Congratulations you’ve made it this far, sorry you might fail again and again!

I recently came across an article shared on our module Facebook page. The article was titled “Prepare students ‘to fail’ so they can learn”. Pretty straight forward one would think and I would agree with that statement because it was something that I was not taught at school and had to teach myself. Coming from a country were the culture does not allow failure it was at times extremely challenging to comprehend or to even justify the slightest mistake.

Truthfully, my response to the article was that I loved it! I truly found it is satisfying that some people actually went ahead and conducted a study as opposed to “it” just being a myth. I could not agree more with what they were saying taking a punch so hard that you do not even have time to wonder how and where it came from but the process as a whole will help students “become more creative and resilient”. I wish I was told “you’re going to fail with this, you’re going to struggle, you’re not going to understand it in full, but try it”. Now I wonder whether it is either our parents or our teachers’ responsibility to teach us that failing should be celebrated and not condemned. This semester with Design Thinking, knowing in advance it was not going to be an easy road and being told that we might find some bumps along the way but we’ll eventually see the silver lining was comforting. Especially, during those times where we thought we could not pull off our project in time for the Dragon’s Den.

Well would you say that “productive failure” is a paradox? I remember when my team had to conduct our very first survey regarding the first idea we were considering for Design Thinking, hearing “no” was a bit shocking at first for myself surprisingly. I thought I had mentally prepared enough to receive criticism. Then I remember all of our lecturers constantly saying “remember their (the customers) opinions mater the most, not yours!”. It took me that sentence and a few “NOs” to start to comprehend that the idea was not a failure but there were details we perhaps had left out and not everyone will share our vision. Then again there are many factors such as how convincing were we? Or did they really relate to the problem we were trying to solve? Did we speak to the right people? Is there such thing as “the right people to speak to?” I am confident enough today to say that at times it will be hard to accept failure but at least I know it is for the better.

Should we aspire to fail?
The article is available at the following address:
https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/prepare-students-fail-so-they-can-learn-report-suggests

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Gearing up for Dragon’s Den

So after weeks and weeks of brainstorming, prototyping, market research and a lot of back and forth to the drawing board we finally have our product. We have three versions of our prototype to show to the judges on “THEE DAY” a.k.a “Dragon’s Den” and for some reason the nerves aren’t kicking yet perhaps it is a good thing because at this point we are a bit mentally drained.

img_3128( First protype)

img_3231(From right to left, second and third prototype)

The process of getting to design or rather choosing to create the final product was rather long with occasional bumps until we realised there were one thing we had overlooked the entire time. Let me explain, we started our project with the idea that we wanted to create something that people needed not necessarily ourselves but a product that would help others who are facing a certain problem. I must admit we had some pretty good ideas and it took us an afternoon off meaning no market research, no prototyping, no nothing and a late lunch to realise that we all appreciate and love our travels and we have all been robbed. Yes, there are all sorts of anti-theft gadgets on the market but we had faith that we were bringing something different to the market. We were aware of the growing trends of youth travel and we knew that this time around we were not only trying to help others but we were going to help ourselves as well.

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One of our lecturers for the module made a great comment when we presented our prototype at Fab Lab a few weeks ago (Please refer to the post “Fab Lab”), I can’t remember the exact words so I will paraphrase what she said: [ do you see how when you create something that you love, you’re passionate about, you can relate to – the words just flow out of your mouth, you don’t need records card with a prepared speech to tell people why is it you think your product is good enough for them]. This time around for Dragon’s Den it’s not that it was easier but it was certainly a good thing to know the difference and to have experienced it. We did have to prepare a presentation and remember few statistics but beyond that I think it was more the passion behind our product that enabled us to give the presentation. Preparing for the Dragon’s Den’ pitch, I have to admit was the most enjoyable prep I have done in a very long time!! Who knew that using pillows to replace judges and rehears your speech was so much fun?!! I mean there were a few yawns, okay A LOT but it was worth it.

The day is finally here and we get to finally pitch our idea. Still not nervous and wondering whether or not I should be. We enter the room and get briefed with the judges. We were third to present and when came our turn, one of our teammate who doesn’t drink is asking for vodka because she’s stressed about the Q&A part now you’re thinking may be it is time to panic but no!! We held her hand and said that there are no ways we would be incapable of answering any questions regarding the product. If by any chance, we couldn’t it is okay to say that we have not looked at that specific thing they are enquiring about but we will take on board and follow up afterwards or something of the same sort. Presentation went well, we had some great feedbacks that we will all take on board. Going into the room to present, we had two USPs and 2 great add-ons for our product and among the feedback we got, they advised us to only use one unique selling point which was the location in our case of the safe. One judge asked us how much it would cost if we removed the slash-proof feature from our product and once we stated the difference in price that’s when he suggested perhaps we should consider removing that feature. I think we (as a team) love that feature so much that we are still struggling with the idea of completely removing it that we thought that we will do a trial. So we will manufacture the product without the slash-proof feature and see how what customers think of it, then ask them if they would like the feature and offer it on demand. After all groups had presented, we were joined by the other half of the judges and other fellow classmates where the lecturers and judges had some general feedback for everyone. I am ready to bet that the one advise that stuck with all of us (students) was when one judge said “Listen to the ones who do not like your product”. Ten very powerful words in my opinion though I can understand why some may think that those words are a bit of paradox. They may think – why would you listen to people who have not bought the product, they have not experienced it and technically speaking not in a better position than someone who has had some experience with the product, tell you what he does not like about the product. My take on these words is, all feedbacks are valuable regardless of who likes and who does not like the product.

