Wen-hsin’s reflective essay

When I think about writing this blog post, the first impression is …it goanna be painful one. Though it has been a while, I still can remember very step we took in the journey. I always have the dream about how to create my business in the future. Unfortunately after years of working, I become lazy and comfortable to stay in my comfort zone. Before I decided to leave Taiwan, I read a lot of books, articles, movies about adventure and encouragement. It is still difficult for me that to image start up my business. But after this course, I found myself more confident of building up business.

Looking back the first workshop I attended was last September in kingston hill campus. This workshop is the first time I learn the term: Elevator Pitch. At that time, we were told to write our pitch in few structured sentences, such as for_____ who__________is a _______that_________. Unlike _______, the product__________. As a template, it is useful for us to start our first pitch. We were asked to find problems around us in the UK. The problem framing method is the first thing that I learn in the workshop.

And it is useful that we try to locate problems in a human center way and by doing so, it is to find a specific problem and solve it with a human center solution. By understanding how to fix the problem, we first stated to listen to our classmates and this approach also can use for later design thinking start up course. To understand our customers need and listen to them by observation and listen to them as a tool to came up with solutions.

Lesson learnt: problem-framing approach.

As many stories we read in the news or articles, successful stories can base on small observation from people around you. I believe the start point is the most important one. Design Thinking is the center module of MACE and every other course is to help your business growing. The human centered nature of Design Thinking is the most important value of this course.

As Brown (2009) wrote about the design thinking in Harvard Business Review: Close observation of actual shift changes, combined with brainstorming and rapid prototyping, produced new procedures and software that radically streamlined information exchange between shifts. The result was more time for nursing, better-informed patient care, and a happier nursing staff.

Design Thinking by Tim Brown

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It broke up the lines in traditional business and even in the opposite to the traditional business operation. In a such process, there can be more risky factors happened and alternatively, a management role will take part in the business management process to prevent waste resource (money and time).

From “The Lean Startup”(Ries, 2011), we adopted to build up the early prototype. The lean startup is a principled approach to new product development. Take this process as an experiment development; it is very difficult for me in the beginning. Take something not perfect in front of audiences, and ask for their feedback than adjust or rebuild the product base on the feedback. The loop can repeat over and over again.

Teammates are one coin with two sides. The diverse background can bring in different ideas but go wild sometimes when you disagree with each other. I remember when I read “The Creativity Inc.” (Catmull, 2014), there is one chapter mentioned about teammate. When he realized that George didn’t share their dream. Because he is always more interested in something else. And for a while, they had managed to move on towards the same goal but it became disparate in the end. I am always a dreamer since I was young. So when I am a little girl, I made up stories and write them down. It help me later when I play music. I believe one are more seasonable to his surrounding will have more feelings and empathy with others.

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During the term time, we had class about funding, angel investors and venture capitalists. Although I experienced crowd funding before, I am not familiar with the other terms. It is interesting to understand that people invest people and willing to trust them.

 

Few weeks after we started class, we were told to find people to team up for 4-5 people group. At that time, we didn’t have enough knowledge to recognize people but we have to do this. Unfortunately, it is very important for us to do so I did it anyways. We had to brainstorming about how we want to formulate business and how to deliver our products.

During that time, we had many class about how to use different canvas, such as value proposition canvas (Osterwalder, 2014)and business model canvas (Osterwalder &Pigneur, 2011).

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The purpose of building this designed business model is to create a good human-centered business. To be honest, I really don’t understand what I was doing in the beginning of this course. I always felt lost and tried very hard to figure out what I am researching in terms of customers and products. In order to keep in mind that our business focus on human centered basis, we kept track back from time to time so we can stay focus.

The very point of this lean startup method is to prototyping our product. Even none of us has product design experience or knowledge about it, we start to think about which can be our best option. The most precious experience I learn from this method is the MVP (Minimum Viable Product), it allow me to think small in the first phase than move on to the big picture for future. The minimum loveable product is to show the demonstration of product and ensure team member to understand how it works.

What is MVP? The Minimum Viable Product? Eric Ries(2011) used the term he described it as:

A Minimum Viable Product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.

MVP

After building up business model canvas, we start to think about our customer persona. In other words, who is our target customer and why they are. At that time, we still struggle with our first proper prototype. So it is very difficult that we image the target customers and locate real market. I guess it is the biggest mistake I made during the whole period. Since I am the one who responsible for designing the product. But I am not sure when to make decision and how to reach the common sense in the team.

But I am good at storytelling so I believe it not difficult to create the whole story behind. The only thing is it all in my mind so I don’t know how to say it to my teammates.

