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.

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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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Finance With Simon Hulme

 

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I don’t know what goes through one’s mind when you’re being told that you’ll be taught finance by a serial I mean serial entrepreneur. Someone who has built and sold two significant businesses, active Business Angel with 20 investments, who has worked for Goldman Sachs as a program tutor and is the program director of the Technology Entrepreneurship at UCL. I mean can I panic just for two seconds? Please?! In all seriousness I’ve always loved finance but at the same time I’ve always found it intimidating and overwhelming. For two years I had to do Managing Financial Resources and Financial Management as part of my undergrad degree hence it is safe to say that it was not unfamiliar territory. We were told during those two years how important it is to be familiar with the benefits of financial management (make efficient use of resources, achieve objectives, etc). Nevertheless, I was looking forward to the lecture.

I apologise in advance but I’m about to pull one those “my mom used to … “. Well I have to, with all due respect keep reading! I’m trying to make a point. My mom used to tell me growing up, even though you already know the answers to the questions your teachers are about to ask when you’re in class, don’t act as a “know it all”. Forget that you know it all, act as if you were just starting on a new slate and listen because maybe this time around he’ll say it differently, something else may click and you might find a better/quicker way to do that question in the future and it’ll never leave your brain. The point I’m trying to make is, once the lecture started I listened, observed as if it was the first time I was doing finance and I’m glad I did.

Simon was fantastic! He could not have explained it much better. His explanations were simple to the extent that even people who had not done it before could understand. What I found most exciting about finance this time around is that I actually have the chance to apply everything into a real business and not just stop at practice questions and exams. Although I struggled a bit with a pricing exercise in class, he gave three examples the clock, the greeting cards and the cup of coffee and it’s only when I was leaving the class that it finally clicked! To be safe, I decided to do more examples until there’s no room for doubts.

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Thank you Simon Hulme!

Fab Lab

I think the female in me is itching to call it “Fabulous Lab” because that’s how my time was “Fabulous”. Before I start telling you how those days were let me take you on another trip, shall we? Well, it’s reading week aka travel week for some, crunch times for those who want to advance their coursework and just relaxing week for others. I planned on going to see my mom for at least three days during that week. I hadn’t seen her in a few months and I was being told that I had two days of workshop at Fab Lab. My heart just sank because I knew I had to chose between those two days and seeing my mother. Long story short, I chose to stay and to attend both days.

On the Tuesday we had the founders of Fab Lab come to the university. They introduced themselves, talked about the company, their objectives and went onto the good stuff. I haven’t asked my classmates this question but I think I’ll remind myself to do so, well I felt very inspired 25 mins into the presentation and proud of what they have brought to life. I know some may frown upon this but it’s a revolutionary idea in my opinion. It’s only a matter of time before the world catches onto it and I’m looking forward to the day I’ll see them front page of The Times, and I’ll say to whoever would be next to me at that time “I had the chance to meet them”.

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They emphasised on the importance to do research (focus group, prototyping, and other ways of testing) before pursuing an idea. Though it is important to know that surveys cannot be validations to assumptions which was an eye opener for me. I thought that surveys are part of primary data, could be used as facts therefore could validate whatever assumptions we wanted to prove. Then for the rest of the afternoon we talked about the importance of MVP (Minimum Viable Product). They said that we will most definitely experience a loop when dealing with our project which consisted of: TRY —-> TEST—->LEARN and back to trying again and again and again. This is a way of testing the market and making sure that the product is actually needed, finding out why should people buy it? Does it perform as intended? Can it be built and delivered?

We then had a chance to come up with a MVP, dear oh dear never give people with a wild imagination green light to come up with ideas. Safe to say that my group and I not only did we pull our hair but I personally wasn’t hundred percent sure of our final idea at first. I think now looking back it was because I was trying to put myself into the shoes of every customers and I think it was wrong because not only are there ” different strokes for different folks” also I didn’t have the research (data) to back up this idea. Likely we were given a day in Fab Lab quarters in central London to prototype, make mistakes and see if our final product could work.

Another thing I also remembered from that first day was when someone asked them (the founders of Fab Lab) how they knew they were good for each other and how they came together? I know some will expect a grandiose answer, on the contrary they answered: it’s just like in a relationship. You share the same views, care about the same things and you just know that you work well together. Below are the people I’m in a relationship with 🙂 (P.S: we are just missing Afrah 🙂 )

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Came on Friday, we were now able to work on our prototypes, yes you read right!! “Types”, our idea was to make a chopping board with indented ends that could clip on and off to different recipients. This would help organise veggies when chopping them so that you could have space to cut other things and not have a crammed chopping board. Our first assumption was to reuse as much as possible. So our first prototype was made out of card board as you can see below, the recipients were made out of old plastic fruits containers and cardboard too.

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We were very pleased with our first prototype so much so that we decided to change some features such as incorporating a thumb hole that would allow us to hold it differently. We made the chopping board smaller, lighter and made rounder ends to avoid kids getting hurt because the previous ones were sharp. Then Irene (one of the founder of Fab Lab) even more helpful that she had already been, told us we could use the laser cutting to make our final product. Very exciting I know!!! We used leftover acrylic to make our board. Watching the laser cut through acrylic was extremely satisfying but not as much as it was holding our final product.

