Posted in branding, creativity, design-thinking, Focus, mace16, Marketing, product development, Prototyping, sales

Christina’s Reflective Essay

 

 Creativity & Confidence

When I think back on my childhood, I remember being an adventurous child, and more than anything in the world I enjoyed creating something out of nothing; I would build a castle in the garden from tiny rocks, that I had found, or build an imaginative fireplace out of a few sticks and leaves, and spend hours playing with it. Of course, at the time I didn’t consider the fact, that I had designed something using only my imagination.
When you step into adulthood, and the everyday responsibilities that comes with it, you tend to forget how ‘easy’ it was to create by just using the simplest items to illustrate what you had imagined.

I did my BA in Copenhagen Business School, and what I’ve learned is to solve a crisis. Essentially, we learned how to rebuild a damaged situation, and we always looked for one, and only one solution – the right solution – and we began immediately building from there. A couple of years back, Peter Skillman, introduced a team challenge called “The Marshmallow Challenge”. The purpose of this challenge is for people in groups to work creatively together in building the tallest tower of spaghetti and still be able to place a marshmallow on top without the whole thing falling apart. Tom Wujec (2010), used this in different group exercises, and found that business school student had the hardest time completing the task, and he says: “And the reason is that business students are trained to find the single right plan, right? And then they execute on it” (Wujec, 2010).

Although I don’t think I completely disregarded my own ability to be creative, but being in Copenhagen Business School definitely altered the way that I thought about myself and me as a creative, and I had forgotten how easy it used to feel.


“What kindergarteners do differently is that they start with the marshmallow, and they build prototypes, successive prototypes, always keeping the marshmallow on top, so they have multiple times to fix when they build prototypes along the way” (Wujec, 2010).


My very first post was about how creativity is contagious. It was on how I briefly touched upon creativity and innovation as a part of my BA, when I enrolled in some summer modules. There I dipped my toe in the water, and learned, that creativity is not just for the ‘artistic’ or those working with paintings, music, graphics or dance, but that creativity is something that lies within us all – We just have to utilise it and be aware of it.

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Presentation on In-Touch. Photo by Fernando Trueba.

What I didn’t learn from the short summer module, was something that I learned within the first week of my time at Kingston University and through Design-Thinking for Startups, namely HOW to utilize it and HOW the right environment can be crucial for individual creativity.

And the skill of being able to utilize our creativity can lead to new ideas, which in turn can lead to innovation – a skill that many organizations, for that specific reason, now look for in future employees. As we get older, we forget how to be creative, and think creatively, and for those who, like me, enrolled in a classic business school BA, we get used to thinking about ourselves as non-creatives. Author of “The Art of Innovation” Tom Kelley and his brother, founder of global design company, IDEO, David Kelley, have learned through their work in different professional environments, that creativity lies within – it just has to be unlocked. 


“For the people we’ve worked with, opening up the flow of creativity is like discovering that you’ve been driving a car with the emergency brake on – and suddenly experiencing what it feels like when you release the break and can drive freely” (Kelley & Kelley, 2014).


Their description perfectly explains how I felt in the first week of Kingston University, and with my first real experience of Design-Thinking. Looking back on the first week, I now realise that we were all presented to each other as creatives. I do believe that it helped us to be more open-minded, and to not think of ourselves as non-creatives – it helped me to perceive myself as equally creative, when we were to come up with a new idea within the concept of ‘HOME’. “Design-Doing is a non-starter without open-minded collaboration” (Martin & Christensen, 2013).

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Brainstorm. Photo by Janja Song.

Christy, Helene, Stephi, Mick, Kieran, Ogechi and myself created a bracelet with build-in technology, that could be controlled via an app on a mobile phone. The idea was that whenever you and your loved ones were separated, you could ‘touch’ them through the app, and their bracelet would then heat up, giving the recipient a sense of physical contact. I remember we won the pitch that day (we won a book by Dave Trott called “Predatory Thinking”, which I can highly recommend), and I remember feeling a little more confident about my own creativity than I had done in a while.

