This post is not about any particular theme or subject, that we’ve had in class or an event that we’ve been to, but before I go in to the final Dragon’s Den, I want to address a slightly more personal subject.
I’ve written most of my posts about our product, and the processes involved in creating the product and getting it to market. While the journey is the purpose of this blog, I also find it important to share with you how the Design-Thinking module, and the way the module is structured, has changed something on a more personal level, that in return will have a positive effect on my professional and personal life going forward.
As with many other music-interested people, I’ve always loved being on stage. By stage, I don’t necessarily mean a performing stage in the traditional sense, but in general – talking in public, presenting, performing, giving speeches – maybe just being at the centre of attention, really :). One of my first real jobs was as a customer consultant (let’s be real – I was a salesperson) in a large company, and I genuinely enjoyed it. Why? Because it is a culture driven by constant performance; you make a sale, you ring the bell and you walk on to the “stage”, and write the sale next to your name on the whiteboard. It didn’t make it any less interesting, that I also loved talking to people and that was basically the core of my job.
As I progressed, I ended up in a job as a sales manager, where giving a good daily prep-speech and strategy brief was crucial to motivate and engage the employees, and to make sure that they also felt like they had a stage to step on to. We all have one or more qualities that we know we can rely on, something that we define ourselves by, even when facing challenging tasks; some are good at writing, some are good at coming up with ideas, some are good at listening, some are fast learners, some are good at taking action, some are good at problem-solving – and I always felt confident, that no matter what challenges I may be facing, I could talk and perform.
After I finished my BA at Copenhagen Business School, the jobs that I encountered, were mainly dominated by administrative work, such as budgeting, filing, publishing contracts, time management etc., and while that can be good as a variation, the level of engagement and creative exchange with other people is quite minimal. The project coordination I did on creative projects, I really appreciated, but after a longer period with a lot of administrative work and long term stress, it eventually made me anxious in situations where I had to perform and present, to the point where I could get a panic attack – even in the most common situations. It’s usually not a popular thing to admit about yourself, as it, understandably, comes across as a weakness, but anxiety is one of the most common conditions in the world – approximately 1 in 10 people have at some point experienced a panic attack, and anxiety is the second most predominant mental condition in the UK (Mental Health Foundation, 2016).
The funny thing – the only funny thing – about anxiety is, that it’s extremely irrational, and therefore extremely difficult to get rid of. The paradox is, that anxiety gives you the urge to escape the situation you’re in, but in order to overwrite the danger-pattern in your brain, you have to stay and wait it out – you have to go through it. Boston-based musician, Joe Kowan, talk about how he got over his stage fright here, but essentially what he says is, that once he accepted it, and dealt with it in a constructive way, he got rid of it.
Imagine, that your skill and passion is drawing, and all of a sudden you are afraid to pick up a pen, because you know it’ll make your heart beat faster, and your breathing more difficult. You would lose a really important part of how you define yourself – how you present yourself and feel about yourself. That’s how I felt, when I discovered that presenting and performing were now some of the more challenging things for me to do.
So, as the headline says: How Design-Thinking Made Me Feel Strong Again. But how, exactly?
Design-Thinking is structured so that we are on a stage and being judged all the time; doing weekly presentations on our progress, the multiple Dragon’s Den events, the trade fairs, and the Bright Ideas Competition. Even though, the first many times were extremely challenging, eventually, I got over it – I got rid of the patterns my brain had created, because of the continuous presentations and events we had to go through.
And, equally as important was my team in this process. Going through this process with two people you trust, made it much easier – I always knew, that should I feel the slightest bit anxious, they would have my back, and they would support me. Just knowing that going in, meant that it never really happened. Because of this module, the way it’s structured and my fantastic team members, I’ve gotten rid of my presentation anxiety, but I’ve also improved on a couple of other skills as a result. I know the course is designed to strengthen our professional skillset in problem-solving, creativity, innovation, taking action and creating the most efficient and innovative team, but I think it’s important to add the element of personal development as well.
When I had my initial Skype-interview with my course director, Janja, she said that some of her previous students had explained how they experienced a personal change as a result of the course. I wasn’t expecting it, but it definitely helped me rebuild myself, and made me feel strong again, and I’m now, more than ever, ready to give my all.
Kowan, J. (2013). Transcript of “How I beat stage fright”. [online] Ted.com. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/joe_kowan_how_i_beat_stage_fright/transcript?language=en [Accessed 27 Apr. 2017].
Mental Health Foundation. (2016). Fundamental Facts About Mental Health 2016. Mental Health Foundation: London.