Al Naaman’s Reflective​ Essay

Throughout this masters program, in the design thinking for start-ups module precisely, it had purposefully directed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to comprehend new boundaries of my abilities as well as highlighting significant weakness which I must recuperate. With the academic year coming to an end, this opportunity emerges as a perfect moment to look back and reflect on the good, bad and the ugly of a roller-coaster of a year. According to Porter (2017) the capability to pause, think of the past and evaluate it allows leaders to undertake more mindful decisions in the future. Moreover, Di Stefano et al., (2014) suggests that reflections enhances on-job performance by 23%.

Primarily, to construct a beneficiary reflection on my experience over the course of the past eight months, I must be truthful and accept that my journey has not been as successful as I have desired it to be. Nevertheless, the ability to work with a dynamic team on our first ever start-up expedition has ultimately been a mind-opening and insightful occasion. These points of learning that have been picked up along the journey, mostly acquired through the practical side of the module, set basis to a new chapter of my life subsequent to the previous learning-curve.

My fundamental aim of this reflection is to understand the mistakes I encountered, critically evaluate how I can avoid them in the future and further develop my interpersonal competencies in the aim of establishing my own startup in the near future.

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Figure 1: Reflecting on the past from the seaside with an open mind: The future is looking bright!

The Starting Point: What is Design Thinking?

When I have arrived at the first lecture of design thinking, it was nothing like what I have imagined it to be, keeping in mind that I was a late arrival to this course due to visa problems; most people gained a head start while I was completely lost. My presumptions were mainly guided by front-end business element, restricted solely on product design attributes. Let me tell you I was far off.

Design thinking is a tool that allows us ‘designers’ to view problems from another perspective through reframing it into a human-centred approach (Dam and Siang, 2019).  This process is challenging business practice norms and the status quo that traditional firms follow from systematically establishing products purely from research and development labs (Ursrey, 2014).

Nowadays, design thinking is not just a buzz word in the corporate environment, rather a method of practice which is widely embraced due to the evidential benefits it generates, in other words; creating a product or a service that serves a realistic need not just based on presumptions, eventually creating value through customer validation (McKinsey & Company, 2016).

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Figure 2:Value Proposition Canvas Illustration.

The value proposition canvas which was developed by Dr Alexander Osterwalder is a helpful tool that had been introduced to us through the bright ideas competition sprint. I personally found it extremely helpful as it aided the progression in route to understand lead-users by mainly understanding what customers are facing and creating a valid solution (McGill, 2018). Alongside creativity and rapid prototyping, this model works significantly well with design thinking explicitly leading us towards empathy.

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Figure 3: Process of Design Thinking (Eppig, 2017).

Therefore, once we familiarising ourselves with the concept of design thinking, team Odyssey went on forward by adopting taught material into practical use. This is how we did it:

  • Empathize: We have attempted to understand the challenges faced by our classmates.
  • Define: Charging electronic devices is what we wanted to solve.
  • Ideate: We had an active meeting, where all members were standing up with sticky notes and marker to infiltrate innovative ideas.
  • Prototype: we then rapidly went to build a three-dimensional object from cardboard which was a derivative of our potential product.
  • Test: we took it out to trade fairs for people to observe, touch and offer feedback.

 

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Figure 4: First Prototype – photo credits to Ghalia.  

‘No market need’ is regarded as the prime rational to failure of start-ups (CB Insights, 2018). As I set sights to inaugurate an innovative-led start-up following my graduation, the skills attained through the teachings of design thinking as well as the practical implication of it through the Young Enterprise program, has significantly built up my ability to understand empathy which will aid me in the future in initiating a sought for lucrative product or service, by asking the question ‘how might we’ these three word according to Tim Brown provisions sparking creative thinking (Berger, 2012).

However, I must originally discover ‘who’ am I attempting to serve; this was a noteworthy mistake which we have misunderstood; therefore, our final outcome did not match our projections. By precisely identifying my target market ahead of empathising, this will help me amend the mistake I fell for previously.