I still – now more than ever – believe that creativity really is contagious, and that the environment in which you work matters for the creative output. It’s a lesson that I will definitely bring into my future work in the music industry, as well as in future projects, and try to set the right frame for creativity.

Let’s Get Down to Business – Our Business.

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ComfyEar in use. Photo by me.

The idea that lead to ComfyEar. 

When we in the first week were told to come up with In-Touch, we were given a framework of ‘home’ that limited our scope, and let us decide how to climb a mountain”, but not which mountain to climb (Amabile, 1998). That wasn’t the case when we were to design our businesses. We spent a long time trying to come up with an idea that we as a team felt would be inspiring, valid, problem-solving, relevant etc., but we didn’t know where to begin.

At first we did a brainstorm, or ‘storming’ (Bracket, 2015), where all ideas were welcome, but without the definition of “which mountain to climb” (Amabile, 1998), it became messy.
We then decided to try and narrow it down to one specific group of people and went into London to get inspired. Children, pregnant women, students – we went through them all, and came up with a few ideas, but not really anything that seemed right.

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Andrius (left) & Helene (right) out looking for problems to solve in London. Photo by Me.

 “So they want to tell the story of the “eureka!” moment. They want to say, “There I was, I was standing there and I had it all suddenly clear in my head.” But in fact, if you go back and look at the historical record, it turns out that a lot of important ideas have very long incubation periods” (Johnson, 2010). 


The idea for ComfyEar came when Andrius told us that he had been going to some sleep workshops arranged by NHS. So we decided to design a product for those who suffered from sleep issues, and who used sounds to fall asleep. Now we knew the VALUE, but we didn’t know the WHAT, the actual product, and we didn’t know the HOW (Dorst, 2011).

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Abduction-2 (Dorst, 2011)

The following day I remembered how I used to fall asleep while listening to meditation apps, but how I always found that wearing earphones was really uncomfortable. We all met and pitched our ideas, and in the end chose to go with ComfyEar. Actually, we started out by wanting to incorporate a speaker technology into the product – Boy, am I glad we didn’t.

At this stage, we had already spent too much time focusing on the idea, and had been stuck in ideation mode for too long. The module had moved on to The Value Proposition Canvas, where “the features, benefits and experience of the product are carefully matched with the wants, needs and fears of their target audience” (Thompson, No Date), and since we didn’t have any features or benefits, we had some catching up to do.


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Prototype-session 1. Photo by Helene Gundersen

Prototyping.

We had, through our research, found that the most important thing was comfort, so we tested different materials and different designs, until we eventually decided on Prototype 1 (See photo below).

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We brought the first prototype to the Kingston Hill Trade Fair, where we met some of our early adopters, and we were not wrong to say that the product could be used by people with sleep issues – many people with sleep issues were interested, but we found that we had been too narrow in terms of the problem that ComfyEar could solve. We got some feedback from potential customers, who just enjoyed watching films in bed at night, but didn’t want to disturb their partners, and we found ourselves knowing the WHAT, but clearly not the VALUE of our product.

We used the feedback from them to go back and iterate our product, to match it with the usage and value. We really learned that had we included our early adopters already after our first prototype session, and gotten “out of the building”, we might have understood our potential target market better from the beginning, and created more value for them and for us (Blank, 2013).


Changing Target Group Creates a Ripple Effect

When we presented the prototype at the trade fair, we had already created a story around the product; It was designed to help you fall asleep. Now what? The thing is that when working with principles of design thinking, your process revolves around people and the problem you want to solve.

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D.School’s 5 Stage Model of Design Thinking (The Interaction Design Foundation, 2017)

As you can see above, the stages are not linear, and we found ourselves going from testing and back to defining a new problem. When you work from the premise of a user-centred approach, and you change who your user is, it creates a ripple effect through everything else. We had to change our branding and communication strategy completely, because we now solved a new problem. Understanding the consequences of not knowing your target group is going to benefit me in so many ways in the future, when working with artist campaigns and product management.

