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Introduction

It took us 7 months to set up a business, run it and close it.

The result?

Was it profit?

No, as a company we made a loss.

Well in this case the profit was not money but knowledge, experience and preparation for the future; an overview of how a business is run and all the elements involved around it; an overview of how creativity is an essential part at all stages of a business and not merely a design process; an understanding of how design thinking, which is a process familiar to designers can be further implemented into a business strategy and problem solving technique.

There is a new demand in the current business environment, which is creative thinking. Creative thinking is considered an integral part of differentiation and innovation.

According to De Bono (2007) creativity is a skill. It is the ability to move across tracks and be able to think outside the box. But he highlights the fact that for an idea to be creative it has to have value to it too, otherwise it is just different for the sake of being different.

“Creativity is the ability of people / employees to combine existing ideas in a new and unique way, or to make unusual associations between them”. (Amabile,1996)

Creativity is highlighted for its possibilities for new solutions, originality and authenticity.

Design Thinking – a business process

“Design thinking is a human centered approach to problem solving. Its a process built from People (inspiration gained by looking & listening to them), Prototyping (ideating quickly to make things real), and Stories (getting things implemented by selling compelling narratives not “concepts”)”. (Luke W., 2007)

 

I think ideo’s process of Design Thinking sets a perfect framework for a business process. Design thinking was an approach that was taught in the class and step by step implemented for the development of the businesses. Being a designer myself I have to admit that this methodology/culture suits me and I can truly engage with. A human centred approach is always used when designing but the same principle can be further implemented into setting up a business. Not only the design process but the whole business process should be human centered as products/services are made by people, distributed by people and bought/used by people.

3 steps of Design Thinking to be implemented into a business strategy

1. INSPIRATION

Inspiration is vital in the early stages as inspiration rarely comes from the abstract.  

a. Observation

I realized that one needs to be vigilant constantly in what is happening around in the environment. Everyday life is the best source of information and inspiration. As Tim Brown says: “Use the world as a source of inspiration not just validation”. So one needs to get out there observe and listen. Feed the mind with insights, connect to things you haven’t connected before by using the world to evaluate ideas.

b. Empathy

Engage with people and speak to them. Understand these people (the users) on multiple levels. Understand how social groups and networks interact and how their cultures behave. Gain empathy by looking at the world through other people’s eyes in order to understand things at social, cultural, cognitive, emotional, and physical levels.

Getting into people’s shoes, look at people and see things from their point of view is so crucial as the end product/service is targeted for them. Discover their habits, observe their behaviour and discover new patterns.

c. Analogous Situations

Looking at analogous situations for inspiration is another technique that may help for inspiration. For example when designing an elevator push button we looked at the way a toilet flush works. Gathering inspiration from something that at first seemed unrelated or insignificant can prove to be inspiring.

d. Research

Of course traditional research can also lead somewhere but the research should be  qualitative and anthropological rather than quantitative.    

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So observing and breaking away from the default and pulling two seemingly unconnected ideas together is a big part of creativity and can help at the first stages when designing a business.

2.  IDEATION 

a. Framing 

It is important at this stage to start framing the problem, the user, the context. Being very general can be very chaotic and disruptive, whereas narrowing it can help to focus on an issue, understand it better and thus tackle it better. How obvious this issue was when a company came into mace for a presentation of their start up music channel and when speaking of their music content and target market they said that they want to play all sorts of music rather than be limited and target all music lovers around the world! How general is that.

b. Brainstorming

When trying to come up with a solution brainstorming can be a productive means of ideating.  When brainstorming sessions are managed right and skillfully and there is the right set of mind in the participants innovation can be reached. Another element to remember when brainstorming that Corrine always highlighted in the class is quantity of ideas at that stage rather than quality.