“We don’t want to push our ideas on to customers, we simply want to make what they want.” – Laura Ashley (Bern, 2018).

Team Building and Work Set Up:

Across the year, the start-up project had been the major highlight and the bulk of the workload which has been concentrated on creating a product and selling it to the public during the two trade fairs. As a latecomer, I had to scramble around the classroom looking for partners to form a team; finally, after persuading three colleagues, we were able to initiate a team and what a dynamic team it turned out to be!

Tadu: An experienced Individual that worked closely with start-ups in an incubator back in home-country. Ghalia: A designer by trait and our head of creativity and Edwin: An outspoken person, source of happiness and excitement in the group.

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Figure 5: Busy Choosing an Idea after the Brain Storming Session – Photo credit to Tadu (Missing Ghalia).

About myself, I thrive generally when I lead my team to success especially when feeling empowered through my team’s trust and commitment. The ability to collaborate and work together in a diverse group had allowed us to reach greater extent through our willingness to give each other constructive feedback and organise the workflow accordingly to each person’s strengths (Rocheleau, 2012).

Nonetheless, as headlined by Harvard Business Review: Great Teams Are About Personalities, Not Just Skills (Windsbrough and Chamorro-Premuzic, 2017). Yet, with a dynamic team, conflict of interests arises, mainly through the contingency created by different agenda priorities (Brett and Goldberg, 2017).

For instance, the other three group members were all perfectionists, on the other side I value efficiency especially in a situation such as ours, where we had to complete several tasks in a short timeframe, with the objective of learning rather than competing. As Stillman (2015) argues; perfectionists are too worried about failure due to their psychology to achieve high standards, in which blocks the opportunity to learn. As a result, each stage of business development took slightly longer to complete than it should, which has irritated me.

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Figure 6: My Dynamic Team Prepared and Ready for Action.

My intentions at this point of time, was that my colleagues were taking a laid-back approach which I have realised when they continuously conveyed excuses such as having work or living far from campus. At this moment, I decided to take the lead other than delegating tasks.

Contrasting personalities and working styles must be embraced rather than dismissed (Campbell, 2016). This guides the team to a creative approach to the process of problem-solving which is a practically effective tool in today’s vigorous business environment(Burrell, 2015). Reflecting on my leadership skills, I felt that I asserted my presence as an inspirational leader that has driven the group’s motivation through the rough stages of product development alongside effective communication skills which had been a crucial factor to keep members focused and productive.

However, a number of situations have proven significant limitation to my methodology. I found that in some circumstances I was impatient with my group and rather too stringent when my point of view was challenged; an example was when I have designed the first group logo, which was not a task delegated to me, however since no one did it I went for it, and the reaction of my team members has been unenthusiastic, while I was expecting positive reinforcing because I completed the task.

By reflecting on this incident, I must learn to appreciate value contributed by others who may be more competent at other business elements that I shortfall in. I should take an open-minded approach and embrace different people strengths through facilitating an optimal working climate for them to thrive.

Practical Experiences and Development of New Skills:

Throughout my undergraduate studies which I have completed in business management, we were never exposed to genuinely authentic practical activities in which I felt that something significant was missing. Practice does not just complement taught theoretical framework, it also promotes experiential learning in which develops confidence and independence (The Economist, 2007). The capability of swiftly moving from brainstorming, prototyping and into the market in a matter of few months has definitely been a challenging yet extremely rewarding experience.

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Figure 7: At Eden Street Trade Fair – Photo credits to Claudia.

The ability to learn, explore, test and innovative under a protective environment through substantial support for both our tutors and Young Enterprise has enriched my capabilities is multiple aspects of business.

From Marketing: directing an advertisement campaign, social media management and logo design.

Operations: customer relation management, communicating with suppliers and manufacturers

to Selling: setting market price, direct customer insights evaluation and stock maintenance.

These are some of the skills I managed to develop by applying theoretical concepts into the real world. Luckily the mistakes that I have committed were restricted by the impact it generated; these errors such as having a very small sample group to set pricing has been a disastrous burden. Fortunately, we have not incurred any loses on this regards, rather a lesson learnt.

