Writing a note to my future self is exciting. Changes are happening fast and I have always found the unpredictable fascinating. As a member of the Creative Class (Florida, 2002, p.8), I follow my passions and look for new challenges. From September 2015 to 2016 a lot of things have happened. I put my life into two bags of 32 kilos and moved from Rio de Janeiro to Oxford with my boyfriend. I went freelancer, started my business and went back to study after nine years. I was accepted in five masters and was granted one scholarship. The business started to make a profit, I got married, moved to London, and began the MA in Managing in the Creative Economy at Kingston University. Not even if I planned it all I could have imagined this year. Think of a happy person: that was me. Also tired, extremely tired. Yet, it was a good train for what I had coming.
September to April 2016 was intense. A full-time master for a rusty student with a part-time job and a new life was challenging. In the first day of MACE, our assignment theme was “home”. Ironically, in that moment, my home was me, zero furniture, one air mattress and my husband. In groups, we had to use our sensibility and different design methods to provide a feasible and valuable solution matching the technology constraints and customers desires (Brown, 2008) inside the home environment. I had so many needs, hence empathising was easy. Being in the most diverse class I ever been to with twenty people from fifteen different nationalities, hearing their stories and perspectives on ‘what home is?’ was fascinating. This was my first contact with the concepts of the human-centered approach of design thinking. And my first impressions can be summarised by Guber et al. (2015 p.1) words:
“The process is highly interactive, as it moves back and forwards through the phases; it’s collaborative, involving used and other stakeholders in framing the problem, as well as scoping the opportunity for design interventions; and its interdisciplinary, involving technical, design and business disciplines.”
DIVIDE AND CONCUR
After a few exercises, it was time to form the team we would build a business with during the module “Design Thinking for Startups”. Arturo (cinema manager from Venezuela) asked me to join him and Michaela (stage and event manager from Slovakia). Our last spot was occupied by Halyn, (language background from Taiwan). Going back to that day, I always thank Arturo for bringing us together. We are diverse in skills, with distinct cultures and different personalities that supported each other. These work-group features (Amabile, 1998, p.82) helped us to encourage collaboration and communication. I could not have had a better team.
Our guest Lecturer Alison Coward discussed how people usually expect communication and collaboration to naturally occur in teams. For her, one of the key points for a successful group is to establish how your team will work from the beginning. Start Me Up had weekly meetings, used tools to keep track of work and a clear calendar to map the milestones. As I wrote in a previous post, to better manage for creativity and to promote equal collaboration, we followed Alison’s facilitation methods (Coward, 2015) and naturally conducted the stages of forming, storming, norming and performing (Tuckman and Jensen, 1977) to conclude our bigger goals.
CREATIVE BUSINESS PEOPLE
Together we created Cutcorner Card Holder and marketed it. The six-month journey was a combination of IDEO’s methodology with classes from our professors Janja Song, Alice Comi, Richard Anson and special lecturers covering the topics of social media, finances, branding, pitching, Lean, customer journey, prototyping, among others. With this structure and the Young Enterprise program guiding us, we had all the support needed to found our creative business and apply the design thinking concepts to learn by doing.
Our business began when we first observed an elderly lady having trouble accessing her wallet. We empathised with the situation since we all have experienced something similar and decided to interview people to see if the problem was common. We soon found out that it was not an age issue, everyone who uses cards had a similar story. Additionally, we discovered that with the recent contactless technology, commuters were having trouble storing the cards without damaging them. We then pivoted from the elderly population and defined to target young Londoners commuters, especially from Kingston University since we have a more direct and constant access. Our solution should create value for these users by making their lives easier while commuting and paying by card. We didn’t know how or what the final solution would be, just why (Sinek, 2010) we were making it. The final result was reached through observation, analysis, evaluation and re framing an existent situation (Dorst, 2011).
We did several brainstorming sessions in the ideation phase since there could be different solutions to the problem. We were looking for quantity, not quality. Our first version was a fold-out card holder inspired by the pop-up birthday cards. We had a lot of fun.
We struggled with prototyping since no one in our group had a background on product design. We had the idea, yet transforming the card boxes into a sellable card holder seemed impossible. After a few tests and hiring a professional, we had our minimum viable product (MVP) handmade in one piece, on fake leather. After experimentations, our first solution was simple and to the point.
Kingston’s first trade fair was our test and chance to monetise our idea (Howkins, 2001). We understood that there were many different cardholders in the market, including the card clash prevention. With prices going from £1.50 to £64, depending on their design and quality, our goal was to have a final price more accessible to our early adopters.
With ten MVPs in hand, we ran a “pay what you want” campaign looking for constructive feedback to enhance the product for the larger production. We found out that people would be willing to pay £5 and would like better materials, finishing and more variety of colours.
