Shruti Barton MA Creative Economy
Reflecting on Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship
The original brief for this blogging experience was to reflect and connect on a personal level with what we have learnt in lectures over the course of the last nine months. “Personal” for me is itself an interesting starting point and one worthy of consideration. In the words of our friend Tim Brown (2012), kindly put yourself in my proverbial shoes, if you will, and with empathy consider my personal situation pre #Mace12. For, my 2012 diary read something like this:
February 2012: Surgery to repair torn meniscus in knee
March 2012: Surgery to reconstruct ruptured ACL ligament
May 2012: Surgery to support broken tibia, fibula and tibial plateau with metal plate and pins
As I’m sure you’ll appreciate, empathy well in hand, these events resulted in a large scarring in my knee and an even larger scar to my mental disposition. For those of you who saw me hobbling and limping, crutch in hand and a leg half the size of the other, may well know that the challenges of this year have been of both a physical and mental kind. The realisation that I could no longer work in my established role as city recruitment consultant for at least another six months required my pursuit of a life plan B. Little did I know at the time that plan B is in fact what my plan A has been all along: to mix business with creativity. I share this starting point with you as this is the “inciting incident” that led me to crash land into MACE, “an uncooperative objective reality” (McKee, R. and Fryer, B., 2011).
It may be said, that on top of this brief, I was personally motivated to curate my own blog content (Mullan, 2011) by gathering data and insight from my already established network in order to provide my readers with relevant and interesting content. It was hoped that this would possess a greater perceived value and connection than typed up lecture notes alone could ever offer. In total I have conducted 8 qualitative interviews with individuals who work across the creative industries including digital media, advertising, book publishing, music, the arts and crafts. The DCMS describe the creative industries as “those activities which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property” (DCMS as cited by British Council, 2010) and my interviews genuinely attempted to truly reflect on what each sector have to offer postgraduates of the MA Creative Economy course.
On the face of it, interviews may have appeared an easy way out, however it is not possible to communicate the amount of time and energy that goes into arranging and conducting an interview, transcribing and editing it, writing it up whilst lovingly learning more about WordPress and its idiosyncrasies. All this, on top of my fifty pence worth of opinions, whatever they may count for now. Looking back, this part of the blogging experience was perhaps the most time consuming and it is as a result of this decision to alternate between reflection and interview that I lagged behind on subject matter where others recounted events from weekly Friday encounters. Nevertheless, thanks to a few positive comments (Janet, Anca and Ivo I salute you), I charged on relentlessly with this format, perhaps only ever revealing insights from the open, closed and blind spot quadrants of the Johari Window (Businessballs, 2013) and rarely delving into the unknown of my subjects. On the whole, however, I remain confident that this format has served me well in the end. For, I enjoyed the act of co-generating with respondents, conducting in-depth interviews, getting insights and getting to know people in more detail for that length of time. In terms of my own skills, I feel confident that I was able to build trust, remain curious and follow my intuition, in order to provide ethical, open and insightful interviews overall. I also learnt more about the work that my creative peers do, which has helped shed light onto exactly what kind of role may or may not suit me personally in the future.
Aside from my attempts to use Design Thinking to match and empathise with my readers in cyber space, we were of course practically employing this mode of thinking within our Lean Startup company. We found during prototype stage that people could see the need for Pozzy, they could affiliate themselves with when they would need Pozzy and where and through the creation of several prototypes helped us to create how we should develop the final design. The process of iteration (Blank, 2013) continues in response to suggestions to add a sealable base, a vase-like base or create a multi-functional version within a confined budget. These are all adaptations which could not be possible without the use of Design Thinking at its core, creating customer value and further market opportunities (Brown, 2008).
As a result of the focus on customer orientation and the Human Centred Design kit (IDEO, 2009), we could see that we were targeting a very specific type of environmentally friendly user, the “Resource Conserver” who hates waste and uses tote bags to carry their belongings (Ottman, 2010). Having this insight was invaluable in a variety of capacities; we were able to spot potential users (with tote bag in hand) and could even dress our stall with eco-friendly elements such as pieces of wood and garden trellis.
Easthetic’s Lean Startup Machine
From an operational perspective, our company experienced very few hitches up until the end. We were quick and adept at using the Business Model Canvas (Business Model Generation, 2013) to ensure no detail was left unturned. I am certainly very thankful to have had such an involved part within the team. From brainstorming the initial idea, interviewing potential customers at market research phase, contacting manufacturers and negotiating rates, to drafting business plans and marketing copy. It was a pleasure to work with such highly creative and intelligent people and I can only but confirm that we shared the same values and principles from the outset.
