Our Eureka Moment!

I think it is safe to say that we all know what to expect when we signed up for this course. I knew the module Design Thinking for Start-ups was expected to be tough and challenging. The module conceptually is expected to expose the learners to identify how creativity and innovation can be combined to help create new processes, new products and new business. I have been instructed several times that we, as individuals and groups, can have an ability to think differently and may find ourselves generating novel ideas, but without a clear commercial outcome.

In Design thinking for Start-ups, we, as team that grouped voluntarily from the very first semester, would have to develop a product/service that we will develop it step by step, day by day, week by week, month by month in a “life lab” under the guidance of our module leader.

We, as a group, went to Kingston town centre to search and scan the external environment in order to filter and evaluate potential opportunities/business idea. A major challenge for us at the time was that we were pretty much unfamiliar to pick up relevant trigger signals that may potentially could be transformed into a business idea. Additionally, I think it was fair to conclude that we did not have enough time to enhance our creative cognitive capacity to recognise serendipity to translate ideas into new processes, products, services, or businesses, given how much of knowledge we have gained and how much practices we have done so far.

Stage 1: As we all have different schedules outside university, we agreed to shoot our ideas in a group chat. 3 weeks passed and we came up with 2 business ideas: a silicon-made pad to help ease the shoulder pain resulted from wearing heavy shoulder bags and a smart tray that is foldable and reusable for those who cannot secure a table/place to eat after purchasing their meal during busy hours at a food place.

Stage 2: We had an opportunity to present our business ideas we had in mind alongside with its challenges during the class. Janja advised us to go ahead with the idea of our smart tray and encourage us dig deeper our potential customers and how we should vision the product on the market. We had our phase 1 Prototype of the smart tray at this time thanks to the talented Sarah. We named it Easy-out.


(Sarah is in her process of making our very first prototype)

Here is our finished phase 1 Prototype:

A closer look:

Stage 3: We officially introduced our story of Easy-out and phase 1 prototype to the class and an external member named Sanif Momin who is excellent finishing the module “Design thinking for Start-ups” in the previous year and have triumphed several entrepreneurship competitions with his team. The feedback for us after our presentation primarily focused on our fidgeted presentation performance; certain phrases that we should make change to avoid ambiguity.

Stage 4: The most important and anxious day has arrived – Dragons’ Den-style pitching day! Our judges included Fazl Hasnain FCA – Chairman of the Governing Board of the Tiffin Girl’s School, Amanda Baker – Project Manager, HackCentre at Kingston University, and Dwain Reid – Entrepreneurship Project Officer at Kingston University. Prior to the date, our group practiced and practiced and practiced until we knew everyone’s bit by heart. After pitching our business idea, we felt glad that it was approved! Judges Amanda shed some light on a new customer segmentation that we did not think of!

Look at us pitching our idea!

Here is a YouTube video of some techniques you may want to employ to proactively produce your Aha experiences: The Science Behind Eureka Moments – The Art of Improvement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVdnt1wQSOg

The Lean Canvas

In a class of Design Thinking for Start-ups module, we were introduced the Lean Canvas in order to understand our group potential business idea. It looks like this:

(Image Courtesy: LeanStack)

Lean Canvas is a tool which is showcased as a 1-page business plan template that helps the users deconstruct a business idea into its key assumption of problems, solution, key metrics and competitive advantages using 9 basic building blocks, including Problem and Existing Alternatives, Solution, Key Metrics, Unique Value Proposition, High Level Concept, Unfair Advantage, Channels, Customer Segments and Early Adopters, Cost Structure and Revenue Streams. 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.

The Business Model Canvas, which was proposed by Alexander Osterwalder based on his earlier book: Business Model Ontology, starts out like this:

(Image Courtesy: LeanStack)

The Business Model Canvas enables both new and existing businesses to focus on operational as well as strategic management and marketing plans and more suited for established products . And to be redefined like this by Ash Maurya as a Lean Canvas:

(Image Courtesy: LeanStack)

A Lean Canvas is designed for entrepreneurs and innovators, not consultants, customers, advisors, or investors in order to be more suited for new innovative products.The significant of using a Lean Canvas is that unlike a business plan that takes too long to write, a Lean canvas is designed to help us create a quick snapshot of our idea, share it someone for feedback, and then refine it iteratively.