Cutcorner Card Holder is a simple, efficient, on-the-go storage design for your cards that allows you easy access to your basics and prevents card clash. We applied the feedback and started selling Cutcorner card holder in eco-leather in black and white. Each unit was sold for £5, with a £1.63 of costs, giving us a margin of 63%. More than 40 card holders were sold and we reached our break-even point.
The pricing strategy was strongly supported by our presence on social media, a coherent visual communication and a YouTube campaign where we explored senses and emotions to connect with users and sell our product.
Cutcorner’s, graphic pieces and ad
We worked hard and we had fun. Our group was one of the finalists to represent Kingston at the National Competition of Startups and was awarded with the Young Enterprise prize for the best stand. No doubt the new forms of behavior and thinking were achieved by combining academic and professional knowledge with playfulness along the journey (Bateson and Martin (2013). I also was able to bring creativity and business together as I learned new skills in different areas:
- Creative Confidence
For Amabile et al. (1996, p.1155), creativity is “The production of novel and useful ideas in any domain” and for Cox (2005, p.2) innovation is when you successfully explore them. Believing in our capacity to change things and achieve our dreams were the core of being creative and innovative (Kelley and Kelley, 2014, p.6). If you still think that creatives have a lucky DNA sequence, you might reconsider and adopt the mindset proposed by Tom and David in their book or online tools.
- Entrepreneurial Behaviours
Entrepreneurial behaviours were mandatory to finish the module solving our early adopters’ problems and reaching the break-even point. We took risks; identified networking opportunities; learned finance; believed in our idea and planned our steps working in a collaborative team. Our constant focus on KPIs and customer feedback made us improve the product and increase sales. Not knowing the result and accepting the process as the main part of our work made our path fun, intuitive and user-centered.
- New tools
We were presented several tools that helped us build our business. I also discovered others along the way and I share below a few of them:
- Business tools: Business model (Osterwalder et al., 2010); Lean Canvas (Ries, 2001); Value Proposition Canvas (Thomson, 2013); Customer Journey Tool (Google, 2014).
- Organise: Slack; Canva; Evernote; Trello; Asana; Google Drive; Project tracker.
- Social Media: Hootsuite, Tweetdeck; Mailchimp.
- Teamwork: Ebook ‘Great teams: a guide to better creative collaboration’ (Coward, 2015); Lego Serious Play
- Learn: Google Scholar; Nesta’s UK ‘Creative Enterprise Toolkit’ and Brazil’s ‘Guia do Empreendedor Criativo’; Skillshare; Marketingprofs; Think With Google.
- Inspire: Creative Mornings; Richard Anson’s Podcasts; Monika Kanokova; Teresa Amabile
- Favourite TEDs: Happiness; Change; Why?; Procrastination; Manage for Creativity; Undercover Entrepreneur
- Human 2 Human (Kramer, 2014)
My crucial lesson was the importance of interacting with people.
- Peers & Collaboration
“Peer recognition and reputation provide powerful sources of motivation” (Florida, 2002, p.74-75). Even though we were in our little group of four, all of our peers from class were in a similar journey. Counting with everyone’s support and sharing our dramas was comforting and encouraging. Our group addressed similar problems to Rana and Nora; Kristy and Nika were also concerned with their visual communications; Christie, Stephi, and Mick also had no idea on how to manufacture their products; Pond, Clara and Ogechi were fearing the pitches just like us; Jorge, Janja and Alex also tried to balance personalities in the team; and Andrius, Cristina and Helene were always our trade fair neighbours sharing the pre customer interaction anxiety. I feel like all of them were part of my team as well.
I decided to study the MA in Managing in the Creative Economy due to my passion to bring closer business and creativity. I want to be able to work applying creativity into businesses and teaching business to creative professionals. These experiences made concepts and mindsets familiar and helped me evidence gaps. The module Design Thinking for Startups also encouraged me to be on the other side of the table as one of the mentors in the Oxford Startup Weekend powered by Google Entrepreneurs. I guided teams to apply creative thinking and visual communication to their businesses and I look forward to have more opportunities such as this.
Looking ahead, with the shift from manufacturing to experience economy (Gruber et al., 2015), creative professionals are being requested to get involved in different tasks. We are living the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Schwab, 2016) and new skills will be needed, as my colleague Stephi Batliner reflected on her post ‘Do we have to become super humans?’. “The government (UK) recently chose ‘developing skills’ to be one of ten key pillars in its Industrial Strategy. This was recognition that skills development is as important to growth as infrastructure, investment and trade” (Sleeman and Windsor, 2017). There are two recent articles discussing these required future aptitudes: Schwab (2016) has written ‘10 skills people will need to thrive in the new revolution’ and Sleeman and Windsor (2017) ‘A closer look at Creatives’.
