This is my bittersweet sixteenth blog. It marks the end of this module and this course.  Unlike my previous blogs, this one is not about sharing something I saw or learned; with this one, I will reflect on all my past blogs, and on what I have learned during the whole of our design-thinking journey.

Starting a Blog, building a network

I am going to start with the very beginning, when I was new to the course and to the country. The first time we were asked to blog, I did not know much about the concept nor the benefits of it. In the design-thinking module, blogging was introduced as a networking and sharing tool alongside all other social media.

The misconception I had during the early stages was that I wanted every blog to be perfect before posting it. It made it difficult to decide what to talk about, how to share it. One of our guest speakers during the module was Rob Fitzpatrick  who runs the startup toolkit blog.

He explained that building a network takes time and needs commitment. Regularly writing, and making a habit out of it, is the best way to become good.

I blogged  about his lecture later and, as he said, it did get easier with time.

Looking back at my blogs now, they sort of reflect my learning experience in particular and my experience in the course and in the United Kingdom in general.

Blogging was one of the social media tools alongside twitter facebook and others, which came up during the module. I did not have a twitter account prior to this module and I discovered that it is not just for gossip at all. It is really one of the best ways to share any information and know what is happening in the world. The key in any social media is knowing how to use it; because when used correctly, it can be quite efficient. My relationship with digital media has dramatically changed since the beginning of this year and I wrote about it in one of my final blogs.

“ Multidimensional interactions have altered the basic rules of communication” (Maggiani ,2012). One of the main assets of a company is its reputation and nowadays, the best way to build a good one is the word of mouth accelerated by the social media.  If people share a video about something, or tweet about a product, then it becomes a trend and it goes viral. This builds the reputation of the person or the company in a speedy way. “Past research proposed that a positive reputation is a resource leading to competitive advantage”(e.g.,Barney,1991;Hall,1992) One example I talked about in one of my previous blogs as well was Kony 2012. It went worldwide so fast that everybody knew who he was in the same week!

 

Creative thinking

On another note, one of the main topics of my blogs was inevitably the entrepreneurship module and my learning in the business field. To start with, coming from a filmmaking background, I have no business education and always related management to finance, numbers and bureaucratic “boring” jobs. But, my intention to gain skills that would help me in case I want to open my own business in the future pushed me into joining the Management and the creative economy course. This combination seems a bit odd- combining creativity and management two very opposite sides of a coin usually- but many lectures and talks changed my mind.

Creative thinking was not so long ago only related to arts and certain industries and completely separated from business and management. However recently, creativity is becoming the subject of many debates and the source of competitive advantage to many companies. Hence, the relevance of this module! Many wrote about creative thinking techniques as tools to develop superior ideas (Clapham 1997; Goldenberg et al. 1999; Lemons 2005; Osborn 1953).

Creativity has now infiltrated other disciplines especially in the entrepreneurship field.

Actually, one of the first conferences I attended was part of the entrepreneurship experience held by Kingston University. The main speaker there; Ryan Pinnick  discussed the creativity involved in being an entrepreneur. I started noticing how creativity is not only related to the product or idea in itself but also to the entire approach to making a business successful. It goes into the marketing strategy, the reaching out to the target market, and to literally every aspect of the business process.

Another example was one of our first lectures in design thinking about personas, which highlighted the importance of creating a story behind any product or service. When people relate to something they buy it.

I attended a very eye opening discussion about leadership as the art of telling meaningful  stories where the lecturer Clemens Sedmak  discussed how important it is for people to find themselves in a story, and how a good leader is one who is able to convince people that he shares their story.

“Leading is the art of motivation a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal” (Sedmak,2011 )

And even when trying to build our business, our intention is to make our brand a leading one. One that has a story people can relate to.

 

Fairs, Museums and other insirations

I also found visiting fairs and museums inspiring in the sense that seeing other people’s work makes you think about the story they have behind it, how they got inspired to do it.

My first fair was Frieze art fair  which was very interesting. It was the first time I see a fair of that scale and looking at pieces of art, art lovers and artist was quite unique.

