When I was first made aware of the MACE course, I was at a place where I had just finished my Undergraduate degree in Dance and I was looking for a business course that would incorporate and further harness my creativity. I feel like that is what the MACE course is all about.
My first thoughts when walking into the Design thinking and entrepreneurship class were ‘Will I be able to keep up?’ ‘What will the people be like?’ ‘What kinds of things will we be taught?’ and other similar thoughts. Due to the nature of my first degree, I initially presumed that I wouldn’t be able to grasp hold of the course content and that I would initially fall behind my fellow peers. This was totally the wrong assumption to take. During the first class I realized that this module in particular was very centered on experimenting and personal experiences and wasn’t an environment where you would find a right or wrong answer. When I discovered that particular notion, I felt as though I was on a level playing field with the rest of the class and that it was not so much about what I already knew but what I was willing to learn. And I was definitely willing to learn.
Another first impression I had was about the learning/teaching style that was being used. I presumed that with the course effectively being a business course that there would be more of an academic feel to the classroom but this was not the case. The course had a much more practical feel than I ever imagined it would and this was a pleasant finding.
The first few classes we had were based on finding a consumer need, and effectively communicating this need with your audience. We did a plethora of exercises and tasks throughout these first weeks, which helped us, better understand the importance of these tools.
Establishing a user – This exercise was for me (and I don’t doubt most of the class) the most memorable task that we did. It was the very first thing we did after first arriving in the class and it definitely left a lasting impression.
In order to create an understanding of how organizations discover identify needs amongst consumers we were split into small groups and given a mission. There were about 3 or 4 people in each group and each person was given a different handicap. Person 1 was not able to see (so was blindfolded) Person 2 was not able to hear (so used headphones) Person 3 did not have the use of one arm (and for the groups with 4 another handicap was created). Now each group had to take a trip to the toilets together and direct each other’s movements. So the person with no hearing would direct the blind person, whilst the blind person would dictate to the arm less person etc. Through doing this task, we were able to see as able bodied people, how un handicap friendly the public toilets are and we were able to think of ways that we could make the experience easier.
“First, it is important to distinguish between tasks such as researching, planning, making the contact and establishing the need and then qualifying the opportunity in terms of project viability” (Davis & Pharro, 2003: 53)
This first task helped illustrate how certain systems that our readily used in everyday society can be flawed, we did another activity to further investigate this.
In a class or two later, the whole class were split into groups and each group were given a different location around Kingston to go to. The point of this task was to visit a venue and look at the way they do what they do (the system they use). My group was sent to the Apple Store and we each took different aspects of the apple store experience to reflect on. I in particular was quite excited to get the apple store as I am actually employed by apple and work in a different store, so I found it really interesting to watch the sales people from a customer perspective and not as a fellow colleague as I never usually get that chance.
All of the tasks we were doing were giving us a practical understanding of the early stages of product/service design.
At this early stage we each had the opportunity to try and locate a system/service that we felt was flawed and explain why and how we would make this better. The system I chose was the TFL oyster card system on buses. From personal experience I have found it to be quite annoying when you want to board a bus but you don’t have enough money on your oyster card and there are no shops around you. I felt that it would be a lot more convenient for its customers if there were the option to top up when you get on the bus.
“At some stage in the evolution of any business, the owners will need to address this issue of advertising, and when they do, they will be confronted with a myriad of options” (Griffiths 2004:1)
Later on we looked at the methods in which businesses use to communicate with their customers and advertise there services and one of the most effective uses of this is through story telling. This method is often used through advertisements, magazine articles and other forms of media and is a quite effective tool. I used a method of story-telling called Persona’s; this is where you create a person whose needs meet that of what your service is offering. “Mary is a 60 year old women who lives alone with her 70 year old husband. Her husband peter suffers from diabetes and is often to tired or unwell to leave the house. Neither of them drives so Mary has to catch the bus to pick up her husbands medicine along with other household necessities. Although the bus stop is in close proximity to her house, the nearest newsagent is about a ten-minute walk. Sometimes Mary does not have the time or energy to walk all the way to the shop to top up her oyster card. If only there was an easier way for her to do this task.” (Dickson, 2010)
These tasks, as well as other types of research and theory’s, really helped me to understand the various needs and importance of under going certain steps to successfully innovate and advertise your service.
So, we all knew that during this module we would get the chance to create and run our own businesses, so soon enough the time came for us to pick our group members. We would have to work alongside the people we chose for the rest of the school year so it was important that we chose our business partners very carefully. Because, we had only been together as a class for a few short weeks, in order to help us out with picking the right group members, a ‘speed date’ exercise was set up for us, in which we would move around the class from member to member and introduce our interests, skills and possible business ideas, to see whose ideas complimented whose.
After a week or so, groups began forming around the class, and my group was also formed. I was really pleased with my business partners as I felt our group had an eclectic mix of everything a successful business would require and from there on we became know as team ‘I-nnovate’ !
So during the ‘Speed date’ process we used initially, one thing that my group members and I all had in common was that we all wanted to create a service more than a product. We all discussed again what our individual strengths were and a service we each felt would highlight our strengths as well as the rest of the group. Initially we thought of creating an arts school that would be aimed at children and last the duration of the Christmas, or Easter holidays, but after further scrutiny we realized that the logistics of the whole operation just wasn’t feasible. After more deliberation we decided that we would aim to create a service that would benefit the students of Kingston University.