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Janja (one of our lecturers) has been telling us for weeks about the importance of trying out, prototyping but it’s only during those two days that I got to truly I mean truly understand and see what she’s been saying all along. I’m very thankful and grateful for all the opportunities and the knowledge I gained during those two days.

If I may quote her (Janja) “it’s good to have a great idea but not until you’ve tried it out, actually doing it (prototyping) that you would understand and know if it will work”.

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Chocolate Factory AKA 3D Workshop

So far I have really been enjoying Design Thinking and when I was told that we would take part in a 3D workshop, I resisted the urge to smile but I could feel my intestines doing the “Harlem Shake””. Perhaps I’m just that strange person who get easily excited but I think knowing that these are opportunities that might never come again, I choose to embrace them and to learn what I can. The 3D workshop was both thrilling and fascinating. I don’t even think that I myself knew that a drilling machine or a pressure staple gun will excite me as much. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but having 100% freedom and many resources at your disposal to design and actually make a product come to life with your bare hands, without any restrictions is FUNtastic for lack of better words.

We were welcomed by Mark (Technician Supervisor), who started by going through all the rules and safety precautions. He then opened the doors to “the chocolate factory” a.k.a the 3D workshop. The recycled air, yet still saturated was dying to greet us I’m sure because all I could smell was wood. He talked about the safety measures to take every time we will need to come to the workshop (wear green Apron, eye protection, emergency stop button, not to hesitate to call a staff if something does not feel right, etc). Next, He took a rectangular piece of wood on which he drew an ark, two equal lines in the shape of an isosceles triangle then we proceeded to what I believe is called the “mansaw machine”. The image below will make more sense.

Amongst the things l can still remember from working with that first machine were: “MIND YOUR FINGERS”, it takes 5-10 seconds for the machine to start, there is a long black plastic ruler we can use to move our object if we feel that our finger will get too close to the blade. He demonstrated how to cut at an angle, where to put your fingers, how to hold the piece of wood. We used a 12mm blade and Mark suggested that we could use a 6mm blade for thinner piece of woods. Then we moved onto the sanding machine (my favourite!!) there is something so smoothing and therapeutic about that machine. I truthfully dreamt later on that day about my group making a product in wood just so that I’ll get to work with machines (wishful thinking). Enough rambling, what I learnt from the workshop is that the opportunity was given to encourage us to really think with our hands, to take ideas or concepts we will be developing and put them into actual object. Though we might not always have all the ressources when we step into the real world, I will remember that there is always a way around something.

 

It’s Time.

 

Let’s dive right into it! Shall we? Well, before I take you through my journey, first thing first one of my modules this year is called “Design Thinking For Start-ups”. Quite frankly, when I read the module descriptions and assessments I was quite apprehensive, and may I dare to say that I was terrified? Simply because of the tasks that we will be doing this year, I feared that I would not be able to accomplish what was required of me. I started questioning myself about whether I could challenge further a little of creativity I had. As we slowly moved on every week, the tasks that made my blood pressure rise out of fear were becoming clearer, it was become extremely interesting and fun.

During those moments of doubts, I thought perhaps if I saw or read from other students it would help ease my worries. I watched the video “Kingston University – MACE“and I could see the passion from former students, their accomplishments and how highly they spoke of the module and it got me even more worried. I then decided to take a different route and read as much as I could on the subject because after all my definition of creativity and innovation were probably fictional, incorrect or perhaps other people shared the same vision.I read three books: the first book I read was “The Art of Innovation” by Tom Kelly, the second was “Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All” by David Kelley and the last one “The Ten Faces of Innovation: Strategies for Heightening Creativity” by Tom Kelley.

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One could say that I was obsessed with the “Kelley” brothers but for me I just wanted something insightful that would give me the courage to break out of that state of mind.  Furthermore, I think I was more curious and I wanted to know how successful people were able to translate their wild imagination into strategies, innovations or what were their secrets if they had any. I remember reading the first pages of “The Art of Innovation”, though very simple and clear I was still not sure about how I’ll express my creativity. I asked myself is Tom Kelly right when he says that everyone can be creative? I grew up thinking that you are either born creative or you are simply not. I have always known that I possessed some creativity in me but the challenge has always been not to be able to construct ideas around them. All three books proved that even the most creative person struggles with that problem. Not being able to say or put into words the ideas or even simple drawings you have got in your head was not a problem that only me struggle with but many other people too.

Tom Kelley touched on how his teams conduct their research: examining it from the customers’ perspective. His problem solving method consists of observing the behaviours of the people who will be using the service or the product then brainstorming with with focus on tangible results. He put great emphasis on quickly prototyping ideas and designing at every step of the way but also advices not to be opposed to the idea of finding solutions from other areas. Had I read this book four years ago I would have rolled my eyes and said there is not a chance that a very successful entrepreneur/innovator praises failures. I am excited to reflect on this module once at the finish line, I am excited to both succeed and experience set backs but most importantly to grow as a class or as individuals.