First of all i have to say that the whole experience was so much fun and i could not imagine it without all of you guys so thank you for being part of it.
Where to now?
I have no idea what September will bring, i have my plans open to ideas suggestions and opportunities. I believe we make our own fate and luck by the choices we make and the energy we transmit. My scope of things that interest me is wide and i haven’t set my sight on a specific target but I’m sure that when i finally have a target in sight it will be the most appropriate choice for my future personal and professional development. I have a few embarrassing (I say embarrassing to avoid being called a cheesy) dreams about making the world a more humane place, it is as cliche as it sounds but I deep down believe in them and I’m sure there are others who believe in things like i do too. Hey, you never know what could happen. I like to stay open and positive, constantly observing and taking opportunities when i hear that internal voice telling me to do something. I act a lot on instinct, i find it more truthful, you gotta trust your gut and beware of your mind for it is a tool that you use and not the other way around. Im all up for the journey, thats what you remember in the end of the day, the experiences you lived, the people you connect, i think it builds character and as i still have yet to figure out what i want to do professionally i might as well continue on the journey of “knowing thy self” – Plato.
Although i do not have a definite direction of where i want to be i definitely have been given all the necessary thinking tools to manifest my dreams into reality. Another thing i believe in is that when you want something with a flaming unsettling desire and have the calmness to harness all that passion into organised thoughts and direct it purposefully you can achieve anything. I feel that i have had enough business training to the point where i could start my own business. It would be a learning experience and i will definitely need the help of others, no question about that. I think my biggest issue is not doing something i am passionate about. To me that is the biggest question; what am i the most passionate at and what is the right choice? Maybe all of them are right. Whatever that passionate idea is and whenever it comes, I feel that I now have the knowledge of how to get the ball rolling; it’s just a matter of picking it up and giving it trajectory.
Artefacts gathered – In this section I will go on to analyse some of the key, in my opinion, insight that i received through my Designing a Business experience.
Starting off this journey we had no idea what to expect but the thing i remember clearly when we were first told what we were required to do as an assessment, is being frightened to the idea of having to create an actual product and business to market for real. I was wondering how on earth we were going to pull this off and trying not to be overwhelmed by a requirements overload (the good thing is that we weren’t told of all the things we had to do from the start so we wouldn’t be intimidated). Having been through it now though i would argue that the fear of the anticipation of what was to come was a fictionalisation of our mind which in the end turned out to be far greater than the actual risk Tim Smit (2012). What would happen if we chose to channel all that energy wasted on fear in a positive state of mind and focussing on solutions instead of problems? I would argue that it significantly open up a lot more space for creative design thinking. Im not a big fan of terminology and labels but lets call it design thinking as everyone likes to call it. According to Tim Brown, CEO and president of IDEO, the purpose of Design Thinking is “to mach people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and viable as a business strategy”. To me what stands out from this statement is that it sort of suggests that design thinking is limited to viable business strategies and cannot be used for something else like perhaps social change – innovation and strategies.
Creating our Brand DNA
Dr Corrine Beaumont states that branding lies in the analysis of the following three parts
- Brand is everything that creates an experience for the customer
- DNA is the unique message of the business that is communicated in the brand
- Identity is usually the visual part of the brand: logo, colours, layout, adverts, design
more of Corrine’s Branding tips found here: http://macekingston.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/design-and-branding/
Our first and probably hardest problem was to get a good idea which led to my first teaching from the design module which is the importance of a valuable idea and the process which brings about that valuable idea through observation and empathy. To create something completely new is impossible as Piers Ibbotson puts it “nothing comes from nothing”, everything comes from something, a trigger, a thought, a spark of madness. Once we had our problem figured out we started giving character to our brand and it’s mentality. So we started visualising an experience for our customers, a unique message and a stimulating visual identity that would cause their engagement and attract their interest. By believing in our idea and knowing that it’s an idea that works we had a feeling of security that this was actually useful thus it was already creating an experience on its own by changing the way grocery bags affect your hands. Our brand was created to present an honest solution to a problem which some people suffer more than others. Our DNA and our message is of a healing nature, as it looks to communicate that there need be not any suffering while enjoying the fresh walk from the grocery store all the way home, we just wanted to lighten up peoples journeys. Our identity was based on the cheerfulness and positive vibes we wanted to transmit ourselves. The colours, layouts, adverts and designs were absolutely work of all of our creative efforts as we all pitched in the making process while we stuck to a more organic display style as we wanted to keep it clean and simple. Essentially Helping Hands is a reflection of all four of us merged into a single returned image.
