This is the last blog post from Yin Man Law K1144553, which describes what she has learned from this Design thinking and Entrepreneurship module this year and relate these experiences to her future goals.
Coming from a background of marketing and advertising, it is not an easy task to think and evaluate each idea down to earth. The difficulty of running a business has been further increased due to other constraints such as time and resources. Yet the fear of failure is the greatest barrier to succeed. Therefore, I took the responsibility to be the team leader for Ukreate and started our very interesting and innovative journey. Below is the reflection of the process from inception into development and what I have learned from it, which would be beneficial for my future goal – starting my own advertising agency.
Learning from mistakes
Ukreate is probably one of the few teams that changed its idea radically from its initial inception. It went from the London souvenirs idea to tidy desk, from card holder to the multifunctional phone holder (as illustrated below). The target audience change from tourists to children and from women to students (and business professionals with later modifications of the styles and materials). The need to change throughout the year is not because of the product itself, it is the combination of the wrongly addressed market demand, lack of resources (technical and financial support) and the inadequate marketing implementation, which are included in the top 10 reasons for products/services failures (Greenbook, 2010). After reviewing the reasons for failures, Ukreate conducted an online survey and interviewed potential consumers to understand their needs and wants. To keep up to date with the market changes in the real world, Ukreate read industry reports and followed the social changes and created the final product – personalised multifunctional phone holder. The journey has been invaluable because we have been made constant adjustments along the way, refining and tweaking our business model and idea. This has enabled us to see what strategy was successful and what was not, in addition to enable us to come up with what we feel is one of the best incarnations of our initial idea.
Cox (2005) stated that ʻCreativity, employed properly, carefully evaluated, skilfully managed and soundly implemented, is a key to future business – and to national prosperity.ʼ From this, it is implied that creativity needs to be managed. Innovation process is therefore important in creating valuable outcome and turn ideas into successful businesses. This is supported by academics by defining ‘creativity is the production of novel and useful ideas in any domainsʼ whereas innovation is the process of ʻsifting, refining and most critically the implementation of those ideasʼ (Gurteen, 1998).
In current market conditions, it is imperative to innovate. However, regarding that there is only less than 5% of the new products/services succeeded each year after the launch, investing in innovation is a risky business (Burkitt and Bruno-Forbes.com, 2011). Through actually operating the business, I was able to see the importance of concept screening and testing. It is not all about preparation and planning. One might argue that planning is the most crucial part to the strategic development and the business. Nonetheless, the world is moving at ever increasing pace (with technological advances in production and communication), you might be left behind (in researching and planning) if you are not introducing your product. ‘From a marketing standpoint, listening to your customer is one of the most important aspects of doing business. Beta tests are one of the most effective ways to listen.’ (Epic Trends, 2010). It saves time and money in doing redundant testing and provides free feedback and advertising for the business. Sending out free samples to a group of target audience and bloggers are widely adopted nowadays. This could be related back to the user-centered system learned from class (referring to the blog post ‘ Obesrving user needs’ by Yin 2012). Observation, confidence and experiment are the three main elements in development processes, in which the relationship between the user, designer and community are often analysed. This user-centered approach which provides a logical understanding of the target audiences is particularly useful for my future career in marketing and advertising field, in terms of decoding the consumers needs and wants.
Williams (2001) stressed the importance of creativity training programs suggested in enhancing problem-solving generations. Brainstorming is one common example of such and techniques involved in the process in found to be effective to both individuals and groups in developing solutions. Sutton (2006) suggested eight guidelines that could help running an effective brainstorming for groups, which are listed below:
- Use brainstorming to combine and extend ideas, not just to harvest ideas.
- Don’t bother if people live in fear.
- Do individual brainstorming before and after group sessions.
- Brainstorming sessions are worthless unless they are woven with other work practices.
- Brainstorming requires skill and experience both to do and, especially, to facilitate
- A good brainstorming session is competitive—in the right way
- Use brainstorming sessions for more than just generating good ideas.
- Follow the rules, or don’t call it a brainstorm.