Now on that point, it must be known that Easthetic was not focused on achieving the highest margin on a homemade product for only the six month trading period. Far from it. We wanted to create a company with a personality on social media, a product concept, which, using Design Thinking principles and Lean Startup techniques (O’Reilly, 2013), would be tailored according to customer needs and instil a change in consumer behaviour that would last a lifetime. We wanted to build a real life client base, sell our product and pitch it to actual clients who would order in hundreds, even thousands and turn our Young Enterprise into a Big Enterprise. It is for that reason that we kept flitting between the florist and gift shop distribution channel; all the while being told that supermarkets were the way forward and to ‘think big’. The reality is that there is only so much that can be achieved in 4 months along with preparation for all the trade fairs.
Safeguarding the exploitation of our IP
If you look back to the DCMS definition of the creative industries, there is a clear reference to exploiting the use of intellectual property, or ideas, for monetary gain. To use the words of Eric Ries says, whilst we did not have any precedence to know whether or not our Blue Ocean strategy was going to work (Baer, 2013), what we did know was that the Pozzy was most certainly a Blue Ocean Strategy (Mauborgne, K., and Chan, K., 2004), a bit like Cirque du Soleil, we were excited about reinterpreting the Bag for Life concept to create a gap in the flower market.
I realise now that I have focused many a blog post on IP and copyright, which, given its close link with our beloved creative industries, seems justified looking back. However at the time, this also mirrored the dilemma we were facing in the real world: to protect or not to protect our original idea? I recall asking friends, family members, foes and business acquaintances throughout the process and each and every one of them pointed me in the direction of a Community Registered Design. So now Easthetic is geared up for continued success with CRD number 002202135.
Process driven management style meets creative dancing guy
I was a child of the Thatcher government. I remember my Mum saying something about PM Maggie starving children of milk, and the miners in the next village down from where we lived weren’t all too happy with her for closing down the coal mines. I, on the other hand, came to see the Iron Lady as an inspiration, a strong woman with coiffed hair, impeccably dressed and oh those magnificently large pearls. Perhaps today’s alternative is Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg “she is brilliant at pulling teams together and promoting her company – and herself – with charm and impressive force” (Tett, 2013), although the statistics on how still today less than 14% of women in the UK are in the top corporate positions (Tett 2013) is somewhat disappointing even with the passing of 34 years have passed.
Now I hope I did not lead my team with the same conviction, I guess a 360 appraisal will reveal more. What I was focused on however was using a combination of my process driven abilities (6 years of recruitment will do that to you) and creativity to lead our team effectively, which according to Kern, as cited by Mueller, Goncalo and Kamdar, 2011) is “the ability to generate novel and useful solutions, as the most important leadership competency for the successful organization of the future.”
According to Ries and his Lean Startup writings, it is the very act of putting processes in place which ultimately “drives culture, not the other way around, so you can’t just change the culture, you have to change the system.” (Ries as cited by Baer, 2013). This is why we had systems in place for everything, from market research feedback forms, a database of florist contacts, ‘to-do’ lists for all the team members, an expenses form to work out how much we were spending; trying where possible to provide as many tools as possible to avoid time wastage and failure so as to make our experimental process as easy possible.
On a personal level, I guess you could say I tried to opt for the energy and enthusiasm of Tigger (The Times, 2004, Milne, Hoff and Shepard, 1982). To use a visual metaphor to show how I would lead the team if I had my time again have a look at the following brilliant, anecdotal and insightful video called
In terms of Easthetic’s core values and principles, it is a pleasure to revert to my original notes and see that, as a group, we originally and consistently shared the same principles and goals (Kouzes, Posner and Dekrey, 2013). We wanted to create a sustainable, stylish product which reflected our fun personalities and design-centred thinking. Without doubt, we all can say that we adhered to Fraser’s advice to “Put your imagination and team spirit ahead of your fears and egos” (p. 52, Fraser, 2012) and that in order to keep the creative juices flowing our organisational culture lacked any negativity whatsoever. We were most certainly a team with respect for our diverse cultural backgrounds and experiences, with a focus on making decisions together (Murphy, 2006) for the best outcome of the company overall.
Reflecting in my reflection
I recall asking every interviewer their thoughts on social media and its impact on their industry. The only negative aspect came from the lack of integrity or honesty which maybe experienced with some content. For the most part, however, the feedback is incredibly positive. Social media is a vital part of the creative industries, from considering the 3 C’s Customers, Content, and Commerce, its immediacy, to its capacity to reach a much wider audience than traditional forms of advertising. Having gained a good understanding of the value that IP also plays in the creative industries, and the ability to curate my own content in order to differentiate myself from others, I feel confident that I am leaving the MA Creative Economy with a new toolkit which will help me to continue generating ideas, attempting to realise them and in turn, become a creative entrepreneur overall.