Using the Lean Start-up Methodology as a Complementary Tool Alongside Design Thinking:

In simple terms, the lean startup is a method that shortens the product development cycle through customer validation and altering of a business model before a final product is launched (Michelman, 2017). This process significantly rises products attractiveness through direct customer corroboration and reduces operational-expenses (Schonfeld, 2011).

I began reading the Lean Start-Up in the summer before joining this masters course. However, practically implementing it has added another dimension, as the author of the book says: “Reading is good, action is better”– Eric Reis (Khomichenko, 2017). First step has been to fill up a business model canvas, which significantly helped us map out critical factor of our business.

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Figure 8: Business Model Canvas for Tasca.

Logistical issues have affected our production plans. Nevertheless, it was a strategic decision not to manufacture at an early stage. We applied the concept of building a minimal viable product, then allowing customers to direct us on how to improve our concept through both trade fair by using the SPIN framework, which facilitated us to further understand customers by asking:

situational (data collection of their lifestyle) ‘what is a typical weekend to you?’

problem (ask about the challenges they face) ‘how often does your battery run out?’

implication (build momentum to connect cost point with product features) ‘what if you had a seamless option that is stylish?’

and need/want pay-off(questioned focused on the solution) ‘for £120 we have all that you need, what do you think?’ questions to comprehend their needs and intentions to create the best possible product (Cooke, 2017).

This is a thoughtful procedure that had broadened our perception even on our own product. As a result, the outer-material changed from vegan-leather to crocodile leather and even the technology has been amended upon feedback captured from customers.

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Figure 9: Our Minimal Viable Product (Tasca)

Lessons Learnt and Takeaways:

Throughout reflecting on the past eight months, I now can say that I learnt much more about myself by evaluating my strengths and weakness. Thus, several key takeaways have emerged in which sets the ball rolling for further augmentation to achieve my objectives.

Here are the major takeaways:

  1. Always thrive to working on things you are passionate about.
  2. Make the customer the core component of your business.
  3. When working in a group, respect people’s opinions and work with others that share same values as you.
  4. Sometimes, to let go is best for you and your business.
  5. Have achievable objectives under a constrained time-frame.

I have managed to developed myself into a more competent entrepreneur that is courageous and fearless, through understanding my personal capabilities, challenging them as well as the solid networks which I managed to attain through the experience. There onwards, I am edging closer to initiate my first start that will be in the field of Artificial Intelligence Consulting, as it is a mixture of two valuable components to me, which are technology and business-support.

This boost of confidence and lessons learnt were not have been possible without the people that were involved, so thank you for bringing the best of me!

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Figure 10: Group photo – Credits to Claudia.

 

References:

Berger, W. (2012). The Secret Phrase Top Innovators Use. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2012/09/the-secret-phrase-top-innovato [Accessed 23 Apr. 2019].

Bernazzani, S. (2018). 10 Great Customer Service Quotes to Inspire You. [online] Blog.hubspot.com. Available at: https://blog.hubspot.com/service/customer-service-quotes [Accessed 21 Apr. 2019].

Brett, J. and Goldberg, S. (2017). How to Handle a Disagreement on Your Team. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2017/07/how-to-handle-a-disagreement-on-your-team [Accessed 22 Apr. 2019].

Burrell, Y. (2015). Respecting and Valuing Differences: Corporate Diversity Programs Must Be Inclusive to Be Successful. [online] PRSA. Available at: http://apps.prsa.org/Intelligence/Tactics/Articles/view/10944/1105/Respecting_and_Valuing_Differences_Corporate_Diver#.XMIUyc9Ki8V [Accessed 24 Apr. 2019].

Campbell, S. (2016). Understanding the Other Person’s Perspective Will Radically Increase Your Success. [online] Entrepreneur. Available at: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/275543 [Accessed 23 Apr. 2019].

CB Insights (2018). The Top 20 Reasons Startups Fail. [online] CB Insights Research. Available at: https://www.cbinsights.com/research/startup-failure-reasons-top/ [Accessed 20 Apr. 2019].

