Here is a brief take on my journey of Design thinking for startups throughout the two semesters. Although the experience started with the development of a campaign for a workshop, the journey itself has just begun.
Learning from the module
As design thinking is a relatively modern concept, I have been able to learn and apply a lot of concepts. The entire journey has been very interesting as I was exposed to a variety of scenarios that needed one to adapt and reiterate efforts towards the end goal. The initial few sessions of body storming, brain storming and group interaction helped me to understand the creative parts of business management. I was able to understand the process of reframing the problem to simplify the solution for the desired outcome. We were able to understand the concept of lean-startup and its implications in the business model. Using my experience of creating a business model for our business in design thinking, I was able to apply the same concepts to create a business model for our business in International Business strategy simulation exercise. I realized the importance of offering a unique value proposition to the customer. By understanding the business model canvas and dividing the business into segments, I was able to realise how the different aspects of a business function and eventually need to be aligned to meet the business objectives.
Apart from theoretical concepts, I was also exposed to the communication part involved in setting up a business. Throughout the module, I was given opportunities to enhance my communication skills. I had to pitch the business idea in front of a professional individuals at dragon’s den. This also provided me with an understanding of receiving feedback and giving the right response to the questions. At the trade fair, we had to interact with people in different disciplines and sell our product. As I work part-time as a sales associate, I was able to use my experience while interacting with prospective clients and subscribers. Very recently, I had to interact with companies to get them interested in our product to gain advertisements in our magazine. This was a new experience for me as I had to sell the business to potential investors.
This module also helped me to understand the primary workings of a startup as post the module I have a better understanding of how startups function. My previous blogs contain an elaborate description of my follow-up about the various phases of the module. I was able to analyse and relate the various factors in a business in a more technical format. This also helped me to formulate business problems and identify specific solutions for the same.
As this module required me to learn things on the go, it suited my style of learning which is often via an experimental and iterative approach towards problem solving. I was able to incorporate the various skills that I learnt throughout the module to improve subsequent deliverables in all my modules.
Development of the magazine
We decided to pursue with the magazine which was a platform for Indian students studying in the UK. The previous blogs have explained the process of development of the magazine. We started with many ideas before finally selecting this idea. The process of iteration and business justification helped me to understand the importance of continuously reviewing the business. The magazine went through many changes over the period of its development. Most importantly, we were able to incorporate changes in the business from the feedback that we received. Along with the process of the physical development of the magazine, I was also exposed to the promotional and financial aspect of running the magazine. With help from friends in the finance module, I was able to understand the technical part of the financial aspect of business. I have also learnt the importance of having a media presence for the promotion of a business in modern times.
The process stated with brain-storming, body-storming, and intense discussions to create a prototype. Later on, came the feedback which took us back to improving and testing the product. This iterative approach helped us to understand the customer requirement and hence improve the product. Promotion of the magazine was mainly done using conventional methods and positive word of mouth. We were unable to utilize social media to successfully promote the magazine at the inception. Later we were able to communicate and promote the product better over digital platforms.
Physically I was able to create an MVP for our magazine by creating a locally hosted website. Although we weren’t able to procure enough articles and blogs for the actual website, I was able to provide an iterative platform to add content at a later date.
Now at the close of most of my modules, I have learnt the use of various tools and techniques that are necessary to run a business. If I were to start afresh, I would utilize my learning from international business strategy, project management and design thinking for start-ups to plan and run the business more efficiently. A good example of this is that I was able to use design thinking tools in project management to achieve the deliverable. To recreate the business, I would dissect the final outcome and strategize the decisions to achieve the deliverable with constant review both individually and as a team.
Indian Londoners as a team
Team dynamics were a major issue throughout the progression of the year. The team lacked motivation and seriousness in the development of the product. We were not able to meet team-decided deadlines as the members were not committed towards completion of the task. Quality of the work also suffered as the team had ‘that will do’ attitude towards the project deliverables. Initially I tried to assign bulk of the work to be done to myself, but later on I was unable to focus on all aspects of the business by myself. In addition to lack of motivation, there were internal conflicts within the team which influenced team work and the culture within the team. One of the most disappointing experience that I faced is that I had to present at the mock dragon’s den by myself without a presentation and a product. This experience forced me to make tough decisions. But all this came too late to make any noticeable difference to our final product and we had to face the consequences at the final dragon’s den. It was disappointing that although I had put in efforts, I wasn’t able to back up my efforts due a lackluster team effort.
If I was to undertake this project again with the same team, I would establish parameters within the team with respect to deliverables. Although, the lack of motivation was prevalent, I would try to understand the reason behind it and try to improve so as to promote productivity. As team dynamics are dependent on a positive environment, I will try to promote a healthier relationship within team members. In all the excitement for personal growth during the project, I failed to consider our growth as a team. While we were unable to function together as a team for most
In my previous experiences of working in a team environment, I have been able to collaborate with my team to successfully deliver the expected outcome. This project exposed me to the unpleasant side of team-based projects. I am confident that this experience has helped me to under team dynamics and better prepared to anticipate and rectify such team environments in my future team-based projects. Having said that, I had the opportunity to work with individuals with creative backgrounds. Being a computer engineer, all my previous projects involved a higher detail of precision and technicality. Through this project I was able to explore the creative aspects of working in a project. In the future I would like to work in an environment that promotes both these aspects in an equal ratio.
I decided to pursue MSc in International Business Management after bachelor’s in computer science so that I could pursue a career that would help me understand the management side of software and IT industry. After studying for my modules in international business management, I now have a better perspective of the variety of fields and the skills required. I would still like to work in the technological sector but would also like to explore the creative side of businesses. Ideally, I would like to work in a capacity that would allow me to utilize and improve my skill set while at the same time develop new skills.
I would also like to be a part of a start-up environment. I believe such a set up will help me understand the finer workings of a business. At the same time working for a start-up will expose me to a more elaborate parts of the business. During this I have had the opportunity to meet professionals from both corporate and entrepreneurial backgrounds. I have realized that irrespective of where you work, how you utilize that opportunity is more important. Also, the current trend to innovate businesses by employing design thinking techniques at the workplace is an added advantage.
My part-time job as a sales associate exposed me to making real-time sales. I liked the challenge of interacting with potential customers and the satisfaction of closing a sale. This is something that I was able to use while promoting my magazine to potential customers in design thinking and would enjoy to pursue further.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the process of learning new techniques in design thinking for start-ups and implementing them in a real-life scenario. Although the complete experience was positive, it was sadly overshadowed by a dysfunctional team performance. I am looking forward to implementing my learning in a professional scenario.