Living during COVID-19

In the last couple months we have experienced high levels of ambiguity due to Covid-19. A virus that has affected the whole world, and a pandemic that has caused panic to those within all our communities.

During this period majority of workplaces, schools, universities and places of worship have shut due to the safety of individuals. Due to the nature of my job am a key worker so I have had to live with the fear of going to work. During this time i took it upon myself to become a leader in our team in order to maintain a sense of positivity and to ensure that the mental health of my colleagues is well sustained.

Day by day the deliveries continued to increase with slots being extremely hard to find for customers due to the high demand of online shopping. I was extremely stressed but I knew I had to keep going. How was i going to motivate others around me if i looked demotivated? I continued to work with a smile on my face and my head held up high because it was a mind over matter thing for me. I am extremely thankful that my efforts encouraged and maintain the team to continue striving to meet KPIs.

As well as dealing with my day job during this period I have had to deal with other aspects of life such as my university assignments, it has been extremely challenging to get through them with the given situation we find ourselves but I am pleased to say i am now coming to the end of it.

The entire experience has made me reflect so much about leadership not only within a team but within my life. Life is really what you make it.I have spent a lot of time reflecting but one of my craziest thoughts is the fact that we all here are part of history.

Social Media & Branding

I have been a user of social media platforms for near enough 10 years now, it started with Facebook, lead to Twitter and now i’m a main user of Instagram. One opening accounts on these pages I had the intentions of using it to communicate with friends and uploading unimportant content. Ten years later, social media has become an essential piece of business’ marketing strategies.

Social media helps business owners connect with their customers and also increases brand awareness which leads to a boost in leads and sales.

Six main reasons why investing in social media is a wise move;

  1. Build awareness – social media boosts visibility among potential customers and it also lets you reach a wide audience by using a large amount of time and effort.
  2. The ability to build your brand’s authority – customers will first do a quick browse of your business so it is important that social media profiles are set up with relevant content.
  3. Show authenticity – social media allows the brand of business’ personality to shine through in everything that is shared on social media.
  4. Encourages engagement
  5. Provide support
  6. Grow affordably

Social media platforms was an important facet to our start-up idea because we were also raising awareness of a common issue of assault. We created Instagram and Twitter accounts so that we can upload content on a weekly basis in order to stay relevant in the minds of our target group. We upload content of encouraging posts such as “Your abuser’s trauma does not justify them abusing you” and we used our Instagram as a platform to introduce our characters that will star in our comic so that our customers are somewhat briefed on what to expect.

Although the use social media as its disadvantages, it is time consuming, it takes a lot of time to research the relevant content required to keep our audience interested and engaged. There is a long time on return on investment and there is a risk of negative publicity. Social media enabled my team and I to lower costs as it is free to join and it allowed us to interact with potential customers at a basic level.

Dragon’s Den pt2

So the final day had approached and it was moments just before our final presentation, it was drawing closer and closer as time was ticking but we were prepared this time. We continuously practiced together to help each other improve with our public as this was also a barrier my team had to overcome. After months of putting all our effort into the project, it was the day the counts.

The main focus of the day was for each team to decorate two single tables with their product and brand representations and we were to present to a set of judges. Although due to our main product being a comic we did not have much to set up but that was okay.

The judges were pleasant individuals and we felt are presentation went better than expected. Overall it was decent and we didn’t receive any harsh comments that we disagreed with. We were hit with a lot of answerable questions and we were told we have a brilliant idea for the problem that we are trying to solve. A lot of questions were asked regarding distributing our product and it was something that will be continuously worked on so that we can better our product.

After the end of this presentation I felt a feeling that is more than just relief, I had finished something that required a lot of mental capacity. Something that I don’t think I had much of during this year due to personal circumstances but one thing I am proud of myself for doing it continuing to pesevere, I did not go out sad and I did not give up as in the wise words of my Mother “your mama never raised no quitters” and this is exactly what i stood by. I do not believe i produced my best work but i produced work to a satisfactory standard despite what i have gone through during this year. Yes, i may have some regrets with some decisions made along the way but i would not change my team. I would like to use this post to also appreciate and thank Banna and Teni for being extremely understanding along the way and also showing support and care at my any need. I truly wish them and all my classmates all the best in the future.