Cooke, J. (2017). If You Aren’t SPIN Selling, It’s Time to Start (Part I). [online] Forbes.com. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jaynacooke/2017/05/18/if-you-arent-spin-selling-its-time-to-start-part-i/#135cd6bc5c69 [Accessed 23 Apr. 2019].

Dam, R. and Siang, T. (2019). What is Design Thinking and Why Is It So Popular?. [online] The Interaction Design Foundation. Available at: https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/what-is-design-thinking-and-why-is-it-so-popular [Accessed 19 Apr. 2019].

Di Stefano, G., Gino, F., Pisano, G. and Staat, B. (2014). Making Experience Count: The Role of Reflection in Individual Learning. Harvard Business School NOM, 1(1), pp.1 and 2.

Eppig, M. (2017). How to Frame Your Design Challenge. [online] Tools for Social Innovators. Available at: https://toolsforsocialinnovators.com/2018/11/27/stage-2-of-design-thinking-define/ [Accessed 21 Apr. 2019].

Khomichenko, V. (2019). The best quotes of “The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses”. [online] Linkedin.com. Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/best-quotes-lean-startup-how-todays-entrepreneurs-use-khomichenko [Accessed 23 Apr. 2019].

McGill, A. (2016). The Business Model Canvas Series: The Empathy Map – Ashton McGill. [online] Ashton McGill. Available at: https://www.ashtonmcgill.com/business-model-canvas-series-introducing-empathy-map/ [Accessed 20 Apr. 2019].

McKinsey & Company (2016). The power of design thinking. [online] McKinsey & Company. Available at: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/digital-mckinsey/our-insights/the-power-of-design-thinking [Accessed 20 Apr. 2019].

Michelman, P. (2017). Why Eric Ries Likes Management. [online] strategy+business. Available at: https://www.strategy-business.com/article/00224?gko=04896 [Accessed 23 Apr. 2019].

Porter, J. (2017). Why You Should Make Time for Self-Reflection (Even If You Hate Doing It). [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2017/03/why-you-should-make-time-for-self-reflection-even-if-you-hate-doing-it [Accessed 19 Apr. 2019].

Rocheleau, J. (2012). Benefits of Teamwork in a Startup Environment. [online] Speckyboy Web Design Magazine. Available at: https://speckyboy.com/the-benefits-of-teamwork-in-a-startup-environment/ [Accessed 21 Apr. 2019].

Schonfeld, E. (2011). Lean Startup Thinker Eric Ries: “Don’t Be In A Rush To Get Big, Be In A Rush To Have A Great Product” – TechCrunch. [online] TechCrunch. Available at: https://consent.yahoo.com/collectConsent?brandType=nonEu&.done=https%3A%2F%2Ftechcrunch.com%2F2011%2F08%2F14%2Flean-startup-eric-ries-tctv%2F%3Fguccounter%3D1&sessionId=3_cc-session_c6e2f7bf-39b0-4b30-946e-543552b7b1fd&lang=&inline=false [Accessed 22 Apr. 2019].

Stillman, J. (2015). Are You the Good or the Bad Kind of Perfectionist?. [online] Inc.com. Available at: https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/are-you-the-good-or-the-bad-kind-of-perfectionist.html [Accessed 22 Apr. 2019].

The Economist (2007). New graduation skills. [online] The Economist. Available at: https://www.economist.com/briefing/2007/05/10/new-graduation-skills [Accessed 22 Apr. 2019].

Ursrey, L. (2014). Why Design Thinking Should Be At The Core Of Your Business Strategy Development. [online] Forbes.com. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/lawtonursrey/2014/06/04/14-design-thinking-esque-tips-some-approaches-to-problem-solving-work-better-than-others/#3d4f22bf1627 [Accessed 18 Apr. 2019].

Windsbrough, D. and Chamorro-Premuzi, T. (2017). Great Teams Are About Personalities, Not Just Skills. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2017/01/great-teams-are-about-personalities-not-just-skills [Accessed 21 Apr. 2019].

