At the start of this master, I remember reading “Design thinking for start-ups” with no clue to what it was, as I have never come across the term before. I did what I thought was sensible enough: which was research books on the topic and familiarise myself with the term and the notion. It still was very unclear as to what precisely we will be studying this year. Reading the module guide and assessments that will be carried out, was the second sensible thing to do in my opinion. I was apprehensive, at times on edge not knowing how I’ll perform and it pretty much remained that way for a little why. Tom & David Kelley have been of great help when it came to explaining and understanding creativity. Though this statement may bring some confusion, I do believe that creativity should be understood in order to be exploited. Yes, some will say you just are born creative but although Tom Kelley’s opinion is not the only opinion that counts, I agree with his statement that everybody can be creative. The questions in hand are: did I get to exploit it this year? Was I aware of the different facets of creativity?
Design Thinking: the process S. Gibbons (2016)
Firstly, what is design thinking? Such innocent and yet powerful words I got to understand midway. From what I have gathered and understood from my experience, design thinking is a methodology that is used to find solution to complex problems. With design thinking, the emphasis is not quite put on the problem, the focus is rather put on actions and steps taken to create a desired future. Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO once defined design thinking as “a subject that uses a designer’s method and sensibility to pair people’s desires with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can translate into a market opportunity and customer value” (T.Brown, 2009)
Did I get to exploit my creativity this year?
Undoubtedly yes! For the moment one stepped into the class, the first few words from the lecturer sparks that flame and if you could see your brain imagining, designing, playing. If anything, my creativity has been fuelled, and made me into what I call a “creatmonster”. Design thinking has transformed the way I strategised. I learnt how one can go from an idea to launching a product and selling it is safe to say that it can transform the way you develop a service or a product. Was I aware of the different facets of creativity? No I was not.
The entire year, the lecturers have not failed to make the class as interactive and fun as possible to the point where one could find himself/herself wondering whether it is even legal to have this much fun when working. If I had to choose the hardest part of our adventure as far as coming up with an idea, the market research, manufacturing, selling and a few other steps in between the part I enjoyed the most was the prototyping. We were encouraged to think a lot with our hands, this was something new that showed me a different way of working. Prototyping is the reason behind many of today’s greatest inventions. The Wright brothers, had built a substantial amount of prototypes before learning how to fly. There are no guidelines to prototyping, you just do/build a product. Another key advantage prototyping has is to allow you to pivot if need be. Our very first idea was to create a fork attached to a tube that will allow you to store and dispense your sauces or dressings for salads or pasta. It was by doing that we realised that there were many things we could do or could not and therefore avoid unncessary financial strain on the company.
Design of first prototype (2016) Bright Light
The people you are in a relationship with a.k.a your teammates
When pitching for funding, the key thing that could convince a venture capital or business angel to invest is a team. This is something I was taught in entrepreneurial finance (one of my other module), it started to fully understand when my fellow team members and I had to managed a business. I guess what I can advise future students will be to make sure that your teammates shared the same desire, most importantly make sure that you have a variety of skills. Often you’ll be faced with situations where the outcome could have been different if only you had a mixture of different backgrounds (i.e a designer, an engineer and a biologist) which we did. This could help leverage each others expertise to build or create a solution. The designer will bring in the creativity, the engineer will solve problems and build a solution, a biologist can be conservative about taking risks but will be relentless. As the founders of Fab Lab once said, make sure you shared the same values, ideas but most importantly that you complete each other. We as team have gone through our tribulations as any team would but I would have it another way, I am proud of my team and the accomplishments we have made.
Team Bright Light (2016) Photo by C.T.Ching
What design thinking also solidified was some of the traits an entrepreneur need to have:
- Risk taker: we had to take risks times and times again. Have an idea, prototype go out and test it.
- Determined: going through the experience alone meant overcoming many obstacles and roadblocks.
- Creative thinker: we have learnt to think past boundaries, to go and think out of our box and explore different outcomes.
- Confidence: We got to learn to take initiative, to believe in our product and us as a team.
What it allowed to see at times were the weaknesses they might have:
- Bad time management: spending more time to thinking about how we could make more sales rather than just going out more and trying to sell.
- Biased perspective of the business at times: an entrepreneur should be able to step back from time to time and ask for external feedback because after working on a project for some time it is easier to take some bad decisions.
- Not implementing one idea at a time: having many ideas and trying to implement them all at once could result into a disaster. It is better to stick to one, and dismiss the ones that could not work.
Then, Now and There
The module has come before other modules in terms of priority, has taught us to enjoy the struggle. We have endured standing in long hours in the cold, we have shed tears, frustration and although we did not win any prize what we valued the most were the life lessons we have learnt, the life long friendships and the person we have become. A few months, when our lecturer said that she had asked previous year students to give us one single piece of advice and what it would be and they unanimously replied “Oh they will survive” I thought how dare they?! Now I am confident enough to say to students to come, “they will survive, and it only gets better”.
“Change by Design” (2009) T. Brown
“Design Thinking 101” (2016) S. Gibbons, Available at https://www.nngroup.com/articles/design-thinking/ (Accessed on 9 September 2016)
“Creativity At Work” (2007) L. Naiman
“1903 – The First Flight” Wright Brothers National Park service, Available at https://www.nps.gov/wrbr/learn/historyculture/thefirstflight.htm (Accessed on: 2 March 2017)
“A beginners’ guide to design frameworks” (2016) R. Jama, Available at: https://medium.com/swlh/think-with-your-hands-36d703f60164 (Accessed on 12th April 2017)
“The innovation value chain” (2007), Available at: http://knowledge.insead.edu/innovation/the-innovation-value-chain-2161 (Accessed on 7 April 2017)
“The innovation value Chain” (2007) M. Hansen and J.Birkinshaw, Harvard business Reviw, Available at https://hbr.org/2007/06/the-innovation-value-chain (Accessed on 7 April 2017)