A note

During my undergraduate studies I took the Business Management and Entrepreneurship course at Nottingham Trent University, I acquired so much knowledge about entrepreneurship and the novel ideas created by well-known entrepreneurs but most importantly, I was taught about what innovation is. Innovation is “a change in the thought process for doing something, or the useful application of new inventions or discoveries” (McKeown, 2008). It was my first time hearing the term and I was so keen to learn more about the world of innovation that I decided to apply for a masters at Kingston studying Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship.

When applying for my MSc, the Design Thinking module really caught my eye because of its unique features, such as the challenge of working in teams to set up a business, this factor excited me and pushed me to send of my master’s application in an instant. I pursued this model with the aim of gaining a deeper understanding of managing and developing a start-up as well as being able to evaluate and apply design thinking practices.

The importance of reflection

Gray (2007) described reflection as an active and purposeful process of exploration and discovery, often leading to unexpected outcomes (Foster & Stines, 2011). The last year has been difficult, different, fun and overwhelming hence the need to critically reflect. Kolb’s (1984) experiential learning theory is a great framework that demonstration the beauty of reflection. Kolb noted four different learning styles that the learner touches base on. He also defined learning as the integrated process in which each stage of the cycle is mutually supportive of and feeding into the next stage. Figure 1 encourages accelerated learning and causes individuals to form a new way of viewing their environment. However, critiques suggested that Kolb was way off the mark for his theory to have become the focal point in critical writing (Greenaway, n.d.). To conclude, having the ability to reflect gives the individual the mindset to develop skills and review effectiveness.

What Are KOLB's Learning Styles And What Do They Mean? - Skillshub.com

Gaining an empathetic attachment with LILELI

It was during one of my design thinking classes whereby I learnt about the importance of empathy. Well what does empathy exactly mean? It is our ability to see the world through other people’s eyes, to see what they see and feel what they feel and experience things as they do. Within Design Thinking it is as explained as a “deep understanding of the problems and realities of the people you are designing for” (IDEO’s Human-Centred Design Toolkit).

This class stood out to me in particular because the idea my team and I came up with was based around a sensitive topic so our main focus was obtaining an empathetic feel with our target audience so that they can trust our confidentiality and vision. During our time of gaining empathy for our customers and our idea it gave us a deeper appreciation and understanding of people’s emotional and physical needs and how they understand and interact with the world around them. Through engaging in interviews and conversations we were able to understand how the problem identified has an impact on their lives.

Our main goal during this stage was to gain an empathetic understanding of our target audience so that we can better understand their experience and motivations. However we failed to fully immerse ourselves in the physical environment of all our participants due to personal reasons but the overall insight acquired was great.

We found that there was a common theme of effects surrounding assault and it mainly led to depression, flashback and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The following are my teams favourite Empathise methods;

  • Ask the 5 whys
  • Ask What-How-Why
  • build empathy with analogies
  • Conduct interviews with empathy
  • Engage with extreme users
  • Story share-and-cature
  • Bodystorm
  • Create journey maps

It was important that when we were conducting research we were able to distinguish between empathy and sympathy as the feeling of sympathising may rub people up the wrong way. Some may see this aspect as useless during the Design Thinking process but Team Paradise saw it as necessary we were investigating people’s assault stories and what they have gone through, it was important to sympathise as some participants are still yet to heal from their traumatic experiences.

I enjoy empathising because it allows me as a design thinker to set aside assumptions about the world in order to gain insight into the participants and their needs.

Key takeaways from my first Trade Fair

On Thursday 28th January my team and I participated in a trade fair competition held in Kingston University’s Business School. This was the first time I had ever been a part of something like this so I was extremely nervous about what to expect. My team and I did not have a prototype so we went into the Trade Fair with different objectives to the other groups. Our main objective was to carry out research and this is where we went wrong. As i mentioned in my reflective blog if i could have done this all over again I would have ensured my team had a prototype from the early stages so that we can test it and gain relevant feedback at this stage. Instead, we produced surveys and questionnaires to hand out so that we can gain more information about our target group in the attempt to produce the best possible product for them.

Before this date I had attended a Bright Ideas Sprint Weekend whereby we were educated on how we can enable our products to grow and how we can get our product in the right hands. I also spent the weekend constructing a value proposition model for our comic and this gave me further gains of the people we aim to serve. Unfortunately it was still too late to create a prototype but i left the weekend with further deign thinking knowledge.