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Blog 12: Manufacturers Scammed us, Trade Fair 2 & The Time our Designer Left.

Now let’s talk about the meeting we had after Friday the 8thclass. This one was the most creative, compelling and productive meeting team Odyssey had. All tasks, duties and time-frames were displayed in a written whiteboard for all group member to know what and how to get on with the final five weeks of this project.

Stronger than ever before, we will prove doubters wrong about us. Most students have always been supportive in our design thinking class, they have seen the potential of our team and product, yet judges and organisers were not convinced? Not to worry about, that makes us stronger. Due to the amount of pressure and stress, we are working under, unfortunately, one of our group members could not take it anymore and decided to leave us, and guess who it was, our DESIGNER… our concept is all about design so what will we do? This did not damage our positivity and resilience as we have already been through the worst and came out of these situations stronger.

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On Sunday the 10thof February, I went to Camden market along with Tadu to have a chat with leather manufacture who finally replied to our post FINALLY. Our meeting was very positive knowing that the owner is very much interested in our concept and says he’s always happy helping students. We described to him what we intend to do and the design of our product. A first viable product will be ready by next week he said. What was more pleasing is knowing that the first one made will be completely out of charge for us to amend. He said if we are happy, he will guarantee 20 ahead of our next trade fair.

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We have trusted our supplier’s way too much. By the day of the trade fair, our MVP was not even ready, it looked so bad nevertheless we had to take it with us to at least have something to showcase. Shockingly, we had to pay for it which was not agreed from before. Another manufacturer that we have contacted earlier responded after the trade fair saying he could help. So, we paid him a visit to see what he can offer.

At this moment of time, we had our hands tied against our backs with not much that could be done. So, again we felt for it and trusted these new manufactures with the hope this time that something will actually be done. But guess what, we were manipulated again, I wish I could script this double whammy but well, it is a lesson learnt now. In the future, we must give this process much more time where we are able to contact multiple manufacturers to compare and contrast while offering them a long-term contract that secures quality, economies of scale and builds trust.

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With all this behind us, we went to the trade fair with a smile on our faces to meet people and gather feedback on how we could improve. Glad to say it was positive! The concept has created attraction yet much is yet to be done with design and technology.

BLOG 11: What happened after bright Ideas and Ad Filming.

After an enriching and engaging yet somehow a disappointing outcome in the Bright Ideas finals, I have initiated a group meeting subsequent the lecture on Friday to firstly attempt to motivate my team to continue pushing this project onwards as I felt that they had lots of negative emotions going around after an unsuccessful and unjustified experience as well as to distribute and list due tasks which must be completed before the Dragons Den on the 15thof March such as a Photo Shoot, AD filming and setting up an online store.

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Prior to the meeting, in that week’s class, we were supposed to present our video advertisement which the theme was named ‘Oscars Night’, unfortunately, we did not manage to do so. We had a really solid plan which we already constructed a scenario for and decided the appropriate settings on where to shoot this advertisement. However, this was not possible for us to accomplish because of a miscommunication which occurred with manufacturers as we believed that by the time of filming, we will have a fully viable product with us, which sadly was not the case.

This did not stop us, although we felt down due to multiple factors coming together at the same time, which lead productivity and motivation levels to significantly drop, we had came up with a plan B for this advertisement. This time, we decided to revert our main scenario working backwards, which is: ‘Showing the pains a person going through at a setting for a night out. Taking a few pictures with their friends having a lot of fun, then a notification pops-ups alerting the actress that their phone is about to die. Next shot will show the frustration and discomfort the actress is going through. By the end of the night, when her friends leave, she notices that her phone is completely dead, with no meaning of finding a ride back home the actress starts stressing. The final shot will show our brand, the tagline “don’t panic, just Tasca” then a saying will coming telling the audience that “the world’s first and finest wireless charging pocket bag, Tasca is coming out soon, with clear links on where to buy.