Another very special museum was The museum of everything   which combined the work of special needs artists. This fair was so exceptional because it shows so clearly how art is the best tool to express the darkest most intimate feelings and inspire others to do the same.

Even if fairs are not directly related to our business, as I mentioned before, creativity is integrated in everything and inspiration can come from everywhere. It can come by looking at what other companies are doing to market their products. An example I blogged about was the starbucks free latte.

The company offered free lattes to introduce the new version of the drink in all its UK shops. People were queuing up like crazy to get a free drink. Starbucks managed to create a big media buzz and market its product.

Apple for example creates the pre-order system before releasing its new products to create a waiting list and see how much this product is wanted by people before even the release date!

In my WID group business, when we wanted to give an extra push to get rid of remaining stocks in march (since our product is seasonal) we offered a free picture of the customer holding an emotion or any expression with every purchase of a WID bookmark Calendar. We then sent the picture with a thank you note to the customers. In that case, we had to be creative in our promotion and come up with new ways of selling our product.

WID business group

The group business was the heart of this module in particular and this course in general. My journey with WID was a great learning experience on many levels. First it meant collaborating with people coming each from a different cultural and academic backgrounds. This was both challenging and enriching. In fact, collaboration is at the heart of my course since it combines two different disciplines and merges them together. Collaborative thinking is a tool used by many creative companies in order to come up with their new products. A great example would be Pixar,   the famous animation movie-making studio. When Ed Catmul talks about how they work there, he insists on the importance of bringing together the right people and having them collaborate. “ creativity involves a large number of people from different disciplines working effectively together to solve a great many problems”. E.Catmull, (2009).

Then, after the group was formed ,our next challenge was to come up with a product that combined our skills since we did not want to outsource any of it given our time and material constraints. We came up with our company name WID   (Words-Images and Dates) which is about making Art Useful.

Our idea was a bookmark calendar with twelve pictures, one for every month. The pictures represented emotions and had related quotes on every picture. We wanted each picture to tell a story and create a set of stories for booklovers to accompany them wherever they go. After coming up with the idea, we went through market research, prototyping etc. One particularly hard task was to pitch our idea at several points of our journey. The first time was in December when we had our first Dragons Den  . We had to explain our idea within three minutes. Pitching is not as easy as it might sound. Fitting all the steps into a short period of time while keeping the jury interested was actually quite difficult. We took into consideration what the jury told us and carried on. During the second part of the year, we sold and advertised for our product, which was one of the highlights for me. In fact, we managed to make profit, which is great, and came up with an Advert   that really incorporated the story behind our product. We then had to give a final pitch and report about the business. During this phase, we really took into consideration all that we have been told so far, reflected on the good and bad decisions we made, and prepared for our presentation. Pitching is in fact more essential than I thought, because in a way, to sell our product we need to sell ourselves. Presentation skills are not to be underestimated at all. One great example would “Levi Roots”, a contestant on dragons Den. He was selling a regular sauce but caught the attention of the jury with his personality. Body language   is to be used wisely during public presentations to make the audience interested until the end.

Final refection

As I mentioned in the beginning, this is a bittersweet blog. It actually marks the end of this learning experience. Learning came from more than one aspect. It was in being in contact with new cultures and working alongside so many different people, making our own business and dealing with all the challenges and difficulties but also rewarding moments of it. I have a completely new perspective on business and entrepreneurship and I know how important it is to be creative every step of the way. I also know that using new media is an advantage entrepreneurs did not have a few years ago. It is free, unlimited and universal and I should learn to make the best out of it for any future business idea or plan I have. As I mentioned before, pitching is another aspect of entrepreneurship I never gave much thought to. Now I know how essential presentation skills are. I have to tell my story and make it everybody’s story as well! The Mace course in general was a journey more than a course because learning was not limited to the classroom; it was in the entire experience. My first future step is my final research project where I will seek to combine creativity and business in the filmmaking industry.  This combination that seemed very vague in the beginning became a clear concept now and hopefully holds many opportunities for the future.

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Let us start by looking back…not that long ago, just a few years back.

