Reflective Essay – K1437937
My journey with “Designing a Business” entered its seriousness phase when we had to form our teams. I was approached by Renzo and Julia to join their team; they were trying to form a team with a variety of skills and approached me as I was a manufacturing engineer. Since then we formed a bond of trust and friendship that allowed us to have worthy and fair teamwork which would prove to be very valuable throughout the course. As mentioned by Hoegl and Gemuenden (2001) Teamwork has six main facets, these are: communication, coordination, balance of member contributions, mutual support, effort, and cohesion. We balanced these six main pillars of teamwork between us and managed to go through the year without any conflicts.
In the beginning, we took Corrine’s advice and started looking for problems before we jump to the conclusion and pick a product. We started off by brainstorming and looking at areas in general; we ended up picking environmental issues and disabilities. After close consideration we picked the area of disabilities, mainly due to the reason that some group members have some experience in dealing with people with disabilities. As Mikkel had a brother suffering from epilepsy and Julia’s dad worked with children with disabilities. Since it was Halloween time back then, our product started off being a costume for children with disabilities on wheelchairs. Little by little the product changed and became many different ideas, including a spoon to help people with Parkinson’s eat better (shown in my sketch below), until it finally became “Once Upon A Wheel” which was colouring learning materials for people with learning disabilities.
Our time together passed very quickly and I personally managed to learn and develop many great skills that will surely benefit me greatly in my future endeavors. The full sets of skills I’ve leant are teamwork, blogging, networking, design thinking, brand persona/ story telling, packaging, fairs display/ sales skills, pitching/ presenting, marketing/ branding, prototyping, finance and creating a value proposition canvas. Due to having a word limit, I will only go into detail with the skills that I believe had the biggest impact on me.
The importance of networking cannot be stressed enough. In a study on 5 different focus groups of 41 managers working in anonymous companies, De Klerk, S. (2009) mentions that 97% of participants depended on networking to lure in new business opportunities to the companies they work in. In our course we had the opportunity to meet several high profile inspirational people as I mention in my blog post “Trade Fair 2 – Part two + meeting inspirational people”. In addition to creating the opportunities for us to meet these inspirational people, we were also encouraged to network on our own as part of an assessed networking report and for me personally that resulted in meeting amazing people including Prince Fahad Al-Saud, a well known entrepreneur which has several startups and was one of the first 100 people to work at Facebook.
More important for me, are the networks I created with my own classmates. For example, I had a startup idea that I shared with Jonas and he was very interested in it! So we will be perusing this opportunity together starting mid-May, and who knows? It might result in something amazing!
“Thinking like a designer can transform the way you develop products, services, processes and even strategy.” (Brown 2008, p.1)
We are undoubtedly very lucky to have a lecturer that has a PHD in design thinking, as it is an important trait of innovators. The U.S.E.R model (an acronym for “USER, SYSTEM, ESTABLISH, REALISE”) of design thinking proposed by Beaumont (2010) is a model that “represents the four stages of design thinking. Each stage has a set of activities, which alternate between analysis—synthesis and concrete—abstract. When four stages are completed, it forms a phase. Each phase increases in progress from develop to implement to evaluate. In a design thinking model, the goal is to develop a product/service that has been developed, tested and found to be successful with users. Once the project has reached success, it is transferred to entrepreneurial and business activities to bring it to market” (Beaumont, 2010). This model was used by our team in the earlier stages of development to investigate the reasons why customers would purchase our product. The outcomes greatly impacted the circular design of our product which resulted in easier and swifter shifting between images when colouring to reduce the effort exerted by the disabled customers.
Another inspiring part of design thinking was the sympathy/ empathy rationale, where we were advised to empathize with our customers and try and be in their shoes to understand their needs in a clearer way. Our team has done this by making various visits to the Bedelsford School for disabled children in Kingston to spend time around the disabled kids and let them try out our prototypes. These visits resulted in huge changes in our product throughout the development phase. It also gave us more credibility as we can now say that these products have been tested and proven in real practical situations.
Brand Persona/ Story telling
“The strength of your brand will come from the strength of its persona and your commitment to its behavioral implications. Your audience will be interested in the brand story and its actions because they understand the persona.” (Herskovitz and Crystal 2010, p.28)
For our product “Once Upon A Wheel” it was very important to create a brand persona that represents our product in a positive way. We created the Mirus character, who is a 31 year old academic that takes care of his younger autistic brother. When creating this character we went as far as picking what type of watch he wears and the colour of his hair. Everything we picked out about Mirus had its purpose; we wanted to create a character that would appeal to our customers that are mainly therapists and parents of children with various disabilities (The full persona is available in my blog post “What now).
One of the most memorable lectures we had is when we learnt about prototyping. Without any previous preparation, we had to make a prototype of our product in 5 minutes using only what is available around us in the classroom. Since we were still in the Halloween costume for disabled children phase of our product, this is what we came up with.
Prototyping this way allows people in the group change certain things in the prototype without hurting the feelings of others by scrapping all their hard work. As mentioned by Kelley and Kelley (2013) in their book “Creative Confidence”, prototyping quickly and cheaply allows you to keep multiple options alive for longer. Instead of taking a big risk on one approach that is based on a gut feeling, you can create and test many ideas. When you end up picking a direction; you will be making a more informed decision, raising the chances of success in the end.