We Survived.

ComfyEar was a very ambitious project – even without the speaker technology, that we originally wanted, and it has been tough to make the ends meet. Considering the time that we had to finish the project, we could have benefitted from less ideation and product development, which took up a lot of time, that we could have spent perfecting our marketing and branding strategy. But, overall, I am very proud of our team and the product, and we all survived and learned.

The 5 most important things to take away for future use:

  1. Use your brain a little – then use your hands a lot.
  2. When your team is right, it doesn’t hurt as much when you’re wrong.
  3. Creativity is within us all – it just needs to be unlocked. 
  4. Creating to solve a problem, creates more value for everyone.
  5. Always know your target group and use them.

So what now?

I enrolled in this MA in Music & The Creative Economy, because I wanted to create a balance between my creative side and business side. This year has been challenging, and I have learned new things, and brushed up on ‘forgotten’ things. I feel extremely lucky and privileged to have been working in such a dynamic, hard-working, creative, fun, (slightly over-ambitious) and wonderful team throughout the year.

Design Thinking as an applied tool has made me re-discover my own creativity, and I would like to think, that it has also helped me to better recognise creativity in others. As I wrote in a recent post, I enjoy changing professional environments from time to time, or being a part of several different environments at a time. So I can’t be too specific about the future, but I definitely feel, that Design Thinking for Startups have expanded my knowledge so that I can combine my creative and corporate skills to be of more value to potential collaborators and employers in the future – and to myself, of course.

I’m excited and ready to enter the next stage.

References:

Wujec, T. (2010). “Build a tower, build a team”. [online] Ted.com. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/tom_wujec_build_a_tower/transcript?language=en#t-149899 [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

 Kelley, T. and Kelley, D. (2014). Creative confidence. Unleashing the creative potential within us all. 1st ed. London: William Collins, pp.1-10.

Blank, S. (2013). Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2013/05/why-the-lean-start-up-changes-everything [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

Johnson, S. (2010). Where good ideas come from. [online] Ted.com. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/steven_johnson_where_good_ideas_come_from?language=en [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

Thompson, P. (n.d.). Value Proposition Canvas Template – Peter J Thomson. [online] Peter J Thomson. Available at: https://www.peterjthomson.com/2013/11/value-proposition-canvas/ [Accessed 27 Apr. 2017].

Martin, R. and Christensen, K. (2013). Rotman on design. 1st ed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 

Amabile, T. (1998). How to Kill Creativity. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/1998/09/how-to-kill-creativity [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

Bracket, A. (2015). Great Teams. 1st ed. [ebook] London: Bracket Ltd, pp.14-46. Available at: https://gallery.mailchimp.com/4deb94c023117a94d16140a1a/files/Great_teams_a_guide_to_better_creative_collaboration_01.pdf [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

Burstein, J. (2012). 4 lessons in creativity. [online] Ted.com. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/julie_burstein_4_lessons_in_creativity [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017]. 

The Interaction Design Foundation (2017). 5 Stages in the Design Thinking Process. [image] Available at: https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/5-stages-in-the-design-thinking-process [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

Dorst, K. (2011). The Core of ‘Design Thinking’ and its Application. Design Studies, [online] 32(6), pp.521-532. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.kingston.ac.uk/science/article/pii/S0142694X11000603 [Accessed 27 Apr. 2017].

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Posted in design-thinking

How Design-Thinking Made Me Feel Strong Again

Lets get reaL

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.

 

References:

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.

Posted in creativity, design-thinking, product development

“Garbage In, Garbage Out”

Our course director always says, that she hopes that we’re now able to connect the dots in all that we’ve learned so far. I want to take a couple of seconds to talk about how a book I read a while back, all of sudden found its way into my line of dots – and share some of the dots with you. The book is by artist and writer, Austin Kleon – He is, per his own definition, “a writer who draws”, and what a fantastic combination that is! Using both of these skills, he published his second book, “Steal Like an Artist”, in 2012. Basically, the subject of the book is how to “unlock your creativity” with a series of steps to consider in the ideation and creation process.

