My journey with ‘Design Thinking for Start-ups’ started in the middle of September in 2015. This module was an elective topic and I was unsure if I would able to do it or not given I had limited work experience. According to Harvey & Fischer (1997), advice and initial opinions play an important role in the process of decision-making, this gives the decision-maker more confidently through more information (Dalal et al., 2013). My colleague, Sakib, was the main source of encouragement for selecting this course. This is because he undertook a similar module during his undergraduate course. After he had explained the module’ features, I felt that this course would be an interesting subject to take. Next, the structure of this course is based on entrepreneurship which is related to the Young Enterprise Charity programme. This programme enabled us to turn our business idea into a real entity.programme enabled us to turn our business idea into a real entity.entrepreneurship which is related to the Young Enterprise Charity programme. This programme enabled us to turn our business idea into a real entity.
The first thing that I learned in this module is how to go about generating ideas for commercial applications. Within this I learned to identify novel ideas relating to existing problems, and find solutions to solve them through a new service or product. One way of finding a business idea is brainstorming. In order to find an idea, we thought about a problem that required a solution. This is called Reverse Brainstorming, which aims to concentrate on the causes of an issue (Handley, et al., 2011).
The first idea identified by our new team was related to “our relationship with money”, and our solution was “Positive Change”. Market research was carried out in order to evaluate the initial idea concept. However, it became obvious that this idea involved a high level of complexity, needed advanced technology and third party support to be viable. Following this we were advised by Janja to think about something less reliant on complex technologies or support networks, basically a simple product. After this journey of discovery, we set out a goal to produce a fabric garment.
This course enabled us to meet interesting people from different business sectors were we could listen to their success stories and ask questions. I learned that networking is a key activity to develop any new businesses, whereby the required skills and knowledge can be found through new contacts made (Coles and Porter, 2009). This course reminded me the genuine importance of networking and expanding my contact base. Given that English is my second language, I find the nuances of written communication difficult, therefore oral communication is more efficient as I can ask questions and read body language (Ashton, 2013).
Using social media accounts such as LinkedIn and Twitter were highly recommended during this course. Social media can be used for building up contact as well as a direct communication tool (Kadushin, 2012). As previously mentioned on my blog, I attended an event in Central London. I met Stephen Chandler who is an expert in the advertising industry, with over 25 years’ experience. He suggested to me that in order to have online presence for the garment product I should consider a professional website, he also recommended a web developer to contact. We remained in touch through our Twitter accounts as this was the most convenient method. Therefore I have demonstrated I was able to combine online and offline networking for business purposes. In essence, social media is complimentary to offline networking; it could also be used to communicate faster, cheaper and more conveniently where time and conflict schedule exists (Stefaniak, 2015).
One of the interesting elements of this course is related to teamwork. Teamwork means undertaking tasks as a group and with each member carrying out a specific part while supporting the group as a whole to achieve the same target (Cram, 2012). In terms of forming a team, Tuckman’s Theory can help us to understand and reflect the various aspects of team development (Miller, 2013). According to Tuckman’s theory, there are 4 stages are involved:
A) Forming: At this stage, members may not know each other; they will use polite and formal language. This stage is related to our first meeting where we begin to introduce ourselves and explain our backgrounds. I already knew two of the team from the previous undergraduate year, therefore, it was easier for us to communicate freely. However, I noticed that the two new members were less comfortable initially and were a little slow to join our conversations. This is because; they did not feel the sense of belonging within a team immediately (Johnson, 2000).
B) Storming: is related to the stage where members can find total agreement difficult, but over time they will begin to blend into teamwork roles (Tuckman, 1977). This is because each member may have a different point of view or seek to be dominant in areas of expertise. I found we were ‘stuck’ at this stage for a long time, causing us to lose time before reaching agreement on our final idea.
C) Norming: is the stage where members start working cohesively toward achieving pre-determined goals with enhancing the sense of togetherness (Gresick, 1998). In fact, we reached this point after the first business event. This is because; we kept changing our business idea every week. Radical changes often cause a waste of time and resources; but by having a backup plan this issue could have been mitigated (Huff, et al, 2000). Unfortunately, lack of time management during those times is the reason for our poor performance.
D) Performing: at this stage, the main focus is on completing the task. Due to the number of idea modifications we experienced, we finally reached at this point only 2-3 weeks before our final presentation. Our main business idea was focused on producing a thermal sock, but due to unforeseen difficulties we had to use our existing material to produce neckwear instead. This caused us extreme time pressures and high level of anxiety. According to Entin and Serfaty (1999), stress and time pressure found as the main reason for poor performance (Hancock & Szalma, 2008).