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Another important thing is to learn how to pitch our idea to the investor and judge. So as you can image, the good structure of pitching is the gateway to heaven(the good impression)!

The first trade fair is a special experience for me. At that time, I don’t have a product with me. Only the blank white bag which I ordered the material online than stitch it with machine. We use this trade fair to test out our product and mainly get feedback from customers. It is a successful one since every customer we spoke with is impressed with the material. This is the point that all of our team convinces the material.

Although we have been taught to be creative thinking and be innovative thinking, there still need to put in practice in reality. As all of us are keen to be succeeding, none of us want to step back for our ideas. So it is been hard to reach the common sense. The product development stage is most essential but it actually take a long time to make it.

Although I tried very hard to avoid conflict, there is much disagreement in the team. Since everyone comes from different background and culture difference can lead to miss communication. When things need to be done in a more efficacy way but in reality we all tried to avoid things out of control. Everything I learnt along all the way, I took it as a precious and valuable asset I got. I believe I won’t have the same experience again.

Do I believe we can change the world? I still believe it. As two of my favorite book: The little Price(Saint-exupery, 1945) and The Alchemist (Coelho, 1992).

And now here is my secret, a very simple secret. It is only with the heart that once can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eyes.

 

References
BROWN, T. (2009). Change by design : how design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. New York: New York : Harper Business.

CATMULL, E.(2014) Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, London : Bantam Press.

COELHO P. (1992) The Alchemist, HarperThorsons

HENRY J. (2006) Creative management and development,Sage:London.

MAYLE, D.(2006) Managing innovation and change, Sage:London.

OSTERWALDER, A.( 2010). Business model generation : a handbook for visionaries, game changers, and challengers. Hoboken, N.J.; Chichester: Hoboken, N.J. : John Wiley & Sons.

OSTERWALDER, A., PIGNEUR, Y.( 2014) Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want, Hoboken : John Wiley & Sons, New Jersey.

RIES, E.(2011). The lean startup : how constant innovation creates radically successful businesses. London: London : Portfolio Penguin.

KELLEY, D., KELLEY, T.(2013), Creative confidence: unleashing the creative potential within us all. London: William Collins.SAINT-EXUPERY DE A. (1945) The little Price, Egmont UK Limited

SAINT-EXUPERY DE A.(1945) The little Prince, Egmont UK Limited.

 

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Final Dragon’s Den

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 Friday 18 March 2016

The painful experience

One of the biggest events of KU talent is the final dragon’s den; each of the team has to prepare 6 minutes pitch in front of 3 judges. Even we have prepared for a long time and had the mock dragon’s den practice a week ago, we are still very nervous about this big event. It is also the time when the school choose who will be presented Kingston university to enter the national competition later. By the time we as a team to pitch and also for the last time we together, we had a long discussion and sometimes argument as well. I find it was very difficult to communicate with people from different background, especially when you are working together.

Needless to say that we are from different countries, our first language is not English. But I strongly feel that we should pull it together since we have to behave like a team even if we have different point of views about the company and the product. This is also my first time to think about the cooperation in the startup business is so important that could not be neglect even you don’t want to argue with your team mates. In the final dragon’s den day, in the morning class, our module instructor asked me why our presentation is totally different from last week’s mock’s dragon’s den. I had to tell the truth that people who responsible for it did not do their job very well.

So we have to rework our presentation at launch break, this is the time I realize that you cannot force people to do work if they don’t want to do it at all. Fortunately, we soon resolve this problem and bring the new presentation to the dragon’s den. This final dragon’s den taught me the importance of double check work and effective communication is the key to success in a startup business. After these few months working together, I found myself understand startup business further and realize to start up my own business is not a easy thing but if you truly have passion about it, you will not give up even in the worst condition.

Trade Fair in Kingston Market place

Saturday 5 March 2016

We won the Best Product prize!

After February’s bright idea’s final competition, I continued to build up this product with feedback from people. In our team, there is no one has product design experience. So none of us know how to design a bag and not to say how to produce it. But I understand it is necessary for us to learn or need to know where to find resources. And because we have a trade fair coming in a very short time, so it is urgent to produce the product.

So what I do is to start to research online and to phone the possible company to have the information of price and material. In order to make sure our product can meet the deadline of trade fair, I use the whole weekend to think about the design of the bag and make the 3D image with CorelDraw and Photoshop. Because I wanted to build up story behind the bag to add values of the bag, so I tried to find the most interesting photos that I took when traveling in different countries.

And because this is the first time that I was ever try to make a bag so by the time I finish, I realized that to produce the bag actually take a lot of time and it is much complex than I thought before. This trade fair actually is a push for me to produce the product, otherwise I could spend months to research but never get it down eventually. In less than a month time, I start to do something rather than just research online and don’t know what to do. In order to make certain amount of bags to sell in the trade fair, I decided to make 24 bags and 12 patterns. So the customers can have the variety of choices.

