back to the future…

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.

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Sitonit, a brand to watch

The next crucial step after finding our brand identity was to create an AD SPOT to present our product.

We’ve decided to focus on the PRODUCT in a ludic way by using stop motions. Indeed, in opposition to modern ads using interactive methods, we wanted to make a return to basics by using only the product as simplest as can be.

STOP MOTIONS is an animation technique making a physically manipulated object appears to move on its own. The object is moved in small amounts between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when the series of frames are played as a continuous sequence.

By making a little story around the SITONIT, using it as the main character, we felt that it could emotionally touch and surprise the viewer.

Even thought the ad is simplistic, it is, in a way appealing thanks to the different COLOURS and the MUSIC, but it is also informative as it shows how to use the product. This advertising was for us a way to invite customers to DISCOVER, ENGAGE and finally PARTICIPATE to the world of SITONIT.

Managing creativity, a full time job

To surprise, to produce totally new things, to invent or to create can be a panel of terms that companies and artists have in common. Indeed, even though their objectives are different, companies want to boost up their organisations, their communications or their products. As for artists, they are looking for producing from a new angle and new look, provoking awareness or simply entertaining.

The main question is to know which practices can be transposable from the artiste to the company and vice versa. Indeed, encouraging people to find INSPIRATION as well as emphasising their SKILLS are surely elements that can transform CREATIVE MANAGEMENT techniques.

As a matter of fact, managing creativity and innovation is a real challenge for most companies and an interesting paradox. Indeed creativity is a mental and private process, bearer of dreamy concepts and associated with the ability for a person or a group to think up a new idea or discover an original solution to a problem. This notion of creation is far removed from the organisation’s one. Effectively, division of labour is behind the organisational concept and run up against the crucial need of communication: how to divide labour when it is only possible to express a creative step forward by doing the work oneself? Carrying out an idea does not mean materialising it but being able to formulate it.

When observing the creative industries, it is obvious that they all rest on organisations. Indeed, even though creative activities emphasise the aptitude and the genius of one individual, they also rely on organisational operations and can easily be formalised.

Managing creativity is all about ENCOURAGING the process of creation while following the organisation’s constraints and demands. This is why the manager should encourage creativity’s emergence as well as manage its consequences over the company. Creativity does not come to order overnight but requires time, training, mistakes, coherence towards managerial practices and a serious commitment of all the people involved in the creation process. A crucial issue in the management of creativity consists in giving enough FREEDOM to people involved in the process while reintroducing at the same time, and all the way, the initial plan of action in order to reach the objectives.

Sitonit, a brand to believe in

After all this time you may ask yourself what is going on with our product, the SITONIT?

Well, after months developing it, modifying it, selling it, confronting it to jugdes and stressing over it, it finally comed together. Various stages were needed when developping a product but BRANDING was one of my favourite. Let me explain:

Developing a brand identity for our product was a difficult but exciting process; indeed we faced many challenges, as the branding timeframe was short and the final product was not entirely clear or fixed in our heads at that time.

Our first mission, after the release of the SITONIT concept was to create a corporate identity and creative expression thanks to an understandable name as well as a catchy logo, and this to facilitate the customers’ recognition towards the brand.

To highlight the convenient but « fun » aspect of the waterproof mat, we decided to create a straightforward visual identity. As a matter of fact using an action as a name was a way for us to reflect the brand initiative and commitment when it comes to meeting the NEEDS OF OUR CUSTOMERS.

As the cushioned mats are available in various colours and can be customised with personal designs via the company website, it was preferable for the LOGO to be black to pop-up as much as possible. The TYPEFACE chosen is friendly and clean, reflecting the company’s commitments. The plain square represents a SITONIT, and helped with the “IT” above and the name, the logo really facilitates the customers understanding when it comes to the product’s functionality.

We applied this same VISUAL IDENTITY to our business card as well as the SITONIT website, but this time we decided to ad colours, in order to create a more positive and entertaining touch to our product.

                                  

Clichés!

Spending a year surrounded by people from all around the world has changed me but must of all has changed the way I perceive others. Indeed, it made me realised that our country of origin, the country in which we evolve generate and predestine many PRECONCEIVED IDEAS about other countries.

But here is my first advise if you want to last in a foreign country and even make 1 or 2 friends.

DO NOT GIVE IN TO STEREOTYPES!

Indeed, when moving to a foreign country, it is easy to fall into the trap of received ideas. There are as much as silly affirmations as invented MYTHS.

Let me give you some examples:

According to stereotypes, English people are rude and unfriendly. They only eat fish and ships, spend their life in pubs, or under the rain in T-shirts with -10°. Their favourite drink is beer even though they wouldn’t say no to a cup of tea while telling incomprehensible jokes.

If you think it is bad for their REPUTATION, wait for the French stereotypes!

So, apparently, French are chauvinist and overproud. This is maybe why they are always flirting… They are stuck with languages as they speak French everywhere and even abroad (hum hum… NO, I do not feel concern…). But the main stereotypes about French people are often regarding food. Indeed, French people are still perceived as great lovers of cheese and red wine, snail and frog eaters and they apparently spend their life walking around with a “baguette” under their arm.

Have a look at this animation about French clichés if you don’t believe me!

French Clichés

WAKE UP PEOPLE!

These GENERALISATIONS can have serious consequences as they lead to stereotyped characteristics without deep investigations of the facts. We often tend to categorised people before even meeting them.