How long did it take us to know about an important event then? If we happened to be around a TV or radio we might have known immediately…but otherwise a lot of us would get the daily “news dose” from the newspapers in the morning and the Television news at night… and that would be it! And even though it seems like this is ages ago…it is not. Coming back to the present now, the first thing we do in the morning is checking our social media websites via our smartphones or laptops so as not to miss any important news! We don’t even have to go look for news because it will find us!

This means we get news instantly and feel the need to stay connected or else we will be missing out on life basically, but this also means that reporters, newspapers and news agencies have to keep feeding their “followers” with news 24/7. Scoops no longer last days but minutes!

These images show how news was spread before and after twitter, one of the most powerful social media websites.

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Social media has now become the most important attribute of the Internet and

If we like the change or not, I think it is time to adjust to it. Digital age in general and social media in particular are no longer the future but the present.

This video by Ken Kuhn shows the effect of social media on society.

Especially after our entrepreneurship experience, we have learned the power of social media and the word of mouth it creates. It is a force not to be underestimated but to be embraced if we wish for any chance of survival!

In my previous post I wrote about the final pitch we delivered on May 3rd.

But that day was also the day we presented our final report resuming all the steps we did during our journey in creating a business.

The report highlighted everything from our customers and targets, our marketing/branding strategies, our finance, our rewards, challenges and finally our reflection on what we did and how we did it.

In a more specific way, with my WID teammates I can say that this was a successful experience.

First we managed to come up with a project that combined our team-members skills without having to outsource. Given our resource and time constraints this was the best way to go. Then we managed to produce 150-bookmark/ calendars by mid December and sell most of them during Christmas/new year vacation, which is the peak time for our kind of product.

During the second semester, we produced the WID advert showing the use and beauty of our product. It was well thought through and came out very nice.

We then faced a challenge of selling our remaining stock after January since we have a seasonal product. For that we had to be imaginative and offered during the fairs in Kingston a free picture to our customers holding an emotion/expression they want with every purchase.

Finally, we discovered during the journey that we were the most successful in selling our product as a gift to individuals but also to companies who would offer it as a gift to their clients. With a lot of positive feedback from clients, we now know that our main target markets are companies. Our future focus will also involve the possibility to customize this bookmark calendar: Professionals can give us the information they desire and we will out them instead of the calendar with a selection of pictures on the front. This can be useful in resuming information in seminars and lectures.

Overall, we are satisfied with our results since we managed to break-even and sold 127 products already.

Creating this start-up was a great learning experience for each of us and will benefit us greatly for the future!

Since October our start up companies have been created. As young entrepreneurs, one of the most efficient things we learned was the importance of pitching our business ideas.

As a matter of fact, in order to get people’s interest and potentially their investment, ideas should be resumed and key points highlighted in a short presentation.

Following the example of the Dragon Den show, we learned to pitch our idea and had several occasions to present it in front of people who would give us tips on how to improve both our products and our presentation.

The pitch

Pitching an idea can take from 1.5 to 3 minutes and should include all the essential attributes of our business concept, marketing strategy, channels of distribution and number of sales and profit if we have already made any.

The use of visual aids is favorable, however power point presentations are not that appreciated for a 3 minutes pitch. The biggest focus is on oral presentation skills. Since we were all teams and not individuals, the pitch was divided among the team members with each member highlighting one key point of our product.

We had to be precise and straight to the point, give enough information but without boring the judges with too much words and details. The Jury had to be hooked while still having questions in mind for us.

Our preparation and the several pitches we made during the year were leading up to our final presentation and our most important pitch, which took place on May 3rd in front of a jury of 3 people coming from different backgrounds.

15 minutes were accorded to each team. This time was divided between a 3 minutes pitch, a 5 to 7 minutes presentation that goes more into detail of our business strategies and 5 minutes of questions coming from the members of the Jury.

 

Pitching is a skill I never personally accorded much importance to in the past. Well first I do not come from a business background but also I never contemplated the importance of being able to resume an idea in such a short time. However, with our experience now, I can now see that if the idea is not “pitchable” then it is not good enough!

