The end of my master is approaching and several mixed feelings are crossing my mind. Mixed feelings as it takes me approximately 2 seconds to reach one extreme to the other. I often feel joy and relief as hard work, dead lines anxieties, lack of motivation and group work disagreements can now leave room to another amazing chapter of life: the working life…
Well… Frankly now that I think about it, anxiety reappears and I would rather stay a student for the rest of my life… Think about it, for a year, our lives were as regular as clockwork; we were living, sleeping, eating and breathing “master degree”, all our discussions were focused on our current projects, even with random people met ten minutes before!
So what’s next? It can be so intriguing but so scary at the same time not knowing…
Scary as, even with a bag full of diplomas and a head full of DREAMS, I do not really know where I want to go. I’ve started with a bachelor in Magazine Publishing leading by a PASSION of those sacred books where journalists, graphic designers, photographers and stylists come together to express their creativity and vision and where a very own identity is generated as well as carried by the creation of this unique piece of art. My bachelor years in London were years of adaptation, as I like to call them. Indeed, I had to adapt to life as a student living away from family, friends and habits. As an individual, it made me stronger, and taught me to make my own way but I felt that it did not taught me anything as a student.
It is my master degree at Kingston University that made me understand the benefits of learning. Indeed, it enhanced my self-organisation, my ability to work independently as well as with others, it increased my motivation to learn and in a way prepared me for the future. Which students can pretend to know how to start and run a BUSINESS, to manage a TEAM and a bank account, to successfully NETWORK and all of this by using CREATIVITY and INNOVATION? Well… we do.
Indeed, in today’s highly competitive corporate world, good quality and higher services are not enough to guarantee success. Creativity is one of the highest added values that will lead to lasting competitive advantages (De Bono, 2007). Creativity represents the core source of innovation (Ford, 1996), as creativity is the use of the IMAGINATION or original IDEAS to create something new or to make unusual associations between them (Amabile, 1998). “Indeed many innovative processes are solved thanks to the influence and various solutions or results occurring from creative actions” (Beaussier, 2012).
Creative thinking is a skill that can be learn by anyone and this is exactly what we did for 8 months during our design thinking & Entrepreneurship class. “Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the NEEDS of people, the possibilities of TECHNOLOGY, and the requirements for business success” (Brown, 2012). This process was made up from three crucial phases that we implemented step by step to our business all the year round: INSPIRATION, generated by people’s needs and requirements and motivated by the search of solutions, IDEATION or the production of prototypes, and IMPLEMENTATION by explaining the idea concept to a relevant audience in a relevant context.
Brown defines inspiration as “the collection of insights, and stated that being inspired begins with empathy” (2004). Indeed, in order to generate valuable ideas, we had to get under the skin of the consumer to experience their world PHYSICALLY, COGNITIVELY and EMOTIONALLY (Beaumont, 2010) and this to match their expectations. Even though the inspirational phase had to be activated constantly in order to generate new ideas, inspiration is uncontrollable and we had to find different STIMULUS.
OBSERVATION was a great stimulus for our group as we found many ideas for new products while observing people. Indeed we used the outside world as a source of inspiration and not just validation (Brown, 2012). It is true that consumers are a crucial inspirational source and that it is important for the well being of the brand to listen to their needs and requirements: “Being completely inflexible [to consumer’s needs] is also being blind to OPPORTUNITIES so it depends what you are trying to achieve – a successful business or a vanity project” (Macdonald, 2012). In addition, The USER MODEL was an efficient way to perceive and understand the customers on several levels. By mapping the different relationship between the USER, the DESIGNER and the COMMUNITY, it became easier to identify “the ‘right’ thing at the ‘right’ time in the ‘right’ way” (Fischer, 2001). In addition, inspiration can be found throughout ANALOGOUS SITUATIONS as it allows not only crucial interactions between the designer and the user by trading their roles, but enables the designer to highlight each functioning problems as well.