If you’re interested in reading the book it’s available as an e-pub here.

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“Steal Like An Artist” by Austin Kleon

One of the things that Austin Kleon discusses in his graphic book is “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. He says: “The artist is a collector. Not a hoarder, mind you, there is a difference… Your job is to collect good ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by” (Steal Like An Artist, 2012, p.13). 

This year, as a part of my Design-Thinking for Startups module, we are creating a Start-Up in collaboration with Young Enterprise, and as a part of that process we are involved in all sorts of exciting activities. Recently, we had the pleasure of visiting Fab Lab London for a workshop on prototyping, hosted by Unlimited Lab. The job was to come up with a product based on the idea of ‘up-cycling’. Up-cycling is the creative reuse of unwanted materials and waste materials – simply creating a new product from something used.

The criteria was to create a product that could be used by hobbyists at home to up-cycle some of their waste. How is this connected to dots and Austin Kleon, you might ask? Well, our team came up with a lot of different ideas just before the prototyping workshop. Our first idea was to reuse lightbulbs. We wanted to create a self-watering plant kit, using the lightbulb as a miniature pot to hold a small plant. Did it work? No. Not only was it impossible to remove the bottom part of the lightbulb, it was also potentially dangerous considering the thin glass on the bulb.

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Prototyping the Thermo-Mug Kit @FabLab

We went back to the drawing board just before the prototyping session, and by the end of the day, we decided to do a Thermo-Mug Kit to reuse old tin cans, which turned out to be both easy and a lot safer!

We are not hoarders in any way in our little group, but I believe that humans have a tendency to cling on to ideas even though they are complete garbage, and it was tough to come up with a new solution after declaring the ‘bulb-plant’ out, but the generation of several ideas in the brainstorming process allowed us to collect the ‘good idea’. The ‘Bulb’ was unsuccessful, so it had to go. Garbage In, Garbage Out.

 

Reference:

Kleon, A. (2012). Steal like an artist. 1st ed. New York: Workman Pub. Co.

Posted in design-thinking

“Creativity Is Contagious”

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As I’m entering the third week of being a student at Kingston University (KU) in the Creative Industries and the Creative Economy I’m finding that all my impressions are finally settling in. For starters, I’ll say that the experience so far have exceeded my expectations in many different ways – this particular post is focused on my expectations and experience with the subject of Design-Thinking.

In 2015 I enrolled in the summer course ‘Innovation and The Creative Industries’ at Copenhagen Business School as a part of my Bachelor’s Degree. We briefly touched upon the subject of design-thinking and the myth of the ‘Creative Genius’, but I have to admit that I didn’t fully understand the importance of diversity in the group’s skills, when working with design-thinking. Maybe because the course was purely theoretical and we never got to work with the processes ourselves.

Boy, did the induction week at KU change all that! In two days we worked actively with the basics of Design-Thinking with the subject of ‘Home’, trying to understand our own, as well as the users and their perception of home, in order to identify a gap in their needs and the current market offers to finally present a solution to the ‘problem’.

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The result in itself is not what’s important in this post – the actual work, processes and results will be the theme of many posts to come. But in this case, what stuck with me the most was how the group worked together without any major difficulties even though everyone have different backgrounds, different skills and different approaches. Despite all of these differences I’ve never felt that I’ve been in a more secure, creative environment and ideas came pouring out – of every team member.

It got me thinking; Everyone has that friend they admire for his/her belief in own ideas and the way they, without fear, carry them out. After the last couple of weeks, I’m tempted to believe that it has to do with that person’s safe, creative environment, where no idea is more right or wrong than the other. When a group comes together, without any creative limitations and with a mutual understanding that a problem needs to be solved, creativity seems almost contagious.

“Creativity is contagious – Pass it on” – Albert Einstein