Sutton (2006) suggest in his article eight guidelines that are especially important for running effective face-to-face brainstorms:

  1. Use brainstorming to combine and extend ideas, not just to harvest ideas.
  2. Don’t bother if people live in fear.  
  3. Do individual brainstorming before and after group sessions. 
  4. Brainstorming sessions are worthless unless they are woven with other work practices. 
  5. Brainstorming requires skill and experience both to do and, especially, to facilitate 
  6. A good brainstorming session is competitive—in the right way 
  7. Use brainstorming sessions for more than just generating good ideas. 
  8. Follow the rules, or don’t call it a brainstorm.
  9. c. Prototyping

     “ Prototypes can be very rough but they should always enable engagement and discussion. Prototypes don’t have to be physical but do need to be tangible. Designers might go though hundreds of iterations of prototypes so they need to be quick and easy to build. McDonald’s prototypes service models and scenarios in a giant reconfigurable lab in Chicago. Prototyping makes a difference. Mcdonald’s saw kiosk usage rise from 7% to 90% after IDEO ideation process.” (Luke W., 2007)

    Building to think is essence of the prototyping process. Prototypes are done as a means to test ideas to real people and real situations and give insights as to how to go forward and develop. Prototyping is a process that needs to happen fast (as in the brainstorming process quantity over quality), but be teamed up with continuous testing and refining. Being able to be creative is about having a positive attitude to begin with, which means not dwelling on perfection and having the mentality to experiment and fail. It allows to take small risks early on in order to avoid bigger risks later. So building up as many prototypes as possible quickly and unexpectidly and then build on the best ideas is the way forward. Of course always have in mind what you want to learn out of it.

    Prototypes of course don’t need to be physical but they need to be tangible. For example when prototyping a service role playing can be a protyping technique.

    d. Extreme Users

    Insights can come from extreme users rather than average usage. Kids are extreme users. So testing prototypes on can help to understand what is not fully resolved and needs to be developed.

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    So the above are techniques but need to always be validated in the real world constantly. How many times especially as designer we stay attached to the drawing board going over numerous solutions in our own time. However if we manage to overcome this and build quickly and then constantly testing in it in the real world then most propably our idea will evolve much faster and will most propably have more value when implemented. So a major thing learnt is to be flexible and adoptable.

    “Fixation is when you focus on an idea so much you’ll do anything not to change it. This is great when the idea is perfect, but not so great when the idea doesn’t fit your need. Kind of like fixating on one puzzle piece and trying to make it fit when it doesn’t. Be willing to pick up a new ‘piece’ or change the shape of it to fit your skills, time and resources. Your business ideas should be focused but adjustable for new situations. You should always be looking at ways to improve and adjust your business throughout this entire project”. (Beaumont C., 2009)  

    So once the idea is framed and tested a second cycle of observation and empathy methods can happen so one can identify further patterns and understand best the whole system and process involved both in terms of people as well as distribution processes.

    3.  IMPLEMENTATION

    a. Storytelling

    Storytelling is a simple way to communicate ideation and provide the framework of an idea. Many times an idea gets stuck before it even reaches the marketplace. Storytelling can be an effective means to navigate this maze. Storytelling is a means to develop and express ideas to get them through organizations and then into the marketplace.

    “Good storytelling can make the difference between acceptance or rejection of your idea. It’s an empathic way of explaining what is useful about your idea and why someone should engage with it. When people can connect emotionally to your business you are more likely to have them on your side”. (Beaumont C., mace blog, 2009)

    A story can be a really powerful means for communication as people engage on a cognitive and an emotional level.

    As Tim Brown says “Sell a story rather than a concept”.

    In the mace programme we used storytelling for many purposes. Unfortuanatelly I think I am not particularly strong in storytelling but I can now see the importance of it. When there is a narrative people tend to connect with you and above all remember your story. Especially today that we live in a world where its all about selling experiences, storytelling is even more current and essential.

    Also when pitching an idea having a story rather than pure data can help sell the idea better and attract more people to invest or partner with you.

    In addition storytelling when marketing is very powerful if implemented and a creative means of achieving more with less resources. For example our ads during the course were all done with almost zero costs and were a very creative way to expose our businesses to the rest of the world and attract interest from investors, collaborators or clients.

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    Usually and from past experience as designers we tend to spend most of our time in ideation, but the truth is that those three stages should have an equal balance. As designers we tend to spend much more time in the ideation stage. But stage one and two are equally vital. If the first stage doesn’t happen you can’t have useful ideas that reflect the current needs and situations and if the third stage doesn’t happen then the idea has no value.  In fact ideation should happen fairly quickly as an idea starts to be really tested and starts to have value once its reaches the marketplace. And it is very possible that the idea may be a flop

      

    Business developing and personal traits

    These 3 steps of IDEO are of course sort of generic, but they form a solid toolkit to elaborate upon when starting a business.