Throughout the course we were required to create and maintain a blog on WordPress. Before doing this, I never imagined blogging to be as important as it really is. Bunskoek (2013) mentions 4 main benefits of blogging, which are: Driving traffic to your website, Increase your SEO (Search engine optimization)/ SERP (Search engine results per page), Position your brand as an industry leader and Develop better customer relationships. A brief recent example of how blogging is very important; is what recently happened in my country, Jordan. A group of important bloggers from North America visited Jordan In April, 2015 as tourists. When the Queen of Jordan, Queen Rania heard of this, she quickly arranged meetings with them and made sure they were enjoying their time here so they would blog positively about Jordan to attract tourists in the future. Jordan tourism board ended up making a video for their visit and Queen Rania shared it on her official Facebook page. This incident clearly shows how influential bloggers can be. Follow the following link to watch the video: https://vimeo.com/125510406 (Jordan tourism board, 2015)
As for the future, blogging is one of the things that I will definitely continue doing to help me advertise any business that I do.
Pitching and Presenting
I used to get very nervous when presenting before, but somehow the friendliness of the people in our course made it much easier and more easy going. I can confidently say that I have become a better presenter. One of the most important skills I have gained is how to keep the presenting process short, clear and straight to the point. By using the concept of the “Elevator Pitch” an entrepreneur should be able to catch the attention of the person he’s presenting to in the time it takes for the elevator to reach it destination, hence the name “Elevator Pitch”. “Being able to sum up unique aspects of your service or product in a way that excites others should be a fundamental skill.” (Pincus, 2007). Pincus (2007) also explains that there is no such thing as the perfect elevator pitch for all types of audiences and occasions, the pitch should be tailored for the specific audience and also for the specific purpose of the pitch.
I will definitely be tailoring my own elevator pitch along with Jonas in our upcoming start up idea.
In her article, Dallin (2012) mentions that “good packaging equals increased sales”. She explains how people are usually drawn to the products with the “cool labels” and how that is a decisive factor for picking out a certain product after assessing its quality. In one of the memorable lectures we had about packaging I had this particular image stuck in my head as I also believe it fits the criteria Dallin (2012) mentions. The image below is shows the attractive packaging of fruit juices.
In our case, the shape of our product inspired our packaging, as it looks like a vinyl record, so we decided to make the packaging look like a vinyl record sleeve.
An issue that I have encountered during this course was the assumption that I knew everything about production and packaging since I was a manufacturing engineer. As a manufacturing engineer I have learnt a lot of complicated manufacturing processes but that does not mean that I automatically knew everything it takes to manufacture our product, which mainly had to do with simple things that I haven’t learnt like printing methods and creating a die (mold). This was not really a problem as I like new challenges but the only thing I needed was a little bit of extra time (around 2 days), in this time I learnt many things about printing, from paper types, thickness, different types of colours used and how to create dies. All the things I learnt about the printing world are mentioned in more details in my blog post “Gaining experience in unexpected areas”.
To conclude, I know that in the future I would hate having a normal 9-5 job. I have the entrepreneurship spirit in me and I would love to have my own startup or at least work in one. This course and all the different skills I gained from it definitely helped me take several steps towards my goals; surely many of these skills will be put into practice at work and at my everyday life. I step out of this course a different man, and for this I am deeply grateful, thank you Corrine and thank you Mace 2014/2015 for this amazing journey.
Beaumont, C. (2010) USER design thinking model. MACE Kingston. Available at: http://macekingston.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/usermodel-corrinebeaumont.pdf
Brown, T. (2008). Design Thinking. Harvard business Review. HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL PUBLISHING CORPORATION.
Bunskoek, K. (2013). 4 Reasons Why Blogging is Important for your Business. [online] Wishpond. Available at: http://blog.wishpond.com/post/47804902390/4-reasons-why-blogging-is-important-for-your-business/ [Accessed 25 Apr. 2015].
Dallin, A. (2012). The Importance of Packaging Design. [online] Redrocketcreative.com. Available at: http://www.redrocketcreative.com/blog-post/importance-packaging-design [Accessed 25 Apr. 2015].
De Klerk, S. (2009). The importance of networking as a management skill. X6001. Potchefstroom: School of Business Management, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, North-West University.
Herskovitz, S. and Crystal, M. (2010). The essential brand persona: storytelling and branding. JOURNAL OF BUSINESS STRATEGY VOL. 31 NO. 3. Emerald Group Publishing Limited, p.28.
Hoegl, M. and Gemuenden, H. (2001). Teamwork Quality and the Success of Innovative Projects: A Theoretical Concept and Empirical Evidence. Vol 12. Washington: Washington State University, Department of Management and Decision Science.
Jordan tourism board, (2015). Journey to Jordan.Available at: https://vimeo.com/125510406 [Accessed 25 Apr. 2015].
Kelley, T. and Kelley, D. (2013). Creative confidence. New York: Crown Publishing Group.
Pincus, A. (2007). The Perfect (Elevator) Pitch. SPEAKING OF BUSINESS, BUS 1121-Widdel. Bloomberg BusinessWeek.