In the making of the actual product i was personally glad that we could actually make something our selves and then sell it. I love working with my hands and wood carving (although I’m no expert) i do have a general eye for things and shapes. Working efficiently and cost effectively is what we were looking for straight away as we knew that we had to finance the whole thing on our own. This was an opportunity to limit ourselves and see what we can come up with under tight restrictions. Using whatever we could find and experimenting with different material we could see what worked better for us. We went through a lot of trial and error just curving surfaces in order to get a nice comfortable fit in the hand. We were exploring our curiosity with a purpose, we had a vision emerging out of a stiff block of scrap wood into a piece of useful art.
Leading from the middle
Especially when working within the creative industries and around highly creative individuals it is probably important that you let them be themselves, give them the creative freedom to express their inspiration but it should be always guided towards the same direction, as Piers Ibbotson mentioned “we need restrictions, restrictions help us focus”. The leadership style promoted for creative businesses seems to always differ from slightly to substantially from typical method based businesses. Tom Peters (1985) states that “Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing”. This statement almost suggests that a leader is somewhat like a mother-figure (although men are the predominant leaders in the world) which works to raise its children into critical thinkers which can in turn evolve into leaders themselves as it emerges as a natural even habitual ability. Although not everyone might want to take on the responsibility of handling teams of people and strategies to effectively achieve goals it does not mean that if chosen and embraced this role cannot be played. Anyone can be a leader if they really want to. As Aristotle mentions we are what we do repeatedly, excellence therefore is not an act but a habit.
The Joy of Selling
When it came to selling and selecting the appropriate medium to sell we initially set up an online presence which enabled people to send us messages and communicate their requests directly with us acting as a standard reaching point in case someone doesn’t catch our booth on the high-street. We later on went on promoting the product on Etsy.com a selling platform for handmade products which gave the opportunity to people to buy online straight away. For me the biggest selling experience had to be the second trade fair which took place in Kingston town centre where i really got to communicate face to face with people and share our message and vision. As Duarte (2010), cited by Chadley (2014) “We aimed to try to inform and transform our audience in an imaginative way and deliver disparate parts of information in a cohesive manner” and in a way we did exactly that. By approaching each person with a slightly different angle according to their personal style and behaviour i found rather successful where if i was to stick to a generic scripted pitch that would only cause an unnatural tension inside me as i would have to be constrained to the limits of the script.
The experience that was MACE and all the personal knowledge and development i received through it cannot be summed up in 2000 words as now all the little bits of insight we have received are now a part of my memory and pop up from my memory bank randomly reacting to triggers but also can be drawn to recollect upon when needed. Getting to collaborate in a project like this was very insightful as i saw it as a mini-reflection of society and a glimpse of what it would be like to work with the motive to innovate and re-design our ways of thinking in our surrounding environment. The thought process and way we worked as a team in order to achieve the things we wanted to achieve brought out aspects of our different personalities but in a complimenting fashion as we all had something to offer. The opportunity to do some actual physical networking with all the wonderful people of MACE from all their various backgrounds was probably the most mind-expanding part of the experience. We value physical connections with certain people and we share special bonds and their value and meaning will exist in our memory forever.
Beaumont, C. (2013) Designing a Business (Design Thinking + Lean Start-ups) MACE Kingston. [Online] Available at: <http://macekingston.wordpress.com/>
Brainy Quotes (2014) Aristotle Quotes [Online]. Available at: <http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/aristotle.html> Accessed on 20 April 14
Brainy Quotes (2014) Plato Quotes [Online]. Available at: <http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/p/plato.html> Accessed on 20 April 14
Chadley, D. (2014) Reflective essay [Online]. Available at: <http://danchadley.wordpress.com> Accessed on 25 April 2014
DODS Government (2012) Civil Service Live Day 1 – Tim Smit and Sustainability [videorecording] Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=si9q9SOC7e8>London, DODS Government Accessed on 15 April 14
Duarte, N. (2010) Resonate, Present Visual Stories that transform audiences. Wiley and Sons: New Jersey
Ibbotson P. (2008), The Illusion of Leadership Wiltshire, Cromwell Press Ltd.