In the class and the following group meeting, we as a group analysed the key aspects of our potential ideas as entrepreneurs. We had ideas that we considered to propose which were a shoulder pad and a smart tray. Although the Lean Canvas has been designed to be simple and straightforward, we found it a bit challenging as first timers. We tried to fill in each box with sentences that were specific and concise to sharing our train of thoughts and hoped it would all flow and make sense where every step is linked.

The orange stickers are for our main idea which is a smart tray. The green ones are for the shoulder bag’s pad idea which was our back-up plan. The story the Lean Canvas of the smart tray is telling:

Our smart tray is created to assist those who want to consume their meal straight away and/or those who are parents and travel by bus and carry a buggy with their baby in it (customer segments) could not secure a table or chair to consume their meal after they bought foods and drinks from a crowded restaurant or food stalls during busy hours (problems) and it is designed as a mobile, foldable, reusable tray made from bamboo woods and it has a deep compartment with few separate section and cup holder to secure your items, and it also has a strap in its tow side in order to carry it around the neck (solution). Our target customers will know about Easy-out through bus shelter advertising, Google Ads, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (channels) and they will be convinced to use Easy-out because it is a reusable, foldable which is convenient to bring with them and to eat everywhere (value proposition) and because we believe that there is no other tray like ours are already available on the market (unfair advantage). We will charge them by retailing it at a price range of £2.50 – £3.75 (revenue) and we consider that this will cover our fixed and variable costs that include the manufacturing, design development, marketing, PR, legal and management costs (costs). We will measure our performance by tracking how many people buy our Easy-out, how much revenue per month and the reviews that are recorded by those who actually bought the tray and experienced it (key metrics). The below picture is our filled-in Lean Canvas:

You can read more of what Ash Maurya has to say about his train of thought in this blog:

Medium (Feb 2012, by Ash Maurya): Why Lean Canvas vs Business Model Canvas: https://blog.leanstack.com/why-lean-canvas-vs-business-model-canvas-af62c0f250f0

A YouTube video features one of his interviews about the Lean Canvas:

Ash Maurya: Business Model Canvas vs. Lean Canvas – Running lean @ Lean Start-up Night Frankfurt – AlexBoerger.com: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obX5yjFWnIM

Another YouTube video to give you more insight of how you can create your Lean Canvas:

How to Create your Lean Canvas – Alanis Business Academy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjB_e7UO1hc

A trip to the Design Museum

We had a group task before heading to our reading week, which was a trip to the Design Museum in Kensington, London to discover the most innovative design across fashion, architecture, digital, transport, product and graphic design from the past 12 months, as nominated by the public and design experts from around the world. We were asked to visit two exhibitions at the Design Museum, including Beazley Designs of the Year 2019 – the annual celebration of design, and the Designer Maker User. The main purpose of this visit was to pick 3 designs that we found interesting and inspiring and then proceeded to gather all relevant information about those 3 designs in order to answer those following questions:

  • What problem(s) or need(s) does it solve?
  • What is the setting for it?
  • Who is it for? What are “the characters” who experience the problem or the need?
  • What trend(s) is it based on? Why is it relevant? Research and provide examples.
  • Write a statement that captures the design challenge.
  • Why have you as a team chose these designs?

Look at us posing outside the Design Museum!


(Left to Right: Tsana, Sarah, Elham and I).

I’d have to say the trip was remarkable as those 2 exhibitions have something for everyone’s taste. In respect of Beazley Designs of the Year 2019, simplicity, the futuristic and the necessary are the main themes on display in a menagerie of design that enthralled me. Especially, this year’s iteration of the competition is celebrating ideas grounded in usefulness. Many nominations are centred on accessibility and utility. I am sure there is enough to keep visitors walking around the six rooms for a good couple of hours, and enough to make me think for days on end afterwards.

We, as a team, chose the following designs that we found inspiring and innovative:

  1. Lia Pregnancy Test:

Here is a YouTube video featuring Lia: Lia, a Pregnancy Test you can flush – VOA News: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THqWa3oMovc

US start-up Lia, which was founded in 2015 by Bethany Edwards and Anna Simpson – made up of an all-female design team, has developed a flushable pregnancy test that is made from sustainable, biodegradable materials.

Lia is the discreet pregnancy test made with zero glass fibres, batteries, plastic or nitrocellulose – elements found in nearly all single-use diagnostics available on the market today. While offering more secrecy for women testing for pregnancy, Lia also marks a shift towards a more sustainable solution for modern health products. The release of Lia highlights changing attitudes towards female health products, as seen in the Nixie Girl menstrual cup which aims to normalise periods, and the growing trend towards more sustainable female health products such as the mCycle tampon which can be turned into compost.