In order to come up with this service, we took to the Kingston hill campus and asked as many students as possible, what service do they feel is missing from the university. We received a vast range of ideas and suggestions and out of some of a few of these we got the idea of a University social network aimed at creative students. As creative students ourselves at KU we realized that there was a need when it came to networking and showcasing work within the University. We wanted our service to provide a place for creative students to use, meet each other, showcase there work and find collaboration opportunities.
One of the most constructive activities, I feel that my group and I experienced in relevance to our business idea was the dragons den event.
“This week in class we had the amazing opportunity to participate in a mock version of ‘Dragons Den’. During this we were able to pitch our ideas for our company to a small selection of established business men and women. My group and i pitched our idea of our networking site for creatives and explained to the dragons how we hope to create, maintain and also make a profit from such an idea. We got a lot of great feedback about the presentation we gave and the figures and research we had put into our plan, saying that we were well prepared and delivered a very interesting and insiteful presentation. There were a few negatives though.” (Dickson, 2010)
This was how our idea was created but this was not how it ended. As the school year went on, the form of our idea changed and we began to adapt our service to fit all the advice we had been given from mentors and staff. Our idea went from a platform for creative students to a site, which gives help, advice and support to young business entrepreneurs at Kingston University. Our new idea was not only one which benefited the KU students but also the faculty as it gives staff the opportunity to look for required talent amidst the 4 KU campuses.
Group work has always been a not so desirable part of academia for me as it can often make a simple task become a tedious, lengthy process especially if the dynamics of the groups are imbalanced. In this particular process, I honestly have to say that the teamwork was the best part for me. We had a great dynamic in the group with each person able to showcase their strength and I feel that this showed in the success of our business idea.
Our service is titled ‘BizBoard’ and is a site, which gives Kingston students the tools they need to become an entrepreneur.
“The first step in developing an advertising plan is to define potential customers in the geographic area served by your business. Do some preliminary surveys and interviews to determine which means of advertising will reach them” (Pinson & Jinnet, 1983: 187)
During our trade fairs (which allowed us to advertise our businesses) we received tons of names and email addresses which we have added to our database. We also used multiple avenues of advertising to market our service to our target audience who were Kingston Students, Alumni and the faculty. A few of the methods we used includes the Trade fairs, Facebook, An info letter sent out to faculty and our video advert, which can be found on YouTube.
Future goals and how this course has helped.
Before I started this course, I had the intention of starting my own company someday in the future. After completing this module, I can say that my plans have not changed, if anything they have been further reinforced. I have seen what it takes to create a business from the creation stages and though it has been difficult, the joys of the business successes has been truly rewarding. I am now more aware of the steps major corporations must go through before creating and launching a new product/service and how without a great deal of creativity this steps can seem impossible. Through doing tasks like the original toilet task, I have that physical example of how anybody can establish a need in there environment.
My personal goal is to create a business on my own or with as few business partners as possible, because although I enjoyed the bonding and dynamics of my group, I felt that at times, being in a group made certain tasks a lot longer and more complicated than they needed to be. Also being a sole owner, I get precedence in all decisions made which is always nice.
After graduating I plan to create an enterprise based around the Performing arts (more so dance). Right now, I’m not entirely sure on what that business would be but I definitely now have the tools I need to establish a need and launch a service.
Davis, Tony & Pharro, Richard (2003) The Relationship Manager: the next generation of project management, Aldershot, UK: Gower Publishing Ltd
Griffiths, Andrew (2004) 101 ways to advertise your business, Crows Nest, Australia: Allen & Unwin
Pinson, Linda & Jinnet, Jerry (1983) Steps to small business start-up, USA: Kaplan Publishing
Puccio, Gerard J. , Mance, Marie , Murdock, Mary C. (2011) Creative Leadership: Skills that drive change; Edition 2, London, UK: Sage Publications
Ibbotson, Piers (2008) The Illusion of Leadership: Directing Creativity in Business and the Arts, Trowbridge, Wiltshire: Cromwell Press Ltd
Cherry, Barbara & Jacob, Susan R. (2005) Contemporary Nursing: issues, trends & management, Missouri, USA: Elsevier Mosby
Altman, Mark W. (2008) Leadership for all the mountains you climb: while loving the view, Indiana, USA: AuthorHouse
Schneider, Joan & Yocum, Jeanner (2004) New product launch: 10 proven strategies, NY USA: Stagnito Communications
Lunenburg, Fred C. & Ornstein, Allen C. (2004) Educational Administration: Concepts and Practices, California, USA: Thomson Higher Education
Henry, Colette (2007) Entrepreneurship in the creative industries: an international perspective, Massachusetts, USA: Edward Elgar Publishing Inc
BizBoard (2011) Kingstonuni.biz [Accessed 10/5/11]
Youtube – Ze Frank’s Web Playroom (2010) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gSSNHO1dDs&feature=player_embedded [Accessed 22/10/10]
I-nnovate Business Blog (2010 – 2011) http://kuinnovate.wordpress.com/ [Accessed 10/5/11]
Youtube – Innovate Video Advertisement (2011)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGuUzAFjOX0&feature=player_embedded [Accessed 25/3/11]