Throughout my career, I’ve seen creative professionals struggle dealing with business. The shift described above and the rise of creative professionals becoming self-employed (Fritsch and Sorgner, 2013 and Leadbeater and Oakley, 1999) triggered my dissertation topic. I am investigating how other creatives like me are learning their business skills and how they prefer to be educated to have interdisciplinary knowledge and fit the new economy. I hope my thesis will have a few answers for these questions by September 2017.
As my note to the future Celina: Go out there, talk and connect to people more often. Keep learning, don’t forget to play and never stop following your instincts and welcoming the unknown.
“Human beings are
works in progress that mistakenly
think they are finished” (Gilbert, 2014)
References and Bibliography
Amabile, T. (1998) ‘How to Kill Creativity’ , Harvard Business Review, 76(5), pp. 76-87.
Amabile, T., Conti, R., Coon, H., Lazenby, J. and Herron, M. (1996) ‘Assessing the work environment for creativity’ , Academy of Management Journal, 39(5), pp. 1154-1184.
Andersen, S. (no date) Comics and Illustrations. Available at: http://sarahcandersen.com/ (Accessed on: 22 of April, 2017).
Bateson, P. and Martin, P. (2013) Play, playfulness, creativity and innovation. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Brown, T. (2008) ‘Design Thinking’, Harvard Business Review, 86(6), pp. 84-92.
Cox, G. (2005) Cox Review of Creativity in Business: building on the UK’s strengths. London: SMEs in manufacturing.
Coward, A. (2015) ‘Great teams: a guide to better creative collaboration’ Available at: http://bracketcreative.co.uk/ebook/ (Accessed on 22 of April, 2017).
D.School and Both, T. (2009) ‘Bootcamp Bootleg’ Available at: https://dschool.stanford.edu/resources/the-bootcamp-bootleg (Accessed on: 23 of April, 2017).
Dorst, K. (2011) ‘The core of ‘design thinking’ and its application’, Design studies, 32,(6), pp. 521-532.
Florida, R. (2012) The Rise of the Creative Class. New York: Basic Books.
Fritsch, M. and Sorgner, A. (2013) Entrepreneurship and creative professions. St. Louis: Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis.
Gilbert, D. (2014) ‘The psychology if your future self’ Available at: www.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_you_are_always_changing (Accessed on: 23 of April, 2017.
Gruber, M., De Leon, N., George, G. and Thompson, P. (2015). Managing by Design. Academy of Management Journal, 58(1), pp. 1-7.
Howkins, J. (2002) The Creative Economy: How people make money from ideas. London: Penguin.
Kelley, D. and Kelly, T. (2014) Creative Confidence. London: William Collins.
Kramer, B. (2014) There is no more B2B or B2C : it’s human t human H2H. San Jose: PureMatter.
Leadbeater, C., and Oakley, K. (1999) The Independents – Britain’s new cultural entrepreneur. London: Demos.
Nesta (2011) Launch Your Own Successful Creative Business: Creative Enterprise Toolkit. London: Nesta.
Osterwalder, A., Pigneur, Y., Clark, T. and Smith, A. (2010) Business Model Generation: A handbook for visionaries, game changers, and challengers. New Jersey:John Wiley & Sons.
Ries, E. (2011) The Lean Startup.London: Penguin.
RSA (2015) ‘RSA ANIMATE: Changing Education Paradigms’ Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U (Accessed on: 12 of December, 2016).
Sebrae (2015) ‘Guia do Empreendedor Criativo’ Available at: http://www.bibliotecas.sebrae.com.br/chronus/ARQUIVOS_CHRONUS/bds/bds.nsf/e1bb929711a641ae93eb6dbb5853db3d/$File/5442.pdf (Accessed on: 22 of April, 2017).
Sleeman, C. and Windsor, G. (2017) ‘ A closer look at creatives’ Available at: http://www.nesta.org.uk/blog/closer-look-creatives (Accessed on: 27 of April, 2017).
Schwab, K. (2016) ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond’ Available at: www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond (Accessed on: 22 of April, 2017).
Sinek, S. (2010) ‘How great leaders inspire action’ Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qp0HIF3SfI4 (Accessed on: 22 of April, 2017).
Thomson, P. (2013) ‘Value Proposition Canvas Template‘ Available at: www.peterjthomson.com/2013/11/value-proposition-canvas (Accessed on: 23 of April, 2017).
Tuckman, B. and Jensen, M. (1977) ‘Stages of Small-Group Development Revisited’ , Group & Organization Studies, 2(4), pp. 419.