Reflective Essay

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.

 

References

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.

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Final Dragon’s Den

The final week of Designing a Business ended with our Final Dragon’s Den at the Kingston Business School this past Thursday. After a really helpful and motivational tutorial and Mock Dragon’s Den the week before the team and I where able to re-evaluate and adjust our presentation for the Grand Final. Our feedback from our course leader Corrine Beaumont, was very constructive and mind opening, and it reminded me something that, being overwhelmed,  I had neglected a bit the past couple of weeks: Be Creative, Think out of the Box!

The reason I’m stressing this is because we easily get carried away from the circumstances around us – work load, stress, assignments- but further more once we have been working hard on something and for a long time, we possibly fall into the trap of getting too close to the project at hand. This leads to a narrowed and focused point of view that is mainly generated from the effort and passion one has put into his or her work that is off course beneficial and rewarding but at the same time it is also constraining, as you end up looking at the tree instead of the entire forest.

This is what I realized during our mock presentation. After preparing and practicing our pitch and assembling our business report making sure everything is perfect down to the last detail we presented at our classmates for some peer feedback. Although it didn’t go bad something was missing and we understood what that was after Corrine demonstrated for us an alternative pitching presentation and explained: “More showing, less telling”! As opposed to be dry and clean a presentation should be more vivid, interactive and compelling especially when you are seeking to attract and persuade future investors to give you 3000 pounds to continue and develop your business idea!

BagBoy is a product that includes many features and those had to be revealed in a creative manner. So we adjusted our presentation and while practicing before the Final Dragon’s Den we all concluded and agreed that it was so much easier and enjoyable for us as well to be ourselves and explain simply but with enthusiasm what BagBoy is about. And we succeeded: folding and unfolding BagBoy, throwing it on the magnetic board carrying it full of groceries exhibited its purpose and advantages in 4 minutes. The Final presentation went really well; although we didn’t win the competition the sense of accomplishment was extremely gratifying and I could not have been prouder of my team and myself for our team effort during this amazing and exciting journey of designing our own business!

Mace 2014!!!

So the term is reaching to its end and we are getting ready for our last Dragon’s Den,

Loo La La and Le Petit Sac,

Hero and the Helping Hands,

Memoby, Bag Boy and Enamel,

All started as a solution to a problem!

Design Thinking brought us all together,

we even went to the Kingston Town trade Fair despite the windy weather!

Bright Ideas  was our first big competition

Young Enterprise is next;

who will win I wonder

good luck to all team members it really has been a great honor!Image

Kingston Town Tarde Fair: The Real experience

It was a Thursday morning and our Designing a business class gathered at 11 am in Kingston Town to set up our displays for the Kingston Town Trade Fair. Like busy little bees we were all anxious and focused to organize our tables outside the All Saints Church across from John Lewis Department store. People were passing by, not really paying attention on what was going on; they just went along on their way to whatever the day had planned. We got a few curious looks, but really, we were so concentrated on preparing our stalls we didn’t realize what was going on around us.

Thankfully the weather was nice, the sun was out, no sign of any clouds but the wind was soon to become a slight problem. While we were all carefully placing our products and signs to create an attractive and compelling selling booth, the wind kept blowing everything away knocking things down, misplacing cards, products and anything that was on site. At some point I take a look around and realize that everyone at each table is standing the same way: standing straight, with one hand holding everything down and with the other adjusting the objects that were out of place.

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Despite the circumstances we where all there for the same reason: Sell our Products. Bag Boy’s table looked great, the display came a long way from the last Trade Fair. The colors, the layout, the cards everything was carefully placed to achieve the best and most attractive image possible. And it paid of; maybe not so much in sales but it sure attracted many looks and visitors who came by to see what the commotion was about. But my personal favorite part was observing people walking by and taking sneak peaks with the side of their eyes that resulted in a huge smile and mumbling to themselves “BagBoy”. It was the moment that I realized what a great success our Brand name and Logo were.

However, from a professional and business point of view making a sale was still what we where all hoping for. Trade fairs are not easy business. People-the consumers, many times get annoyed or uncomfortable when you try to stop them to take a look at your product. Being a sales person can frequently be perceived as someone who is just trying to take advantage of the customers pocket, and people look at salesmen with a “I can’t be bothered!” look. But that is part of the process and experience because if you get past that it means you are doing a good job and your product is really interesting. We had a few of these moments, that where the most fulfilling moments of this whole designing a business adventure. Whenever someone actually bought a BagBoy I think our hole team felt like crying from happiness and excitement, because it really does feel like all your efforts all the exhaustion and stress are worth it, it all pays off at the end. Doing something you had never done before, had no experience or idea how it can be done and getting to the point you are actually succeeding in doing it, gives a great sense of accomplishment.

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Communication Strategy- Storytelling

For the past six months we have been working on Designing a Business using the method of Design Thinking. Although I have described the term in a quite premature way in the beginning of the semester, it is only now that we, or at least, I have started to grasp and fully understand this concept: how it works, what are the benefits, when does it end?

I will start by answering the later! Design Thinking never ends and that’s the beauty of it. Every idea, every insight, input and feedback always keeps the motor running for further development. It is not a one way street: find a problem- discover a solution- Next…..! No as Roger Martin indicates in the article “Five Ways to Build a Strategy”, in the Harvard Business Review, to create strategy you have to iterate. This is also the case in Design Thinking. Iteration, as i conceive it, means continuously going back and forth in order to find a solution, constructing- deconstructing and reconstructing over again in order deal with problems or challenges that occur whilst aiming to find the best answer. This is the part where prototyping and testing takes place and this has been the phase that my team and I have been these past few months leading to our latest adventure: The Kingston University Trade Fair which was our first public display.

