During this previous academic year I have discovered and developed many skills through my postgraduate classes in managing the Creative Economy. I have gained and shared experiences and knowledge that has helped and motivated me to look into my future professional endeavors with a different prospective and insight of my personal capabilities as well as challenges that may occur while providing the tools to overcome these challenges. Thinking out of the box and creative problem solving, collaborative team work and inspiration are only few of the elements that have enabled me to re -invent not only myself but also the people around me, especially my peers whom with we have taken this journey. We are equipped now with the foundations and knowledge to take upon us any project that may be handed to us and to set higher goals for ourselves using these fundamental and significant structures that we have discovered and explored. Having an ambition to work and be part events management for organizations in the creative industries sector I have a platform on which I can take my first steps in my professional carrier. Moreover through the internship program for the International Youth Arts Festival in Kingston that I am participating in, I will be able to use the information and techniques acquired to help organize the festival and the marketing strategies necessary for such an exciting and large project. Most importantly however, I am aware of how to indicate a problem that may occur, and find creative ways to solve it through the Design Thinking method which I learned in my Designing a Business module this past year.
Designing a business and using the lean start-up and design thinking approach, has been a challenging and rewarding task for this year’s Designing a Business module for my Ma Managing the Creative Economy. Without having any background in entrepreneurship and managing a business, the knowledge, information and capabilities developed by “learning by doing”, alongside the development and expansion of social media networks and face to face relations and connections has helped me grow as an individual but most importantly, as a professional interested and involved in the Creative Industries sector. Creativity, innovation and using these concepts to design a product for a business, forming a business plan to support that product and launching it to the real world has been part of this year’s journey. Our product, BagBoy and our business Bagboy fashion has been the fruit of these endeavors but also proof of what four different minds, coming from totally different backgrounds can accomplish when using the design thinking methodology. Starting from a highly in-tensed two-day work shop with Eewei Chen during our induction week, we were straight away thrown in the lion’s- or should I say- dragon’s den, to get a full grasp of what this course is about, what we should expect and what is expected from us. In previous blog posts I have tried to describe and communicate this fascinating journey; and now, while reaching the finish line, I realize the impact it has had on me and the significance it will have in my life-time’s story. Concepts and notions of design, manufacture, consumer behavior, story-telling, performativity, and entrepreneurship have been all combined together to form a new kind of open minded perspective, that has curated the formation of my present and future mindset.
During induction week we were introduced to the importance of diversity within a group in order to come up with creative and innovative ideas. Being in a class room with so many different individuals, with different nationalities and academic and professional backgrounds, was a unique experience for most of us and it was only natural for people with similar cultural backgrounds to form their own groups. However this notion was disrupted when we were asked to reform our groups, so each team would have people coming from different countries and if possible from different continents. Once we formed the teams we were able to start the creative process. This was also mandatory for all projects throughout the year. According to Richard Florida, creativity is based on the three Ts: Tolerance, Talent and Technology, three concepts that were fundamental for our project to create our own business. In his article Florida explains the importance of cultural diversity (Tolerance), differentiated academic backgrounds (Talent) and the capability to innovate (Technology)in order to be creative (Florida, 2003). Although this may sound quite theoretical at first it was something we realized for ourselves throughout the year while using the Design Thinking method to design and develop our business. Participating in diverse and differentiated work groups re-activates your mind set by opening up to new views and perspectives, learning and understanding other ways and collaborating. Therefore tolerance enhances talent benefiting co-creative projects, something that I will be looking forward to further developing in my internship this summer and in my future career.
Furthermore, team work was significant in order to design our products for the Designing a Business module. Brown and Wyatt (2010) note that the interaction between differentiated individuals contributes to the teams efforts to brainstorm and come up with new ideas from challenging each other thus providing a competitive advantage. The first few weeks we started to explore the design thinking method and the lean start-up principles in order to understand how they work though a number of exercises in class that would help us develop the necessary skills to design our own product for our business plan (Reis, 2011). Firstly and most importantly we had to understand and analyze different organizations and their products or services in order to indicate who their users and consumers are- The Persona, how the product is connected to the designer and the persona- The System- and finally establish the needs and goals of these personas. This method of analysis is called the user model and it became the foundation on which we started to build a mental map of how businesses work. By using this model we also got familiarized with observing people and their behavior when they think that others aren’t watching. Performativity, thus the way we act when we are in a specific situation or environment, was an element that we had to try and surpass in order to truly evaluate individuals “true colors” , regarding their habits in particular circumstances. Moreover through this process we gained incite that was key to create our own story about our ideas, therefore communicating sentiment and meaning to consumers in order to attract and persuade them to buy the products that we would finally promote.