 “How might we offer women a more private alternative to pregnancy testing while also creating a more environmentally friendly alternative to the plastic methods currently on the market?”

2. AlterEgo:

AlterEgo is a wearable neural interface that allows humans to command a virtual assistant by articulating words through thought. By reading neuromuscular signals sent from the brain to both the face and jaw during internal speech, the headset can identify the words you think and translate them into a response. The device sends audio feedback via bone conduction, without disrupting the user’s auditory perceptions or unplugging them from their environment. The device is in prototyping stage and, once rolled out, could be fundamental in helping those unable to speak out loud due to illness or injury to communicate.

“How might we develop a way for humans to command a virtual assistant by articulating words through thought?”

3. JUMP: An Electric Bicycle and Scooter


In recent times, the popularity of e-scooters and e-bikes has increased substantially. If you have spent any time out and about in a major city in the UK you are likely to have encountered one (whether you realised it or not). For those interested in travelling by a means of transport beyond ‘conventional’ scooters and bicycles, there are already a significant number of motorised two-wheeled options to choose from. In addition to e-bikes of various shapes and sizes, there are a number of other contraptions, collectively grouped as “powered transporters.”

Similar to the bright green Lime bikes that arrived last year, the red Uber’s electric JUMP bikes is a new way to get people around town. The bikes have adjustable seats, as well as a basket for your belongings and a phone mount so you can display your route easily. More importantly, the bikes feature an electric pedal-assist of up to 15mph so you can cycle to work without breaking a sweat. Not only would that mean less congestion on the roads – particularly roads into and out of the urban cores, but reduced air pollution and less need for parking spaces.

“How might we provide commuters a green way to travel around?”

You can read one of my blog posts mentioning the important embedment of AI into design thinking in here to get to know more of as to why AI can enormously enhance the future of design.

The Empathy Map

We, as a team of 3, did a role playing blind, deaf and mute during a class of Design Thinking for Start-ups module. After having decided who would play which role, we then started our mini trip to the nearest bathroom to experience the trip as per role we undertook. I’d have to say that mini trip was one of the most challenging, daunting experiences I have ever gone through yet the trip shed some light on my perspective of experiencing and feeling as a blind.

Essentially, we may often think we would try our best to be sympathised to other people in a specific situation in which we don’t share the same experience. The phrase “put (oneself) in (someone’s) shoes” to be advised and told too often that I think there will be time and place in which we’d forget that its easier said than done. By having put myself to pretend to be a blind person and had to rely on the assistance of the deaf and the mute, I found myself panicking and scared during the journey to the bathroom. When I first left my seat started heading to the bathroom, that was when the loneliness and physical anxiety kicked in. I was forced to rely on my other senses to absorb information hence out of sudden the blind-me version developed a more heightened of smell and touch.

I was slowly guided to the bathroom with the help of the deaf and the mute. When we were about to enter the bathroom, I just felt like the bathroom main door was too heavy that you had to push it and have a matte finish that if I were an individual that has a real severely sight impaired, I would not have known how to open the main door without help. Statistics shows that Approximately 1,564,340 people in the UK are living with sight loss (RNIB 2014) and only Around 2.5% (5,000) of people who are sight impaired or severely sight impaired have a guide dog. I am aware that facilities at Kingston university are designed for students with all different needs but I could not help to let my mind wonder to if there are places where people with severely sight impaired could not able to get help with a facility layout and design like this one.

After I got inside the bathroom, my nose detected the distinctive strong scent of disinfectants and that was the thing to tell me that “ah I am in the bathroom now”. At that moment I still did not know how to get the best use of my 2 companions, so I relied on my sense of touch by touching the wall to follow the path to reach the toilet itself. After getting myself inside the toilet, I got down to business and then there was the moment when I started panicking as I was unsure if I had locked the toilet door before. I was reaching out in vain to find the locker and it was not easy to look for straight way as I recall it was a little high up for me at the moment and the door did not feel like it was locked at the time. Luckily, I locked the door! After having finished “the business”, my following concern was if I made a mess afterwards. I could not see anything, so I had to literally use my hand to touch the toilet seat and to check it. Now thinking back, I thought I could have checked it by using the toilet paper and cleaned the surface of the toilet seat. The mini journey of getting out of the toilet and reaching to the basin faucet a little challenging as I found the tap was low for my reaching and I had to open it slowly as I did not know if that single handle faucet was already on the hot or cold side. I did not burn my hand with the help of the mute and the deaf. The journey of getting back to the classroom was pleasant as I got to used to the feeling of being a blind. We then introduced The Empathy Map. The Empathy Map, shown below , was created by David Grey, of XPLANE and author of The Connected Company and Gamestorming. The Empathy Map consists of essential four quadrants which reflect four key traits, which the user demonstrated/possesses during the observation/research stage, including Said, Did, Thought and Felt.