Williams (2001) identified five stages of a typical creativity training program, namely, fact finding, problem finding, idea finding, solution finding and acceptance finding. These stages are in fact what we have been doing and learning in class, particularly in this design thinking and entrepreneurship module. Since October last year, we have been told to put our own expertise/skills in practice and develop the entrepreneurship skills by actually doing it. Identifying different skills set of each of the members in the group and doing market research are indeed fact and problem finding. Further in-depth interviews with potential users, prototyping with different possibilities and group discussions are what our team have undertaken in the processes of idea, solution and acceptance finding. Our design thinking processes are in line with the prototyping approach suggested by Akker et al (1999), which include extensive uses of prototypes, high degree of iteration and considerable amount of representatives of the target audience. Intensive discussions and prototyping enabled our group delivering a final offering that satisfy our consumers and winning the ‘Best Product Award’ from the Young Enterprise at the Kingston Campus Trade Fair (see below).
Time and people management
“The purpose of time management and getting more done in less time is to enable you to spend more face time with the people you care about and doing the things that give you the greatest amount of joy in life.” by Brian Tracy.Brian Tracy is a famous motivational speaker and author that helps people in personal development and business training. This quote above shows the benefits of having a good time management in balancing work and personal life. Referring back to Williams (2001), the role of the leader is to cultivate members’ creativity and avoid directing the group to only one solution. As a result, I have given freedom to each member to express their opinions and given them time to develop their concepts. However, as the old cliche says ‘Time is money”. Being the team leader in the group, I had to act as the time keeper to ensure the group has met every deadlines set for course and been able to launch one single product/service. I have tackled the challenge (organizing and prioritizing tasks) by following the table below:
Throughout the two semesters, being a team leader empowered me to manage people and offered me the opportunity to develop my leadership skills. For instance, I asked Kusalin (whose backgrond is graphic design) to design the product packaging and logo; and Hajime (whose background is film-making) to shoot and edit the video advert. Apart from allocating people to do the right tasks, I have learned how to keep motivating people to contribute to the business and followed Jobber (2010)guidelines in nurturing an innovative organisational culture. I have sent the clear message of the importance on constant innovation, displayed my positive attitudes to all pet projects and concepts and accepted failures. This is out of my expectation and yet would be very useful in managing and innovating people in any circumstances.
This module offers me a great opportunity to put my theory into practice. I had a bachelor degree in marketing and advertising but never really worked in a real creative agency (and came fresh from undergraduate degree). In this module, we had to bare risks and demonstrate our own skills to make the business work (and earn money!) Therefore, we are solely responsible for our success (or failures). I have applied my knowledge in search marketing, branding and advertising strategy planning into the development of Ukreate. This certainly has given me a solid experience in my own field as well as in starting-up a business. Through the eight months’ of work/interactions, I have learned from my team members. There are people with finance, graphic design, film-making and music background in my team (truly creative and diverse!) I have gained a better knowledge of these creative industries and developed my finance literacy, design and editing skills. This has been practical and useful for my future goal of owning and directing an advertising agency.
Networking capabilities are fundamental nowadays and can be a way to access and leverage resources (people, money, information). Going to exhibitions like the ‘TENT London’ and Frieze Art Fair broadened my horizons to the art world (especially the high art) and helped me to become more aware of what is going on in this arts and design industry. Participating at trade fairs could help one or the business to promote and understand the marketplace better. Networking has been crucial in relationship marketing and there is an equivalent saying in Chinese culture, which we termed it as ‘guanxi’ (Geddie et al, 2005 and Snow, 2007). Using the example of interacting with the artists/creators at trade shows and art fairs this year, contacts gained on LinkedIn were proved to be invaluable. Contacts with more experienced people are always an advantage and can help to redirect you in scenarios you have not thought of. All of the networking events I have attended this year have further strengthened my communication skills through numerous presentations and face-to-face client services.
Conclusion and future goal
Experiencing what is it like to be an entrepreneur is probably the most valuable lesson that I have learned from in this design thinking and entrepreneurship module. Starting up a student enterprise through the support of Young Enterprise has given me the opportunity to develop my leadership and management skills and further strengthened my organisational and communication skills. Moreover, I expanded my network through attending conferences and trade fairs. Now, I have connected to people from the outside business world (especially within the creative industries) and got a better knowledge on how to increase online traffic and appearance utilizing different social media. Lastly, since I have developed my interests in blogging, I have started another blog recently about how marketing, advertising and branding and how these have influenced our daily life and hopefully, it will be getting more popularity and become one of the effective marketing tool for my future business.
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