Well, if you are a design thinking student reading this, you will wonder; then why didn’t you show it to us? With all honesty, we were so dependent on the first scenario which wasn’t possible without a bag and decided to working on the other one after the bright ideas, which was incredibly late as we could not find enough actors to work with us in such a short time frame as well as the venue who said they needed a week notice for us to actually film there. With us being feeling hopeless and helpless, we went to class without a video

Cheer up, it’s not the end of the world. Now that we are driven more than ever before, we took the positive out of this atrocious situation. If we produced an advert on plan B, we will anyway have to articulate another one showing the product and how it works, so that’s double the effort at a time where we are very busy with university work as well as saving money! J. Secondly, we were able to see our class mate’s videos and learn from their mistake so we don’t repeat them and finally, we always like to keep the best for last, you know what I mean?

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But guess what?! We finally did it and I love it. The experience filming and sharing the advert was insightful to be in the front end rather than being the receiver. It required a lot of creative thinking and directing which I have certainly enjoyed doing, now every advert I see, I think to myself: what was their written brief was and how did they come up with that final shot?

(Ps: I wanted to post the ad here but I must be a premium member of WordPress, so if you’d like to see it, hit me up with an email)

Blog 10: Pivot or Persevere? The Implication of the Process with Lean Start-Up Methodology when Deciding.

Throughout our entrepreneurial voyage, we were challenged by internal and external factors which have hindered our motivation and production levels. For instance, the contradictory feedback we received from different people who had different ideas of our concept, which as a result created confusion on where we shall go and our future trajectory. Well, aside from what we have gone through, this blog aims to reflect on a compelling question in business and it is; whether to persevere on a project or is it sometimes better to let go and pivot? This question is also known as the entrepreneurial dilemma. The reflection will take into consideration the lessons taught from the learning of the Lean Start-up.

 

Ideally, you will be chased by a venture capitalist asking to invest in your perfected operated innovative enterprise that is running perfectly, right? How probable is that, frankly speaking not very likely; as we must adapt to ever-changing environment which we know by ‘reality’. In life, as in business as well, we must take crucial decisions that may result in both positive and negative impacts in which we should balance off and choose between alternatives while facing the probable opportunity-costs.

 

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Confused Al on the seaside “Should I pivot or persevere?”

In a previous blog, I have introduced the process of lean start-up and related it back to design thinking. Here is what the concept has to say between Persevere vs Pivot: Advices business owners to conduct weekly Pivot-or-Persevere meetings to evaluate the business model and take on changes as needed.

Firstly, let me define each of these two concepts (persevere & pivot) for those of you which may find them relatively new. Persevere or perseverance in simple terms can be considered as someone’s determination or power of will to fight through difficult situation despite the risks and shortfalls while keeping the end goal in mind.

 

In business; they are the routinely incremental changes the organisation undertakes in the attempt to achieve their long term strategic objectives, these could be as small as changes in the front used on professional emails or font to see which fit best to attract and maintain clients. In perseverance, every day you will manage to learn new lessons and comprehend opportunities for daily enhancement towards pre-set goals.

 

While on the other hand, pivot is the complete opposite. It requires a radical change in which mostly happens when your hypothesis does not meet reality, in which one or several business elements are required to be changed entirely. The problem of pivot in business is that it is done by the leader. Thus, it becomes an extremely sensitive topic which in most cases leaders find themselves frequently away from the hands-on part of the business and customers which means that they ultimately might not be the best character to determine when or whether to pivot.

 

So, when exactly should you pivot? A simple answer would be when you recognise that either your product, service or process is not valid to your presumptions. As a group, our first realisation when we should’ve pivoted was after presenting to the class what our first business concept, in which we understood from our classmates that it is a saturated market and decided to pivot before it is too late, lucky we have done so before failing massively.

 

Yet, I want you to answer a question, are you embarrassed to fail? In the end of the days we are entrepreneurs, we must embrace failure and stand up again. My final word of advice, DO NOT FEAR CHANGE AND BE BOLD!

