My whole educational journey took place in my hometown Pune. As my whole education took place in my hometown there was no reason for me to go out and be independent completely. The environment at home has always been safe and provided me all the comfort that was needed for me due to which there were only few opportunities where I could really step out of my comfort zone and explore them. I did like to break my comfort zone and try new things! Whenever I used to get an opportunity to break one I used to grab one and discover my personal capabilities. I was done with my graduation and wanted to get some entrepreneurial skills which could help me in doing business. I was talking to my parents, mentors, and other industry experts while doing my research about the various courses that could help me develop these skills that I was seeking to achieve. At this time, I was introduced to my course Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship at Kingston University London. The course was focusing on the innovation part and how does the innovation process take place. I choose this course because it gave me an opportunity to start my own start-up over here where I was required to come up with an innovative product and experience the whole journey of what an actual business needs to do.
The welcome week activity was fun, full of action and creativity. We were told to do a campaign regarding problems faced by the youth. The welcome week activity gave us the teaser of how the module is going to be and what does it expect from you. At this point for the first time I was being introduced to the design thinking process. The design thinking process was aimed to give emphasis on reframing the problem and coming up with a suitable solution (Harvard Business Review, 2019). The process uses the tools like empathy and experiment with the different products to come up with an innovative solution. By using design thinking you take decisions on what the clients do really need instead of relying on historical data and making decisions on instinct (IDEO U, 2019).
For this module we had around 60 students from three different cohorts and we were supposed to form and work in groups for the start-ups that we were going to have. We were supposed to form a group of four individuals. When the time came for us to form the group, I had decided of working with people from different cohort and having different background because I wanted that our group should have a person who has worked in some different field from others. And luckily, I could form my group according to my wish. So, it was Natalia, Harshita, Sam and me who decided to work together. Natalia was from creative background, Harshita had done her MBA in marketing, Sam had some experience over here in London and had his previous venture over here, so he was good in operations and I was good in Finance. So, my team had a perfect combination of people from different cohorts as well as different backgrounds. As a team we had to sit together in the class and had to also report to the module leader and whole class as to what progress have we made and what we would like to achieve in the next coming week.
To start with our project we used the business model canvas to jot down the ideas that we had in our mind. The business model canvas tool is developed by Alexander Osterwalder. It is a great tool that helps individuals to understand a business model in simple, straightforward and structured format. It gives the insights about the customers you want to serve, what are the different value propositions that are offered by the channels the business decides to use. It also tells what would be the costs and how the company is going to generate revenue from the respective business model (Business Models Inc., 2019). As per Osterwalder one of the main reason why do the start-ups do not succeed is because their business model is not viable (Strategyzer, 2019).
Source- (Strategyzer, 2019)
During the course we had also been using the design thinking principles that helped us to transform our concepts into a product. The design thinking process has 5 stages viz Empathise, Define (the problem), Ideate, Prototype and Test.
The first step is to understand the problem that you are looking forward to solving and empathising with it. It requires concern to solve that problem, talking with experts and understanding more about it and empathizing with the people who face the problem to get a deeper experience.
- Define (the problem)
Over here you put together the information that you have collected till now, analyze it and define the core problem you want to solve. Over here one should define the problem as a problem statement in a human-centered manner.
By this stage you have understood the needs of the users and have defined a human-centered problem statement. In this stage you need to “think outside the box” to identify the different new solutions to the problem statement that you have defined. You brainstorm the different possible solutions for the mentioned problem.
In this stage you produce a product which would be inexpensive and have the specific features of the final product. It would be tested by the team and then shown to the experts, which would give their review about the product and then the team will again change the products as it seems fit. The protype would give the team a better idea regarding how the product is, what would be the reaction of the real users and how would they feel.
Over here the evaluators test the complete product rigorously by making use of the best solutions that they found out in the prototyping phase. In this stage alterations and refinement are done to have a better understanding and making the product better.
Source- (The Interaction Design Foundation, 2019)
Initially we started our journey with the concept of creating scarves and mattresses to prevent people from the cold winter. We had named our product as Sotfilt. We did map it out on the business model canvas and did work on the product until November end. But at the end of November, most of the partners felt that we should change the product and do something in the gaming industry as it was something that most of us all were interested into. We had found out that people are not socializing much due to the tremendous use of technology and hence the idea was to create a game which would require people to be physically present to play the game. At that point of time Brexit was one of the hot topic going on in the whole world. We did some research on this topic and found out that there was no single game which took the topic of BREXIT humorously. Getting to know this we tried to make the most of this opportunity by creating a card game on BREXIT! The main intention behind coming up with this game was to get people socialize and bring back the people together who were being divided by the topic of BREXIT. As we had changed our product just before the dragon’s den we had to work on it tremendously and figure it out how are we going to make it humorous. Finally, we came up with the idea of creating and having the funny images of the political leaders on the cards. To get some ideas about how we can have funny cartoons of the politicians we searched around the internet and newspapers.