Stereotypes can often be explained by the fear of the unknown. As a matter of fact, we regularly and mistakenly believe that we know who we are and when comparing to others, the unknown is automatically considered to generalised stereotypes.

So believe in yourself and others, do not think that you know everything about everything, let yourself go and you’ll be suprised of what you can learn from others.

Fulfill your passion, not your position

All my life, I have heard that I needed to be a LEADER, I needed to be the best, and I needed to push my self and others. But all my life, all I have seen from leaders was single-minded and stubborn people.

Apparently, everybody has to be categorized into a single box: leaders or followers.

From what I saw, I would rather be a follower and leave the “chosen ones” enjoy their mystic powers.

But, there is something apparently wrong with being a follower… It is too normal! It is a primitive stage that you must imperatively escape from. Lucky me, plenty of books are available nowadays, full of great tips on how to “act” as a leader and not be perceived as a push over.

Believe what they say, they are rocket scientists! “By following all the rules, you will achieve the big accomplishment of being a leader yourself”. Well, those writers must be followers as well, otherwise why would leaders make way to insignificant little people by given them magical potion?  The chosen ones do not leave room in their secretive world: You are born with it or not.

The truth is, I was apparently born with it: My first sound was a cry and it lasted for 20 years. In school, my friends were following me as I was scaring them with my bad temper. I was always imposing my ideas as I though they were the best, not even bothering listening to others. Actually, I was flushed with anger and did not know why.

As I was progressing into ages, I was more and more demanding; demanding with others and myself. My parents wanted me to succeed and I believed that I needed to push myself harder and harder in order to reach my goals. People were looking at me as a leader and I was convinced that by letting go with myself, and lowering my guard, I would fail in my role.  It was truly exhausting.

Eventually, I got tired of fighting and aspiring to a missing glory. But most of all, I got tired of trying to fill my ambition. This took me a long time to understand that it would be impossible for me to keep up this way and that I was not actually leading but mostly imposing. Imposing not just to others but also mostly to myself. As a matter of fact, I finally understood that I had to take responsibilities on making choices for myself, and this by gathering my courage and trusting my abilities. Indeed, it was all about me letting it go, rather than giving orders to others, in order to fulfil my lack of confidence.

Trusting others’ talents and noticing their ideas is the perfect way to achieve one’s goal. Indeed, to me the true leaders do not need to be noticed and encouraged, as their main goal is to follow a vision or a belief.  In addition, real leaders do not need to diminish others because they feel threatened, but on the contrary, leaders need others to exist to complete their aspirations. Leadership is all about aiming at a COMMON GOAL thanks to different ideas and abilities this same objective aspire to people.  Individuals should not be scared or threatened when they think about leadership. Far from it, they should push their confidence by expressing their APTITUDES and IDEAS.

I would like to believe that anyone could be a leader as long as they are passionate about the subject and as long as they are inspired by the goal they are aiming at. Indeed, by sharing a same goal and trusting one another, people can always go further. By always aspiring higher for the same goal and by giving their best, people will construct a solid and cohesive structure stretching from one to another.`

To me, leadership is an abstract figure that needs donor and receiver but cannot exist without each other. Therefore I tried to implicate various materials to symbolise the federative context of leadership. As seen above, wood is the representation of the human kind; every piece is similar but also obviously different. Everyone is shaped similarly but is undeniably diverse in the way we evolve within society. Therefore, the INVISIBLE LINK, that allows deep cohesive atmosphere or even failure of this one, is what I have decided to symbolise with a red thread, the perfect symbol of my vision of leadership.

The origins of the RED THREAD comes from Greek mythology with Ariadne’s red thread, when she gave the extremity of the thread to Theseus and kept the other one to unravel, so that he would not lose his way in the labyrinth when killing the minotaur.

This story brings back to the origins of leadership throughout short stories and tales that sublimed group work in opposition to individual enterprise. The symbols of Greek mythology is strong in today’s culture as it will always relate to the power of achievement built by the force of diversity brought together.

Return to basics

Christmas has gone and I am sadly looking at my presents unwrapped –I LOVE colourful wrapping paper– scattered on my bedroom floor…

“Oh I love that! And this! And… what’s that? A COOKING kit?”

YES! I think I recall now! It was one of my mother’s GIFTS! I also remember that she gave my sister a cooking book and my sis-in-law an appetizer kit. Is she trying to pass on a message? Is she trying to tell that we are bad cooks? I don’t think so… my mother is the frozen food’s queen, the archetypal businesswomen!

NO, I think she has just been trapped by this new TREND that is to say cooking! In fact it is now perceived as a trendy leisure activity and nowadays, culinary TV shows, books, competitions and blogs are blooming. As Disney character Ratatouille said: “Anyone can cook!”

Actually, it is not just cooking that makes its big comeback but also conviviality. It’s good news when we know that cooking is now a popular trend within the young adults –And this, after a long period of junk and frozen food– who fully enjoy the phenomenon “HOME MADE”!

As a matter of facts, according to a French sociologist, this new appeal toward cooking comes along with a new creative and playful way to play an active role in our diet. By participating, we feel reassured about food quality and origin. The come back of “home made” comes from a need for the consumer to assimilate his diet.

But what if the real reason for this come back particulary goes together with tradition and the retourn to basics?