It looks like this:

We then asked to fill in the four quadrants by describing our feelings and experiences as a deaf, a blind and a mute throughout the trip. Below image is the result!

The group task really gave me a strong sense that any products or services that are and/or going to be on the market should be designed and tested with the focus of putting customers at the heart of a company’s growth strategy. This is to avoid the circumstances when business owners get too focused on solving a particular problem that might be important to them, but maybe not their customers. Additionally, scopes of personalised user experience should be frequently tested and tried to address specific customer needs and demands. More importantly, rigorous testing and evaluation of the products in respect of customer satisfaction should also be regularly carried out. By integrating the empathy map when designing or launching a new venture, we will be able to identify insights about our potential customers that we did not know were there. Therefore, we will produce better services and products for them. Having empathy for our potential users and using that to guide our design decisions would essentially help us as entrepreneurs meet evolving customer demands and achieve better customer satisfaction. 

The empathy map is an excellent tool to understand your ideal customer’s mind. It will help you know how they make decisions, who they are influenced by, what they want to achieve, what their pain points are, and more. By using The Empathy Map, I have learnt that it is vital to build a customer-centric philosophy rather than a sales focussed mindset.

Here are the similar activities you can do as a group to become more creative and to practice the use of an Empathy Map:

Harvard Business Review (Nov 2013, by Tom Kelley and David Kelley): Three Creativity Challenges from IDEO’s Leaders: https://hbr.org/2013/11/three-creativity-challenges-from-ideos-leaders

For a clearer explanation of empathy map, you can watch this: What is an Empathy Map? – Playbook UX: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwF9a56WFWA&t=191s

Design Thinking + AI – The future of Innovation

We, as a class, went to the Science Museum to see the Tomorrow World to experience the special event “Driverless: Who is in control?” where we witnessed the fascinating world of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in order to gain more awareness and knowledge of an ever-increasing in developments in machine learning algorithms used in the automotive industry.

 I, personally, whenever I think of AI, I’d think of the spaceships, the robots, and the bizarre objects used in the Hollywood movies. As corny as it may sound, once I stepped into the Tomorrow World, I saw more of the AI products that its applications are actually with us today and a handful of them are set to become ever more invasive in the future.

The exhibition shows us how AI is getting into every facet of life by separating it into three distinct zones: land, air and water. Each zone explores the different technology solutions already operating within these environments, the motivation of their developers, and their potential to transform a range of activities and industries.


(Image Courtesy: Hamza)

(Picture Courtesy: Hamza)

In the age of AI, we can employ AI as a tool and a platform in the philosophy of design thinking. If we think about AI from the lens of design thinking, several ideas come out organically. We can then use AI as a tool and a platform. We don’t need to restrict ourselves to thinking about technology as a sole-domain of innovation. We can go from empathizing to prototyping much faster if we leverage design thinking in AI. A reference to the process is shared below.

(Image Courtesy: Tapan Vora, Cuelogic, Feb 2019)

 In order to develop a real and much needed solution for an unmet need, the adaptation of AI in design thinking will help process the hypotheses that we as user experience designers will eventually either validate or invalidate. Therefore, the proper combination of use of AI will potentially help to understand user’s need quicker.

It is important to think about AI from a design perspective. Historically, design thinking and AI have developed together, yet have been seen as separate. At this stage in the development of artificial intelligence, the two need to come together to enhance humans overall expanded intelligence so that thinking developers can accomplish the end-goals during the journey from empathy to the solution. Doing so will potentially unleash a new wave of better research and new creative potential and a more innovative future.