Can You Innovate in Third World Countries?

 

I’ve always given this question a lot of thoughts but since I’ve started this course I have been looking more and more into this issue. Depending on where the people replying this question are, answers will differ. If you were to ask Africans (central) who have never left the continent, 80% would say it’s a clear “NO”. There is not a chance we can innovate, 15% are the ones who in my opinion think that there are ways to innovate but not in their lifetimes and say it will take at least five generations to start to see some changes. The remaining 5% (including myself) are the ones who have been lucky enough to experience other worlds and know for a fact that it is indeed possible to innovate in third world countries.

From a personal standpoint, when most people think about innovation, they envision developed-countries and why not?  In developed-countries, they have cutting edge technologies, developed infrastructure, they have opportunities to be funded (by Venture Capitalists, Business Angels, Governments) etc. In developing countries on the other hand, people lack those benefits and face severe challenges ranging from political instability, well underdeveloped infrastructure, to not enough trained individuals. Companies have to unfortunately innovate on extremely tight budgets as they do not have the means to spend on R&D.

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For a long time, I used to think that there is simply no innovation without technology. What “Design Thinking” is teaching me is that there is always a way to innovate, perhaps not always through technology but around it. Very few businesses in Central Africa use a customer-centric approach, some would say this is because they do not have the technology to allow them to understand the buying behaviour. I would say this is because “we simply have not understood how important is offering a great experience to the customer from the awareness stage, through the purchasing stage and finally to the post-purchasing stage. How challenging is it going to be to implement or at least try to make companies understand the importance of customer centricity, my bet – VERY CHALLENGING! Then again there are many other factors to consider, one of the most important ones is culture. People are very set in their ways and very reluctant to change, they believe that if something has worked in the past then there is no reason as to why it will not in the future.

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There people who are helping the continent with innovative solutions such as the “portable water pumps” to help small farmers in sub-Sahara grow crops at affordable price $35-$95. Others such as the “CardioPad” a touchscreen medical tablet that diagnose heart disease in rural areas with limited access to medical care.

 

Do you think the main challenge is to have the right technology or to find our way around it?

How Unique Exactly Are You?

 

To prepare for the lecture we were tasked to come up with the value proposition of a business our team felt passionate about, to the exception of the big names (ie: Google, Facebook, Ebay, etc). MUJI is the one we settled on, it is a Japanese retailer that sales household and consumers good, they have stores in 29 countries around the world. What we like about MUJI is the simplicity of their design, the image of the brand to be precise the lifestyle it promotes (simplistic, minimalistic, no clutter). What makes them unique when there are many other brands that do the same thing you ask? Well, even if you did not wonder why let me try to explain to the best of my abilities.

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First thing first, what is the value proposition? Well it is a promise a brand or a company makes to its customers for a distinctive benefit. We used the value proposition canvas to help us pin point exactly what it is that is unique, that MUJI brings to its customers. The VP canvas is a tool that helps you design a product or service that your customers want. This is to help you (the company) focus on what matters the most to them (your customers). Below is copy of the canvas.

Value-proposition-canvas.jpg

Due to the extensive list of products MUJI sales we decided to focus on the top product sold on their UK website which is the oil diffuser. One would ask himself what does this oil diffuser have that it is unique and has been voted top product. To answer that question, it has many in one features: it works as a night stand lamp and as an oil diffuser. The minimalistic promise that MUJI made to its customers, makes it that the lamp/oil diffuser is light and small. Thus, it will not take as much space on your night stand. When it came to the experience of the customers, 72% claimed they loved the diffuser because it was simple, lightweight, some people could use it to both meditate and read at night. However, 14% claimed that they did not have a good experience with the product because it came in broken part, one feature worked and not the other, it kept shutting off, etc.

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I would love to hear your feedback: do you think that if it was your company, would you return to the drawing board and redesign the features of the oil diffuser or would you just focus on the 72% who enjoy your product the way it is? Well, for me it is safe to say that I would go back to the drawing board and try not to disrupt too much the things that most customers liked originally. I think us being customers we have all seen brands redesigning a product that used to be a favourite and changing so much that we did not like the new version. Then again, in my opinion that is a very difficult task to do.

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Overall from our lecture with Richard, of the don’ts he mentioned when doing the value proposition  I remember the following. Firstly, what we should not do is to only focus on functional jobs rather we should try to find/understand the emotional, social drivers of the customers. Secondly, I learned that we should not try to address every single customer pain and gain. It is unrealistic to believe that one can satisfy all the needs at once, perhaps what one should do is to focus on a need or a couple at a time and not all of them at once. Lastly, the most important in my opinion is that you/me (as a company) should not when filling the customer profile (wants, needs and fears) start listing only the pains and jobs we see our value proposition solving.

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