Word count: 2,200 (excluding Table of contents and reference list)
Hey Mai, how are you keeping? How is your feeling after securing a seat at Goldman Sachs as an analyst after graduating Kingston University? Oh, look at your face. Have you been gotten told off by making a mistake at the bank? And you too, Mai-in-2030, an aspiring entrepreneur. Why don’t you both sit down and reflect upon what have you learnt during the Design thinking for Start-ups module, the module that you felt it has transformed you academically and emotionally.
On the 11th of October 2019, we were introduced the five-stage Design thinking model developed by the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (d.school, n.d.). There are 5 stages in the model as presented in the chart below, and evidence suggest that those 5 stages is not always sequential. It is strategically key to understand these steps thoroughly and have an overview outlook of those phases to get a clear understanding of how each phase contribute to an innovative project.
Author/Copyright holder: Teo Yu Siang and Interaction Design Foundation (2009).
The table below explains each step of those 5 stages in couple with its application that our company, Future Dream, employed during the process of making Easy Out – our business idea:
(Sarah in her process of making our very first prototype)
Here is our finished phase 1 Prototype:
A closer look:
While prosecuting the project, we employed the Lean Canvas to gain an insight of our key metrics. Lean Canvas is a tool that helps the users deconstruct a business idea into its key assumptions. Lean Canvas is adapted from Alex Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas and optimized for the Lean Start-up methodology with a big emphasis on finding customer problems worth solving (Maurya, 2012).
The concept of the Lean canvas is that instead of writing up a business plan with a 5-year financial projection to forecast the complete unknowns, that only venture capitalists care, using a lean approach is considered to be a far more quickly ,cheaply, and less risky than traditional methods (Blank, 2013). In short, the Lean Canvas gives you a more flexible way to understand the user, challenge your assumptions, and redefine problems. This reflects business’s recognition of the need to see the world from the consumer’s viewpoint, not the producer’s. (Levitt, 2006, p.55). In other words, entrepreneurs should vigorously embrace consumer sovereignty to increase the chance of market success. The following picture is our filled Lean Canvas. The orange stickers are for Easy Out.
3 different prototypes phases presented at trade fairs:
(Photo Courtesy: Claudia Weaver)
Moultrie and Livesey (2014) have demonstrated that there is a link between the use of Design Thinking and firm performance. However, the banking industry has its own legacy with complex process and hierarchy level. Technically, big banks traditionally do not consider human factor when it comes to design their products and services. They just produce products and services that fit within their internal processes and operational efficiencies. As an aspiring investment banker, it is crucial for me to incorporating Design Thinking into my strategic planning in order to foster creativity and ensure that the final outcomes will meet objectives and client requirements. The contribution of design thinking shows its advantage when it is employed practically within the mix of relying on data, intuitive thinking, as suggested in the graph below (Siota et al., 2017, p.4).
In due course, as an aspiring entrepreneur, adapting design thinking into my future endeavours will help me select a right course of action after a process of trial and error.
During the process of making Easy Out, the questions we, as a team, witnessed ourselves asked the most were “Do you think it is a good idea?” and “Would you buy this tray that would help you eat in a more comfortable way?”. Oh boy we got several compliments and they said they liked it!
The above bullet points are either just basic technical questions or half-hearted compliments and promises that they will buy Easy Out when it is launched. Well, someday; that does not mean they will as there is no concrete commitments. Their money is not arrived at our business bank account yet. Compliment makes us feel good; but you’d probably not learn as much as you would when you have a constructive criticism.
As I am reflecting upon our process of conducting the market research for Easy Out, I realise we asked questions that did not help reveal customers’ lives: their problems, cares, constraints, and goals. As a matter of fact, I found myself often times simply assume rather testing the value of Easy Out. A new product or invention is bound to fail unless it addresses a particular customer need (Nijssen, 2014, p.9). An early customer development interview can be considered as effective if it can provide us concrete facts about customers’ lives and world views (Fitzpatrick, 2013, p.15). This implies that one ought not to rely necessarily on what the customer says (that is, customer research), but rather on what the customer actually does. Executing a market research may allow one to know the facts, but it does not reveal the rationale and mechanisms driving these actions if one relies exclusively on data (Siota et al., 2017). You want facts and commitments to avoid false positive. Having said that, I have learnt my lesson of asking the right questions when conducting a market research to verify how much potential business is really out there and take anything nice either a compliment or a promise they make with an extra grain of salt.
In short, the question is not “can this product be built?”. The more pertinent question is “How can we build a sustainable business with this product?”. Ries (2019, p.55) argues that almost any product that can be imagined can be made in the evolving economy. If you ask the wrong questions, you’ll probably get the wrong answer. Asking the right questions help enhance the effectiveness of information exchanges (Trull, 1964).
By learning to ask the right questions to get the right information, it will help me gain credibility as an aspiring investment banker. Importantly, it helps me detect inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning and leverage my ability in analysing problems systematically. In the longer time, my skills in evaluating the evidence for and against a hypothesis in an attempt to understand the market segment and the key customers, as well as identifying the relevance and importance of ideas will be improved so that I can go on to either making implementations and test again, or kill the idea.