Throughout my design thinking journey there were plenty of experiences and lesson that I got to learn.
The first lesson that I learnt was to form a proper team. According to me forming a proper team is a very big task and an important investment that one can make. One must make an effective team. Effective team building means more engaged employees, which is also better for the organization to function properly (Forbes.com, 2019). Luckily, I had got a proper team having people coming from different background. Not only forming a better team is important but also understanding the personality type of each member of the team is important (Linkedin.com, 2019). The personality of the members can be classified by using various tools such as DISC personality profiling. By using this type of personality tests we understand team dynamics, rapport, loyalty, influence etc.
The second lesson that I learnt is that what you take up as a project might not be the one that you would be continuing with in the future. We had started our design thinking journey by taking up the task of making scarves, but we did change our product after some point as majority of the partners wanted to do something related to games. And the decision to change the product went completely well. When we were doing the scarves project most of the partners were not that exited regarding it but when we changed the product all of us got interested and started to contribute in the process. So, the lesson that I learnt was that it is okay if you change the product and try something new till the time all the partners are interested in it.
It is important to have good communication between the partners. If there is a clear and good communication between the partners, then it is easy for the team to perform the tasks very well. At the beginning of the year we did not have good communications between us because of which we had to face some problems but later in the meetings we decided to be clear on the communication part and everyone would be following the time of the meeting. This thing did work for us and helped us doing things smoother. Having a clear communication while working in the groups was the third lesson that I learned.
Dividing the task among teammates is a crucial task but trusting them with it is more vital. The tasks among the team members should be divided as per the skills possessed by them and the capabilities of the individuals so that all do not waste their valuable time on a same thing. The same thing was applied by us and it did make things easier for us as the responsible person for doing the task did possess the required skills. Not only we save our time but also, we could rely on the work of the individuals completely when they said that they have got it right. This thing also increased the trust between us. This was the fourth learning in the module.
The fifth learning that I learned is really an interesting one. Under the Global Portrait brand, we had three products viz cards, t-shirts and posters but our main product was the card game. It was quite interesting to note the fact that in spite having the cards as our main product we sold double number of t-shirts than cards and in some designs of the t-shirts we were even sold out! The lesson that I learned from this was that sometimes while manufacturing your main product you would also get some joint or by products which you should not ignore. It might turn out that your joint or by product that you got may beat the main product that you were intending to manufacture, and you would be known for your by product more than the main product. This did happen with us on the trade fair day that we had in Eden Walk, Kingston. I was happy that I got such an amazing experience and that too at a start-up level.
These were the valuable lessons that I did learn from my start-up journey. As any other team would face even we did have our ups and downs, but these ups and downs were part of the learning process. I was happy to work with my teammates Natalia, Harshita and Sam. They are good people to work with. Overall my start-up journey was an amazing experience. I would also like to thank Janja and Alice for their guidance over the year. I did learn many things over here which I believe would really be helpful for me in my future as an entrepreneur.
Harvard Business Review. (2019). Why Design Thinking Works. [online] Available at: https://hbr.org/2018/09/why-design-thinking-works
IDEO U. (2019). Design Thinking: A Method for Creative Problem Solving. [online] Available at: https://www.ideou.com/pages/design-thinking
Business Models Inc. (2019). The business model canvas: tool to help you understand a business model. [online] Available at: https://www.businessmodelsinc.com/about-bmi/tools/business-model-canvas/
Strategyzer. (2019). Why Companies Fail & How To Prevent It. [online] Available at: https://blog.strategyzer.com/posts/2016/6/20/why-companies-fail-how-to-prevent-it
The Interaction Design Foundation. (2019). 5 Stages in the Design Thinking Process. [online] Available at: https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/5-stages-in-the-design-thinking-process
Forbes.com. (2019). Why Team Building Is The Most Important Investment You’ll Make. [online] Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/brianscudamore/2016/03/09/why-team-building-is-the-most-important-investment-youll-make/
Linkedin.com. (2019). The importance of understanding personality type in the workplace. [online] Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/importance-understanding-personality-type-workplace-lauren-copeland/