly.
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