A good leader requires having different skills to lead the team. One attribute of a good leader is related to communicating skill. While were under pressure in the last week for our presentation, good communication enabled us to work together in achieving our objectives (Dwyer, 2005). Within those times, I was the only one who really tried encouraging others by setting meeting times and getting involved at every single stage of the preparation phase. This is because I was concerned about time limitation. This is known as empathy (Goleman, 1995). Therefore, one reason that we only manage to present on time is related to my strong communication skills (Cragan, et, al 2008). Thus, in the future, I will use my strong leadership skills to lead other people either in my own business or within group-based projects.
In this section, I would like to evaluate one of our group meetings critically which led us to a notable conflict. First, we aimed to produce invisible thermal socks but the supplier could not produce us our products on time and sent us our materials back. At this point we decided to use the existing materials to produce a new product, that met the course criteria and, that was feasible in the given time.
Then, one of my teammates suggested that we should produce t-shirts. However, I did not like the idea. This is because similar products and features were available in the market already. According to Goleman (1995), people who are having low self-awareness are often highly defensive and easily irritated by others (Tobak, 2013). As I have low self-awareness, I got upset during group discussions and it did lead to arguments. It is important to realise, conflict is not necessarily destructive, as it can help a team to explore new ideas (Broadfield, et., al, 2002). During such an episode Michelle came up with an idea to produce “Snuggs” eco-thermal headwear. We found an online video about on a similar, non-thermal product and everybody liked the idea. In fact, she used a rational persuasion where a factual evidently helped us to understand her idea and convinced others (Yukl, 2012).
I learnt that emotional stability is a key element while working in a team. For the future, I have to assess situations and understand what could be the best way to react towards different people with different situations. This requires me to be more positive and open-minded and consider other member’s point of view. As a result, I could enhance my collaboration and effectiveness while I am working with teams.mined and consider other member’s point of view. As a result, I could enhance my collaboration and effectiveness while I am working with teams, open-minded and consider other member’s point of view. As a result, I could enhance my collaboration and effectiveness while I am working with teams..other member’s point of view. As a result, I could enhance my collaboration and effectiveness while I am working with teams.
One of most interesting workshops I attended related to the session where Rob Grundel explained the importance of storytelling. As I mentioned in my blog, I found it quite irrelevant and pointless at the beginning. However, over the time, I understood how a successful story teller can make a strong connection with his/her clients through a story. Drawing from my experience while selling our products through our stall in Kingston Market, I used “Who-I-am” and “Why-I-am-here” type stories. I spoke with many customers and explained them who I am and how our product can add value to them (MindTools, 2012). I used this throughout conversations and managed to convince a few customers to buy our products. I also asked those interrogating questions such as “how did you feel about using this product?” This is how I managed to collected primary feedback from users.
I learnt that business stories require a clear objective, goal and smart results. This is what makes a business story distinguished from a regular story. Additionally, a skilled storyteller must tell and listen in order to build a relationship with clients (Fog et al., 2011). Lastly, as I am not really good at listening to others, I need to improve my social relationships by attending events and try to minimise talking and maximise listening (Hepworth et al., 2009). Listening skills will enable me to make better, more informed decisions and help enhance my understanding of the world (Ahuja, et al., 1997).story. Additionally, a skilled .story. Additionally, a skilled storyteller must tell and listen in order to build a relationship with clients (Fog et al., 2011). Lastly, as I am not really good at listening to others, I need to improve my social relationships by attending events and try to minimise talking and maximise listening (Hepworth et al., 2009). Listening skills will enable me to make better, more informed decisions and help enhance my understanding of the world (Ahuja, et al., 1997).
Overall, I really like this module, mainly because it was less formal than core business subjects. We had enough time to engage in discussion with other students. The support in general was good and questions were answered promptly. I enjoyed having different guest lecturers most weeks as this gave me the opportunity to hear about their business journey and how they managed to achieve their targets. Looking back, I am happy that I have learned many new skills related to running a business in a realistic scenario.
At the end of the academic year, I learned that this module is about finding ways to transform existing issues into a business opportunity. Design thinking aimed to teach us how to an efficient communicator in the business world. We used prototyping to visualise tangible products, quickly and at low cost. Finally, I understood that being a successful entrepreneur is not about generating money, it is about meeting customers’ needs.
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