2017 Back And Forward

Threads from 2017

As the year comes to a close it’s hard to find the single thread that ties it together. On the face of it 2017 has been a messy one. But year-endings demand an attempt to make sense of things. Quartz ran a nice piece with satellite images that capture big events from 2017 and Tom Whitwell did his usual 52 things I learned this year.

Borders – hard and soft, with or without walls – have stayed in the news and talk of independence in Spain and Europe continues. Trump began his reign. Mugabe’s was ended. #MeToo was one of the most important descriptors of 2017.

It also felt like a year in which the rapid pace of technological change made us pause for thought. The flywheel of machine learning and artificial intelligence turns ever faster: really obvious impacts from these technologies will be much in evidence in 2018. Oh, and what’s the value of a bitcoin now?

If you think 2017 might be well described by the books smart and curious people read Bill Gates’ favourite 5 is worth a look. As is Ian Leslie’s list with shorter books, more fiction and more variety.


Our client work has been wonderfully diverse. We’ve explored car-pooling on three continents, voice as a computing platform, we’ve done strategy work around mixed reality (AR/VR), explored the subscription shopping phenomenon and how technology is shaping the future of retail. Staying in touch with our youthful side we’ve done several projects on 13-30 year olds and technology and we’re currently looking further out into the future of cities in the age of 5G.

We’ve run research and strategy studios in London, Paris, New York, Ahmedabad, São Paulo, Minneapolis, Columbus, Denver, San Francisco, Sacramento, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Brighton, Bristol and beyond. Our brilliant and growing team has been able to put their diversity to work across the globe.

We saw our work making an impact. A strategy studio for an innovative London fulfilment company led to a fast shift in focus and new product features. Our engagement with an automotive company has informed the roadmap for autonomous taxis.

Our work in 2016 and 2017 with Triumph International has translated into strong sales and improved business performance in Europe and East Asian markets. And our pathfinding research on voice platforms has significantly shaped the long-term strategy of one of Silicon Valley’s most significant companies. With a new west coast based client we’ve been working on hardware and software innovations that will be in homes, and on phones, in 2018.

Closer to home our work on Google’s Digital Garage concept help propel a hunch about a community with unmet needs from idea to launch in a matter of months. Our work with the Google UK team is proof that a rigorous strategy can be a willing bedfellow of rapid execution.

Impact can be measured in many ways. Some impact comes quick but often it takes longer to emerge. Often impact come unannounced in small, but significant, achievements. Despite the chest beating common to business, impact is often found in barely detectable but critical cultural shifts taking place in organisations.

Topline growth, improved brand health and performance, increased sales and better margins. These are all necessary but not sufficient to drive long term innovation and effectiveness. We’ve been gratified to learn more about the positive cultural impacts on the multi-disciplinary teams that we work in studios with. In 2018, we will be talking more about how studios help teams understand their consumers’ worlds, tackle seemingly intractable problems and emerge stronger and more unified.

So it’s been a good, verging on great, twelve months. We’re quite tired and ready for a brief respite. Then, in what will be our fifth year, we’re looking forward to building on what’s gone before.