Useful links:

https://medium.com/swlh/pivot-patch-or-persevere-i-patched-the-lean-startup-206d63023b9c

 

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/220302

 

https://www.innovationgames.com/2011/12/the-entrepreneurs-dilemma-perseverance-or-pivot/

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9AuCQTzbgo

Blog 9 – Bright Ideas Sprint Weekend

We at team Odyssey were extremely excited and delighted to firstly be shortlisted among the top 20 ideas out of a combined +300 application that were submitted to enter and compete at Kingston University’s annual Bright Ideas competition. The teams which have been shortlisted were then invited to attend a two-day workshop which was named ‘The Weekend Sprint’.

 

These two days at the sprint were rigours for participants to learn the most essential skills of cultivating an effective business model and practice how to deliver a clear and captivating business pitch in preparation to the bright ideas finals. At the first day, we told to work on Uber as a case study then transform the learning into our personalised business ideas where we had a look at pains and gains of consumers and how we will create a value proposition which aims to solve a compelling challenge through an appropriate business plan.

 

Before our lunch break, we had a very interesting and inspiring keynote speaker who had participated at the famous British TV show, the apprentice and concluded the 2017 season as the runner up. Mr Daniel Elahi has first spoken to us about his education, earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Leicester in Economics then went to work for a large investment company. While working at one of the city’s most prestigious corporations, Credit Swiss, he was also been working on a side business of his own which was one which he believed would be the yield of many previous venture failures. He has stressed several times that determinations and resilience are two key characteristic entrepreneurs should strongly attain as we are all due to failing which is the first step to success if you were mentally capable to stand up after falling.

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Consequently, the organisers have divided us into groups of five or six in an attempt to convey our business idea in a setting similar to a speed dating style, where we had around 2 minutes each to convey our product and receive feedback from others as well as a  supervisor who himself was an experienced entrepreneur and has a vast experience in the corporate business life.

 

All the feedback attend was positive, they loved the features the bag will deliver and through the response we got, the leather used for the exterior of the bag has been amended to avoid any water-leakage affecting the technological devices inside.

 

Day two was all about pitching in which we learn the 30 20 10 rule of presentations by Guy Kawasaki. Presentations must be 10 slides, 20 minutes long and font size at 30 to particularly be effective and influential with the use of a hypothetical scenario throughout the presenting. Then we learnt how to condense this rule into financial pitching style.

 

Getting involved in such an intense working environment on my weekend has been a successful event where I learnt to leave my comfort zone. Multiple lessons were learnt throughout the spirt; my major take away is that criticism and feedback are two decisive elements of the start-up process where the entrepreneur must understand how to validate them and improve.

 

The other point is that pitch delivery, presentation skills and verbal competencies are sought for traits for a thriving entrepreneur and is crucially import in the world of business. All these learnt skills will be extremely beneficial to me in the near future, where I will challenge myself to build a successful start-up.

Useful link:

https://guykawasaki.com/the_102030_rule/

Blog 8: First trade fair, lesson learnt and outcomes.

The trade fair had came across to us as the first challenge of the second semester. Only a few weeks coming back from the Christmas and new year holidays, we had literally not much time to prepare ourselves, get a stand and a product ready to showcase it at the Kingston Business School’s atrium as our first opportunity to display our product inform of potential customers and to gain critical feedback.

 

I took my holiday to reflect and relax after a compact and stressful semester filled with events, deadlines and presentations (although the holiday was just a week-long due to having two-course work submission on the break). As a result, I did not dedicate much time on the pending task. However, prior from travelling my group members and I had a productive conference call discussing the feedback we have received from the judges from the dragon’s den to improve our idea and reframe it to fit accordingly.

 

Unfortunate the design process of the bag took more time than we have anticipated it to take, thus we did not manage to contact a manufacturer to help us in this regards due to the congested time frame we are working under.

 

With all honestly, I felt extremely pressured as some group member did not perform their duties ahead for the preparation to this trade fair. As a result, I had to work alone in making a logo, printing an A3 banner and business cards, getting material to cover the table at the exhibition and basically setting out the whole booth.  But sometimes it feels good to take a leading role and become a team player which I thrive to become in the future.