The inspirational phase is essential as it generates many ideas by breaking away consumers’ needs and problems. However, designing a business does not only rely on analysis. Indeed, as Tim Brown mentioned, “design thinking relies on an interplay between analysis and synthesis, breaking problems apart and putting ideas together” (2004). By narrowing general problems thanks to BRAINSTORMING methods, it can be easier to focus on one issue in particular. Indeed, brainstorming main advantage is to improve the flow of ideas by setting out significant amount of ideas while making sure that no judgments are impeding the flow. Once all the ideas are exposed, critics can be made in order to transform “crude” ideas into suitable solutions. It can be a difficult phase as it means, most of the times, letting go your initial ideas and listening to others. There are two essential constructs introduced by Osborn (1942), that is to say, creative thinking, a divergent way of thinking requiring to create something new by violating accepted principles, and critical thinking, a convergent way of thinking trying to validate something that already exists by applying accepted principles (Beyer, 1989). By choosing an engaging place for the brainstorming to take place, it can be easier to unbridle the mind. Generating ideas around a drink in a pub was a perfect way for our group to interact wile getting to know each other better.
As soon as the idea is settled, the PROTOTYPING phase can begin. According to Brown it is imperative to prototype as it is not only a way to test your design in its initial stage, but most of all a way to learn about the idea chosen. Even though the product proposition might go through many changes, they may save you some money and time in the end. As Brown stated, “prototypes don’t have to be physical, but they must be tangible”. It is important to note that, although you will argue as a designer, that the “right questions” have already been asked and that you know were you are going by your own, prototypes have to be tested by real people through real situations, and feedbacks must always be taken into account. The difficulty of this phase was to react quickly and efficiently and to detached ourselves from the final product; indeed, when you think that you have a perfect fixed idea and that there is no need to make some modifications… Think again!
As a matter of fact, it is now obvious that “your business ideas should be focused but adjustable for new situations. You should always be looking at ways to IMPROVE and ADJUST your business throughout this entire project” (Beaumont, 2009). Lets say that it is better to take small risks at this stage than to fail later and never recover from it.
The final stage of the Brown model is IMPLEMENTATION and consists of a relevant explanation of the concept thanks to storytelling, and this, in order to attract many people as possible by selling the idea in a better way. Indeed, as Brown mentioned in his study, “many good ideas never make it to market because they could not survive implementation” (2012). Storytelling is the implementation of narrative process in the communication technique, in order to strengthen the audience adherence. It is made through words, images or sounds and often by improvisation. STORYTELLING is a method of EMPATHY as it is said that, in order to reach the mind, the heart has to be touched first. This method was often used during this course and was a great way to improve our communication skills as well as strengthen our confidence. Another way to lead our product to the right audience was through NETWORKING. Even though, it was a totally new tool for me, I now understand its importance when it comes to inform, access and approach a wider audience and resources.
It is interesting to see how the different steps used during design thinking may seem disconnected at first to finally notice that they are all connected to each other and are all equally essential for the smooth functioning of the business. Roger Martin defines Design Thinking as the capacity to combine the best of analytical and intuitive thinking into a reasoning capability that balances exploitation and exploration; that seeks reliability and validity; that provides the fastest and best movement through the Knowledge Funnel. Indeed as mentioned earlier in a post, this year made me realised that entrepreneurship requires patience, determination and motivation. As a matter of fact, DESIGN THINKING is not about my needs and desires, but is all about pleasing the consumer; this is not about being right straight away, but about testing and adjusting; neither about individualism but teamwork and open-mindedness (Beaussier, 2011).
This master’s year has changed me in many ways, as I now understand the meaning of hard work, determination but must of all self-confidence. In fact, I remember taking up this master without knowing where to go in life and without being convinced that I would ever succeed. This year made me realise that you just need to believe in yourself, in your ABILITIES and in your PASSION. Even if I do not have an obvious vocation, I do not need to find an answer straight away only because some people found it without even asking themselves. I am now confidant that it will come to me and that I have the proper skills, creativity and self-belief to succeed in whatever I choose to be.