If we were to return now to the same dates I mentioned at the beginning of this post in my 2013 calendar you will find the following team achievements:
February 2013: Awarded First Prize £1,000 in Bright Ideas Entrepreneurship Award
February 2013: Awarded Best Company at Kingston University Trade Fair
March 2013: Awarded Best Trade Stand at Kingston Market Trade Fair
May 2013: Awarded Best Trade Stand at Kingston University Trade Fair
So, in the grand scheme of things, this year has not dealt that much of an unfair hand, all things being considered. I would certainly, in this instance disagree with Ken Robinson were he to say that Kingston Business School has killed my creativity (Robinson, 2012). Indeed, it has bought it to life. I hope that my little hiatus from working pays off. Watch this space…
Business Model Generation, (2013) The Business Model Canvas, Available online at: http://www.businessmodelgeneration.com/canvas (Accessed: 21 May 2013).
Businessballs (2013) Ingham and Luft’s Johari Window model diagrams and examples – for self-awareness, personal development, group development and understanding relationships, Available online at: http://www.businessballs.com/johariwindowmodel.htm (Accessed 24 May 2013).
Baer, D., (2013) Eric Ries On How To Make Any Company Move Like A Lean Startup. Fast Company, Available online at: http://www.fastcompany.com/3004572/eric-ries-how-make-any-company-move-lean-startup (Accessed: 22 May 2013).
Blank, S., (2013) Why the lean startup changes everything, Harvard Business Review, Available online at: http://hbr.org/2013/05/why-the-lean-start-up-changes-everything (Accessed: 24 May, 2013).
British Council, (2010) Creative and cultural economies series 2: Mapping the Creative Industries Toolkit, British Council, Available online at: http://www.britishcouncil.org/mapping_the_creative_industries_a_toolkit_2-2.pdf (Accessed: 23 May 2013).
Brown, T., (2008) Design Thinking, Harvard Business Review, p.1-10. Available online at: http://www.unusualleading.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/HBR-on-Design-Thinking.pdf (Accessed: 23 May 2013).
Brown,T., (2013) Class of 2013: Start Designing Your Life. Design Thinking, Available online at: http://designthinking.ideo.com/. (Accessed 23 May 2013).
Fraser, H., M., (2012) Design Works: How to tackle your toughest innovation challenges through business design, University of Toronto Press, Rotman-UTP Publishing. p. 52
IDEO (2009) Human-Centered Design Toolkit | IDEO. Available online at: http://www.ideo.com/work/human-centered-design-toolkit/ (Accessed: 23 May 2013).
McKee, R. and Fryer, B. (2011) Storytelling that moves people, Harvard Business Review, Available online at: http://hbr.org/web/special-collections/insight/communication/storytelling-that-moves-people (Accessed: 23 May 2013).
Mauborgne, K., and Chan, K., (2004) “Blue Ocean Strategy”, Harvard Business Review, October 2004, Available online at: http://hbr.org/2004/10/blue-ocean-strategy/ar/1 (Accessed: 22 May 2013).
Mueller, J. S., Goncalo, J. A., and Kamdar, D., (2011) Recognizing creative leadership: Can creative idea expression negatively relate to perceptions of leadership potential? Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 47, Issue 2, P.494-498, University of Pennsylvannia.
Mullan, 2011 What is Content Curation? EContent, Available online at: http://www.econtentmag.com/Articles/Resources/Defining-EContent/What-is-Content-Curation-79167.htm, Accessed 23 May 2013.
Milne, A.A., Hoff, B., Shepard, E.H.,(1982) The Tao of Pooh, Penguin Books USA Inc.
O’Reilly, T. (2013) The lean startup. Available online at: http://theleanstartup.com/ (Accessed: 21 May 2013).
Robinson, K. (2012) Do Schools Kill Creativity?. Available online at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sir-ken-robinson/do-schools-kill-creativity_b_2252942.html (Accessed: 22 May 2013).
Ottman, J., (2010) A smart way to segment green consumers, Harvard Business Review, Available online at: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2010/02/a_smart_way_to_segment_green_c.html, (Accessed 22 May 2013.)
The Tao of Pooh “The Tac of Podh.” The Times, 11 May 2004: p.2[S1]. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 24 May 2013. Available online at: http://find.galegroup.com/ttda/infomark.do?&source=gale&prodId=TTDA&userGroupName=king&tabID=T003&docPage=article&searchType=BasicSearchForm&docId=IF502559455&type=multipage&contentSet=LTO&version=1.0 Accessed 22 May 2013.
Tett, G., (2013) Interview: Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, FT Magazine , Available online at: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/da931d58-a7c2-11e2-9fbe-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2UCvaBNny (Accessed 23 May 2013).
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