 

Talking  or writing are believed to be the most effective tool of communication. We use words to communicate ideas, feelings and build relationships. However, most of our communication goes through an indirect path without us even noticing it.  Through our BODY LANGUAGE.

As a matter of fact this type of language is not only wordless but also happens a lot of time unconsciously. Unlike words which we can control to the last letter, body language can sometimes control us since we do not know what every signal we might be releasing is indicating.

One good thing is once we are aware of the amount of signals our body is capable of giving away, we can try to use them to our best and reflect the image we desire of ourselves. This can be used to our favor in many cases: in building relationships as well as in business presentations and public speeches.

In the professional world and presentations more specifically, If one is aware of the signals emerging from his body language, he can control them and eliminate any signs of hesitation, doubt or lack of confidence. Instead they can be replaced by a body language reflecting confidence, trust and honesty.

This does not however mean cheating the audience but, just like we use words as a tool of expressing our ideas, we can make use of our body language to emphasize these ideas and not give mixed signals.

Since our last dragon presentation is coming up, each one of us should be really self-conscious of every movement we make.

Small things like keeping eye contact with the public and judges can make a difference and show our commitment to explain our respective businesses.

Putting our hands in our pockets or crossing them can send the wrong signal that we are indifferent. Staring at the floor can be a sign of shyness or lack of self-confidence.

To avoid such common mistakes, good preparation is the key. Presenting in front of friends or even the mirror will indicate our weaknesses or bad habits we do unconsciously.

And then repeating it until it becomes perfect!

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday, March 14th 2012 Starbucks UK offered free Tall Lattes from 7Am till Noon. All you had to do was give you name to the staff member taking the order who will write it down on your cup and pass it on! As simple as that!

People were queuing up to get their free lattes and a lot of positivity towards this event was spread among customers and staff.

They even served the Latte decaf or with skinny milk…so just because it was free did not mean it was not made just for you!

This offer was part of a multimillion pound campaign that coincided with starbucks including two shots of espresso instead of one in their latte to cater the British changing tastes.

 

The TV and press ads were created by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and were circulating on TV social media and all the press in the week building to the 14th of March.

Some people changed their regular order to take advantage of the offer as shown in this  video.

Wether you are a Starbucks/Latte fan or not, I must admit that this campaign was a smart way to introduce a new flavor and give a small gesture to customers all around the country. It is very expensive to do such a thing and only big companies such as starbucks can afford it but nevertheless even small startups can look into new creative ideas to introduce their product to the public. Customers will respond to the gesture      even if they would not buy the product originally!

 

The buzz around Kony 2012  has been circulating for the last week. And speculations about the honesty of the “invisible children” (the charity behind this movement) followed.  This viral took  just a few days to become on everybody’s homepage or emails.

This phenomenon is one of many other similar where an idea is heavily mediated and becomes the talk of the world in a short period of time; and it got me thinking.

 First, the facilities the technology offers today makes it possible for everybody to share their idea or thoughts through videos on you tube, blogs on many blog sites, tweets, facebook etc..

From one side that is good, because ideas can be communicated and heard, change is easier to happen, the world becomes more close to each other’s issues and start feeling with each other and not each living in a bubble isolated from what the outside world is going through. Culture has never been so easy to grab!

However, this also means that everything can be said, written, filmed. Weather it is a truth or a lie, a way of manipulation…it is all out there.

The censorship when it comes to the Internet is non-existent and the only sort of selection still present is one’s own. So now, each person has to be extremely careful about what they believe when reading or watching. It is now the individual’s responsibility to check facts and search for the truth behind the story (if we consider there is one truth).

On the other side, the accessibility of information makes the task simpler. Since the internet and social media have universalized everything, it is possible to look for the story behind the stories we read and filter the huge amount of information we receive. It is what actually made all the speculation around the Kony campaign rise as fast as the campaign itself. People searched for facts and found something different than the actual story.

But even after looking at both sides, each individual has the responsibility to check how accurate both are before just blindly believing one or the other. It is safe to say that the mass communication as we know it today is a double edged knife!