By this point we had commissioned a animator to help us but due to an unfinished storyline, so we were not able to meet the deadline. This lead to the following takeaways;

  1. In an article written by Shanuj Mishra in UXdesign, he notes the importance of prototyping your product to help identify and formulate the main trajectory of the design in order to save time. Time was our biggest constraint and I feel as though if my the Trade Fair we had our prototype we would have been able to progress better and more smoothly by the Dragon’s Den. Mishra identified a few main reasons behind prototyping; 1. the prototype gives the target group a complete idea of how the comic will look in the final result, 2. it allows us to streamline the design development process, focusing on important interface elements, 3, at the prototyping stage, it is possible to identify unnecessary elements that are best abandoned, 4, having a prototype in hand, would allows us to more clearly represent our start-up idea and this was the main facet of the Trade Fair.
  2. Practice makes perfect – we failed to win any awards during any stages of the whole process and this was due to the lack of practice, i truly believe if we nailed our pitch we would have had a shot at the “best sales team award”. I feel as though my team were not confident enough in our pitch and with practice his could have been different.
  3. Learn to work effectively on feedback given – without feedback there is a lack of direction so it is important to listen carefully to any feedback given and act accordingly. However, throughout the person i learnt that different people will give different feedback even though they may contradicting themselves but it is important to take whatever it is you can and apply it the idea.
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It was a good event all in all, my team and I enjoyed ourselves, it was also a major wake up call to us all but this is what life is about, you take lessons from every situation you’re in.

The Lean Start-up (a great book)

I am not one to enjoy reading books, but starting this new challenge, being this masters degree. I decided to try something new and start reading a book. What a great book to start with as recommended by our course tutor.

“Startup success can be engineered by following the process, which means it can be learned, which means it can be taught” – Eric Ries

This book provides insight into new approaches of creating and managing startups. It teaches the reader how to steer their start-up, when to turn and whether to persevere or pivot.It is an approach that is best applied to new product development.During my time reading this book there was a few lessons that i picked up, i learnt how to tackle uncertainty, how to work effectively, how to develop a viable product and a new way of learning.

THE LEAN STARTUP PROCESS

In today’s volatile market it is important entrepreneurs are aware of how to continuously innovate in order to be successful. Whilst still in the process of reading this book i have been able to apply certain principles to the idea that my team and I are currently in the process of completing. The Lean method offers a new way of growing alongside technological advancements. Working on our comic we now focus on things that work well instead of things that don’t.

It is important to emphasise the importance the entrepreneurship is a form of management, throughout reading this book I noted 5 key management skills:

  1. strategic orientation
  2. commitment to resources
  3. control of resources
  4. management structure
  5. commitment to opportunity

I have recommended using the Lean Start-Up framework to all my peers in the process of starting a business idea, to me it is the modern business model canvas.

Dragon’s Den

The most stressful week to say the least, for the very first time, my MSc had caused me some stress, as you can tell in the photo above. It was a week that enabled me to come out of my comfort zone as I had to present my idea to judges for the very first time. The session was extremely insightful and interesting and I was glad it was set in place as we were able to obtain great feedback on how we can progress with our pitch and idea.

If there was one thing I gathered from presenting the pitch is that my team and I still had a very long way to go in order to have a viable idea. I am not one that enjoys public speaking, so being able to practice this was extremely helpful.

As mentioned in a previous blog, our idea is a comic therefore with time as a constraint we were unable to present a prototype during the Dragons Den. Fast forwarding to today, we have not finalised our 2 different story lines and we are looking to begin the printing process.

In the weeks coming up to the Dragon’s Den we spent time conducting 20 interviews each which came up with the total of 60 interviews. We interviewed friends, family, student colleagues and strangers that felt comfortable in sharing their story with us. We conducted these interviews so that we can gain information into the type of assault individuals around us have experienced and how/if they were able to overcome. We focused on those aged 18-30 as that is our target audience.

Images from Dragon’s Den

It was firstly important that the judges understood why we aim to offer this idea to the market and why we are aiming to solve the issue. Our pitch could have gone better than it did but i blame that due to the lack of preparation and one of our team members were unable to make it due to an emergency..so what did we do? We did some procrastination that in my opinion failed horribly. But practice makes perfect right?

