8 … almost eight month have passed since we had our first designing a business class. This module can be seen as a journey that fulfilled nearly all expectations that come up to your mind if you hear the words designing a business. However, let’s step back to the start of the course to see how it all began.
The whole MACE programme started with a kick-off workshop called the Lean Start UP EXPERIENCE. Our course leader Marc Passera and my DaB (= stands from now on for “Designing a Business”) module leader Corrine Beaumont organised this workshop and invited therefore Dr Dan Lockton from the Royal College of Art London. Dan introduced us to an method that uses user empathy as a major tool to develop products or businesses (Ries, E., 2011). He claimed that too many products and business have been developed without involving the potential users into the developing process. Designers often believe that they have a foresight that allows them to know what the user want. In fact they lose thereby the relevance to pay attention to the real user feedback. No discussion… sometimes this works out, as users not always know what they really want. However, those can be seen as the minority and receive therefore a way to high relevance by the designers.
Dan asked us to develop an idea that solves a problem of the Kingston University students. He suggested to interview other students on the campus to figure out what they are missing and how we could them out. My team was a mixture of fellow students from 4 different countries: Russia, USA, China and Germany. This required a strong cultural empathy within the team as each one of us had different approaches for such a task. However, the whole team developed, after a short exchange of suggestions, a clear strategy. Our research phase resulted in the knowledge that students have a strong desire for a space to relax beside the busy student routine. Existing offers and structures do according to that not fulfil their demand. Those insights served to develop our idea of a space called “the green cube”. This space had the function to invite students to take a breath during their daily routine. We oriented ourself on the well known concepts of the Google offices (The National, 2012). The building or area has to have have a salient form and colour setting. It interior design has to follow a golden thread that prevents the feeling of being in a working environment. This includes a silent area that provides hammocks to it visitors, a coffee area that invites to stay longer than just for a cup of tea, a cinema room with free movies and an art room where students can be creative as long as it is not connected to their work. The whole concept has been presented by the group in an interactive way by the use of LEGO 😉 I liked especially the fact that we were asked to present in a creative, memorable way.
Dan Lockton mentioned in the context of the lean Start-Up workshop also the iPhone function for disabled users. He choose this example as it shows how user orientation during the process of developing ideas can end up it great results. This reminded me also in the amazing “Pfandring” from Paul Ketz. He designed a bottle holder that can be mounted to a public bin and allows to place your empty deposit bottle inside the holder ring. This again helps gatherers to collect empty bottles to return them to stores where they get in exchange an deposit for each bottle. This helps in an easy way to recycle glass, plastic and aluminium (Ketz, P., 2014).
The next project for our module was very practical as we had to develop a communication strategy for the movement #knowyourlemons. Our module leader Corrine is the initiator of the website worldwidebreastcancer.com and asked us to support the upcoming campaign by the development of short movies that pick up the topic to enlarge the awareness. It was our goal to initiate a viral movement comparable with well known Ice Bucket Challenge. The video of Irene and her team was in my opinion the best one (Canuti, I., 2014):
The whole project was a great opportunity to learn what is necessary for such a campaign. Especially the fact that we tried to monitor our awareness scope via google analytics enabled us to control and adjust our strategy (Google, 2015).
As soon as the campaign was launched it was our task to find people within the class to build up a team. I mean not just a team… we were asked to build a team that from know on works together on the same goal: designing a business. This was somehow difficult as we all did not know each other very well. Nevertheless I can say today: I have been lucky. My team was a mixture of people from 6 different countries: Bangladesh, Taiwan, Russia, Italy, Germany and India. This internationality can be totally seen as an advantage. The cultural differences produced a very strong connection between each one of us as we were all very interested in other cultures. Every behaviour and every mindset was new to us. It was especially in the first month a very interesting process to see how we all learned more and more about each other.
After a first phase of casual brainstorming we followed the advise of Corrine to think first about common interest areas, might help to find an idea for a business. We realised thereby that we all liked to travel. Everyone came from his home country to the UK not just because of the study programme… no… especially because of the opportunity to dive into a new culture. From this point on we started to focus our brainstorming process on the field of travelling. We asked us random questions such as:
What is your favourite country to travel to?