In the trade fair, we totally sold 7 bags and the price of each bag is 17 pounds. Of course, we gave discount for customers as a marketing strategy to attract customers. I am appreciated that in our team, every one has different specialty, such as design, marketing or advertising and some people are from business management area so they are very familiar with finance or marketing and even work for a long time already.

Each of us contributes his/her strength so that our team has the variety so our team can grow up gradually. By the time the trade fair finish, I have learned how to speak to consumers and talk to them about our product and company. In the future, I would like to start up my own business so I take this course and this trade fair as my stepping-stone to develop my ability about young entrepreneur. After this trade fair, we won the best product prize from the 26 teams both undergraduate and graduate school students. This is the best compliment that a designer can get for the product.

The Blue Planet (Den Blå Planet)

Last Christmas and New Year vacation, I went to North Europe for travelling.

I have been traveled in many Europe countries, have been to most tourist attractions, but I have step into North Europe. And I always imaged this is a cold and far country. But I decided to go because I want to see the differences between Europe countries.

In the beginning, I was planning to visit Norway but I wasn’t very sure because most of Norway is too cold during winter time. So I changed my mind to go to different countries. So I found out there is a trail to go from Sweden to Demark than take a cross nation train(DSB Oragne Europa)to Germany Hamburger.

If you book the early bird ticket, you might have chapter price. but we made decision very late, so we didn’t get the cheapest ticket. but as you can see under this picture. You can take train from Stockholm to Copenhagen than to Hamburger and also in different cities.

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photo credit: DSB,Danske Statsbaner

Than from Hamburger, we took train to Colin than took Euro Star back to London. One of the most interesting attraction is “the blue plant” in Demark. It is the biggest, most modern aquarium in the North Europe. Located at the suburban of Copenhagen, since it opened March 2013, it soon become the most popular site in Copenhagen.

I always love sea and everything around it. I grow up in a city near seaside. Ever since I was little, I had the memory about the ocean. So when I know this tourist attraction, I immediately want to go there. This aquarium outside looks like a spiral shape, which means the nature of sea. Once you enter inside, you feel like you went into the center of the spiral building.

photos: from the website

The unique building won 2015 Architizer A+ Awards “the best museum”.

Actually the first sight I saw this building, I thought about my childhood play. But also I thought this can be the turbine of water. Although I have been to many aquariums in different cities, this one is particular special in my mind because the shape of the building.

The entrance fee is very expensive and it is not included with the Copenhagen card, but because it is very special, so I decided to have a look. Fortunately, it is interesting both outside and inside. And the food is delicious as well. I think it is much better than fish and chips in the UK.

The Grand Final Bright Ideas

 

Date: Wednesday 3 February 2016

We are one of the finalists!

In the MACE program I choose, there is a particular course that each one of us have to put money in our own startup business. And since we need to learn how to deal with business procedure, we also corporate with other course students such as International Business Management students. We started our business around last October and there are 5 team members in our team. We named our team Lucky 5 and the meaning of lucky is important for us. Because our startup business should be totally different from the traditional business model. It should be creative and innovative and the way we use to develop our business called “lean” startup. It requires a lot of market research but not with the traditional market research method. It basically forms the business in the eyes of customers and heavily depends upon them. Every MACE startup requires to entry the “bright idea” competition as one of mandatory assignments. During the “design thinking for startups” module, we have learned how to pitch in front of audience and judges. Moreover, we need to design the product by ourselves and create the whole marketing campaign by ourselves. And it is not for our imagination; it is for our own business. When we wrote the business report for the bright ideas competition, we still tried to build our idea around this product. So by the time we submitted it, we just image how the product should look like but not with the feasible product. Our idea at that time is to create a foldaway shopping bag with the key ring, so every time people go out, you wont’ forget the shopping bag with you. It is to solve the problem with people always forget their bags with them. Sounds a good idea? We think so and so do the judges, so we enter the bright idea final competition. I was very nervous but excited at that time. Because it means that the idea is actually proofed to be good so the judges choose us. Even when we enter the bright idea final, I already trained many times to pitch in front of strangers and professionals. I still feel not ready for this competition and I know it is for hundreds of competitors. I already got feedback from people when I pitch. So I tried to adjust it in this final competition. But I understand language is a barrier to me. Even if I can speak well English already, I still find people have the confusing face when I try to pitch. And we are one of the very few Asian students in Kingston business school. So they may not understand me very well, and I kept worrying about this problem. But there was one very good thing this time; we have our first prototype with us. And it is much easier to explain our product if the judges can see it. At the pitch, I tried to explain it very hard, and the judge seemed to understand even not everyone like it very much. But there was one judge Charles Irving liked it, and he asked we come back to him after this and he wanted to talk to me. Charles has more than 30 year’s experience in corporate deal making in the investment and commodities arena. He explained that he wants to introduce us to the Royal Academy Arts because they have a lot of events and they need a goody bag for artists to print on it easily. This was a great chance for us. It was the very first time I had a true faith on our product, even though I like it so much and I am the designer too.