Unfortunately like all things in life, we faced barriers, in order to produce a comic it was important that we researched the process of making a comic and this looked like a process that required a large team. It felt like we needed 100 creative minds but like i said i like a challenge so we continued to persevere by contacting a comic creator and he aims to work along with us in providing what we need.

RECEIVING CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM FROM JUDGES:)

My journey to the toilet

“LETS EAT TODAY AND SECURE FOR THE FUTURE”

So, this design thinking class wasn’t any different from the rest of them.. extremely unusual. Although it was very new to me.

During this class we were told to work in groups of 3, in which each member in the group had a specific..important role. One of the roles being a robot, which I was, there were certain rules i had to abide by, the robot was only given instructions on what they can say or do. This meant I was only allowed to speak when instructed too. I found this exercise quite challenging as there was times I wanted to speak but I was unable too. Not to mention the other two members could’ve been more helpful than they were lol.

EMPATHY MAP CANVAS

Anyway, on to the task, we were set on a task to take a journey to the toilet. Seems easy and straightforward right? Well, not quite. It was vital we had planned our journey before leaving the classroom and how we were going to give each other signals/alerts on what directions should be made. Furthermore, the journey was a pretty successful but the silent communication could’ve been better. I feel as though after multiple attempts we would have created a sufficient communication plan.

Another interesting experience taken from this exercise was the fact that each member had a different experience from one another, due to the nature of each role. Being the robot i felt extremely helpless…which I didn’t mind..it just meant i didn’t have to do much lol.

After we completed the physical side to the exercise it was time to complete the empathy map. An empathy map is a tool team use to gain a deeper insight into their customers (SolutionsIQ, 2019). The empathy map has different categories such as; think, feel, hear, smell, say. Illustrating this map was quite interesting as each member had a different experience on how they felt. The person that was blind-folded said they felt “paranoid” and “annoyed” as they had no control. In my opinion this exercise was about trusting your team and seeing how well we can work collaboratively to reach the end destination.

I believe this was a clever way of learning the role of communication beyond asking the basic questions. Be able to observe things such as body language which is non verbal gave individuals involved a new insight into certain behaviours. Being able to gain insight into certain behaviours gives us a new way of understanding and answering the “why” and “how” questions.

Communication is an important tool in almost every environment and without communicating things will constantly be misunderstood.

A visit from Young Enterprise

“IF OPPORTUNITY DOESN’T KNOCK, BUILD A DOOR”!

On the 18th October, my Design Thinking Class were paid a visit by a gentleman from the Young Enterprise programme. It was the first time I had ever heard of such a platform that provides a service like this. Before we get ahead of ourselves let me give you some background on what the YE programme provides.

YE is a charity that has the aim to motivate young entrepreneurs in succeeding in a volatile market. YE ensures that their clients are provided with the necessary skills, knowledge and confidence they need. Wondering how? Ok, well let me break it down for you because I was just as amazed as you may be. YE have designed a specialised framework that devises the important steps in running a business, the steps are as follows; 1) Starting up process, 2) Creating the Board of Directors, 3) Generating the idea, 4) Business Planning, 5) Launching, 6) Running the Enterprise, 7) Winding Up, 8) Looking back and next steps. I believe if this step by step process is followed accordingly all team will be able to achieve to the best of their ability.

During this class in which the guest speaker was explaining the different features of the programme, we were told about future competitions that we will enter and the potential benefits we can obtain is extremely exciting such as cash prizes and recognition!

After the guest speaker came to discuss the programme, my team and I felt a mix of emotions, overwhelming, excited, nervous and optimistic but we knew we had to get straight to work and apply pressure to our idea. After a few days of research, clashing our heads together and intense thinking, we collectively came up with the idea of producing a comic that raises awareness about physical assault in the London context. I feel extremely excited about this new challenge, I am an individual that enjoys challenges and competitions, my biggest constraint in this period is time management. As we come into a new year and decade. my time is something that I aim to manage effectively as time is something we cannot get back. I aim to start my days a lot earlier, as well as ensuring that I time myself on each task i aim to complete in that day. Prioritising is also an important element when it comes to time management as we only have 24 hours in a day and there is only so much one can do in a day. With only a few more weeks till the Dragon’s Den, it is crucial that I am dedicating my time effectively and efficiently. Please stay tuned to see how my time management continues to improve and progress..or get worse;)

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