Storytelling has become a very powerful tool in today’s consumers market. Due to the variety of products available in the market whether it’s online or at the high-street, the way you promote and communicate your idea to the customer is what might make you different thus giving you a competitive advantage. In one of our classes we had a very interesting lecture on marketing which indicated the most important aspects of how to transmit an idea to customers. During this lecture we learned about segmentation, targeting and positioning our products. Segmentation defines behavioral, psychographic qualities of the consumers as well as their demographic, socio-economic and geographic profile which give an overall image of the personas that the business wants to address. Additionally targeting is about narrowing down a segment group and creating a product that meets that group’s needs; and finally positioning is how the target group perceives that exact product. These have been substantial components of designing a business, as we had to investigate all aspects in order to realize what problem we wanted to solve, and find a solution to that problem. It also was a means to start thinking out of the box and connecting different ideas and different views to develop our innovative and creative skills. This lead to Using the Lean Tribe Canvas, as I have mentioned at the relevant blog post, which was the start of really understanding design thinking and how to develop a business idea. According to Roger Martin (2009), design thinking is based on three steps Inspiration, Ideation and Implementation. Through this sequence, we were able to discover a problem and observe how consumers currently deal with it while empathizing with their needs and behaviors. In addition, through our interaction with different individuals we were able to produce new innovative ideas for better solutions leading to producing prototypes that would be tested in the market and provide feedback from the consumers experience (Martin, 2010). This is how our idea for BagBoy came along: we realized the difficulties people have when they go grocery shopping, we observed and integrated with them to really empathize with their needs and desires, and developed a prototype new bag for life that enhanced consumers shopping experience.
In addition to marketing branding is also a significant step to communicate an idea. As a form of storytelling branding is one of the tools that transcend meaning through images logos, colors about the product whilst taking under consideration the “Tribe” it is addressed to. Moreover it creates the platform on which an interactive relationship between consumer and producer is formed, it is the medium that co-ordinates the customer’s needs and what the business offers. From our visit to Wolff Olins, we realized that “brand is what you do, not what you say”, meaning that a well-developed brand creates an experience for the customer. During this stage of designing BagBoyfashion we constantly iterated our branding ideas, due to the fact that the product’s DNA and identity were developed parallel to the development of the product during the prototyping and manufacturing stage. Also, once we established our targeted audience and started producing BagBoys, our idea started coming to life and developing not only form but character as well, with the help of our brand choices. For instance, creating the card that tells the story of our bags in the pocket meant for the shopping list, added value to the product and delivered a message to the customers: this isn’t an ordinary bag for life, it’s a buddy for life that organizes and enhances your shopping experience. The concept of adding meaning to a product or an idea was key during the whole process of design thinking and storytelling. Firstly we had to understand our perception as individuals and as a team about what this bag meant for us and secondly, find creative ways to share that meaning to customers, enticing and enabling them to give a meaning of their own. According to Driscoll and McKee (2007), storytelling promotes reflection of tacit or explicit messages that each person can define on their own developing their own creative and innovative attributes. This was presented through our displays, packaging, logos, and sales pitch that kept evolving throughout the year after continuous efforts for improvement and many hours of brainstorming. Therefore the combination of design thinking and storytelling has provided the foundations to create innovate and deliver meanings as we were able to demonstrate during our experiences at the two Trade Fairs we participated in as well as the Dragon’s Den competitions.
Overall, the lessons we learned and knowledge gained will be very beneficial for the future whatever that entails. Whether it involves becoming an entrepreneur, or working in the creative industries sector, adbuctive reasoning in solving problems is a co-participative process that promotes creativity and innovation through team work and diversity within the group. BagBoy was the fruit of these efforts and has been a wonderful and highly educational experience, which enabled us to discover and expand our skills, interact with each other, leading to self-development and growth. Finally, a designing a star-up business, manufacturing, promoting and selling an idea has opened my eyes and my horizons to any future challenge that I can take on with the right tools and confidence.
Brown, T. and Wyatt, J. (2010) ‘Design Thinking for Social Innovation’, Development Outreach, 12(1), pp. 29-43.
Driscoll, C. and McKee, M. (2007) ‘Restorying a Culture of Ethical and Spiritual Values: A Role for Leader Storytelling’, Journal of Business Ethics, 73 (2), pp. 205-207.
Florida, R. (2003) ‘Cities and The Creative Class’, Carnegie Mellon University. Available at: http://www.creativeclassgroup.com/rfcgdb/articles/4%20Cities%20and%20the%20Creative%20Class.pdf (Accessed: 21 April, 2014).
Martin, R. (2009) ‘The Design of Business, Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage’, Harvard Business School Press.
Martin, R. (2010) ‘Design Thinking: achieving insights via the “knowledge funnel”’, Strategy and Leadership, 38(2), pp. 37-41.
Reis, E. (2011) ‘The Lean Start-Up: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses’, Crown Business.