Tower of Babel

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When I read about the story of “Tower of Babel”, I first think it is just a simple story from Bible. Then I read another article about how modern people think about communication. I realized it is a current issue.

The difficulty of people use language to communicate with others. And how they react to the same message in different way. I found it very interesting. As for my work, interviewing and listening to people is part of my job, also observing is very important for my job! I always found my job interesting because different ways of communicating with people, they will tell you different stories.

Sometimes it is tricky, you can actually people’s mind through language. Including how you ask the question and how you frame the context within the questions, it could end up total different way.

Even with the love one or friends, I found it with years of interaction, there still can be miss understanding and miss communication. There is a famous novel named “The Dog of Babel” ,  described how the linguist missed his past wife and want to teach her dog to speak the reason that his wife’s death.

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It is a very dark side novel though.  Always remind me how important people communicate although sometimes I think it’s too difficult to talk but just focus on other things.

 

 

Bright Idea Final

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Before we went to the Final

I went to bright idea final competition in the first week of February.  Two of our team members couldn’t make it so we have 3 persons at presence. Before the event, I wasn’t very sure about how the progress goes and how it will be accessed since the host didn’t explain very clearly. So the only thing I prepared before the final event, is the prototype  and some raw material.

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According to the host, we have been selected from 600 people (or team?) and entered the final stage. Because we want to stick to our original ideas so we didn’t change a lot from the paper we send last time. And I truly believe that it is a really good idea for solving the problem in the UK at the moment.

Some issue we face

During the formation of this idea progress, I found the major problem is , for example, some people don’t care about UK 5p policy and don’t mind paying 5p for a  plastic bag since the price is very cheap. Also some people I have been talked to mention that they don’t care environmental issue so they don’t  have concern about buying a reusable shopping bag.  So first, we have problems about brand positioning and targeted audience.

What happened in the final pitch

The host defined startup groups into different areas. We are one of few foreigners in the final stage. I could tell most of groups are from UK. So we have faced the first disadvantage , language barrier. which I don’t think the biggest problem but when I saw the face of judges, I could tell maybe some of them didn’t  understand very well.

When we came to the judges, there are 5 of them. Only one is female. And I have been told that more female customer like our products than male customers. And three pre-order from last trade fair, they are all design students and the reason they like the product is because of the unique of the material and foldable design.

So when I went to the judges and pitch about or products. Some of them seemed don’t understand and they don’t like it very much. In the end of pitch, they seemed not interested in and did’t asked too many questions about products. Usually when people don’t ask you question about the product, they are not interested!!! that’s what I learn from past experience when I have part-time for selling.

Fortunately, one of judges found our product has potential market and he offered if there are 300 bags order, if we can make it ? How long will it take to produce the bag? I just mention because it was Chinese New Year coming in a few days. So most of factories are in vocation, once they are back from holiday , we can ask around about the production part. then he mentioned we should go to talk to him after this is over.

After final pitch, we were informed that we didn’t get into final stage. Of course we were very disappointed and then we discussed about how it will go and what we need to consider about. I stay until the whole event is over since I want to see the judge. More importantly, I want to see what kind of products the others partitioners and their products.

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Bright Ideas Competition Final

I met the other classmates and they didn’t make it to the final either . We just went inside and talked to the other students. When the finalist announced, we were excited about it too! Even though some of the products I don’t understand it very well, but some of them I really think it’s a brilliant idea. There is one group that about sports and mobile application. Their idea is to connect sports lovers and mobile application. Our table is just beside them in the first trade fair. They seemed to be very nice and sporty team. Because I have interested in sports but maybe not their target. I am more interested in outdoors activity such as hiking. And I don’t usually like to go with groups. But I think if it’s in campus, there would be many chances.

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What’s Next…

After several tryouts with our bags,  I found myself become too personal involved in this project and sometimes we have different exception about this project. But the other good part I found is,  everyone has different perspectives about one project. It’s really useful if everyone contribute their strength into this project. For example, I am not interested in Financial part and marketing part, but I am interested in developing and researching products. So with more team members, I can focus on my part without worrying.

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