IDEO Design Thinking – Thoughts by Tim Brown [Online] Available at: <http://designthinking.ideo.com> Accessed on 20 April 14
Peters, J. T., Austin, N. (1985) A passion for excellence: the leadership difference, Warner Books
You cannot control everything, we aren’t mean to; and sometimes our obsession to control is what makes us lose it. Over controlling obsessive behaviour can cause a great unbalance between the dynamic of a group. It cuts out the say of the many. Usually a more superior member of staff is the one that has the final say no matter what employees say and his power puts him in a position which makes it hard for anyone to question which. This in turn translates into a passive compliance from the employees just to avoid confrontation which will consequentially affect the input, quality of work and emotions of those affected. Letting go of behaviour like that will only bring about good things.
Once that unbalance is noticed and dealt with then naturally things will take a more collaborative course which involves trusting and valuing other people for their individual characteristics and input towards the achievement of our common goal; If we are all looking to work only for the purpose of saving our own behinds instead of working for the common goal then it will never be all that it could be. Trust issues arise in our everyday lives all the time, we get hurt for trusting, that is what our life has taught us (we like to think on the negative side generally as a society) but in order to fully trust we have to let go of all of our judgemental thinking and let people be themselves too as you want to be yourself. I believe that indeed one man’s freedom ends when another man’s begins and he should be left free in order to create something unique. I think the one to blame when someone is not fit to follow a certain environment and ways of doing things then it is not her fault as she was not supposed to be there in the first place, which would suggest that all the investments put in employee recruitment programs, training and selection processes are not 100% effective.
Trust enables swift and agile reactions to any changes that might take place within and outside the organisational environment. By showing trust we can turn and ask for an alternative perspective which will a lot of times it is where the solution of the problem lies (literally and metaphorically). Being able to switch from one point of view to another with total trust towards the information being received it is a major relief as we can trust that our colleague is there because he is good at what he does and that his suggestions are definitely to be considered as valuable. When i observed our team going through this phase, i felt our thought processes as if they were machine guns aiming towards the same target but firing at the same time alone, together and randomly. In the moment you can find a solution if you really want it.
The team stayed agile by trusting in each others judgement and worked together to face each obstacle one at a time and rationally coming up with a series alternative routes and solutions to certain situations. Trust brings liberation.
When it came to constructing a solid pitch for our presentations we relied on the things that we were each most comfortable talking about. Hannah who loves writing and story-telling was naturally up for taking the task of transferring our brand story while Lucas’s psychological way of thinking fitted most when it came to thinking about behavioural economics. Megha could really talk about anything as she was in charge of the company, but her designer thinking gave her the confidence to talk about more aesthetic values of our whole brand identity and finance; And I was left with talking about the magic process of creation and how we brought about the end product.
So we all put together our little pieces of paper with notes and highlighted scribbles and thus a story was formed. The power of communicating a message through story-telling is a power not many choose to see as story-telling can be perceived as something for children. I myself hadn’t realised, or rather possibly had forgotten, the full potential of a message that lies within a good story until i had been reminded this year through my experiences with my classmates and personal research.
On a recent project of mine i had to visit a very special in many ways place, which words such as creative and innovative will not quite cover the true essence of the place; That place is called The Eden Project, Cornwall UK, and in a nutshell it is an extremely successful educational charity which contributes significantly to it’s local community and puts itself on the global map of environmental awareness. At Eden story-telling is an art which roots to the core of the organisation while through story-telling the message can be transmitted in any way, this is to mean that its not what you say, it’s how you say it. I believe that a lot, there are a lot of ways to pass on information to someone and all these different ways can cause various reactions. When we have control over what we say its quite hard to find our selves in verbal confrontation and mental confusion.