For more information about how AI will shape our world and why it is important to embed the application of AI into design thinking, you can read this:

Harvard Business Review (Jan-Feb 2018; by Thomas H. Davenport and Rajeev Ronanki): Artificial Intelligence for the real world: https://hbr.org/2018/01/artificial-intelligence-for-the-real-world

Harvard Business Review (April 2019; by Paul R. Daugherty and H. James Wilson): Using AI to make knowledge workers more effective: https://hbr.org/2019/04/using-ai-to-make-knowledge-workers-more-effective

Medium (Dec, 2017, by Macklin Fluehr): Design & Artificial Intelligence: Complementary Approaches to Expand Human Intelligence: https://medium.com/@macklinfluehr/design-artificial-intelligence-complementary-approaches-to-expand-human-intelligence-755e956b309f

Imagine your future (by Craig Nelson): Design Thinking is Key to Enterprise Adoption of Artificial Intelligence: https://isg-one.com/consulting/transition-and-transformation/articles/design-thinking-is-key-to-enterprise-adoption-of-artificial-intelligence

Preferring to watch than read? I have linked some YouTube videos for you:

Data Science + Design Thinking: Perfect Blend to Achieve the best User Experience – Michael Radwin:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lhAhV6eBJs&t=543s

The complex relationship between data and design in UX – Rochelle King: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTRIeWI0EGQ&t=11s

Stages in Design Thinking Process

On the 11th of October 2019, during a Design Thinking for Start-ups class, we were introduced the five-stage Design thinking model developed by the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (d.school). d.school is the leading university when it comes to teaching Design Thinking. The five stages of Design thinking, according to d.school, are as follows: Empathise, Define (the problem), Ideate, Prototype, and Test.

(Image Courtesy: Rikke Friis Dam and Yu Siang Teo, Interaction Design Foundation, 2019)

We were then asked to take part in an exercise in which shoe was a centric theme. We, as a group of 5, were divided into smaller groups to go around the campus to pick our extreme user – those whose shoes that caught our attention and interview to get to know their insight of as to why they bought that pair of shoes. The task served as a way of observing and investigating what people value. Our group of 3 spoke to A., a lady in her 30s and wore black from top to toe. Her shoe was a black suede flat shoe. We then proceeded to interview her with a list of questions in order to get into her mind as to why she bought that pair of shoes.

We finished our interview with her and then got back to the classroom to discuss with other 2 group members of whom they had interviewed. Their interviewee was an extreme user who would be willing to purchase trainers/shoes that would cost hundreds of British pounds just because they felt like it. We, as a group decided that we would use the information from those 2 group members to deconstruct and then proceeded to develop a prototype that we thought that extreme user would purchase after seeing it.

The process of making a prototype was so much fun yet had time constraints as I recall we only had roughly 15 minutes to make it. We run around to find the right materials, be it paper, card, stickers or just anything else we could get our hands on and rushed each other to finish the prototype. To me, it was a play ground for the 5 of us to test and validate our design assumptions quickly and cheaply. Look at us on that day!


(Left to Right: Shreya, Joy, Bobo, and Chinwe)

And here is our 15-minute prototype!

I have learnt that prototypes can be quick and rough which are useful for the early stage of testing and learning and can also be fully formed and detailed which are usually for testing or pilot trials near the end of the project.

I have learnt that prototyping is an essential stage of design thinking process. Regardless of whether we have researched thoroughly and gathered a large body of information, testing is still crucial for success. Imagine this situation: you and your team did all you could to ensure your new product was right, with all the necessary features. Somehow the product is not well received. In other words, the end users doe not seem to find the product usable and valuable. And it makes no sense to you as your team have spent valuable time, money, and resources to build the product. It is a vicious cycle of ideas that being executed by design teams who are likely to become fixated on the research artefacts they have gathered during the earlier phases of exploration, creating a bias towards their ideas. Consequently, they would only start to realise right at the end of their journey that they have been wasting their time or focussing on the wrong thing. Prototypes are created so that designers and entrepreneurs can validate their solutions in unbiased perspective as well as to fail quickly and cheaply, so that less time and money are invested in an idea that could possibly turn out to be a bad one.

Just like Tim Brown, CEO of the international design and innovation firm IDEO, said “By taking the time to prototype our ideas, we avoid costly mistakes such as becoming to complex too early and sticking with a weak idea for too long”.

Here are a Harvard Business Review (June 2008 Issue) submitted by Tim Brown where he wrote about the Prototype Phase: https://hbr.org/2008/06/design-thinking and a YouTube video that will walk you through the 5-stages of Design Thinking that I have written in a more visually way: Design Thinking Process – Michelle Humphrey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyoZTUGzdGY.

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