    “Theories, processes and rules of thumb are effective vehicles. Without a conceptual tool kit, you would have to tackle every problem from scratch, proceeding from first principles. Theories, processes and rules of thumb make it possible to recognize and categorise problems and apply tools to them that in the past proved effective in similar circumstances.” (Martin R., 2009:98)

    “Tools are derived from practical experiences rather than formal theories – experience allows us to hone our sensitivities and skills. Skills and sensitivities tend to grow and deepen as you repeat a task, you are inclined to build what you have learned from the previous repetition into the next iteration, until you develop a consistent technique”. (Martin R, 2009:100)

    So experiences form the most practical and tangible knowledge, that will further shape our toolkit. We come across so many experiences daily but we filter them and over time we form our personal toolkit to organize our thinking and develop our strategies and actions. And as we develop our toolkit and improve our techniques we sharpen our skills and become faster and more accurate. We start to also develop shortcuts, where we apply experience and get rid of excess effort. We understand what steps are important and which ones can be reduced or eliminated, in order to produce a desired outcome most quickly and reliably.

    I think that developing our own tools and techniques is just a matter of refining and personalizing a known process, in my case the design thinking process.

    But the most important attribute observed during the businesses at mace but also from past experience is action over strategy. Strategy is at its best when developed from an experiential attitude. We need to be in a mindset that produces effective action, aiming high and settling for nothing less than winning. One needs to overcome fear and be positive, confident and optimistic. These are personal attitudes/traits but are essential to be developed. One needs to be proactive and make things happen. Constant testing of the idea with real people is vital. “Fail often and fail early”, is what IDEO keeps lecturing. Accepting failure but having the capacity to learn from it and overcome it as quickly as possible.  

    Sometimes it may take several prototypes to reach a product/service and similarly it may take more than one business to reach a successful one. Patience becomes a key virtue, along with determination not to jump to conclusions. Wait, reserve judgment and build data over time. So patience teamed with determination, drive and motivation are vital forces and when combined with learning are more powerful problem solving tools than sheer intellect.

    “Integrative thinkers didn’t retreat into simplification and specialization. They waded into untidiness and complexity, confident they would find an elegant resolution in the end. They don’t take the easy way out and pick the least worse alternative, they view the creation of a truly attractive option as both their goal and their personal responsibility. They learn from each option without being bound to limitations and they use the insights gained to break through to an entirely new model that creatively resolves the tension between existing models”. (Martin R., 2009:92)

    Being alert is another skill to develop and master. Alert to opportunity recognition either for a new product/service/venture or within an organisation. Success in opportunity recognition comes not only from understanding the market and the customers but being up to date with what is happening around you and having a wider view of transformations rather than being narrow minded. Observation and being informed play a major part in opportunity spotting. So one needs to be vigilant in transformations happening in our society both in terms of new technology development as well as new culture development.

    Networking capabilities are also crucial and can be a way to access and leverage resources (people, money, information). Networking can be used both to understand a marketplace and get better insights but mainly networking is a way to promote yourself or your business or your idea. Networking does not need to happen only once you have a developed business, networking can also be helpful during the ideation process. Contacts with more experienced people are always an advantage and can help to redirect you in scenarios you have not thought of. Even advise from someone who has been there and done it before, can prove to be a massive help. How many times has it happened that we are discussing our idea with a person and after this discussion we are sort of enlightened! In the early days of a business where funding is minimal networking can prove the best way to market a product/service to a wider and diverse audience. As an example during the trade fair in mace our business was approached by a future client who wanted to commission us a project. So through networking one can find potential investors or collaborators. Networking can also allow one to achieve more with fewer resources. Of course the ability to reach key resources through networking is a personal skill but is something that definitely needs to be practiced and developed not only at the early stages of a company but through its entire lifespan. I guess for all these successful entrepreneurs networking is a way of living. Expanding your contacts and your reach is the best marketing tool one can adopt.

    Conclusion

    So through this module I hope that I have developed a more diverse approach to problem solving and have a wider perspective when developing a business.

    As emphasized throughout this class a business will need to have a mix of three values for innovation.