So in our presentations and our personal selling pitches we had to mindful of what we were saying as everybody is entitled to an opinion and it is only natural that we sometimes agree and sometimes not; but i strongly believe that to every action there is an appropriate reaction, the part i regret the most is when i fail to grasp the exact right words at the exact right time. We chose to tell our story how it is and be honest about what we did and what we were trying to do, no fake expectations, we knew how far our project could go. But we pitched it and we pitched it loud, we told our story as best as we could and in the although it might seem that all we ended up with is making a few sales and i guess some form of, if you could call them, bragging rights for making top 10 we were truly underneath the surface and the tired faces lies a deeply rooted story which lies in all of us involved and we shall always share our versions.
So we meet again dragons! This time I really felt dragon-proof compared to our first den encounter. We had been through it all; We had been through the hard production process, the technical branding strategies, the personal interaction and selling, the pitch, our story, down to every penny of our finances. I think it was rather natural that any sort of nervousness to that point was gone. By then no matter what the result of the competition would come to I would have been very grateful and satisfied for the experiences and knowledge i had received from it. We trusted our judgement and turned to each other for feedback and constructive criticism to bring together our last and final presentation of our Helping Hands. We used our previous experiences and by looking back to all the things we learned I could see that we were getting quite good at critically thinking through each action and direction, analysing and effectively taking decisions to complete each task at no matter cost. So we put together our presentation, prepared as much as we could and tried to loosen up as much as possible by remembering that all of this will be over soon and as it won’t matter in the future, in the here and now it was up to me to trust in our team and myself.
And so in our typical (as it came to be) spirit of openness and a sort of approachable/friendliness (which anyway we are) we performed our little “choreography”as team for the last time; or so we thought. To our big surprise, in front of all the young enterprise companies that took part in the process, our company was selected as one of the top 10 teams and we were called to present a 2 minute pitch in front of the whole auditorium. Although we were shocked that we got picked, we knew that this was a reflection and a reward to our monthly efforts and hard work. This was a sort of nice closing to our little venture. A celebratory sip of wine out of a single bottle was shared amongst all the M.A.C.E. teams as a little gesture to commemorate the end of a very interesting (to say the least) journey.
Sell Sell Sell!! I was feeling quite cheerful and excited when the time for our second trade fair had arrived. Only this time with real strangers, normal passing by people, as we were located in the busy high-street of Kingston Upon Thames. I’ve never really done anything too seriously in my life, and i’ve been in the army folks, i find that being more loose and not over-thinking, over-analysing, worrying too much about the end result will transmit an energy which is received by from the other person as non-enforcing but almost as inviting. I saw no point in fabricating a generic pitch for each and every individual that would come up to me. I chose to engage with each individual as i saw fit. I knew everything there was to know about our product and i was confident that i would be able to communicate and describe through creating a playful curiosity with the use of appropriate communication; But knowing that our product speaks for it self was incredibly reassuring as i could rely on demonstrating the product. Specifically i remember an example of an elderly Chinese man, hovering around our booth, looking and trying to understand what was going on. As soon as i approached him i realised that this man could not speak any English at all, and me being in the energetic state that i was on the day i still wanted to explain to him what we were doing despite our language barrier and age gap. So i spoke with my body and our product, i showed him what our product did and how it worked, he was amused and smiled enthusiastically at me giving me a thumbs up of approval.
That was just one of the many interactions i had with people on that day. My approach paid off, i wasn’t really thinking strategically on what i was going to say, the hard part was getting people to notice. I observed the people of a high-street in a different way than the usual. I was standing there as someone on the outside trying to get in, to occupy a minute of their precious time to ask them if they would be interested. To some extent i could feel people being uncomfortable when approached, some more than others, some passed by to catch a glimpse of the action to find out what was going on and mutter something like “oh what is this?” – “oh its just students” or “oh look that’s nice”; The most memorable challenge i came across that day was to make eye-contact with people. I felt people rushing by with their heads down in somewhat state of fear and some as if annoyed by the fact that someone was trying to steal time from their day. I don’t normally get to witness things from that perspective and it was indeed insightful for me, to pay attention to how people go about their daily lives and cherishing the few who stop for a quick chat. Generally i quite enjoy talking to random people, you always have something new to learn. So i stood there with a bag filled with groceries and a helping hand in my grasp, from the moment we set up our booth until the moment we closed down shop, time passed fast as i was clearly enjoying the “social experiment”.