(Left to Right: Sarah – Tsana – Mai – Elham). Picture courtesy: Shreya
I was fortunate to be in a team of people who are adult, creative and responsible individuals.
During the project, I had a proclivity of being a deviant amongst other team members by questioning why we were doing such and such every now and then. Admittedly, it did raise unnecessary anxiety within the group. I was very lucky to be with a team full of adult and responsible individuals who would not try to get me to stop asking difficult questions.
Sociologist Robert Freed Bales (2000) acknowledges that there are two types of team member: those that focus on the task the group was dealing with and those that sustained, strengthened, or weakened interpersonal relationships within the group. As an introvert myself and as a task-oriented person, I am the type of team member that once given a task, I’d be happy to go to my corner and do the task, which result in having less interaction with the group. I have a tendency of solving and finishing tasks on my own and on my own time. This, on one side would help me more focus on the tasks with less distraction. But on the other side, a deep communication gap might happen over time coupled with the decrease in engagement between the other team members and I. Undoubtedly, I would be considered as difficult to work with within the team and it may scurry people away. In any case, group members are linked together not only by the collaborative tasks that they must complete collectively but also by friendship, alliances and inevitable antagonisms (Forsyth, 2014, p.4). Interestingly, there is always a set of structures that regulate actions and outcomes beneath a surface of a group which in turn, form a complex web of interdependencies and influence (Forsyth, 2014, p.10). And in doing so, groups essentially require a modicum of cohesiveness or it would disintegrate otherwise (Dion, 2000). Thankfully, my group members have enriched my outlook on how to build a connected relationship, not just functional relationship, in group setting and how to own that relationship in a proprietary way. I have learnt to how to interdependence, interrelations, and share goals. A collective perception is proved to be fundamental when you are working in group because if all the roads lead back to you, your group success will be capped as you are just one man, you are just one woman (Carla A. Harris). That said, I have learnt that it is predominant to setting a group goal beforehand so that we, as a team, can all be clear of what success looks like and can move forward and achieve victory efficiently since goals refer to future desired outcomes and it makes way for attention, effort, and goal-relevant activities (Locke and Latham, 2013, p. 266). However, it should be noted that goal conflicts may occur among the group’s members due to its complexity which includes differences between individuals (Seijts and Latham, 2000).
Moreover, it is crucial that you’d need reciprocal feedback and find new challenges in each other’s company (Csikszentmihalyi, 2009, p.188). And in doing so, team members must be comfortable to challenge each other idea in a constructive manner to success in the innovative business environment. Without a doubt, there is no monopoly on intelligence. The lessons I have learnt help leverage my level of emotional intelligence and improves my interpersonal skill. It is beneficial for me to be an effective team member as communication plays a key role in most significant activities that happens in an organisation, including hiring and training staff, providing feedbacks, purchasing supplies, solving problems, dealing with customers, and dealing strategy (Huczynski and Buchanan, 2013). This is particularly important when working in team as it would be so helpful for me to learn the right way to liaise, coordinate with others. The advantage of this learning curve becomes more significant when it comes to client relationship management for my future career as an aspiring investment banker. Generating sales is important to climb the career ladder in the industry. A strong communication skill would help win clients and land deals in order to generate sales and meet client’s needs. In the long run, as an entrepreneur, I’d need to cosset and coordinate with my colleagues. Therefore, to eliminate the unfavoured circumstances which includes human factor that may occur from a weak emotional intelligence mindset, it is indispensable for me to continuously exercise my emotional intelligence.
Moving on to technical skill, I recall the incident happened when I performed the financial projections for Easy Out project as a finance director of the company. I made few mistakes that resulted in a flawed financial assumption and a missing cash flow forecast. Consequently, my defective performance affected group performance. Such mistake could have been spared if I could spend a few more minutes checking. In reality, this kind of mistake would not be easily forgiven. In order to make a career in investment banking industry as an analyst, one requires to be highly skilled with maths and financial modelling. Imagine that if I make a mistake sending out an email with a wrong figure to a large number of senior partners (who usually have over 20 years of experience at the firm). Every time event like this happen, it diminishes the trust level. You would need to try harder to then rebuild it. But remember that not everyone gets the chance to say sorry. Just get it right the first time. Remember to check your work again and again. Print it out and read words for words. There is no limit to checking, there is no limit to “being right”. Once things go wrong, it can go really wrong. I need to earn trust and to become someone that my colleagues and my senior partners can entirely rely on, and trust on my execution.
In short, remember to listen carefully, read between the lines, maintain velocity, and always take the ownership of what you do.
Reflection on strengths and weaknesses when it comes to entrepreneurship:
Make sure you reflect on what you have learnt from this project often and remember it. If you do fail or make mistake, and I am sure you will, try to recover from it quickly. That failure will inform your next decision. And hey, maybe next time you two should tell me what you have learnt so that this younger self can learn from you.
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