    Design/Human Values = desirability/usability

    Business = viability

    Technology = feasibility

    My goal is to develop my missing gaps and continue to grow applying all these new tools I have attained.  Hopefully in the future I will have a real business that will generate revenue !

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    Bibliography 

    Amabile T., (1996), “How to kill creativity”, Harvard Business Review

    Martin R., (2009) “The Opposable Mind”,  Harvard business press

    “Building the 21st C Leader”

    http://www.entrepreneur.com/magazine/entrepreneur/2007/february/173522.html

    Wilson N., Cathrine Gurling C., (2007), “Managing Creativity and innovation”, Kingston University,

    Beaumond C. (2009-2010) http://blogs.kingston.ac.uk/maceteams/

    IDEO (2005) Fail early and fail often – IDEO Service design, Management today.com, found at: http://www.managementtoday.co.uk/search/article/548074/fail-early-fail-often-ideo-service-design/

    Sutton, R. (2006) Eight Tips for better brainstorming, Business week, found at: http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/content/jul2006/id20060726_517774.htm?chan=innovation_innovation+++design_innovation+and+design+lead

    De Bono, (2007), “Creative Thinking”,

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjSjZOjNIJg

    Luke w. (2007) Notes on “ Tim Brown: on Innovation”

    http://www.designthinkingblog.com/2009/08/tim-brown-on-innovation/

    Brown T. (2006) Innovation through design thinking

    http://mitworld.mit.edu/video/357/

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Tipp*52

Rethinking space. Many of society’s materials, spaces and buildings are unused, discarded and unwanted. Old buildings and factories remain fallow for years, acting as a drain on local communities both financially and emotionally. The trick is to see these spaces and buildings in a more positive light, as resources, assets and opportunities for social innovation. Assets can be reclaimed and reused and, in the process, environments can be revitalised, social needs can be met, and communities energised. One example is the work of ‘activist architect’, Teddy Cruz. Cruz uses ‘waste’ materials from San Diego to build homes, health clinics and other buildings in Tijuana. He has become well-recognised for his low-income housing designs, and for his ability to turn overlooked and unused spaces within a dense, urban neighbourhood into a liveable, workable environment. Another example is the regeneration of Westergasfabriek by ReUse in Amsterdam, or the transformation of a disused elevated railway in New York into an urban park – the High Line.

Reuse is a topic that has always interested me since my archotectural studies. How can one incorporate and work with what is already there ? How can you bring an existing situation to life by giving it possibly a new use? 

I could compere this also to Tales upon Thames as a series of games that aimed to bring new life to a dessereted campus ….Kingston Business Hill! 

Tipp*127

User orientation and autonomous work groups. Large commercial organisations have moved away from hierarchical organisations to models where there are relatively autonomous groups of front line staff, supported by the technical staff, and management. Control is exercised by the users/consumers and their requirements, translated through information and operational systems that highlight the degree to which consumer demand is being successfully met. The demands of a ‘Just in Time’ system of production, for example, provide the structure and discipline to front line staff formerly supplied by hierarchical managers. The manager’s task in this case is to assess variances in performance and ensure the system is integrated effectively. This thinning of hierarchies and distributing of responsibility to front line teams has been termed ‘heterarchical’ where there are many nodes of power and responsibility. Another version is provided by Visa (jointly owned by its member banks) which developed what its founder Dee Hock called a ‘chaordic’ organisation, combining organisation and chaos. For social innovation, such models are particularly applicable to large charities and to public services.

This tip also sort of would suit our group in the way that it discusses “heterachical” discipline. So how can discipline be achieved when there is suspended hierarchy.

Tipp*134

Collaborative technologies. It is often important for ventures to adopt technologies that are flexible, adaptable, and suitable for distributed activity. The Grameen-Danone partnership developed micro yoghurt plants (in spite of the initial scepticism of the machine designers) that enabled easy access to the women distributing the yoghurt to the villagers, and avoided the high costs of refrigeration.

This tip doesnt relate to my group but i liked it a lot! Flexible technologies to suit distribuition activities rather than the other way round!

so we were approached by a client and were comissioned to come up with a viral game. 