In the end of the day our team had made more sales than everyone else on the block. I had completed almost a dozen sales and all i did was have fun.
The conclusion is yours.
Its hard to control everything all the time, especially when sparks are flying all over the room! I find it rather fascinating to observe people’s behaviour, especially in moments of social awkwardness and those were a sort of external trigger catches them off-guard pushing out certain characteristics which are not always shown, maybe a more true nature. Observing and doing is how i learn, visualising my intentions and then bringing them out in order to create. Talking from personal experience, when creating collaboratively something (especially of an artistic nature), it is important to always respect and value others opinions and work but most importantly to know when to give up on your own.
Having a strong ego to stand for the things you believe in and being confident is one thing but being stubborn and behaving childishly is something else. Having worked with various artists and “creatives” i have seen different patterns of behaviour which although seemingly they look like they produce the same result, once looked closer it is evident that there are clear differences in depth and substance from the two. Behaving in order to impress or receive admiration, praises and personal glorification is something that will not only will not bring out the best outcome possible, it will create a negative work environment which will in turn cause a division between the members involved and the creating process. So if we are in a leading position within our organisation it is key that an openness is enforced where it enables each of it’s member’s to express his ideas and opinions openly without getting obstructed by any form of fear. I mention fear as it is something very personal to everyone and it subconsciously affects us all differently on different levels. I have observed that sometimes for some people it is hard to leave all their insecurities at home when going to work, and unless we all deal with fear on a personal level to figure out the cause and rid ourselves from our constraints we cannot truly be collaborative.
Having a shared vision is not always enough. According to Steiner (2000) “Shared vision is of vital importance in order to successfully collaborate, but it is not always sufficient. For a partnership to be truly creative, multiple perspectives, complementary in skills and training, and fascination with one’s partner’s contributions are also essential”. As far as collaboration goes, the thing that i have learned from the life lesson, which is university, may not be something completely new for me as i always sort of knew the perks of working in a pure collaboratively creative spirit; but it has given me an enhanced experience of working together with people in a business context and observing and reflecting on my actions and those of others. What comes to my mind when thinking of collaborating with people, (and especially creative people), are certain guidelines which although they need no hard thinking in order to apply (meaning they come naturally), once the thought which causes me to remember why i should enforce the sort of empathic emotions it brings me to a state of awareness which brings about thoughts and behaviour of true collaboration.
V. J. Steiner (2000) Creative Collaboration. New York, Oxford University Press
This week i got to play with a bunch of pictures and edit them in a sequence which would tell the story of our product and its value. At first a series of concepts and ideas came on the table but this image reminded me of being mindful of unrealistic expectations and tried not to stay too attached to certain ideas as time was not on our side and we needed to be efficient in order to meet our deadline.
So again we decided to keep it as simple as possible in order to fulfil our assignment requirements and also keep our selves satisfied with the quality of our work. I took on the personal mission of creating the whole advertisement with the help of some friends to come in and play as actors. Creating a successful add is not that easy as the examples of bad marketing communication and not so successful advertising are countless. Transferring a clear message in an engaging way that will evoke certain emotions and desired responses is what advertising is all about. In my opinion advertising can be both good and evil, maybe one a bit more than the other but it does not mean that it cannot create true value and be used honestly instead of deceitfully in order to benefit an elite few while trying to keep the world under a spell of mass-consuption cast to control their personalities and lives.
Sticking to principles learned throughout the last year in our course we chose to transfer images that bring about a certain emotional connection in the relationship with what is being experienced, either our advertisement or our personal selling booth and communication strategy. People talk a lot about various advertising techniques and people spend billions of dollars every year on researching and advertising. Psychological studies and experiments take place in order to establish how the brain reacts with certain stimuluses and how to bring about the specific reaction of purchase and consumption. Although this might be just a natural consequence of the way we do business, i still find it somewhat manipulative as the person being affected by the advert has no knowledge of what is actually being subliminally enforced upon him and what is actually happening inside him.