How do you usually travel for holidays?
What is the most important thing to take with you when you travel?
Is there something you were always missing while you where travelling?
What is difficult when you are travelling?
The whole team came up with different ideas. We tried thereby to follow the principals of the Value Proposition Canvas (Osterwalder, A.; Pigneur, Y.; Bernarda, G.; Smith, A., 2014). This allowed us to always focus on the customer needs. It was our main goal to solve a real problem for our target group. Our product but furthermore our whole business had to be designed around the potential user of our product. He became in a way the foundation of our thoughts and our behaviour.
On of us suggested a mobile hammock for baby’s to hang the baby into a tree. Another idea was about transporting a backpack with wheels or a card holder for the oyster card. We also thought about a lunch box that heats the food by itself. However, in the end we decided to develop something that makes travelling in an air plane more relaxed:
We thought in this context about a headband that reduces noise during the flight and avoids light if you want to rest. The first prototype sessions were incredible funny:
It took us quiet a while till we came up with a first prototype that fulfilled our basic requirements. We decided to combine ear protectors, an eye shade and the structure and softness of an travel pillow. It was based on the thought to solve three problems with one device:
From now on we started to develop our business more detailed by the use of the Business Model Canvas (Osterwalder, A.; Pigneur, Y.; Bernarda, G.; Smith, A., 2014). This helped us structure our tasks and targets within the team in a more efficient way.
While we were still working on a better prototype we started to prepare ourself for the first pitch in front of the Dragon’s. In this the context it was very helpful that Corrine invited a story teller called Rob. He introduced us to different approaches that have to be considered during the process of preparing for a pitch. The Hero’s Journey was one concept that he mentioned. It is basically the golden thread of stories such as Lord of the Ring (Vogler, C., 2007).
One of his suggestions was to think like Apple. He told us thereby about the golden circle:
Sinek warns with his circle that most of the companies do the mistake of starting first with the WHAT, then the HOW and in the end with the WHY. This often ends up in a product development that does not really match a customer need (Sinek, S, 2009). We tried to consider Sinek’s concept not just for our pitch preparations… no… we furthermore tried to consider it in every business decision we had to do.
While our team could succeed during the pitches we had to develop a concept for different trade fairs. The difficulty thereby was to develop a stand that convinces people to try out our product right away. As our product was still looking a bit extraordinary, this was a big challenge. However, by the use of charm and an inviting set up of the stand many people were willing to try out our product:
The feedback we received was very revealing in the context of improvement suggestions but also surprising. Many people had a very positive feeling while they were using our product. Our fear that they might feel awkward while they were wearing our device became smaller and smaller. In the end I would say that the trade fair offered us the best opportunities to collect feedback from our potential customers, as we could see and feel what they think about our product.
While to process of developing a product and furthermore a business became routine, we still had to adjust our team work. Reflective I would say that building up a great working team took way more effort than all the rest. The different roles had to be defined step by step without falling into a situation where each one of us loses the overall thinking of the whole business. It was important for us to have shared responsibilities but with a clear task allocation. We used therefore a cloud based software called podio. Podio allowed us to develop projects, deliverables and tasks completely independently. It enabled us to track our work in a very efficient way and extended our communication within the team (Podio, 2015).
We all decided to continue the business from June on as registered Ltd. One of our next steps is therefore to attract investors who are willing to help us to produce our product in a bigger amount. It is our plan to start a crowd funding campaign in the beginning of June. We discussed this opportunity during the class and realised that there is a big potential for our business idea (Orthwein, I., 2014).
I would finally say that the whole module helped to develop my personality in many ways. The opportunity we had to create a highly productive team from point zero on enables me in future to do the same. Beside our plan to continue the business with flI., I will start developing a creative hub that focuses on mobile applications and games. I am convinced that the Business Canvas Model will help me especially on the beginning to develop my plans in an efficient way. The development of the business report for flI. was a great experience as well. I understand know how important it is to bring your idea down onto a paper. It enables me in future to break down my ideas into a clear concept. My plan to develop a creative hub includes probably also the creation of a proper business pan. I am pretty sure that my business report experience will be very helpful therefore.
Thank you all for such an amazing year!
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