Viral Game – Tool Kit

we discussed the game as a group – matteo is always the storytelling guru and then i structured it and made tangible toolkit.

working for comissions is easire and more hopeful for revenue!

and as it was the end of april we also had our group presentation – and it was interesting to go through al the work we ve done to compile a document. We have done so much work , but our ideas were never fully pushed all the way. All ideas were good ! And all ideas is possible what is important is their implementation otherwise they are still ideas and not businesses !

Professional tips

I missed this class but reading the blogs i got the tips too ! It was quite agood system to have these blogs. Great teaching tool , so corrine well done and keep it this way in the future ! 

And if i was to give my own tips since i have quite a bit of professional experience and i have also been inolved in interviewing and choosing my assistants. So it would be :

cv: Dont overload your cv with info – keep it simple – if you are a designer of course add 2-3 pages of pictures in the end. Some people submitt their whole portfolio ! In my opinion this is wrong. Its good to give them a flavour of what you are about and then if they like you they will invite you for an interview and review your portfolio then. Also when it comes to the paper and format  you choose i think its really not worth choosing super nice paper or expensive paper , i think its not nice to obviously show how much effort you ve put in a cv ! So keep it simple and to the point. People just scan the cv in less than 15-20 seconds so if its not clear instantly  you wont go to the next stage.

interview: of course be nicely dress but check out the compaby first to see their personality. For example if you show up in a design studio in a suit its just silly ! So look at the office and dress in a way that suits their agenda. Then bring visual info with you such as your portfolio. And above all be yourself and confident ! Thats the most important thing. Usually in small offices the way employees are chosen is not only by merit bust also in terms of personality. This is equally important. As people work in groups and also as you spend so much time in the office its like families so one has to make sure you suit with the rest of the tribe. This is something you should consider when applying in an office. And also sometimes its ok to lie a little bit. I remember when i took 2 years off between my studies and went to work in NY i was so determined to find a job! I went there over easter with my friend for holidays and for 5 days i was up and on the road with my portfolio from 9-6 non stop. I tried every possible way, calling and knocking doors and on my fifth day after a lot of knocking i found something! on my journey i had met a lot of people! Sometimes you go to one interview and you are not what they are looking for, not because you are not good but because your experience doesnt suit a specufic project. So they can direct you to someone else. Its all a network. The difficult is the first job , then its all easy. So be determined ! I think knocking doors works well especially when you are young but i also think it works in the states were people would  really admire this as courage but in the UK people are different. getting to the right person is sometimes a bit harder and from my experience in london people prefer a more formal procedure. 

Thats it and all the best with all your interviews !

March was good for tofather as we were sort of active and played games …not too many but just enough to understand that students love our business and there is hope for success. Of course for our business to be succesful it means going out there , interactive and being active and with all our different timetables and assignements it all becomes harder. 

From our small games we started to have lots of funs but unfortunately as we were really busy all to be active ….we lost out fans in the same pace as we had won them. I have to admit though that it was not difficult to win fans. The games were fan and in combination with us as characters people seemed very happy and into tales upon thames. 

And from what i continue to see about me i am really good with people. Good with engaging and connecting with them irrelevant of what type or character, good with asking for sponsorships and getting yeses. I ve noticed also in my personal work its really similar. I have to find a way to use this really effectively to my advantage …mmm how ????

VIDEOS

this week in class we looked at every groups videos. Amazing what every group has achieved. And interesting to see how much can one achieve if creativity and multidisciplinarity is used properly with almost no money. 

So once again storytelling and straight to the point. I reallu like the add of mango media – its so powerful ! And in terms of beauty though i have to admit that passport2guides add is beautiful ! Also Tshaped have a really clever concept ! 

So yes little ads are really powerful to promote a business and maybe present a company to a future client/investor. Definately something to take forward.

Apprentice-2

The second apprentice was good ! An inspiring idea upto date and an interesting vibrant personality full of energy …or so he seemed! 

So for this challnge we teamed with pika ! We are so different as groups ! Very different levels of energy ! Well in our group we are full of ideas , honestly full of brilliant ideas … but what we lack is organisation. 

In this challenge we did better than before. We drew a storyboard and had a strong narrative. This helped a lot compared to the previous challenge that we were speaking in the abstract. A storyboard also helps to framework your thoughts and put them in order. 

So improvement for togather. Disorganised group but fast witty learners 🙂 !