To me, and this is a personal opinion (well, it is my blog!) all the corporate advertising tricks in the world that might bring about the results and turnovers which chief executives desire, are ultimately what is causing all our suffering in modern society! I don’t want to go on a rage ramble so i’ll leave it at that, whoever can think for himself will know what i am talking about. Lack of honesty is what is causing the problem and if we continue to work in this way, continuing to deceive no matter how “harmless” we think it is, there will be no end to this spiral at least not a non-violent one. At this point i would like you to imagine of a world with honest advertising and product placement. Would you believe that in such a world Coca-Cola would be a leading advertising brand? Would you believe that people would buy things if they were told that they didn’t need them or that they harmed them? Do you believe that companies would ever actually do that? Would their products even exist if we lived in an honest world?
Living in the world that we live in though, we are being bombarded by constant advertising, subliminal messages and product placement techniques which affect us daily and without even knowing. Resistance is optional and you know what they say when you can’t beat them; but that does not mean that you cannot be honest and corporate at the same time. If your values are pure and your intentions are for the good then i believe being honest to the people it matters and profitable at the same time is not something that should be a big problem.
Anyway we filmed our little add in our typical pure playful spirit, not taking anything too seriously and just enjoying ourselves doing what we do and this is the result. Thanks for watching!
We have the product and now we have to pitch it!! We fell a bit behind on our branding strategy and we were running to catch up for our big “nerve wrecking” presentation to be given at Wolff Olins offices in London. It wasn’t really something that mattered towards our degree but we all wanted to do well and get slaughtered by hard criticism as we will be facing the dragons in a weeks time and we could use all the sharpening we can get!
We wanted our branding strategy to be reflective of our values and beliefs whilst presenting a highly spirited and positive image. Our story finally came through the hands of Hannah and her passion for writing, and thus our first persona Mrs Plum was born. Her story helps illustrate the problem in which we are addressing in an emotional way whilst our brand promise of creating something to make your day a little better is something that reflects our personal values and spirits that reflect in our brand. Megha came up with amazing drawings and a super logo that wrapped things up for our brand image.
The opportunity to expose our idea in front of working professionals and pluck into their brains for feedback was a great one! We learned so much by watching everyone else’s presentations and got an inside view on what goes on in creative spaces. They do very serious work at Wolff Ollins but apart from all the seriousness, it is quite the creatively stimulating environment and they are worth looking into if you are interested in the world of branding. So as we were running a bit late, we got a speedy presentation by creative strategist at Wolff Olins Melissa Andrada and then when straight to our presentations. To be honest it went better than I expected. I was going in expecting the worst and when the worst didn’t come I was relieved. Our targeting strategies were the ones criticised the most so we took all comments under serious consideration and after reflection adjusted our course of action and the material.
The journey is not over yet as the Dragon’s Den still lies ahead! Oh and remember this is still a project Work In Progress!
We made a lot! The process of designing and manufacturing was based on trial and error. Doing and seeing what works best for our product design is what made us make many prototypes and each time they would get better and better. Our survey also helped shape our product as the questions that were answered addressed subjects like personal preferences, styles of shopping and issues of transporting the goods purchased.
Our first aim was to establish if our plan of making our grip handle would work effectively in doing what we wanted it to do, which is to evenly distribute the weight of the shopping bags on the handle, relieving the pressure off your hand. So we designed to test its functionality and although it was the ugliest looking thing ever, it did something! It did indeed feel like the weight was lifted just be evening it out. This boosted our morals making us wanting to go back for more, to find our optimal design. I had Megha working along with me in the workshop chiselling on a block of wood and sanding its curves to make it fit in the most comfortable way possible in your hands. Her constructive comments were valuable to me so I could achieve a model of standardisation that would be the best fit for all hand sizes. I enjoyed the time in the workshop and hopefully there is more designing and manufacturing to be done! This is indeed a Work In Progress!
Images of some of our prototypes