 

As you will imagine, yes the outcomes were unsatisfactory. We were not nominated to any of the three category prizes and received several comments on how to improve, which is always positive.  On a good note, we had managed to attract four potential customers that loved our concept and are ready to pre-order.

 

During the trade fair, the interaction we have got from people passing by and others that actually have stopped to have a chat with us was truly amazing. Majority of the people loved our concept and thought that our market segment still has unmet needs which incumbent fail to see. Direct interface with people with our visuals has been truly a great practical opportunity to interact, evaluate and improve our current offerings. Thus, in the future, we know how to approach people and set a compelling trade stand.

 

With these lessons learnt, off we go to the Bright Ideas finals, pumped and excited to showcase our capabilities to a larger set of audience and judges who are specialised to understand and are willing to offer us critical feedback as well as help us build our network, which we have learnt is immense.

Trade fair one

 

 

Blog 7: Lean Startup​ Infusion with Design Thinking? What is Lean Innovation?

I have always seen the link between the two concepts of Lean Start-Up and Design thinking, however, I thought there were distinctively different with few points of interaction, where businesses are forced to choose and focus on one or another without having a combination.

 

This has been the case until I have came across a video on YouTube which was publicised by Google+ interviewing Eric Reis (author of the lean startup), Tim Brown (author of Change by Design) together with Jack Nap from Google Ventures where he had elaborated on his experience using both processes focused on problem solving. – This combination according to Turnali (2016) is known as ‘Lean Innovation’.

 

Throughout the previously written blogs, I believe that you as readers should already be familiarised with the notion of ‘Design thinking’ thus before illustrating how both procedures can be combined, I would like to first revert to a simple meaning to what the Lean Start-up is all about. Eric Reis the author of the book believes and argues that the conventional teaching of management and process leads to failure for start-up because entrepreneurs come up with a product sourced by assumptions. This methodology is based on rinse and repeat cycle until a product/service is validated by the market, as majority of products do not succeed as they do not fill an empty void.

LST1

Through the use of design thinking as a mechanism that allows the entrepreneur to emphasise pains of potential consumers, the process of lean startup taken on from the point of solution ideation, through the construction of an economically viable business model that is profit focused.

DT2

Leaning and discovering the unknown are crucial traits of a successful entrepreneur, what we benefit from by using design thinking is that we as creative individuals can gather ideas from customer insights then brainstorming possible routes of discovery which will then be experimented through the creations of a minimal viable product. This then will go through loops of rigours testing until significant evidential market indicates prove successful.

 

A critical reflection has identified that businesses usually suffer after the point of empathy, as they find it tremendously difficult generating a product or service that will counter benefit the risen emotions, thus they usually undertake a waterfall strategy which at the end of the day dismissal of brought forward insights that have been gained. At this point of time, the merge between the two concepts create a rather beautiful outcome, instead of rapid prototyping; lean innovation suggests rapid experimentation.

 

Although several researchers may argue about either or both concepts as a solely trendy term in business or a buzz word that does not particularly fit the corporate world, I on the other hand debate otherwise; a combination of both design thinking and lean startup by complementing one another create a rather solid concept that is both customer-focused and profitable. This new view on managerial science and strategy are not simply being adopted by huge numbers of organisations with no reason, it practically works.

 

What I have learnt that in business, it is most definitely not black or white, you as a leader of an innovative venture have the capabilities of combining more than one colour to a canvas to artistically paint a wonderful picture and that is your business, product and brand value.

DT LS

Useful links:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2016/04/07/lean-innovation-design-thinking-meets-lean-startup-for-the-enterprise/#ca593b745d41

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sobxOzRjAGg

 

https://medium.com/steveglaveski/the-difference-between-design-thinking-lean-startup-and-agile-5cf07b117562

 

https://www.boardofinnovation.com/blog/lean-startup-versus-design-thinking/

 

http://gsbsolutionspace.uct.ac.za/article-design-thinking-vs-lean-startup