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Now we are moving along the last part of the Implementation stage which, besides prototyping, includes crafting a communication strategy, a story! Storytelling is something that we have been working on throughout the year and it is about communicating your idea to your targeted consumer. What is the message you wish to convey? How are you going to get the message across? What marketing methods are you going to use?

Living in the age of technology and digitization the fastest and easiest way to reveal BagBoy to world was though social networks. Writing on this blog, Facebook and Twitter have been the most forward approaches we have used so far, creating pages at each social media website for our product and business in order to advertize our fashionable, foldable and grocery organizing bag for life! Through blogging, twitting, posting and uploading pictures of who we are , what we do and what we offer and the stages that we have passed developing BagBoy, we narrate our personal story whilst offering the means to our customers of creating their own personal story while shopping using BagBoy!

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Kingston University Trade Fair

During the first week of February we had two major events to attend to; The Bright Ideas Final Competition and The Kingston University Trade Fair in the Business School atrium.

The Bright Ideas competition was something we had been looking forward to for quite a long time, we had signed up and sent a feasibility study to take part in the competition and made it to the Finals which took place at Kingston University. It was an amazing experience; students from different universities around London were all gathered, we had a pitching workshop where we got to meet each other and network, while twitting our experience, guest speakers talked about the their individual endeavors and past winning ideas were presented. What was really fascinating and interesting was how a simple idea can start from something really small and turn into a real business, something that most of us are hoping and trying to accomplish. The winner nominations followed, during which all winning teams or individuals had to pitch to the rest of the audience their idea of a product or service, these ideas were absolutely incredible and inspiring and made me realize how wonderful it is to unleash your creative mind and develop a concept that has so much expressive value.

Unfortunately BagBoy didn’t win a prize but I must acknowledge the fact that with so many fantastic ideas I was happy and proud of our team just making it so far and being a part of such an experience!

The next day we had our first Trade Fair! Having been informed from our lecturer Corrine that there was a first come first serve policy in regards of the display placement we got there as early as we could in order to get “good seats”. Organizing our display and watching it come together was really fun, but the best part was just looking at what we have been working on for the past six months as a whole, as a finalized idea that had actual substance; it was real!

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Everything was ready, the packaging the new logo, our business cards, the short story that explained BagBoy’s concept, everything that we had been struggling to get done in time. And now all we could do was wait…and see what happens.

Also I should mention that towards the end of the evening three prizes were going to be handed out one for each of the following:

1. Best product

2. Best display

3. Best sales-pitch

People started gathering in the atrium walking around the stands; others walked by indifferently, others took a peak and left and others stayed and listened to us pitch our product, explaining what BagBoy does and how it can change the grocery shopping experience! We received a lot of feedback concerning our idea negative and positive, but mostly positive which was thrilling! Everyone loved the bag, the name, the logo, the concept even the packaging was a success. Our only downside was the price! Despite BagBoy being a unique, sustainable, foldable, waterproof bag for life that also attaches to your fridge and shopping cart, people still thought it was a bit pricy. However Corrine had informed and prepared us mentally for circumstances like these, noting rightfully, that the University Campus and students as our targeted customers aren’t representative of the consumers that BagBoy is targeted to attract.

Non the less the idea even to our peers was such a success that we were extremely proud and excited, even more so when we actually sold a couple of bags. The end was near and the time came for Corrine to announce the winners that day’s big event!

The winner for best product goes to…….(everyone stumping their feet-creating noise-building up anxiety)……

The winner for best display goes to…….(everyone stumping their feet-creating noise-building up anxiety)……

The winner for best sales-pitch goes to…….(everyone stumping their feet-creating noise-building up anxiety)…………………………………………………………..BAGBOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We were in shock, it truly was a great moment, my team and I literally didn’t know how to react, it was so unexpected, i think we froze for a couple of seconds just staring at each other, thinking we are going to cry! It’s always a wonderful feeling to have your hard work acknowledged and rewarded! 

But we still have a long way to go, so hopefully more great experiences and moments like these will have the same outcome!

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Getting Ready to Launch

Getting ready for the first Trade Fair at the Kingston University Business School was exciting and stressful! Time and time management to be exact was at this point crucial. We had to decide how many bags we were going to produce to sell and as mentioned in the latest blog post we had two types of bags to make! What to do?

At this point I would like to point out that problems occur always at the worst possible moment, but non-the less, if you are positive and constructive, problems can actually be a sign or an answer to a dilemma. So the problem that occurred two weeks before the Trade fair was that one of our fabrics, the one that you could write on-to be precise- was no longer available in the fabric store and actually it was withdrawn from the market in general. So now we didn’t have and wouldn’t have in the future the bag supporting the wright your list on the bag concept! Problem-Yes! The end of the world -NO!

This gave us the solution and the confidence to continue with the original idea of the pocket for BagBoy’s shopping list. Sometimes when things don’t work out, no matter how much you want them to or how much you try, it is equally important to acknowledge when to stop, let go and move forward! So we bought new materials which also gave us the opportunity to offer different choices to our consumers as to which color they preferred!

Green , Blue, Black and Red!

Great team work and cooperation has been substantial during the past months but I will not elaborate on that for now I just had to mention it! Draw- Cut- And Sew were the first steps to actually creating the final product BagBoy!

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